Nearly 10 years ago to the day (10 years and one day, specifically), my esteemed former colleague Caleb Newquist wrote a post for this here then-new website entitled Infuriating Problem of the Day: Accountants Quitting During Busy Season. It’s important to note here that Caleb is former Big 4 himself (borderline debatable given he worked […]
That is the look of a man who no longer bears the yoke of a Big 4 job. Are you fantasizing about quitting your public accounting job? It’s finally March. Busy season will start to wind down soon and those miserable hours will begin to taper off. You may catch yourself daydreaming about finding another […]
This seems timely since 'tis the season to draft your farewell email and fantasize about 30 different ways to tell your firm to stick it before you subject yourself to just one more busy season. The following discussion item comes from Corporette (by way of ATL): What do you do with your company email after […]
Busy season is coming to a close. Some of you are already done and are spending this Friday at a ballpark eating junk food and drinking heavily because that's exactly what you should be doing.
And some of you are still grinding it out because, with 10 days left until the most overhyped deadline in a tax professional's year, that's exactly what you should be doing.
Regardless of what bucket you fall into, this will be the last busy season for some of you. You may already know that or you may not, but it's a fact. And if you've never quit a public accounting job before, then there's a number of things you need to do before that last day comes. There are all kind of practical things that you should do of course, but this is NOT that list. Since when do accountants need to be told what's practical? Let's proceed.
From the mailbag: There was an Audit Staff 2 in the Silicon Valley KPMG office that walked out of his audit room during busy season and just did not return. Everyone is talking about it, even here at another big 4. He is our hero. We all want to celebrate him. We don't have any further details at […]
If you take the time to poke through the profiles of the accounting firms on this year's FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For, you would find the following under Ernst & Young's "What Makes It So Great?": Flexible scheduling at the accounting firm allows team members to choose one night each week during busy season […]
Ed. note: Is your career somewhere in between mundane and craptacular? Email us at [email protected] and we'll help you improve your life slightly up from SUCK. GC, I'm a semi-frequent reader (hey I still have to get some work done) so I wasn't sure if this topic was covered, but I just got done reading your recent […]
Ed. note: Got a question from the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].
Happy Friday, folks. Even though Summer Fridays are a thing of the past, we have much to be thankful for. College football on the tube. Ya’ll are getting laid, apparently. And we have some great questions coming into GC.com, like this one here:
I’m ready to leave the Big 4 for industry but want to make sure I don’t m��������������������make the jump. Is there a GC cheat sheet on things to take care of (and take with you) during the 2 week lame duck period after I give my notice? (e.g. contact info, CPE profile, etc.)
I’d love to hear GC readers’ thoughts.
Caleb and I scratched our brains on this one and realized that no – we’ve never really covered this topic. I know some if not all offices allow employees to take care of loose ends during the two week downtime but wouldn’t you rather be prepared to turn everything over on the same day? What I want to do here is cover the basics from the angle that you want to be able to put in your notice and walk out the door the same way. You fill in the details in the comments section below, as I’m sure I’ve missed some of the finer points. Share your horror stories and little victories alike.
1. A. Back up your personal computer files – Technically your work computer is reserved solely for work files and functions but for many of you it is a secondary (even primary) personal computer. I’ve seen laptops turned in with the likes of iTunes libraries, photo albums, tax returns and personal financial tracking files just hanging around in plain sight. You don’t know when HR or your partner will demand to seize your computer (I’ve even seen partners’ commuters seized with no access granted to the files for weeks), so make sure you back everything up onto your own USB drive.
1. B. Delete your personal computer files – Once everything is backed up (make sure the files open on another computer), delete everything personal that’s on the computer. Don’t forget to empty the trash can, too.
2. Get a new wireless plan – If you’re wielding a firm-purchased phone, you’ll be needing to turn that over as well. Take the initiative to get a new phone and have the contacts from your current (firm) phone transferred to your new (personal) device. Every carrier is different, but some will let you buy the new phone without having to activate it immediately, thus giving you the option to walk in there later (presumably, after you’ve dropped the bomb on leadership) and transfer the number over. If you prefer a clean slate and want a new number, so be it.
Also, remember to delete your recent call log, Blackberry Messenger conversations, texting history, sensitive contacts (*cough* your recruiter *cough*), etc. Granted if they really want go through an archive they will, but that really only happens if suspicious/illegal activity is suspected.
3. Organize your client work – This can be a very mundane and verbose task however necessary it may be. The goal here is to make things as easy as possible for your colleagues. Use separate USB drives for different managers and partners. Give everyone an update “open items” list for your active engagements. Make it so organized that a new person to the team would able to seamlessly come on board, read your notes, and pick up where you left off.
