Making the transition from public accounting to the corporate world can be tricky. While you may have a clear picture of your ultimate goal, piecing together the different steps that will take you to the top may not be as obvious.

Adding to the challenge: accounting talent is in top demand but short supply. With a Big 4 firm on your resume, you’ll be a popular hire. Companies will be eager to bring you on board. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by multiple offers and pressured into accepting an offer before you’ve had time to carefully consider your next steps.

As a Senior Executive Recruiter and a former CPA, I often serve as a “sounding board” for transitioning candidates. I let them know how the market is moving, provide guidance about opportunities they may never have considered, and even answer questions about a specific company’s workplace culture. Speaking candidly with someone who has “been there, done that” will help you refine your focus and identify what’s most important for your next position.

As you evaluate different opportunities, keep the following in mind:

  1. Consider your ‘must haves’ for a new position. Think about what’s truly important to you and how this translates to your day-to-day experience. Going into the interview, what questions can you ask to make sure your values align? In my experience, people are most successful when they value their team and are amongst like-minded individuals that place similar emphasis on education, background, experience, and work ethic.
  2. Grow your skill set with new challenges. Think about your long-term goals. For example, do you want to be a CFO? Your first job out of public accounting may not be the one that takes you straight to the C-suite, and that’s okay. Instead, focus on job opportunities that will allow you to cultivate new skills. There are many different paths that can take you from external auditor to CFO. No single path is the “right” path. Each company is an opportunity to add new tools to your tool belt so when you do become CFO, you’ll have all the resources, knowledge and experience you need to succeed.
  3. Think big picture. Today’s accounting jobs are far more dynamic than they were a decade ago. Companies are willing to shape roles to fit their preferred hire, rather than forcing a candidate into a position that doesn’t align with his or her interests or development goals. When it comes to your job search, don’t discount a position or say “no” solely because of the job description. Companies want candidates who are comfortable wearing multiple hats and growing into new leadership positions. Bring an open mind to your first interview and learn how you and your potential employer can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
  4. Do your due diligence before you interview. Denver’s market is growing quickly, but there’s still a fixed talent pool. Currently, this means there are more jobs than candidates, creating an unusual situation for top talent. Hiring managers understand the competitive landscape and are prepared to move quickly to secure their top candidate choice. These managers assume job candidates who are interviewing for a position are serious about making a change and will be ready to accept an offer as soon as it’s given. If you’re on the fence about a job change or aren’t sure about your direction, think through your options before you start the interview process. Come to the interview prepared to ask the right questions about how this role can be shaped to meet your interests and goals.

About eight years ago, before I became a recruiter, I made the transition from public accounting to the corporate world. At the time, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the different options and unsure of the “right” next move. Looking back, I realize I could have used this advice when faced with my seemingly daunting decision. Luckily, everything came together and today I’m in a position I truly love, helping accounting and finance professionals plan the next steps in their careers.

Questions about how the transition from Big 4 to corporate accounting? I invite you to post your questions in the comments below or contact me directly: