Let's Discuss: Switching From Your Firm's Audit Practice to the Advisory Practice

There's a resemblance. Last week during Caleb’s pseudo office hours, someone threw out the following question:
Have y'all covered the transition from Assurance to Transaction Services in GC?
Ahh, audit to advisory. The Holy Grail of internal transfers. The topic is covered at GC every once in awhile, but Caleb thought it best to open this up to the floor. I’ll lay out some general info and you can feel free to banter in the comments section. 
 
Some generalizations
A couple of things need to be considered. For one, the Advisory groups at the Big 4 are exploding right now. They are fast becoming the lucrative powerhouses for in the market. Some of you have even attributed the shift in audit representation to firms dropping audit clients in order to pursue them as advisory clients. That said, all of this change has caused the TS groups within Advisory to change titles, departments, and segmentation of responsibilities. I’m not going to try and pretend that I know every practice/sub-group/lunch click name out there. For the sake of this post, TS/Transaction Services covers the M&A/due diligence teams that have traditionally been the attractive groups in the career crosshairs of you overly ambitious auditors. 
 
BUT -- something to consider for your long-term career -- advisory groups may be growing like genetically modified foods today, but they usually see the most drastic cuts when the economy hits the skids. During the dark days of 2008, 2009, 2010, it was downright ugly. Budgets were cut and jobs were eliminated to the point that people were actually trying to get back into audit (CAN YOU IMAGINE??). If you’re of the mindset that the global economy is on a path for complete destruction, think twice before putting yourself at the front of your firm’s “Most Expendable” list.
 
Explore your options
Getting anything through HR is a pain in the ass, let alone setting the wheels in motion for a cross-practice transfer. Pain in the ass. Pain in the ass. Pain in the ass. So what the hell should you do?
 
Take a rotation -- Occasionally the TS groups (along with other advisory lines) will look for high ranking auditors to take on a rotation. These rotations usually happen when audit slows down, because audit partners wouldn’t dare lose their talented worker bees during busy season. A rotation into TS is like an internship -- you can network, try the work on for size, and get a feel for the career track -- all without fully committing to the job switch.
 
Understand what the job entails -- This might seem like common sense, but too many of you want to make the move to TS without knowing what the group actually does. Do your homework. READ. Talk to people. When it comes time to explain why you’re interested in a move to TS, “because they make more money than me” is not a valid answer. 

Network your ass off -- This is straightforward and goes along with the previous point. Work your magic with your performance manager and mentor(s), the HR professionals responsible for experience hiring for TS, and anyone in TS that you can come to interact with. This is where attending office functions like campus recruiting events can pay off. Don’t be aggressive with expressing your interest, but don’t be shy about it either. The most important thing to be is patient. This stuff takes time. 

Look outside your firm -- Pain attention - this should not be overlooked. The easiest way to avoid office politics is to look outside your firm and test the waters at a rival. Every Big 4 firm posts their TS jobs to their websites. Here: EYPwCKPMGDeloitte
 
Switching to another firm will enable you to actually leverage your work experience, performance ratings and engagement challenges. You really didn’t think being a top-ranked senior on your firm’s 2nd biggest audit engagement was going to help you jump to another practice at your firm, did you? 
 
Coming straight from campus? Good luck.
The odds are simply not in your favor if you are a budding college grad hoping to get straight into a TS group. First of all, you better plan to be in a major city -- New York, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco. And, odds are you are not enrolled at one of the universities that the TS group likes to recruit from. Because their on-campus hiring numbers are limited (this is undergrad and MBA level), the recruiters focus on a handful of schools. How many is a handful? Less than 10. A Big 4 recruiter told me their TS practice focused on four schools. FOUR. Unfortunately for some of you, Southwest State College is not one of them.
 
If you happen to see a TS job posting on your collegiate job board, great! Apply! I don’t suggest putting all of your professional eggs into that one basic, however. Make contact with the campus recruiter and express your interest in TS, but make it known that you are open to other practices if necessary. Don’t shut the door on the Big 4 if your career hasn’t even started. 
 
All of this said, do you even know what life is like on the other side? Why would you want to transfer to TS, anyway?
 
Let’s weigh the Pros and Cons:
 
The Work
  • Auditing sucks. Getting away from the long hours and thankless work will make you feel valued! PRO
  • By getting away from the thankless audit work, you mean traveling to Lord Only Knows, Kansas to perform thankless research. CON
Travel
  • Your audit engagements provide you with zero reasons to travel on the company’s dime. TS = travel!!! PRO
  • Getting an email on Sunday about travel plans for 6am Monday morning is a major buzzkill for your Sunday Funday. CON
  • Travel = per diem. PRO
Skills
  • Making EBITDA your bitch. PRO
  • But sometimes EBITDA will bitch slap you and show you who is really in charge. CON
Getting ahead
  • The CPA is not a hurdle for your career path. PRO
  • You could be a senior associate for YEARS anyway since TS does not follow the strict promotional timeline like audit. CON
Perception
  • Your mother might think you’re on the same level as the consultants at McKinsey. PRO
  • Reality = not even close. CON
Miscellaneous
  • Hitting on someone at the bar and not having to explain what an auditor actually does. PRO
  • The feeling of adding actual value to a client’s bottom line, potentially even having a hand in a successful deal. PRO
  • The shit-ton of administrative work that no one tells you about. CON
  • The opportunity to wear more suits. PRO
Have you made the switch? How’d you do it? Do you love it? Do you regret it? Share your thoughts below.

 

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