How to Plan Your Exit Strategy from Public Accounting

You came, you saw, you conquered public accounting. Now what is next in your career? It has all been a clear decision path up until this point: obtain accounting degree – check, 150 credit hours – check, full-time offer – check.  But now that you have decided the Partner track is not for you, the decision tree has many branches to navigate.  What are the next steps in planning your exit?


Research Career Paths  

Determine the next right career move is comprised of both professional and personal goals. What position do you want in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Taking some time to think about your long-term career goals will help you determine the right next move. Reflect on your strengths and the areas of your job that you really enjoy and excel in. Are you great at accounting, but want to impact a company from the inside rather than being the pesky auditor? Or did you realize that you enjoy thinking about future performance and want to make a switch into Finance? Are you still not sure, but want to learn a business through an internal audit development program that rotates into the business upon completion?  What industries excite you the most? Does work travel appeal to you or impede upon your personal life too much? What distance are you willing to commute? Are you interested in higher/continued education? What benefits are most important to you?


Identify Opportunities

Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself.  There are several steps you can take to understand the current job market. First, get in touch with your professional network and make sure they are aware you are open to new opportunities. Hopefully you connected to several contacts while researching career paths.

Simultaneously, start working with a qualified recruiter that has successfully placed candidates in your field. Be selective when determining the recruiter you want to partner with on your search. Keep in mind, they will be identifying opportunities for you and representing you to clients.  Do your due diligence and review their background. Did they begin their career in your field? Are they highly recommended by a co-worker or contact in your network?


Obtaining Interviews

Have you found several positions online, but never receive a response from the ‘black hole’ even though your credentials check every box? Unfortunately, no response is common for online job postings given the high volume of interest. How do you get your resume in front of the decision makers?

The two best ways to obtain an interview is the same for identifying the opportunity – utilize your network and work with a qualified/successful recruiter. Before applying to job, see if you know someone that works for the company. Also ask your recruiter if they have a relationship with that company. Why are these options the best avenues? You have the highest probability of obtaining an interview when someone already accredited by the company is recommending you.


Landing an Offer

Once an interview is lined up, make sure you are fully prepared for the interview process. Research the company in and industry fully. Go the extra step to learn recent news that affected the industry and company specifically.  Know the backgrounds of the interviewers prior to the meeting – look for commonalities to build rapport quickly. Review your resume fully, and be able to speak to every detail. Generate thoughtful questions regarding the role, team, company, etc.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  An interview is critical in determining technical qualifications as it in identifying cultural fit. Arrive 15 minutes early to the interview. Dress to impress, a suit is always best practice for an interview. Lean in and engage in the conversation. Make eye contact and smile. Welcome and close the conversation with a firm handshake. Always thank the interviewer for their time.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Whether this is an exciting or nerve racking thought for you, take hope! There is a methodical, logical path to pursing the right career path. Remember to do your research, identify opportunities, land the interview through the right resources, and finally – impress, impress, impress in the interview. Now is a great time to take charge of your career, and we are here to help!


Lauren Feldman – Harmer Accounting & Finance