I’m going to go on record as saying that I love the skill set that comes with training at a BIG 4 or mid-sized public accounting shop. The training teaches people to look at a process and build an understanding of how things are actually working – not just how people think they are working. You are taught to test and validate assumptions and you can separate reality from the imagined.
At the same time, I’ve felt pain when watching that same candidate pool struggle with their first step into industry. Leaving and landing successfully requires you to be introspective about what you have to offer while simultaneously looking for the best (and shortest) path to the position you want. Where you are relevant may not always line up perfectly with the position you want.
I’ve brainstormed some ideas/concepts for you to consider as you plan your exit from the BIG 4. This is by no means a complete list, so please use it as a guide.
- Where are you most relevant? Once you understand where you are most relevant you will automatically understand where you have the most leverage. CPA’s coming out of public accounting (audit/tax) will find a receptive audience on the reporting and tax side of the business as well as internal audit. I know that you all know this so I am using it to illustrate the next point.
- Where are you not (relevant)? We meet with CPA’s (or those close to designation) who are looking to leave the firm and move into a strategy or planning/analysis or business partner role. If you haven’t moved to the consulting side of the business, looked at transactions or had a secondment to a new office/client to demonstrate your versatility, then you will likely find it harder to move from audit and into a more business facing role. We all know that exceptions exist – people have moved from audit into business facing roles, however, I recommend that you don’t base your strategy on a small minority of individuals.
- Think 2 jobs ahead: Your first job out of public accounting is often the bridge to the next job. That means that you want to build the competencies that you need for jobs 2 and 3 while in job 1. I know that we all want to jump straight to job 2, but you may have to close some gaps first and build credibility.
- Rotate for breadth and depth: Look for organizations that provide rotational opportunities that force new skill development: I’ve worked with many progressive organizations that offer both formal and informal opportunities to try new things. Taking on rotational roles or selecting a single job with multiple facets will allow you to develop breadth and depth. A recent role that we’ve been working on combines budgets, forecasts, reporting and tax as well as cross- functional interaction all at the FA level!
- Manage some stakeholders: The candidates who learn to interact with broader stakeholder groups and manage relationships are in high demand. If you find a role that gives you exposure beyond the core finance team then you become more marketable. The ability to interact with broader parts of the business and earn their trust is incredibly valuable to you, your current employer and any future employer.
Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.
Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.