Is it common to start in industry, then go to public?

I am a recent college grad, May 2016. I was hired straight out of college to work in a staff accountant role for the bookkeeping sudsidiary of a small community bank. There’s no tax/audit work – mostly bank recs and cash-basis reporting for the bank’s mom and pop clients, with some internal work for the bank here and there.

My ultimate goal is to get some public accounting experience under my belt and eventually take the CPA exam. I have very limited access to experienced accountants in my current role, so training and quality review are scant. Not surprisingly, the CFO walked into my office recently and gave me an informal heads-up that in order to save on training costs and time, my position is going to be eliminated in the very near future in favor of a CPA.

(Translation: you’re fired; come back when you have a few years in public under your belt.)

In the meantime, I’ve accepted a lower-level bookkeeping position starting in a couple weeks that I hope will eventually build my skills to the point that I’ll be able to hold my own in a private staff accountant role, but that doesn’t really solve the problem of not having public experience. Since I’ve been told that public firms prefer to hire college grads that they can drive into the ground, I’m a bit concerned that in 2-3 years, they will not be interested in hiring a 27-28 year old for a Staff 1 role.

Is private-to-public something that happens frequently, or am I getting my hopes up?

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