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levels of leaving

Given the volume of people leaving the firms for greener pastures, I started thinking about the reasoning behind why people at different levels within the firm leave. So let's give this a shot...

1) First year associate - You go, WTF is this job? You realize that this is not the career or field, let alone the job, for you. You realize your calling is nursing, teaching in an elementary school, running a store, or something on those lines. This is when you leave, or should leave.

2) Second year-third year associate - You complete two years at the firm. You cannot deal with the hours, and your main priority is a good work-life balance. You'd rather be an accountant at a company, and have your own desk and 9-5 hours. This is when you leave, or should leave.

3) First senior associate year- You now have senior year under your belt. You probably have your CPA by now. The offers are pouring in. You hate the salary you're getting paid. You went through a really difficult year and start to hate some of your managers. You want out. You get an offer paying 8-12k more, with something called bonuses given to you on a periodic basis. You don't mind working from 8:30-6:30 or so. More specialized positions like revenue recognition accountant come into play. This is when you leave.

4) Second senior associate year - You put in your time at the firm. You know you do NOT want to be a manager at the firm. You realize that if you stay one more year, you'll end up staying for two. You don't think you can deal with this kinda life anymore. Friends around you are dropping like flies. You think about leaving once a week. You go through a range of emotions, going back and forth between leaving and staying. You give interviewing a shot. You decide that if you don't like any positions out there, you're staying. A combination of a catalyst event happening at work (work till midnight for a couple days) and an intriguing job offer make you leave.

5) Third year senior associate - You're this close to becoming a manager. You are pushed to the limits at work. Your salary is absolutely ridiculous for the amount of work you do. All your friends in the private sector are making more than you doing way less work. You wonder if waiting out a few months to make manager is worth it. Your mind's telling you to wait it out since it will be worth it in the long term. But you get an offer that might be the same as when you make manager, and you do not want to let this slip by. This is when you leave.

6) Manager year (1st and 2nd) - Holy heck, what just happened. You're over-worked, frustrated, and stressed out. But you have the mgr year under your belt. There is no reason to stay, unless you don't know what to do, or you want to be in audit. Assistant controller and controller positions come pouring in. You jet.

7) Manager year (3rd-4th) - You could become a senior manager. Maybe you can wait it out and get that title. But your personal life comes into play. Marriage and kids come into play. Your significant other wants more time if you're a guy, and if you're a girl, kids make staying not worth it. You jet for a good job with decent hours so you have a life and spend time with your family.

8) Senior manager - You realize your chances of making partner are less than 20%. It'll take you time to check your ego, but it hits you finally. This is when you leave. (Except I don't get why you don't leave. I really don't. Don't you know by now you won't make partner. Maybe it's that 20% chance that makes you hang on).

9) Partner - Retire. CFO/Director position. Forced early retirement. That's it. You've hit the holy grail in the accounting field, and are set for life, so why bother leaving.

Comments

Anonymous said…
beautiful post.
Anonymous said…
hilariously funny but true
Jennie said…
this is so awesome! I just started at a local firm as an auditor. I've always wanted to do tax, and unsure of what to do now, because the job seems to be very boring.
Anonymous said…
decent post, but just an FYI, NOT EVERYONE hates working at an accounting firm. Your post seems to indicate, at all levels except Partner, people are sick/hate what they do. This may be true, but to say everyone hates the job, is a tad bit unfair.
notfordisplay said…
As an fyi, guess you didn't understand the context of my post. But when I say - "I started thinking about the reasoning behind why people at different levels within the firm leave.", it means that I'm articulating why people leave when they leave, not why people hate working at an accounting firm.
Anonymous said…
i love this blog! hits the nail on the head every time
Anonymous said…
Bit confused about this post to be honest. Great quality, but im thinking of becoming a CA, so do all people hate working as auditors? It seems from your post that at all levels, people want to leave since their not thrilled.
Anonymous said…
Bit confused about this post to be honest. Great quality, but im thinking of becoming a CA, so do all people hate working as auditors? It seems from your post that at all levels, people want to leave since their not thrilled.
Anonymous said…
Hi! I'm an intern that recently completed a B4 audit internship and am wondering if you have some time to answer an career-orientated question.

I'm trying to decide whether to audit financial services companies or non-financial services companies. What would you say are the pros and cons of either industries? Do individuals who choose non-FS have less career mobility within the firm or if they decide not to stay with the B4 after a few years?

Thank you for your time and advice!
notfordisplay said…
Sorry for the confusion. I didn't mean to imply that everyone hates this job. I just tried to explain why people leave when they're at certain positions in the firm, i.e., if they leave, what is the reasoning behind this?
Anonymous said…
This post and your entire blog in general is enlightening and hilarious at the same time. I'll be starting at the big four full time this September in assurance and you've really given me some things to think about.

I was wondering what types of offers you have received and actually considered at different points in your career(position/company size/salary) as you mention recruiters knocking down the door and whether these offers vary much with performance. I guess I shouldn't be thinking about getting out before I've started but studying for the exam is boring.
Anonymous said…
Its too true. There are about 1/100 people that go into the field that are born to be CPA's. Then there is everyone else. Employees think turnover is a horrible thing - its not. Its built into the business model like McDonalds. There's always a steady supply of fresh meat, uh, recent graduates in the pipeline.
shelsee.byrnes said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
I am an Audit Senior Manager in London working for one of the Big 4s.. I want to congratulate you for coming up with this great analysis. I have been through all those stages and thought about leaving many for the very same reasons.. Funnily enough, each time I looked back I was glad I had not resigned at the time as better opportunities are surrounding me now and I am in my early 30s, so life is still out there.

I sometimes question what makes me stay with the firm. I guess it is a combination of things. The young profile of people I work with (I've made many good friends over years), continuous training and development opportunities, flexibility provided to me, working on interesting clients, dealing with interesting senior client management and many other reasons.. not the money and certainly not the interesting (!!!) sides of accounting.. At the moment, the salary I am making is quite good in London standards but I am aware some of my friends are probably making a lot higher than me.. But I have also friends who are making significantly less. So there is really never end to this.. there will always be others making better money than me.. At least I know I am not being screwed badly or I don't really have the risk of getting sacked in a crisis situation. It is very rare when Big 4 fires people.. It happened before but very rare I guess.

However, overall I still want to do something else in the future.. Becoming a Partner is not in my mind at the moment.. I guess you were a bit optimistic by referring to 20%. I would say less than 10%...

I like change; the idea of working with different people, at different locations and on different subjects.. But isn't this how an auditor's life is all about anyway?
Leisa Waldron said…
I am a wife of a newly promoted Senior Manager. I thought this post was hilarious, and sent it to him right away. Thanks for the laugh! It's funny because it is true! He loves what he does...but that doesn't stop us both from thinking about "leaving". :)
Anonymous said…
In two years in Audit I haven't met a single person that (after the second assistant year) likes working 12 hours a day and being paid less than 30K. You might like the idea of the job, or what you do, but everyones hates the way it has to be done.
Anonymous said…
Products and Services is more varied, you might work with smaller companies but the range of businesses it comprehends is bigger. FS industry is for people that love banking and/or foresee a future career is this field.

Financial institutions are more likely to be huge corporations so you might end up assigned to a single client for the whole year, with the pros and cons that implies.

Hope this helps, good luck!

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