• Career Center

    Leaving Your Accounting Firm? Here’s Your To-Do List Before Your Last Day

    By | September 9, 2011

    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 miss anything when I 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. Thanks.

    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.