Need Career Advice

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  • #2853333

    Hello all,

    I just joined this forum – looks like it may be mainly for people who are studying for the CPA exam, but maybe there are some professionals with experience on here too.

    I need some advice – a little over a year ago I left a regional CPA firm where I was a tax supervisor and went to a very small firm with only around 10 employees including 3 shareholders. I spent 4 years at the regional firm and learned quite a lot and enjoyed a good portion of the work. Prior to that I spent 3 years at a smaller firm (80 employees) in a different city and did mainly tax there as well, but also did a little audit. Of the two prior firms the regional firm seemed to be a better fit for me. At the regional firm I worked in a wide range of industries and worked on some very complex returns. The last few years I was there I was preparing some of the firm’s most difficult tax returns, and I worked on our office’s second largest client revenue wise (Or it may have even been first). I also really liked my manager and we got along great. When I worked there, I don’t think I realized how much I was learning. In hindsight it is obvious that I got some great tax experience and was exposed to quite a large variety of work. But the tax seasons were very rough for me. I worked around 60-65 hours per week during tax season, and about 40 per week outside of that (maybe a little less than 40 during the summers). May not seem bad at all to some of you out there, but I struggled with it and battled anxiety and depression. I like to work extremely hard when I am at work and am very focused and efficient. But once I get pass a certain number of hours, it causes negative consequences in my mental and physical health. Therefore, I left for an opportunity at a smaller firm where I am my own boss in a sense. Opportunity to be a part owner there in a year or two. There still is a tax season, but the last one wasn’t as intense as it had been at the previous firm. I basically can work the hours I want to outside of tax season. So there is tons of flexibility. But with a new situation, different problems emerge as well. So far I don’t feel real challenged with the work and I’m doing more personal tax than I would prefer. We naturally have smaller clients so there isn’t nearly the complexities that I enjoyed working on. There still is a variety of work, but like I said there is a lack of complexity. There is a little more accounting clean up here as well. I have the most technical experience of anyone there by far. Lastly, I’m not a big social person, but I do miss working with a wider variety of people at the regional firm. I’m not sure what to do. Do I stick with it and reassess after this tax season? I’ve considered private as well, but I’ve heard of people getting bored in private sometimes. If I went back to the regional firm, I know that I’d enjoy the work, but not the long hours and less flexibility. I have been given a gift from God to be high powered technically, but just not sure where I should be in order to best leverage that, but still have time to pursue things outside of work. Sorry, that was pretty long, but I could probably provide a lot more details than what I did. I would be grateful for any advice/suggestions.

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  • #2854512

    I would recommend sticking with where you are at the moment and re-assessing your situation after the tax season. I was in a similar situation when I left public–too many hours, too much stress, I delayed my wedding date twice because I kept getting sent off to clients for MONTHS–and now I face boredom. I actually have two jobs now: private and running my own small tax business. I, too, miss the complexity and engagement of the public firm, as well as the reduced exposure to clients (client engagement is now something I have to handle myself, and it's a nightmare), but when I weigh the pros and cons, I really do enjoy where I am today rather than returning to public. I was MISERABLE in public, but where I am now, I'm simply BORED. Between the two, what would you prefer?

    Also, boredom can be alleviated much more easily than misery. Take up a new hobby to look forward to after work. Do research on new tax topics, like crypto-currency. Learn new functions in Excel, like VBA programming. For example, some of my emails in my private job are now automated by a program I wrote through VBA. Develop a skill set that is applicable to your job and gives you some fulfillment.

    What people say is true: private is a completely different animal than public. Out of the month, I'm only actually busy for 7-8 days, and other than that, I spend my time studying for the CPA, reading a book, or learning about something. Though I'm restless at times, I also remember how I was when I was at my firm: how often I drank, how many times I wanted to sit in the bathroom and cry, the fact that I almost never saw my husband because I was always in the office, etc.

    You could try what I did: move to private so as to relax and also pick up a few tax clients to take care of on your own. You'll be surprised how much a challenge it is, because for some cosmically-inexplicable reason, my clients ALL have requests and inquiries and situations that I've never encountered in public. They're a bit terrifying, but they also scratch my tax itch and make me feel like I haven't left my passion behind for private industry.

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