Are you considering a move? Don’t believe everything your partners tell you to convince you to stay

Thinking of leaving public accounting? You’re not alone. With burnout and attrition at an all-time high, partners will tell you almost anything to keep you on board. Often half-truths at best, the lies told to staff, seniors and managers are nothing new. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Lie #1: If you leave public accounting, you’ll never work with the same caliber of smart people again.

I left Big 4 and now the same partners who shared this point of view with me are in charge of our audit. I work with the same teams that I have worked with at the firm all the time. What were they saying about themselves? (gasp!)

After several years of routine from all these incredibly smart people in auditing who split hairs and start nerds in no time, it’s nice to work with people who don’t . Don’t start every other sentence with “Well, technically speaking…(yawn)”. People don’t need a CPA license or a master’s degree from a prestigious university to do accounts payable, accounts receivable, reconciliations, etc.

Lie #2: The grass is brown everywhere.

Seriously?! Should you stay in public accounting because your career is going to suck no matter where you are? This one is especially laughable given who is making the statement. Most partners never live outside of public accounting, so they don’t know what green grass looks like.

No job is perfect, even in industry. You still have to get along with people and play politics. You might not be promoted like clockwork with everyone else in your party. The high season also arrives in the industry. However, in the industry you only have one ‘client’, you can invest in any company you want without consulting a database or letting your employer track your every transaction, you can actually spend time with family and friends on weeknights, you don’t need to fill memos with useless pages of garbage just because the partner wants more CYA for the record, and the busy season is always seasonal (usually). In short, green grass.

Lie #3: You are selling yourself short by taking this position. If you stay six months longer, we will use the firm’s extensive network to help you find a great opportunity for you.

Finding you that big opportunity is almost always an afterthought to the much more pressing matter of keeping you. To gauge the likely outcome of this promise, observe how the partner interacts with customers – if something can be thrown down the road, it will be, and there’s a very good chance you’ll be treated the same or worse. .

Partners who are attentive to customer needs, follow up often, and are genuinely concerned about solving problems early on are much more likely to follow through on their negotiations with employees. A word of caution on this one though – I’ve seen several of my colleagues get sucked into the dangling carrot for months or even years before realizing it would never happen, cutting their losses and walking off on their own.

Lie #4: On average, you will make more money in public accounting than in industry.

This statement is based on the assumption that you will become a partner and live the rest of your career in constant fear of inspections and restatements. Let’s be honest, not everyone is or wants to be on the partner path.

The statement also generally ignores the scenario of starting in public accounting and getting a 20% to 30% pay raise between senior and manager, which is what most people come for. It also ignores stock options and the intangible value of a work-life balance equation where work does not equal life.

Lie #5: We’re going to rearrange your schedule so you can work on whatever client or industry you want.

This one usually transforms into a Chimera fairly quickly. Sometimes the company will follow if your free time is a pressing need that matches your request or if you are REALLY pushy and SUPER patient.

I asked to be put on a public client at least once a quarter for two years. Our office was small and we only had a handful of public clients, but the partners kept telling me that they would “do their best to get me to rotate them as soon as possible”. My schedule didn’t change until I had a job offer in hand with one foot out. While the ink was still drying on that signed offer, they rushed to rearrange my schedule in a last ditch effort to keep me. At that time, it was too little, too late.

Lie #6: If you want a better work-life balance, you can adopt a flexible schedule.

Just say no. Deadlines don’t go away. Staff shortages always add stress. Unless you really know how to say “no” (and let’s face it, if you’re a public accountant, you probably aren’t), then a flexible working arrangement is tantamount to the company paying you less for do exactly the same job. .

In the grand (pyramid) scheme of things, partners have to keep people around for the model to work. Remember this when you start the conversation with partners about leaving the business, understand their motivation and point of view, and always take everything they tell you with a grain of salt (or a two-ton rock ) of salt.

About the Author:

CP Aiden is a former Big 4 insurance executive who has bounced between public accounting and the industry three times over the past 15+ years. After having definitively left public accountancy, he writes and self-publishes The right check (sequel to come), a satire on a freshman audit assignment that pokes fun at the work, life, and culture at today’s top accounting firms.

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