November 16, 2018

Career Limiting Move?

Accountant with Too Many Career Options Needs Help

Struggling with your breakfast options? Trying to resist the siren's call that is a cushy government accounting job? Confused as to whether you should try your new 'edgy' stand-up material on your co-workers before the next open mic night? You have questions; we have ideas in our heads that may vaguely resemble answers. Email us. I left […]

Hypothetical: Is Passing on a Promotion to Manager Because It Requires Relocation a Career Limiting Move?

Ed. Note: Have a question for the Going Concern career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Dear GC,

I’ve been a reader of GC for a while. Thank you for the great advice you posted throughout the years!

Hypothetical situation: I’m a tax senior in a big public accounting firm. I’m doing well but I wasn’t promoted to manager this year because promotion requires that I relocate to another region and my family can’t move. In this situation, what can I do to help advance my career? Should I patiently toil for another few years until a spot opens up in my region? It seems like jumping into industry without a “manager” title will set me back significantly. Going to a competitor to get promoted also seems unlikely because I haven’t proven myself to the new employer. Would I literally be sacrificing my career for family in this case?

I am a young woman starting her career in tax in a public accounting firm. I saw others going through situation and I see myself running into this situation in a few years. Just want to ask this question so I know what to expect ahead of time.

Thanks for your advice!

Dear Hypothetical Tax Senior,

At the end of the day, this is a personal issue for you and your family to sort through. However, I hope the following points (and the GC community) can help you in your decision.

Things to consider:

1. Your professional network. How closely do you work with employees in this hypothetical office? Will you be able to move there before being promoted? Chances are, your network there is limited, so you will have to connect with and establish your credibility with an entire new office. Combine this with balancing the new responsibilities of being a manager and helping your family adjust to a new home, and you could be facing a steep learning curve, both professionally and personally.

2. Seek advice. Talk to your mentors about this. Is this a regular issue in your office? Have others before you made been in a similar situation, and if so, what did they decide to do? Is this a one year issue or is the possibility of being promoted to manager a distant possibility?

3. Look around you. Not in the job market sense but in the “how top heavy is my practice?” sense. Are managers currently doing the work of staff members because there is not enough to go around at the top? Is HR hiring into your group or have things been stagnant for awhile? Has your office lost a deal of client work to competition?

4. Look around again. Now I mean in the job market. All things considered, you need to do what’s best for your family. In that, you should be weighing ALL options. Jumping ship without the manager title is not necessarily a Scarlett Letter; it is something that can be explained in an interview at the very least.

Should a Big 4 Auditor Jump Ship for a Rival After Four Months on the Job?

Welcome to the you-better-get-work-done-today-because-no-one-is-doing-shit-tomorrow edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an experienced Big 4 auditor has recently gotten the interest of a rival firm after just four months on the job. Does he risk a disloyal reputation if he jumps ship again?

Have a career question? Trying to deal with a troublesome co-worker? Concerned that your firm isn’t offering you enough chances to crush some Chardonnay at the office? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll attempt to find you a firm that isn’t full of teetotalers.

Back to our Judas-in-waiting:

Hi Going Concern,

I recently made the move to a Big 4 firm after completing two full years at the largest mid-size firm in the U.S. I was promoted to Senior right before I left my old firm but was offered a position as a Staff 2 (with a nominal increase in pay). I am in the middle of my third busy season (assurance) and I just got an e-mail from one of the other Big 4 firms I was in communication with when I was looking to split from my previous firm. The e-mail is describing an open position that they have in a client acceptance specialty group, based in the NJ office (I currently live and work in NY).

I have only been at my current firm for about four months – is it too early to contemplate considering the opportunity? Of course I would have to go through the whole interview process so this could be a moot point but I can’t help wondering if the move would be a bad idea? Would it limit my ability to work in the private sector later on? Would my résumé scream DISLOYAL? My main incentive would be a pay/title increase (opening is for a Senior position) and what I would hope would be a less stressful “busy season” but at this point I have no clue what to do.

Thanks,

Ship Jumper in NY

Dear Ship Jumper,

Simply put: when given an opportunity, I a big believer in making a run at it. I don’t see anything wrong with going through the interview process with your prospective firm and seeing where it leads. If you don’t get the job, what have you lost? The answer is “nothing,” and you won’t wonder whether or not you should have gone on that interview. I’m not really sure how you feel about being an auditor but joining a speciality group could be a nice change of pace.

