leave public accounting for industry

Ready to Leave Public Accounting? How to Assess New Opportunities and Find Your Dream Job


So, you’re ready for the next step in your career. Perhaps you’re like many of our candidates at BVOH Search + Consulting. You’re a few years out of college. You graduated and got a good job at a public accounting firm, and you’re making a decent salary.

However, after a few years, you’ve decided to expand your skills and try something new in an industry role, perhaps at a promising new startup.

After you have some public accounting experience under your belt, many people will tell you that you can do anything you want — that you can go anywhere from there. This may be true, but it could also take a little while to figure out exactly what you want to do and how to get there. And that’s OK too!

Your first industry job may not be your dream job, but it can be a career stepping-stone to help you get to where you really want to be.

Assessing New Opportunities

Before you start looking at job descriptions, take some time to think about your ultimate career goal. The more certain you are of your goal, the more intentional you can be in your career choices.

For example, if you know you want to be a Controller, think about whether a prospective job will give you the problem-solving and organizational skills you need to get to the next step.

“Your first industry job may not be your dream job, but it can be a career stepping-stone to help you get to where you really want to be.”

Or if you want to go into finance, think about whether your next company will give you some exposure to that area. Going from audit directly into a fully-focused finance position can be difficult. Just remember that you will always be more competitive with industry experience, even if it’s within accounting.

Consider that you may want to prioritize experience and growth opportunities over working for a well-known company.

Even if you’re not sure of your ultimate goal, you can refine your plan as you work and learn. Something I often tell candidates to do is to write down the top three to five things they need from their next job. Here are some things to consider:

-Are you looking for a great mentor?
-Is the company growing enough to support your career goals?
-Will this job provide you with expanded responsibilities?
-Is a good work/life balance important to you?
-Are you looking for a positive corporate culture?
-Are you looking for a company whose values and mission closely align with your own?

Once you give some thought to these questions, use this list to guide you to what you really want.

Also, a word about compensation: Yes, it’s very important, and you should research it thoroughly. But you may find that a lot of opportunities open up for you, if it’s not at the top of your list.

Personally, I think you should consider many factors in addition to salary. And I also tend to believe that if you have good experience and you enjoy your work, the money will follow. Studies show that happy workers are more productive. It’s what I call playing the long game.

You will never be 100% sold on an opportunity just by reading a job description. If you’re slightly interested in a role, it doesn’t hurt to submit your resume and just open up the lines of communication. You might be pleasantly surprised after speaking with the hiring manager. And if you’re not interested in moving forward, that’s OK too. That’s just part of the interviewing process.

Interviewing for an Industry Job

Public accounting and industry jobs are very different, and you can see that difference right at the very beginning — at the interview.

First of all, when you interview with a public accounting firm right out of college, there are often as many as 50 open positions depending on the size of your start class. Your interviewer will most likely ask you standard questions about your education and your GPA, and why you chose to get into accounting.

“Even if you’re not sure of your ultimate goal, you can refine your plan as you work and learn.”

When you interview for industry jobs, you’ll find the environment to be much more competitive, and you’ll have to sell yourself. There’s only one open role. The questions will focus on your accounting knowledge, what you’ve learned, and how you can add value to the company. You don’t have the operations skills yet, so you have to convince them that you can learn their systems and procedures quickly.

In addition to company research and interview prep, be sure that you know your own résumé backward and forward. That may sound basic, but in an interview, people often have trouble articulating their skills well. Be sure that you can clearly and concisely describe what you have done in your work life up to that point. Rehearse talking about it, so that you have it fresh in your mind. And remember to use specific examples. Generalities don’t give comfort to hiring managers that you can actually do the job.

Keep Your Excitement as You Branch Out

The move from public accounting to industry can be very exciting, as you consider all the opportunities out there in front of you. As long as you give careful consideration to your career goals, make some plans about how to get there, and do some interview prep, you will fare well. And remember that we at BVOH would be happy to help you along your way. Happy hunting!