• Career Center

    How to Overcome the Problem of Too Many Career Options

    By | November 29, 2016

    Need some career advice? Email Rachel at [email protected] and your question may be featured on Going Concern.

    I am currently working at one of the big four firms. My service line is tax. I still don't have an idea on what will I do in the future. I'm also interested on pursuing a law degree. I also want to experience C tax advisory (TAS) but I'm not sure if it's helpful to my tax related background. May you give me an advice on what will be my possible career path after leaving the firm if (a) I will still pursue the tax service line, leave the firm, and be a lawyer. What possible jobs will I get after one /2 year/s experience on that firm? I want an exciting and challenging job not just doing tax returns,etc and then I'll get promoted, I'll review the same documents. (b) I'll transfer to another service line which is the TAS after experiencing 1 year on the Tax Services Line. How can I use my background on tax at the same time utilizing my knowledge on TAS? Is there a position on the outside that has that job? Thank you so much in advance on your reply.

    Dear Too Many Options,

    It sounds like you have a case of the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” syndrome. This is cute when you are 12 years old. Not so cute now that you are out of college and trying to navigate your career on your own. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I make a change and end up hating it?

    This type of thinking can be paralyzing. By being so worried that you will make the wrong choice, you are shooting yourself in the foot in finding true career happiness. It sounds like you have already started thinking about what you like and don’t like about your current job. You want different “exciting and challenging” projects and to not review the same tax returns every year. That’s a great start.

    Here’s my main piece of advice: You are jumping the gun the bit. First step for you is to focus on you. Not on this or that career path, this or that next job title, department or company. Focus on just you. Put career strategy and career background and practicality aside just for a little bit. What do you really want? What do you want your impact to be? It’s time to turn inward and spend some time getting to know yourself instead of looking at every different job title on Indeed.com. 

    It’s nearly impossible to make a good choice about a next step if you have no idea where you are going and where you want to end up. Without a clear vision, we either end up staying on a mediocre path that we know isn’t working or we just make a choice aimlessly and hope for the best. Neither option is promising. So here is some homework for you.

    • Write down your career vision. What do you want to be doing in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years? What do you want to be remembered for at retirement? For each milestone, really try to imagine that you are there in that moment in the future and write in the present tense. Try to be as detailed as possible such as who you are working with, what you are doing, what strengths you have, what’s important to you, and what impact you are having. Focus less on what your job title will be and more on what type of work you are doing. For example, I am doing “exciting and challenging” projects in a fast paced environment for various tax transactions. Or I am researching tax policy by myself, writing a memo, and delivering the results to my supervisor. Really focus on what you want to be doing and what makes you unique.
    • After you have your vision, write down your short-term options. How do these options fit with your overall career vision?
    • At this point, you can research your options to gather all of the facts and see how each option would fit into your vision.

    Now you can see that it all comes back to the career vision. The great part about this vision is that once it is written down you can make adjustments and changes to it as you change. It sounds like working for TAS would be exciting for you. What makes it different or better than what you are doing now? How does it fit with what you want in the future? Perhaps you want variety, to work with multiple teams, to run projects. Whatever it is…it is unique and specific to you.

    The point is approaching your career as you would any other tax return or audit report. Strategically and step by step. Once you have the overall goal in mind, it is so much easier to know what your next step should be. So time to get writing that career vision. 

    • IndenturedServant

      As an alternative to holding hands and chanting kumbaya, here’s something more concrete about law school.

      1. If you are serious about tax law, you need to get into a good law school. I don’t mean top 50, I mean top 14. Top 10 would be ideal. Study hard on the LSAT and try to get a substantial scholarship.

      2. Study hard in law school. Top 30-60% at a top 10 law school gives you a good shot at starting at a “market paying” law firm (see #3 below). Top 30% and above and the world is your oyster. Your work experience will make you marketable during recruiting.

      3. “Market” for law firms is 180k starting and go up 10-20K a year. Bonuses start at 15k for a first year and go up 5-15k every year.

      4. Work life is ok, but it is probably around what you would experience in public accounting as a manager or senior manager in tax. The horror stories you hear about pulling consecutive all nighters are, for the most part, absent from tax practices.

      5. Most people last 3-5 years in law firms. After that they take a pay cut to go in house. I’ve seen pay ranges in house in the 160-200k all in range in markets like NYC and SF. You aren’t exactly guaranteed to be in the 1% for life but its not terrible either.

      6. In house recruiting is much more competitive for lawyers. You need to network your ass off.

      ETA: Law School is really expensive. Budget in student loans when thinking about whether its worth it to switch careers.

      • Voyager

        Pretty much agree with everything here except your work life is going to suck pretty bad, will be worse than manager/senior manager. Also wanted to add that it’s extremely hard to get into those top law schools and biglaw in general. The majority of lawyers don’t make nearly that amount and the work is not what you see on tv-the doc review, discovery, due diligence, and even motion drafting can be just as bad as reviewing a tax return.

        • IndenturedServant

          1. Tax lawyers at firms don’t do doc review or diligence.

          2. Discovery and motions are limited to controversy.

          3. Work is boring, I agree.

          4. It’s not hard to get into a top law school. Literally everything is based on the LSAT, which is very learnable. The hardest part is having the discipline to not say “fuck it” and just going to whatever school your score qualifies you for at the time.

          5. Work life is dependent on what law firm/accounting firm you are at. For the most part, tax lawyers (again at firms) rarely pull all nighters but work moderately long hours (10-11) consistently. This was pretty much my experience as a big4 tax manager. I will grant you there are more difficult personalities in law.

    • Big4Veteran

      WTF?!? The advice in this article is basically plagiarized from my comment on this author’s previous shitty article. You know, the TL:DR clusterfuck that didn’t provide any meaningful advice to the OP?

      “It’s nearly impossible to make a good choice about a next step if you have no idea where you are going and where you want to end up.”

      This is basically a re-write of the excellent advice I gave to the previous OP after the “expert” author failed to say anything relevant or meaningful in her response to the OP.


    • Big4Veteran

      To the author: How about giving credit to the person you borrowed an idea from? All you have to do is say something like, “As Big4Veteran wisely suggested in his comment under my last article…”. Most of your advice above is basically a re-do of your “swing and a miss” advice from your last shitty article, in which I saved you by giving the OP some real advice.

      Or if you’re going to take credit for my thoughts, how about forking over part of the $25 fee Colin paid you to write this article?


      • IndenturedServant

        It’s ok. Nobody reads this website anymore, so nobody would have noticed even if she had credited you.

        • Big4Veteran

          Sad. I’m old enough to remember when this website represented the spirit and soul of the young generation of the accounting profession.

          • IndenturedServant

            They should talk HG into coming out of retirement.

            • Big4Veteran

              I suspect “they” cannot afford her.

            • IndenturedServant

              isn’t she just doing her JDA blog?

              I would settle for a weekly guest column or something.

      • Basis Adjustment

        As a big4veteran, why are you so surprised that someone regurgitated your words and took all the credit? I’m sure you have seen a few big4 colleagues stomp on each other’s throats to get ahead. I have frequented this site for the last 5 years or so and read quite a bit of your banter. You are better than this sir!

      • Reasonable Assurance

        lol no public reply from the author. .