Welcome to the my-bracket-is-decimated edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an associate at a regional CPA firm enjoys her valuation work but is concerned about getting pigeonholed into the healthcare industry. Is it possible for her to wiggle her way into another industry? What kind of careers can she find if she can’t get out?
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Back to the problem du jour:
I am a recent graduate working at a regional CPA firm doing business valuation / healthcare consulting. I really like my job so far but I have some questions about my future potential. The office that I work for is mainly, if not 100%, involved in healthcare, and as such, with the current trend in healthcare laws, we do mostly physician practice acquisitions and fmv comp agreements. I have sat and passed all four parts of the CPA exam (now I just have to wait for the 2 years experience) and will soon be training to get a CVA/AVA certification (AVA until I am a licensed CPA).
I guess my question is what kind of job will I be able to get after this? The problem I have is that I love the concept of what I’m doing but I’m not entirely in love with healthcare. Also, because I value mostly physician practices, the majority of my valuations are adjusted net book value (which is the easiest of all methods for valuing) which means I might not ever get valuation experience on a level that would make me attractive to other valuation companies. If I stay here am I doomed to either try and beome a hospital CFO or if I’m lucky, try and become a partner? This being such a niche specialty, I guess I’m wondering if I’m just pigeonholing myself.
Before I address your question specifically, you are aware that the Baby Boomers will slowly be populating hospitals, retirement communities, rehab centers and the such in the coming years, thus making healthcare one of the most lucrative industries in our fair land, aren’t you? Landing a CFO/Director of Finance gig at a hospital or being a partner with expertise in healthcare wouldn’t be that bad. Of course you can always jump to a bigger/smaller competitor that has a healthcare valuations practice as well.
But you’re “not entirely in love with healthcare,” so I’ll address your pigeonhole problem. Many people find themselves in similar situations and it usually happens when you haven’t made the vision of your career path explicitly known to a superior, mentor or performance counselor. It sounds like you’re a still a fairly new associate so you might be a bit anxious but I’ll go with it. If you’ve been working for less than a year, then you simply make it known that you’re interested in jumping into similar work but on different clients (e.g. financial services). If you’re between the one and two-year mark, hope isn’t lost but by now your managers have come to trust your work and they probably have plans for you. If you’re at two years-plus, then you best speak up now (why haven’t you asked already?). Your firm should be receptive to your wishes and you’ll be able to get some experience with new valuation methods and clients.
If your firm isn’t crazy about your idea, then it may be time to explore your options. It’s important to get some exposure to various industries and technical issues but do keep in mind it’s in your best interest to choose an industry at some point in your career (and the earlier the better) and you could do a lot worse than healthcare. If you choose the jack-of-all-trades route, your peers with more expertise will be favored by managers and partners in specific areas as opposed to someone with little or no exposure to their industry. So speak up in order to find new opportunities but keep in mind that healthcare may harken you back (for one reason or another) but you’ll have plenty of career options in a field that will be blowing up for years to come.