Came across this on r/big4 this morning, let’s remember half of what you see on Reddit is just someone’s creative writing exercise and people who claim to make $200k/yr are often 14-year-old larpers but hey what kind of weirdo would pretend to be a Big 4 manager on the internet. Read on.
I don’t think that this is talked about enough, and as a manager, I wanted to give my two cents on what I wish I was told back when starting my career. I work for a big 4, hence why I am posting here. If you don’t work at big 4 and just happen to stumble upon this, that is fine too.
Nevertheless, here are the signs that it’s time to depart:
1. Work becomes so boring that you can’t even keep your eyes open no matter how many times you ask your boss for more work. If you don’t feel like you’re being challenged or learning, it is time to leave. It’s a problem because when you are not learning, you aren’t truly advancing in your career. You’re just giving the group a reason to not promote you because you are evidently not showing signs of being stretchable. No matter how much you love the people you work with and no matter how much you love your company, you sometimes have to accept that you have outgrown the role and it is not enough for you anymore. I know it is tempting to stay sometimes because of loyalty or fear of being judged.
2. Even with those beautiful designer shoes that you have, you are walking into an office that you absolutely hate. [Ed. note: Allen Edmonds are designer shoes??] You’re just there for the money. It is tempting to wait for the bonus, but I promise it is never worth it if you despise your job that much. Let me tell you, money does not buy happiness – I know it sounds beyond cheesy. It’s true, however. It’s the fear of not being able to live the life that you want because you’re stuck by how amazing the salary is. It is simple. If cash is the only thing keeping you from taking that job shift, take that shift! Life is too short for us to exchange our own happiness for a paycheck. Look, I know we all have responsibilities. There are bills to pay, mortgages, family, friends, etc. Sometimes we just want to make our parents and spouses/peers proud. I get it. BUT, you have these transferable skills that allow you to literally find any job that you want. You definitely developed skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, etc if you are with a big 4. You don’t want to regret your life later on. Most jobs are 8 hours – no big deal. But if you’re going to work 8-12 hours of your day, at least do something toward a cause that you deeply care about.
3. Your workplace is toxic and impacting your self-esteem/metal health (I think this one is a given). If you go to work and the people you work with are knocking down your confidence and you’re doubting yourself, it is time to leave immediately. There are thousands of other high-paying jobs out there that have a friendly environment where you feel safe and comfortable. If you are questioning yourself constantly saying, “why the hell am I here right now?”, that is a huge red flag folks.
4. Deep down, you know that your skills and abilities can be used for different things. You know that you can do better things than what you’re doing in the current role you’re in. Again, if you are thinking to yourself, “there’s got to be more to life than this”, well there is. If your purpose is not aligned with what you’re doing at work, leave. You aren’t utilizing your skills.
To sum up OP’s four major signs that it’s time to move on from your Big 4 job: 1) boredom and indifference, 2) a deep-seated feeling of hatred, regret, and fear, 3) declining mental health due to toxicity and an overall feeling of doom (I’ll lump “Sunday scaries” in here, believe it or not there are jobs out there that don’t inspire dread every Sunday evening when you know the weekend is rapidly running out), and 4) feeling as though your skills and abilities are completely underutilized. One and four are two branches of the same vine, feeling underutilized often leads to feelings of boredom as you lack the challenge that comes from engaging your talents to solve problems.
As it just so happens, feeling disengaged with work can actually lead to greater feelings of burnout, presumably because one gets so bored with the repetition and pointlessness of it all that none of it has any meaning. That’s not to say that you should expect to feel engaged at every moment — this is professional services after all — but asking yourself 50 times a day “what even is the point of this” is a sign this isn’t what you’re meant to do with your time. If you are mired in indifference AND burned out, it’s probably time to look elsewhere.
If you found yourself nodding your head as you proceeded through each of OP’s points, it’s definitely time to look elsewhere.
General Rule: When you are so unhappy in your current position (for whatever reason) that it is affecting other parts of your life, it is time to move on. Life is too short to stay in a job where you are miserable.
If you aren’t miserable, but also don’t want to be a partner, I believe the best time to leave public accounting is after you’ve spent a year or two as a manager. You’ve gotten some great experience in public beyond what the staff get, you are highly marketable, you’re not too invested in the firm, and you haven’t pigeon-holed yourself from a skill set perspective.
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