Scenario B is that you land the gig and you’re worried about the appearance it will have on your résumé. First of all, you make it sound like you’re one of those bounders who jumps around because they hate every job they’ve ever had. Two years here; eighteen months here; six months here. If you end up going down that road, the answer is yes, that is a warning sign to potential employers. If this opportunity is really the direction you want to take your career, then there’s very little risk of that. In the future when discussing the brief stint to an interviewer (if they even ask), you’ll be able to explain it this way, “The opportunity came up and I went for it. I’ve been working in this group for X number of years and have enjoyed my time there. This is just another opportunity.”

I think future employers should be interested in someone who recognizes opportunity when they see it as opposed to someone who is content to sit back and wonder what might have been. This goes for aspects in your work, not just career moves. As long as your intentions and ambitions about this opportunity are sincere and not simply opportunistic, employers won’t be worried about the brief pit stop at your current firm.

Should a Tax Rockstar Transfer to a New Consulting Gig Prior to Busy Season?

Welcome to another MOANday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a tax vet is looking to move into consulting with their current firm but in a new office. The current office wants this “star performer” to stick around for busy season but ultimately the decision lies with our hero, who is concerned about burning bridges if they jump before busy season starts. What’s a tax rockstar to do?

Recently had your heart broken? Are you a miserable auditor with no one to turn to? Or an overachiever who needs help convincing their colleagues that you’re not just some know-it-all? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll be your shoulder to cry on (and then slap some sense into you).

Back to the David Lee Roth of taxes:

Hi. I am currently with the tax department and thinking about doing a switch to consulting with my same firm, but a different office. The new position will offer better opportunities and as a bonus, better pay. I have already told my department leaders about this switch.

I think this will be a good switch for me, but am afraid there might be some burned bridges on the way since busy season is about to start and I am one of their star performers. They insist that I stay until busy season is over to make the switch because of the extra work load they will have. The final decision will be up to me, but I don’t want to burn any bridges.

Dear DLR,

First off, let us just congratulate you on the new consulting gig. It’s easier said then done to leave a successful run in one area to try something relatively different (without more DETAILS it’s difficult to know how different your new gig is).

Fortunately for you, your humble editor has some experience with a similar situation. Back in the mid-Aughts, I was granted a transfer from Denver to New York. My transfer was approved in the fall, however the leadership in Denver put forth the condition that I spend one more busy season in the MHC. Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out that way because I was able to spend one more year working on a client I enjoyed and it better prepared me for my engagements in New York.

In your case, you are switching practices so perhaps you could care less about grinding out another busy season with your tax comrades. Similarly, if you’re the rockstar you claim to be, it probably isn’t too motivating to know that you’re going to bust your ass for 3-ish months but then not have your performance considered for your year-end review.

But you’re obviously torn between your giddiness of a new career opportunity and the possibility of rubbing some people the wrong way if you decide to leave them behind. Honestly, I’m a big believer in doing what you want to do, especially when given the option. So, you shouldn’t be surprised when I say move on to the consulting gig now. I understand that you don’t want to cause any friction but if they are “insisting” that you stay for busy season why did they allow you to make the decision? If they need you so bad, they would “require” you to stay. That’s what Denver did to me but again, their need was probably far greater than New York’s.

But here’s a NEWSFLASH: The team will make it through busy season with or without you. If your colleagues have integrity and support your ambitions, this is a non-issue. Chances are, some of them are completely comfortable no matter what decision you make. Others won’t be. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone because you’ll ultimately fail in that endeavor. If you want to join the consulting team now, then do it. Your tax colleagues will survive and if some of them hold it against you, then you’re better off getting the hell away from them. Good luck.

Should Grad Students Crash Another School’s ‘Meet the Firms’ Event?

Welcome to the your-life-would-be-easier-if-you-just-embraced-Monday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a graduate student wants to know if crashing another school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ event is a good idea or if it will land him on the Big 4 blacklist.

