If you’re an accountant, Big Four is the place to start your career, audit or tax. That’s Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY, and KPMG. 75 percent of my corporate clients seeking to fill accounting or tax roles prefer or require Big Four experience.

So does that mean Big Four accountants have their pick of roles in corporate America? Yes and no. Here are the dos and don’t of making the transition from Big Four to corporate tax and accounting.

How to Quit Your Public Accounting Job

DO go into Big Four out of college

The reason Big Four accountants are so in demand is their competitive hiring practices, exposure to many types of accounting situations, ability to adjust to different environments, and skill at thinking on their feet.  Just like Goldman Sachs in finance or McKinsey in consulting, joining one of these firms out of college certifies you as being among the best and the brightest. You will work long hours and travel frequently. It’s not easy. But the prestige attached to these firms makes them the best way to set yourself up for a long and successful accounting career.

DON’T get stuck in a niche specialty

In order to maximize your options coming out of the Big Four, be careful not to get stuck in a niche type of audit or tax. For example, exclusively focusing on benefits audit or ex-pat tax. These very specific roles can limit your career choices outside of the Big Four. Very few companies have the need to hire someone with such limited exposure. If you want to make the move to corporate accounting, make sure your experience is broadly applicable.

DO leave in the sweet spot

If public accounting isn’t where you want to spend your entire career, a four to eight year time frame will give you the maximum career boost. That’s usually at the senior associate or manager level. Moving into corporate America will then make you a Big Four “combo” (public and corporate experience) and among the highest paid, most in demand talent in the accounting market.

DON’T wait too long

There’s a misconception that if you make partner at one of these big, prestigious accounting firms, you can write your ticket to a high-paying job in corporate America. We don’t find that to be true. At the point you make partner, your high compensation level coupled with your lack of actual corporate accounting/industry experience, can hinder your ability to land a premium position. Companies are looking for someone who can smoothly move into a corporate accounting role understanding how to work in a corporate environment. They view partners as making too much money and beyond the prime corporate transition time. Even senior managers can sometimes struggle to make the switch.

DO maintain great relationships with your clients but DON’T view them as potential employers

It used to be common practice to move from the Big Four directly in house with one of your clients. Due to regulatory changes, that is no longer legal. But clients can still serve as invaluable references. They may also move to other companies where they are able to hire you.

Considering a move from the Big Four and seeking advice? Reach out to me at lmeyer@lucasgroup.com and I’m happy to offer career guidance as you explore your options.

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