By: Jason Sesta
Being in the tax side of the public accounting arena for four years now, I’ve had the opportunity to split my time evenly working both in the large, global public accounting sector as well as the smaller, local public accounting sector. Both types of firms offer a tremendous variety of challenges and each have their own positives and negatives. Ultimately, my experience has made me believe the most important factor in selecting a job is figuring out where you will be happiest and most fulfilled in your work, and to not be afraid to seek out what it is you are really looking for (if you are not content with your current situation).
Coming out of school it can be very difficult to know what career path you should take in public accounting. There are so many factors to consider when deciding where to begin your career: compensation, firm personality, long-term career goals, work-life balance, etc. Different sized firms will have different mixes of strengths and weaknesses in these areas. There is no right or wrong answer when choosing between different types of firms; it’s all about doing what’s best for you.
My first experience was in the large, global accounting sector. For me, beginning my career at this type of firm offered long-term flexibility to continue in that particular environment and move up the ladder, or to build my resume with a variety of unique skills and move on to something more suitable to my career goals. During my time in this sector I was able to work on very specialized engagements that only a firm of that size is qualified to do. These skills continue to be extremely useful in my current environment as I am one of the few people in my office that has seen and worked on some of these types of issues.
On the other hand, as I continued to work for this firm I noticed a decrease in the variety of projects I was assigned. My input was not a large factor in determining the types of projects I worked on in favor of the needs of the firm. While I still enjoyed to an extent the work I was doing, I was hoping for more exposure to different types of projects so I could determine what area’s I enjoyed the most. After two years I decided that the work environment I was in just didn’t mesh with where I had envisioned myself at that point in my career.
Upon transitioning to my current position with a local firm the variety of projects I have been assigned to has increased, and I am also largely included in the client relationship side of the business. This has made my work much more personal to me, and I enjoy seeing the impact that my work has on the small businesses and individuals I work with. However, due to the types of clients I work with, the opportunity to work on unique research projects on a regular basis has decreased. There is also less opportunity to travel to client locations and on work on-site. Despite these shortcomings, I know that I am happy with where I am and where my career is heading.
Of course there are many other differences between working in these two very different environments, but I think what’s most important to note is that just because you work in accounting doesn’t mean that it will be the same experience for you anywhere you work. The people you work with, the projects you work on and the fulfillment you receive from the end result of those projects will be very different from firm to firm. Just make sure that you are happy with where you are, and don’t ever feel like there’s not something different and exciting for you out there if feel like something is missing.
Jason Sesta, CPA is a member of the tax staff at Blair, Bohle, & Whitsitt, PLLC in Charlotte. He is a member of the NCACPA and Young CPA Cabinet. Jason can be reached at [email protected]