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From Public to Private - Accounting That Is

By Dona DeZube, JobsintheMoney

With demand so high, today's accountants have an enormous number of opportunities to choose from when shifting their career gears. Once you've got some experience under your belt, you can pursue any number of specialties that match your strengths and interests. So how do you plot your direction? In part, the answer depends on where you started your career and where you sit now.

Because the industry faces such a dearth of accounting talent, you can re-think even your most basic decisions, such as whether to work in public or private accounting, whether to put yourself on a management track, or whether to explore options in contract accounting, running your own firm or working for a non-profit entity.

Do Overs 

The first decision facing most accounting graduates is whether to go into public or corporate accounting. It's probably not a good idea to leave either of those fields in the first 12 months. However, once you've stuck it out for a couple of years you'll find it's not so hard to jump to the other side if you find yourself wishing you'd taken the other route.

In fact, moving from public accounting to a position in Corporate America is easy, says Patricia DiNunzio, regional managing director for placement firm the Mergis Group, who works in Columbus, Ohio. DiNunzio sees specific good times to make the switch: "You either do it as a senior after two years of public accounting work, as a manager after five years, or as a senior manager after eight years," she says.

Whenever you move, pay attention to timing and don't move during the busy season, adds Sheryl Martin, executive director of firm operations for WithumSmith+Brown, P.C., a CPA firm with 11 offices along with Mid-Atlantic corridor. "I would never recommend that anyone move in the busy season," she warns. "Smile, stick it out and leave in May. It's always frowned on when you leave, but if you're leaving during tax season, you're inevitably going to leave on bad terms."

There is one exception, adds Glenn Dubiel, vice president of the Mergis Group in Ft. Lauderdale. That's when you face a compelling event in your life. "It has to be something that's beyond your control, such as moving to follow a spouse who's transferred, or a serious injury. Otherwise a job change during the busy season is a spot on your resume." You can heal the spot, he allows, "but the people who are going to do the best in their careers are those who will tough it out through the busy season."

So, when's a good time to move? Recruiters expect to see candidates leave public accounting in the late spring - right after the busy season. Explains DiNunzio: "That's when they remember the blood, sweat and tears they just went though." 

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