Chances are good that you like your co-workers, as one of the most common hesitations staff members have when leaving public accounting is, “I would feel bad leaving my co-workers swamped with my work.” Here’s the deal: they survive. I mean, think about it – how many times has a coworker left before you? Sure, the first few days can be a slow go, but they’re out-of-sight-and-mind within a week. Work is divvied up and completed.
4. Link in with people – I covered this back in June.
5. Mentally prepare yourself – Accounting firms are hit the hardest with employee turnover around this time of year so you need to expect your employer to put up a bit of a fight. Better clients, better work life balance, rotation to another group, verbal praise and affection. (Where was that love when you were working 7:30a to 11:30p during busy season?) You need to prepare for the pressure to be there to turn down your other offer on the spot. There’s nothing wrong with hearing out what your firm can put on the table, but you are under no obligation to turn around and be back on Team PwC or Kamp KPMG during the same meeting you put in your resignation.
Also, remember: you can always go back. Not sometimes. Not usually. ALWAYS. The only thing more valuable to a public accounting firm than its employees are employees that return with private experience.
6. Copy down contact information – There are people you will want to stay in contact with as your careers progress. This should be a no-brainer.
7. One last thing – There’s that colleague with whom you have some tension. Maybe they’re seeing someone, maybe they’re not. Screw the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and say something before you leave. Be bold.
Welcome to the High Holiday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a senior manager at BDO is ready to give notice but can’t decide if it’s best to keep things professional or to go out with a verbal assault the likes of which George Costanza has never seen.
Are you working in the Twilight Zone? Need some good ideas for celebrating the end of busy season? Feeling jealous about the sexy success<l us at [email protected] and we’ll get you over your accountants-in-love envy.
Back to kicking off The Public Accounting Attrition Tour of 2011:
I am still knee deep in busy season, with many engagements still open and pushing their April 30th deadlines. There is no real end in sight, since May and June look equally as busy with Q’s, EBP’s, 9/30 year ends and other projects the Partners engage us for that further contribute to my maxed out PTO accrual. So naturally, as most people do this time of year, I have been looking for open positions searching for that golden opportunity to finally break free of the social, physical and health suppression known as public accounting. That being said, is it wrong to lay down at night and dream of what you would say when giving your notice?
I have played out hundreds of scenarios in my head saying everything from the absolute extreme to the overly conservative. That makes me think – what is the best way to “leave” a public accounting firm? During my 11 year career, I have seen all kinds of people leave in a ball of fire, rather than just fade away. Those people think that the firm will collapse without them, or their leaving will cause a mass exodus or significant change to the firm. No way. It never happens. So really, what is the point of telling the Partners (and HR in the exit conference), what you really feel in your heart?
Dear Dreaming of Quitting,
There’s nothing at all wrong with dreaming of the most epic march in ever. I assume you’re referring to something similar to this:
As you mention, people who go out with a furious speech that features wild hand gestures and name-calling are typically those who think they are indispensable or are somehow the catalyst to the collapse of their firm. You’re right to say that this is NEVER the case. A team or an office may go through a rough patch (mileage of rough patch may vary) but eventually things calm down and return to relative normalcy.
So to answer your second question – the best way to leave your firm is: quietly. That doesn’t mean you don’t tell your colleagues, friends or others that you’re leaving (most probably know that you’re looking to leave anyway) but it should be a drama-free encounter. You meet with the appropriate people, tell them that your last day will be X and that should be it. If they pry about why you’re leaving or attempt to convince you otherwise, you can respectfully decline or entertain their queries and/or begging. That’s up to you. Even if you’ve been used and abused throughout the time at your firm, would it really make you feel better to tell that a partner that the experience of working with them was akin to a circle of Dante’s Inferno that he dared not scribe?
As for the motive behind these overtly dramatic “I quit!” speeches, I get the feeling that those who feel compelled to give them think they will get some satisfaction out of telling someone exactly how they feel; that giving everyone who deserves a piece of their mind will somehow make everything negative that happened in the past worth it. If you feel like expressing some honesty about your experience, that’s perfectly okay but for crissakes, have some tact. If you simply feel justified to spew verbal excrement, that only makes you look like a lunatic. A very unprofessional lunatic.
What to do, what to do.
As summer promo’s and raises (or lack thereof) loom on the horizon, you may or may not be on the hunt for a new job. If you are, great, keep reading. If you’re not that’s swell too but I encourage you to use this as a reference when the time comes. What I do want to talk about is how to resign from a job. Because if I’ve seen anything on my side of the HR table, it’s that you accountants can be rough around the edges come Hugh Grant time.
