September 24, 2022

Exit planning for an experienced audit manager

Although there are a lot of Failure to Launch posts here, everything I have seen has been focused on early career.  Granted, some of these issues are probably the same wherever you are in your career, but the circumstances and consequences seem a little more daunting the further along you get in your career.  So my question to anyone who's been through this, what general advice would you have for someone who's 5-8 years into their Big 4 career and starting to question exactly what he or she wants next?  If I haven't 100% committed myself to making partner, at what point am I wasting my time by staying in Big 4?  How do you keep your options open?

For background, I'm an experienced audit manager.  I graduated at the top of my class, generally curious about what was out there, and not afraid to try new things with my career.  I started with a Big 4 firm because it seemed like the logical choice to work wth the best and see a lot of different things without having to commit to one particular company (or even industry, although I am fairly specialized).  

At no point in my career have I ever said that I definitively wanted to be a partner; I've always been able to keep a relatively decent work/life balance, and will not give that up.  I started as the golden boy in my office, and really rode that out through my promotion to Manager.  I've had my fair share of rough projects, but I also realize that I've had my share of good luck along the way as well, working mostly with people I've liked and respected (and I think the feeling has been mutual).  As a mangager, I've mostly kept a low-profile – I get my stuff done on high profile audit clients, and staff generally enjoy working with me – but I try to steer clear of picking up additional work or getting involved in the office admin extracurricular stuff.  

Shortly after being promoted to manager, I looked into some interesting Technical Accounting/ SEC Reporting roles for major companies, where I was barely qualified but got interviews  – one gave me an offer (although I was effectively told that I wasn't the first choice because of lack of experience) and the other said they liked me but wanted another year or 2 experience at a Big 4 manager level, and asked me to re-appy in 2 years.  Shortly after, I was offered a national office role with my firm, which has been a good learning experience and a change of pace, but more structured than I generally like.  So, I'm now about a year away from going back to a regular audit role as a newly promoted Senior Manager – I have good idea about what I like and don't like, but I'm in no way committed in any direction.  

The general rule I've heard is that unless your goal is to be Partner, staying more than 1 year as a Senior Manager is not worth it, and as I've mentioned, I'm not the work-for-the-sake-of-working type.  Based on my experience testing the job market a little, it seems like I would be in a pretty ideal place to make lateral move to industry with a good mix of responsibilities and 8 years Big 4 experience.  That said, I think I could handle being a Director on the right clients, if the opportunity presented itself (maybe everyone says that).  

If you've read this much of my train-of-thought rant, I would love to hear your thoughts on anything I should be thinking about (or doing) now based on personal experience.  Thanks!

Latest Accounting Jobs--Apply Now:

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Comments are closed.

Related articles

cryptocurrency consulting accounting job

Should Cryptocurrency Consulting Be the Next Phase in Your Accounting Career?

Think the hype over cryptocurrency has reached its fever pitch? Think again—the crypto craze has only just begun. Businesses are increasingly viewing cryptocurrency as a viable investment. New tokens are gaining steam, and Bitcoin, the OG crypto cash, continues to trade at a frenzied pace. More than 200,000 Bitcoin transactions occur every day, and investors like […]