I was a few weeks into my career in public accounting and had a stark realization: I knew with certainty it wasn’t for me. This was a troubling conclusion to have reached so early in my career, after working hard to graduate toward the top of my class, and having earned a coveted spot at a prestigious firm. I quickly pivoted to figuring out a game plan – I focused on passing the CPA exam, networking hard, and figuring out what could be next.
Looking back on this after nearly a decade in the search industry, I’ve realized the career paths of CPAs beyond public accounting are anything but linear. I know many former public accountants that are no longer in practice, but are continuously leveraging the network, skills, and work ethic they honed at their former firms.
Among the many aspirations of young public accountants is the desire to become an executive. There’s no how-to guide or recipe to follow – it takes a lot more than strong technical accounting knowledge to rise up through the ranks. Here are a couple of quick stories of colleagues I worked alongside that became industry side financial leaders.
Many young professionals dream of becoming an entrepreneur, but few understand the grind that goes into launching and growing a business. It seems sexy from the outside, but for all the benefits, if successful, there are certainly many unglamorous parts! Time in public accounting, if maximized properly, gives a growing professional the unique vantage point of observing different companies, industries, revenue models, management styles, leadership team, value propositions, supply chains, ERP systems, and much more. I’m one such former public accountant who took this path. Here are a few quick stories of similar entrepreneurs with CPA roots.
There are those seeking to make the climb to firm principal or partner, of course. And certainly many folks leave public accounting for analytical, accounting, or internal audit roles at larger companies. Some join smaller companies or non-profits in financial leadership roles. And I could write a much longer post profiling the many dynamic people I worked with in public accounting who’ve since gone onto ascend in their careers and do really interesting, compelling work. If leveraged properly, the experiences and relationships gained in public accounting can be the tickets needed to punch a fulfilling, diverse career.