Listen, I don’t know what your recruiters tell you, but here’s what you need to know:
Respect your colleagues and boss – So you get the call you’ve been working towards – XYZ Company wants to hire you. Offer is for better money, hours, and potential. You’re on board. Great – now what?
When you’re done with your victory dance in the parking lot, the people you should break the news to is your engagement team. After all, they are the ones that will be forced to immediately absorb your departure. You shared long hours and an infinite number of other unfortunate circumstances and the whole “in the trenches” camaraderie is flushed away with your decision to leave. The best way to explain this situation to them is to be honest – you’re moving on to a better situation and you’re sorry that this puts more work on their plate but it’s not personal.
Spread the word to your mentor and mentees. It is vital to protect these professionally personal relationships. Chances are your mentors know why you’re leaving; hell, they might have even encouraged you to look outside the firm. Include them on your final “farewell” email, but be sure to contact them on a personal level as well. Thank them for their help in shaping your career.
Your resignation letter should be short and sweet. Keep the feelings, personal jabs, and wisecracks out of the email. Here’s an example:
Dear Caleb Newquist,
As of today, (May 12, 2010) I am officially notifying you of my resignation. I am prepared to work for two weeks from this date, ending on (May 26, 2010). I will do whatever it takes from today until that date to make my departure as smooth as possible.
I sincerely hope to continue the professional, and more importantly personal, relationships I have developed in my time at ABC. I hope that this parting can be accomplished without hurting said relationships.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Short and sweet. Should you have the need to express personal messages to TPTB, do so in a separate email. Your resignation letter is nothing more than a means to an end.
Whatever you do, don’t burn the bridges – The accounting world is smaller than you might think. Chances are when you leave your current firm you will consider a number of your former colleagues to be current friends. Keep your farewell email short and genuine, but also professional. Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges now. You have no idea when the next happy hour will turn into a professional opportunity.
Perhaps he wasn’t crazy about the new forced ranking method on pay?
The Hartford Financial Services Group announced late on Tuesday that Christopher Swift will join the insurer as chief financial officer effective March 1.
Swift, 49, is jumping ship from American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) where he was CFO. ALICO is a subsidiary of American International Group, which the bailed-out insurer is trying to sell to MetLife for $15 billion. The deal is currently hung up on a tax issue.
Hartford, which received $3.4 billion in government aid, has been undergoing a major executive shakeup.
Liam McGee, a former head of consumer banking at Bank of America, took over as chief executive in October from Ramani Ayer, who had led Hartford’s aggressive push into variable annuities and retired at the end of 2009.
Shortly after taking over, McGee tapped Hartford’s current CFO, Lizabeth Zlatkus, for its chief risk officer position. She’ll move into that role when Swift officially joins the company.
AIG, for its part, has been bleeding talent. More than 60 managers have left the company since it was bailed out in September 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Pay practices at AIG have been under intense scrutiny by the public, as well as the government.
Swift began his career as an auditor in the Chicago office of KPMG where he focused on financial services. He was made partner at 32. He then became executive vice president of Conning Asset Management, a subsidiary of General American, where he was responsible for finance, sales/marketing and information technology. After MetLife acquired Conning in 1999, Swift returned to KPMG and was eventually appointed head of the firm’s Global Insurance Industry Practice. As leader of this segment, he worked with clients in both the life and P&C segments, globally and domestically. He was responsible for matters ranging from strategic and regulatory to audit, risk, advisory and tax services.
Seriously people. For most of you, this isn’t a problem. You gird up your loins, duck your head and bulldoze your way through this time of year just like you’ve done in years past. Busy season sucks. We all know that.
Who in their right mind interviews with the Big 4 et al. and is thinking, “The hours won’t be that bad,” or “I probably won’t have to travel” OR “Big 4 salaries are good enough for me”?
The Big 4 Exodus is something that has been discussed at length here but until we’ve yet to discuss this particular topic.
Yes, the trend of accounting firm layoffs is demoralizing and yes, merit increases were mostly frozen, and there were virtually no bonuses> Hell, you may working your ass off knowing that your staff makes more than you but if you’re working in mid-February, what ton of bricks hits you that causes you to conclude that bailing out on your team is the best option?
All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do. Why the hell didn’t you quit prior to busy season? You really felt like sticking it to everyone?
Fine. Perhaps your desire for sweet, sweet revenge against your senior/manager/partner/firm is more powerful than any shred of integrity you may have but for crissakes, that makes you a very bitter person. More so than the average accountant.
Seriously? It couldn’t wait? There isn’t that much time left in busy season. And besides, if you’re patient, they may pay you to leave.