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With Busy Season On The Horizon, Should You Stay Or Go?

As we approach the holidays and the end of the year, it’s time for public accountants to start thinking about busy season. Are you prepared for the long hours and heavy workload with your current firm? Or are you considering making the move to a new employer? If you’re anything but content at your company, now is the time to start considering a job search—and time is running short. The fourth quarter is underway, and in a matter of weeks, busy season will be on the horizon.

So, should you find yourself contemplating a job search, it’s time to act. If you try to squeeze in a search last minute, you could make a snap decision on your next job or not perform as well as you otherwise would in interviews. However, wait too long to make a decision, and you may wind up roped into this busy season—and leaving during the most vital months of your employer’s busy season could make you seem noncommittal and unreliable to future hiring managers. It’s a tough decision, but it’s one that needs to be made quickly.

What would be enough to drive you from your current firm during such a pressing time? That depends upon your current situation, and only you know what you’ll be able to handle. There are many aspects to consider. As you know, there is typically a 20-30% increase in weekly hours during busy season, lasting from January to March. In some extreme cases, accountants—whether audit or tax—can expect to see up to a 50% increase in hours. That’s a lot of time to spend somewhere where you’re feeling anything less than content and challenged.

According to Elisa A. Dammacco, a Senior Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division who is a CPA herself, the longer you stay in a public accounting capacity with the same responsibilities and a stagnant client base, the less marketable you may become. “Switching to a new firm could open you to more clients and new responsibilities,” Elisa says. “In addition, you can choose to try on a smaller or larger firm for size; for example, if you feel the small firm you work for doesn’t offer you enough aid during busy season, switching to a larger firm may be an alternative option.”

You may also consider looking for a new job in which you will be working within a different industry. This will expose you to an entirely new client base and different accounting practices and software. This is a great way to stay in public accounting and greatly broaden your versatility in the field, and this exposure will offer you unique diversification that can look enticing to employers in the future and enrich your professional skillset.

Of course, you could hold out for one more busy season and get started on your job search after it’s over, but that will most likely be the plan for many accountants. By waiting it out, you also risk the possibility of getting caught in another busy season with not enough support. Some firms have high turnover rates, and if yours doesn’t have enough backfill that’s already trained to pick up slack for you, you could be working more toward that 50% increase in hours. Getting a start on your job search today can give you a leg up against your competition and help you avoid working through a tough situation that you aren’t committed to.