I’ve always been jealous of workers in professions who get automatic breaks built into their schedules. Teachers are more excited when school is out for summer than the students. But, did you know that public accounting has a pseudo-equivalent? Seasonal work. Whether it is audit or tax, there are lots of jobs floating around this time of year that offer 4-5 months on the job, and the rest of the year off.
Seasonal work is great because you can dip your toe back into the water without worrying about signing your life away. There will always be an end date when you can pat your piggy bank and go on your merry way.
So, who is a seasonal worker? Typically, it’s an experienced CPA who got fed up with public accounting and took some time off to lick their wounds or enjoy their life more. As a caveat, I prefer not to lump interns into the mix as seasonal workers, even though, technically, they are included in the generic definition. Why? Well, interns are thirsty for a full-time offer and are excited just to make any money to pay off those student loans and paint the town red each weekend. Who cares if their inexperience means relatively low pay?. Since their motivations and, um, enthusiasm for working is not representative of the more experienced group of CPAs, we’ll leave them out.
Based on a straw poll, seasonal work in public accounting ranges from part-time (typically 30-40 hours a week) to brain-numbing, “Why did I decide this was a good idea?” 70-hour work weeks. Even though there are part-time roles advertised, I’d wager that it’s rarely 20 hours per week for long. As the work snowballs, you’ll get asked to do more. But, firms need to treat their seasonal folks well if they want to see them again the next year.
Retention gimmicks, like bonus vesting, are not applicable and after investing in training, it would behoove firms to accommodate these seasonal folks. If you play it right, you might even make more per hour than if you worked all year without overtime (we’ve done the math before).
The Journal of Accountancy chimed in on the need for supplemental staff as a way to “deliver a high-quality product without burning out your current staff,” and Renee Fulton, CPA, CGMA warned that “If you don’t handle it properly, you can hurt yourself and lose your current workers.”
Speaking of those current workers — they’re bound to get a little jealous. Why not offer them a sabbatical during the off-season? I recall that KPMG has one and I’m sure some of the other firms do as well. Here’s what a Big 4 sabbatical looks like:
KPMG’s Sabbatical program allows employees to take up to three months off at 20% of regular base salary while maintaining employment status, seniority and full benefits, including regular PTO accrual. Whether you want to pursue a passion, further your education, spend time with family, serve your community or simply do something you enjoy, KPMG’s flexibility gives you the opportunity to do it all.
Naturally, there’s a catch. You have to return to work for at least as long as you were gallivanting around. For instance, if you took three months off, you’re committed to three months when you get back. No quitting, or else.
This Reddit guy indicated there’s something similar at PwC:
I’ve done it – I took two months off work from PwC last year to travel with my girlfriend. I think it helped that I had a good working relationship with the partner who I worked with most often. In of our regular coffee meetings I brought it up and he was totally cool with it, he said people do it all the time.
But, one guy also pointed out:
It’s 20% of your salary. In a perfect world PWC wishes everybody would work Jan-April for full pay (about $20k) and they could buy out the rest of your year for $8k… They’re getting busy season covered for McDonald’s pay.
In essence, both function the same way. Firms enjoy reduced payroll expenses during the off-season and skilled labor when they need it. The main difference is that seasonal workers don’t have the strings attached when they return to work. Just don’t have a parasailing accident on your extended vacation from public accounting. Seasonal workers often don’t get health insurance, but that shouldn’t stop you. Although it’s enough for some to make a sabbatical more appealing.
And, for the accountants that just need a hit of public accounting to wet their whistle — now’s your chance to get while the gettin’ is good. Flexjobs.com is a good resource to find these jobs and of course, GC’s very own Gigs.