Looking for some career advice? Need help filling out your Holiday Gift list? Bored with your life after Big 4 and need some ideas on how to fill the hours? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll and we’ll find you a hobby in no time.

Back to the Big 4 crasher:

I am attending a master’s of tax program in a small city that only has two Big 4 firms, only one of which does tax. As a result of this, the other firms don’t recruit at our school and won’t let us apply for associate positions because they don’t recruit at our campus.

A couple of classmates and I were wondering if it would be wrong to travel to a larger city and attend that school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ night next year to hand our résumés to the recruiters and get face time with them. Would doing this do more harm that good to us with the firms or would it show how much we want to work for them?

Thanks for the advice,
Small town accountant

Dear Small Town,

We like your enthusiasm for a road trip. This particular journey has a mission, however, so it has a little more significance than your average cruise through the desert with a trunk full of narcotics but we understand you’ve got your future career to consider. Anyway, we’re all for this idea for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a relatively low-risk proposition that could pay big dividends and 2) If you’ve got some self-control, the trunk full of narcotics could still happen.

That said, the most important thing to keep in mind while on your recruiting journey is that you are wandering into enemy territory (so to speak). This means you’ll have no choice but to be completely honest about your non-affiliation with the school. Your résumés will easily show this but any kind of misrepresentation will eventually torpedo your plans one way or another. Clearly explaining your situation to the firm recruiters will demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile (or 50 to 100) and assuming you’ve got a stellar résumé, it will likely impress them even more.

As for the risks – your rival school could just up and throw you out once they find out that you’re not affiliated with the school. For starters, you’re jockeying for face time with the firms at the expense of their students. As long as you don’t make a spectacle of yourself, we feel there’s only a small risk of you getting the heave. Likewise, one of the firm’s recruiters may frown on your little crashing escapade but frankly, if you don’t make it seem like a big deal, they won’t either.

So we say go for it – show up, shake hands, chat ’em up and who knows what will happen. You’ve got very little to lose except maybe a job.

Anyone out there who has crashed a recruiting event is invited to share the highlights or if you agree/disagree with the advice, chime in below.

Will Defecting from E&Y to PwC Change Anything?

Today in makeshift accounting therapy, a fed up E&Y vet is contemplating a move to arch-rival PwC and wants to know if this is a suicide move.

Have a question about your career? Need advice on how to explain why your Fantasy Football league is always up on your laptop? Looking for advice on how to best flirt with recruits without being creepy? Send us an email with your query to [email protected] and will give you the best free advice you’ll ever get.

As for our potential E&Y Benedict Arnold:

I’m at EY, looking at a position one-level above where I am at PWC. Is this a frying-pan/fire situation?

EY as “more people friendly” is a concern, because EY is horrifically NOT people friendly.

I’ve know the guy I would be working for at PWC very well and I think I’m maxed out at EY.


Okay, so not a lot to go on here but we’ll take a stab at this. First off, if you’re maxed out at E&Y then looking for a new gig is the right move. The timing isn’t bad (assuming you’re not in the tax practice) and it sounds like you’ve got a decent lead at PwC. That said…

What makes you think PwC will be better than E&Y? Has the guy that you would be working for told you explicitly that he’s having the time of his life over there? That, besides the PwC Experience, you’ll be getting 40-50 hour weeks, happy hours devoid of assaults and access to professional oral sex providers on a regular basis?

More questions to consider: Does “the guy” stand to get a referral bonus for poaching you? Can you see yourself working for him? This could turn out to one hell of an epic mistake if he gets a few thousand bucks and you end up working for a whip-wielding taskmaster.

Now that we’ve planted the skepticism seed, if “a position one level above” is a legit promotion (title and salary bump), that might be worth considering. If it’s more of a lateral move, then we’d suggest passing unless there were perks like we described above.

Other important things to consider: 1) You will be torching many bridges at E&Y. Are you okay with that? 2) Is your potential new job really what you want to do. We’re making the assumption that you like your work but you’re over life at E&Y. If you don’t like your work then you’ve got a whole other problem. 3) Do you really, really, really, really want to stay in Big 4? Have you seriously asked yourself that question?

Ultimately, the opportunity may be a great one but you’re still taking a big risk assuming your life will be infinitely better working at PwC over E&Y. Proceed with caution.