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A Checklist for Leaving Public Accounting

This is the fifth entrant from the Going Concern freelancer candidates. The following is by Lee St. Mark.

As a follower of Going Concern, you know it is that time of year again; then again maybe you don't know what time of year it is because you have been buried by your public accounting job. I am here to let you know that it is time to leave your public accounting job. Need some incentive? I'll bet you your raise that your quality of life will improve. Here's a quick summary of how to get outta dodge.
Get in touch with those recruiters who never stop calling. More than likely, they are probably calling you RIGHT NOW – so answer. Meet with them. When you do meet with them, be positive. Tell them the things you like about your job. Tell them the things you HATE about your job. Talk industries, compensation, work/life balance and all other things you deem to be important. They have excellent resources to find you a position and are about to become your new best friend.  Recruiters are compensated by a percentage of your base salary so it is in their best interest to get you maximum pay at your new position. It is a good deal for both you and the recruiter to place you. Have faith. And if you find a job online that you want to apply for, don't ask your recruiter about it, just apply – most of these jobs say "No Third Party Recruiters." Your recruiter can't help you here – it's all you.
Job Descriptions
Recruiters are going to start sending you piles of job descriptions. It might seem like a lot of work to review these but you should definitely go through all of them. If you are interested in a certain job, let your recruiter know so they can present you. If you read a description and you aren't interested, tell your recruiter. Do not feel like you need to interview for all the jobs. You may feel guilty about rejecting a job description – DON'T. One of the other 23 candidates your recruiter sent the position to will most likely be interested.
It's a sure bet that you haven't interviewed in awhile. Now is the time to start searching the Internet for interview questions and practicing them at home. Sure, this might sound stupid, but when John Smith shows those pearly whites and tries to rattle you with "Tell me about a time you had to deliver bad news to a client and how did you handle the situation?" – I am certain you are going to be glad you had a response planned. The interviewer is not only gauging you on the response to the question but also your reaction to the question, body language and enthusiasm.
There is going to be a period of the interview that will be available for you to ask questions. If you come empty handed, you likely will not receive a job offer. You can find many questions to ask on the Interwebs. Your recruiter may be able to provide you with a list. However, make sure you tailor some of these questions to the company. It will do two things: 1) Give you a better idea of what is going on at the company and show that you researched them before you interviewed. A little research can go a long way and show the interviewer that you are interested. 2) It also helps when you need to respond to "Tell me how you prepared for this interview?"
After your interview, make sure to thank each individual for the time they took out of their day to meet with you. Sure, you might think that this is their job, but it isn't. They'd rather be reconciling accounts or foiling the cube of their co-worker. Further, be sure to send thank-you emails to the individuals with whom you interviewed. Personalize the thank-you emails – generic emails stick out like a sore thumb.
It is possible you are a superstar – however, since you are reading an article written by me and posted on Going Concern, you probably aren't. More likely than not, there will be a time when you are notified by your recruiter that "The Company is moving forward with other candidates." Take it in stride. There are plenty of jobs for finance professionals. Find another position that interests you and prepare for that interview.
After you nail down a job offer, take a few days to think about it. Make a list of the pros and cons and talk to your family/close friends to get their opinions. They have known you for a long time and should be able to provide solid feedback. If you aren't 100% positive about a position, it is probably best to not take the job as you could find yourself back at this article within a few months. 
When you have accepted a position, be sure to get your start date set with the future company so you can plan accordingly. It is best practice to give a notice of two weeks. This is a rule of thumb and trying to skimp on this could leave a bad taste in your former employer's mouth. You never know when you may want or need to come back to your old haunt.
Then you can celebrate. You've earned it.