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Is Staying in Public Accounting Until Making Manager Worth It?

You should stay until you at least make manager.

How many times have you heard those words? Whether in a partner’s office or at the bottom of a happy hour drink, it also seems as though your best interests are being put first. But really, is that the case?

Before the comments state “every market is different, how dare you make a generalization,” guess what? I’m going to generalize. Sorry, but unless a 2nd year senior in St. Louis emails me with market data, I have no data to base an opinion on. I write about what I know, and what I know is financial services. Kapeesh?

(Send me info…please).

Let’s compare the career paths of two auditors, Jeff and Tanya. Both started at the same time and are now 2nd year senior associates, entering into that dark year before potential promotion to manager (notwithstanding personal performance or economic indicators, of course).

Both had “the talk” with leadership about their respective careers and receive the you should stay to make manager conversation. Jeff decides to stay and put in at least another year to receive the promotion, but Tanya decides to enter into the private industry. Fast forward a few years:

Tanya, 2006 college graduate, CPA

Fall 2010: Four years of public accounting experience

Fall 2010: Lands job in private industry

Fall 2011: In private industry

Fall 2012: Still in private industry, wants a new job

Jeff, 2006 college graduate, CPA

Fall 2010: Four years of public accounting experience

Fall 2010: Stays in public accounting

Fall 2011: Stays in public accounting, promoted to manager

Fall 2012: Still in public accounting, wants a new job

Make the following assumptions:

• Tanya received a market-rate bump in pay when she left public (10-15%).
• Tanya stayed in the “typical” career path with someone with her experience (i.e. she didn’t leave financial services audit to work for Teach for America).
• Tanya did not receive a promotion while in private (although possible).
• Jeff stayed for a year after making be promoted because he bought into the “you need to stay one year after making manager” mantra.

Now, who do you think is the more attractive candidate for a job in private for someone with six years of financial services experience? Discuss below. My opinion and follow up will kick off Monday’s blog post.

If you’re reading this from the (un)comfort of your desk, please let me know why in the world you’re not doing one of the following:

a. Drinking with interns
b. Drinking with strangers at a crowded World Cup bar
c. Instituting your own summer hours and – yup, you guessed it – drinking

Cheers to your weekend and the World Cup team of your choice.