Opening Day, Accounting Career Edition

Today we welcome back Paul Gillis, best known for his China Accounting Blog. He is a former PwC partner, former member of PCAOB SAG, and accounting professor at Peking University.
 
Today is opening day, the beginning of the Major League Baseball season for 28 teams.  The loveable losers the Chicago Cubs opened yesterday; they can’t even get opening day right.  Opening day is an auspicious day for accountants, falling as it does between the due dates for 10Ks and 1040s. 
 
This afternoon the stadiums will be filled with many accountants –- partners in the skyboxes sipping wine with clients, managers in the club seats wolfing down Hebrew National hot dogs, and junior accountants in the bleachers chugging Coors Light.  Of course, some teams open later at home –- accountants in Denver have to wait until Friday before the Rockies open, but they have legal marijuana so they won’t mind. 
 
Baseball, of course, was a game invented for accountants. It is all about the numbers, finding trends and relationships –- the entire game is just one big analytical review.  Famous accounting professor Roman Weil says one of his passions is sabermetrics, a discipline named for the Society for American Baseball Research.  Give me a scorecard, a pencil, and a box of Cracker Jacks and my life is complete. 
 
Ask any accountant about how difficult the work is and they will tell you that although we work really hard, we can take off some afternoons to go to a ball game.  Tell us another job where you can do that.  We repeat those stories year after year to justify our staying in the profession, even when we only manage to slip away on opening day and one other day in July, if we are lucky. 
 
Opening day is about hope. It is wiping the slate clean of the past and starting over. For me, opening day always marked the day I reviewed my career and decided what I was going to do with the rest of my life. 
 
Opening day also marks the beginning of turnover season; the evaluation and promotion process begins at most firms.  But the improving weather and longer evenings that come with daylight savings time lead many accountants to question whether they want to go through another busy season.  So, as you enjoy the sunshine and the crack of the bat, let your mind wander to think about what you want to do with your career.
 
If you are going to leave public accounting it is best to do it between now and the World Series. Leave after that and you may leave the firm and clients in a lurch. You might be burning bridges, and that is rarely a good thing. 
 
As you've heard many times, public accounting is a great place to start a career.  For the first few years it will continue to open up doors for you. You will learn the discipline necessary to get work right the first time; you will develop the stamina to work incredibly long hours; and you will learn a lot about business.  Once you make manager, however, doors start to close.  Your career becomes more narrowly focused on financial reporting, tax, or whatever your specialty is.  Your next job is likely to be in the same field, and you are likely to stay in that field.  If you leave as a senior or new manager, your next job will also likely be in financial reporting or tax, but if you prove yourself your new employer is more likely to take a chance on seeing if you can solve a problem in another field.  
 
That does not mean you should leave by the time you make manager.  Becoming a partner can lead to a rewarding and high paying career.  Even if you don’t stay long enough to make partner, each year you invest working in public accounting will likely put you on the corporate ladder at a higher rung.  Just be aware, the corporate ladder you climb on as a senior manager usually does not go all the way to the top.  There are always exceptions, of course, and talented people usually get recognized eventually. 
 
So this afternoon, enjoy the game.  It is your reward for those long hours during busy season.  Take some time before the seventh inning stretch to think about what you want to do with your life. 

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