When to Say Goodbye: Leaving The Big 4
First off, I would like to say congratulations, you did it! You’ve written and passed the most mentally and physically challenging exam of your adult life. You’ve survived the long and difficult nights during busy season and every single deadline and meeting in between. You qualified for your CPA designation. It’s not an easy thing to do but you’ve done it!
Unfortunately after making it through these trying times, you’ve decided that continuing on with your firm isn’t the right decision for you.
And that’s okay.
People often leave the firm for greener pastures and that is the reality of working in public accounting. The purpose of this post is to provide you with guidance on how to leave gracefully, and with the appreciation of your former colleagues.
The Leaving Process
It is now Monday, you have put in your two weeks’ notice and the countdown is on. Two weeks or ten workdays later you will be gone. At this moment, you’re probably populating your calendar with extended lunch and coffee breaks with your dearest friends, or if it’s after 4:00pm you’ve probably been home for the last hour.
If you plan on leaving a career in public accounting and hope to keep all of your friendships and reputation intact, here are the things you need to think about:
Pass on the News to Your Clients
Assuming you have achieved the minimum interpersonal skills required to work in public accounting, you have probably established some long-standing relationships with some of your clients. You’ve been through it all together and now you’re leaving them for good. It’s a difficult goodbye for both of you, so be considerate to your clients and wish them well as you move on. Who knows, you may need to rely on that relationship in the future?
Transitioning is Key
The last thing you’re probably worried about is who is going to take your place when you are gone. This is however the biggest fear of every other person on your team. Be courteous to your colleagues and plan for this. Talk to your partners, managers, and seniors to come up with a plan for who is going to assume the many things you do.
Do Not Tell Us About ‘How Much Better Your New Job Is’
We get it, your hours are less, your pay is more, and you don’t have to deal with people who don’t trust you because you’re “the auditor”. We ask you about your new job because we’re your friend and we’ve been through some difficult times together, but you need to be aware of the impression you leave on your colleagues and your impact on morale.
Spending your last two weeks telling us about how you’re going to spend your big raise or planning your winter vacation knowing the rest of us will be working 60 hour weeks is not helping.
Be a good person, save the humble brags for your parents.
The big thing I want people to take away from reading this is that life goes on after you quit. We have to pick up the pieces that you left scattered across your many years of service and that can set us back weeks. It’s not easy for us to watch you leave and life after you quit will never be the same.
The best thing you can do for all your soon-to-be former colleagues is leave us feeling confident that the second you walk out that door for the last time, the ship will not sink behind you.