October 28, 2021

Sometimes It’s Not Hard to Know When to Leave Public Accounting

With busy season over, many of you are thinking about your next career move. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll share various career-focused posts to see where your heads are. Some will wait to see what compensation and bonus season holds for them, while others are ready to take action PRONTO.

If you're at a cross-roads and want some objective (albeit questionable in some cases) advice, email us at advice@goingconcern.com with "Career Moves" in the subject line. We get lots of emails, so we're only going to respond to the most interesting and/or troublesome situations. And keep the email under 300 words. Your ability to write a 1,500 chronicle of your life and professional career will put us to sleep.

We'll start things off with someone who seems to have reached the end of their public accounting rope: 
I made tax manager at a mid size firm as of September 2012. Unhappy there, I promptly left to go to another mid size firm, thinking that a change of scenery might make me happier after a while at the same place. Nearing April 15, I'm still as unhappy here as I was by my previous firm. Is it too early to pull the plug on a career in public given that I'm only at this firm for one tax season and just go private to gain some sense of sanity back, or should I attempt to stick it out for another season, just so it doesn't look like I'm bailing too quickly. I know the debate of when to leave public is full of varying opinions, but I would love to hear what your opinion is about this particular circumstance.
Confused and frustrated
Confused and Frustrated, you sound more like "Fed Up" to me. Nearly eight months of unhappiness as a tax manager and you're thinking about sticking it out for another year? Dear God, why? At first I wanted to know what the nature of your unhappiness was — money is a joke, boss is a jerk, staff don't like you, your life outside of work sucks, the work itself sucks — but it's clear that it doesn't matter. You need to leave public accounting.
And to answer your question —  no, it's not too early to pull the plug on this firm after one tax season. You're a manager. Haven't you trudged through enough tax seasons? Explaining this to your new-ish boss shouldn't be hard — "I thought joining a new firm would fix things. It hasn't." I also think this is a fine explanation for any company that would consider hiring you but are curious about this brief stint at mid-tier firm #2 — "I thought joining a new firm would fix things. It hasn't."
And really, there are plenty of people that have been in situation like yours. They're sick of  Firm #1 because reasons X, Y, and Z. The word on the street is that Firm #2 is really great at X, Y, and Z and it just so happens that you know someone that works at Firm #2 and they say great things about it. You get a job there and after a few months, you realize you hate it. It's enough to send you running into the street. But you don't have to do that. You can leave. It's fine.
I know you want to stick it out, but I'm saying that you shouldn't because if you're unhappy, then you're unhappy, and who wants to be unhappy just to save face on a résumé? It's time to do something that isn't public accounting. Just go, man.

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