When is it a Good Time to Leave Your Public Accounting Job?

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus was no accountant, but he knew one crucial truth about your public accounting job: “Change is the only constant in life.” You’ve likely witnessed plenty of change at your accounting firm, especially in the last few years. 

Employees come and go. Leaders revise the mission and vision, leaving you with a feeling that you’re no longer philosophically aligned. Perhaps you’re ready to take on new challenges that aren’t available at your current firm. 

When should you leave your current position? Use these five signs to help you decide if it’s time to move on.  

Revolving Door Syndrome

What’s the turnover rate at your place of work? You probably see a 17-20% annual turnover rate if you work for a large firm. That’s a public accounting industry average. What if that number is 30% or 40%?

High turnover numbers are a sign that something clearly isn’t right. Revolving doors for employees are costly, and they place a drain on the accountants who do stay.

It’s less expensive to retain an employee than train a new one, so most HR departments develop comprehensive strategies to retain high-quality employees. You might not want to be one of the last accountants to leave a certain business or company.

Other Accounting Job Duties are Assigned

If you’re staying, what’s your current workload? 

There’s nothing wrong with being asked to take on additional duties. It’s part of your routine during busy seasons, and the extra work often falls in your job description as “other duties as assigned.”

However, if the unreasonable workload becomes a reoccurring and often theme, it is reasonable if you began to be concerned. Leadership may be doing this to move you up or just trying to push the work out with limited staff and resources.

When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

When was the last time you attended professional development? If it’s been 12 months or more, it’s time to re-evaluate how much your firm values your contributions. 

Perhaps you’ve given up and stopped learning. It’s also possible that those around you, including your boss, have decided they already know everything about the industry. Either way, it’s time to go.

Chaos Rules

Like any industry, public accounting has those extremely busy times of the year when everyone has to work long hours, eat lunch (and sometimes dinner) at the desk, and consume gallons of coffee every day to meet deadlines. This kind of chaos isn’t the norm; it’s the exception.

However, if you ever find yourself working in a crazed environment like this week in and week out on a consistent basis, even when it’s not tax season, it’s time to catch your breath, box your personal items, and move on.

You Have an Opportunity to Move up

Some doors close for a reason: a better opportunity has presented itself. You don’t have to stay in a position that cannot meet your needs and aspirations. When something better comes along, you might find yourself tempted to take it. It is completely okay to move on up and make this change, especially if it is better suited for you in all aspects.

Even if you are not trying to get to the partner level, the most important part about being with a public accounting firm is experience and professional growth.  So, what if those types of experiences are available elsewhere and simultaneously provide you with an opportunity to align with a corporate industry role that was connected to your career goals and aspirations?

How do you know if you should salvage your job where you are or change your trajectory and look for other opportunities? If one or more of these signs describes your current position, it’s time to think about your next move in public accounting.

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