Losing my job in public, last cpa exam in a few days

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    I am at a cross roads in my career. I had about 7 years in industry, got promoted to senior and accepted a position in public accounting as a senior.

    A little over six months later they have told me they do not see a future for me at their firm.

    Initially I was devastated because I truly loved the work and I feel like my short tenure here should not be a reflection of my ability. I still want to work in public accounting despite this experience but I’m worried I’ll run into the same problems at another accounting firm.

    I received no on-boarding when I started and they put a mammoth of a case on My plate from the beginning. I was not shown basic items that you would need to know I’m that department to do a good job. My other new colleagues were not challenged nearly as much as I was. They were given smaller tasks and were able to build up to larger tasks.

    I’m now at a point in my career where I have to decide if I am
    Going to continue to pursue public accounting or if I am going to go back to boring industry.

    I also need to figure out what to say to explain my short tenure here in public. It doesn’t help that I left my industry position a year after I was promoted to senior.

    I’ve also passed every cpa exam on the first try and have only one exam left to go and I am taking it in a few weeks. I feel like the timing is just awful and is drastically affecting the types of companies that will even consider me as a serious candidate.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - 79
    FAR - 80
    REG - 81
    Can’t fail unless you quit.

    I would suggest focus on your exam. Forget about bad job experience. If Cpa has been your dream, you are days away from making it happen! After you pass, you will become super attractive to any company you decide to go to. If you are embarrassed to tell future employer about your bad experience at this job, can you not mention this job and just say you have been studying a lot to pass Cpa exams in the last 6 months? Don’t know if it’s a bad advise but it’s an option! Another option is to just explain like you explained here that you have been given project without proper training and it didn’t work out. Maybe don’t mention anything specific just general info?

    I know how you feel. I’ve been booted out from a Cpa firm years ago after working there for 3 months. It has been haunting me for years. But after it I had a great position as a governmental auditor where I worked for many years and then passed my Cpa exams. So I’m glad everything happened the way it did. So just try to move on from this bad experience. I promise you will be ok! You will find a better job and you WILL be a highly desired cpa! Good luck to you 🙂

    AUD - 78
    BEC - 77
    FAR - 78
    REG - 87
    “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great” Tom Hanks

    I am sorry you are going through this. This happens a lot, more than you know.
    Don’t give up on your public accounting career. Three months is not enough for someone to determine what you are capable of. They are jerks for deciding your potential in 3 months. Also, there are a lot of factors that go into a firm telling you that there is no future for you at the firm. Yes, perhaps you could have done better but there may be other factors too. Leave before they ask you to go. You wouldn’t want a termination on your job history. If it happens, it will be fine but it’s just a little more explanation will be required.
    If you can afford to take time off, take it and study. It would be easier to explain your employment gap AND you are done with exams. Being done with exams will allow you to focus more on work, maybe you can stay late at work and can practice and get better at your job.
    If you can’t afford the time off, start applying right now. Go on your next interview and do not mention what happened. Don’t even tell the person that bags your grocery about it. Practice your response to a question that will be asked. Explain it wasn’t a good fit because of culture, maybe you wanted to service different industry, etc. Google some reason. Practice it at home. After you answer question go on and explain your success with CPA exams, tell them about the big task you have had. Talk more about the positive. Learn from this experience, put it behind you and go into your next public accounting position knowing you are capable. What you will wrestle with the most is understanding that you are capable of doing this job after someone has told you you can’t.
    You are almost done with CPA exam; you pass on the first try. That’s great. More than a lot of people can say. It’s a tough exam and you passed so you aren’t stupid.
    Ask for feedback from your current employer and try again.

    AUD - 73,
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - NINJA in Training
    REG - NINJA in Training
    Giving up is not an option.

    The question is not whether I will be a CPA or not, the question is when will I become a CPA.

    Pork Flavored Bacon

    Being a senior in industry is not the same as being a senior in public.
    A senior in public is expected to be able to lead an engagement from beginning to end (audit, tax, advisory, all the same). There should be no need for on-boarding or training as the expectation is you should already know what needs to be done and adapt to the firm's methodology.
    You also mentioned you had other colleagues who were given smaller tasks than you were. Maybe the firm saw your seven years of experience and expected you to be more knowledgeable than them.
    It looks like you just finished the busy season and did not perform to their expectations of a senior. Six months might seem quick to judge but at the same time, again, as a senior you are expected to be able to lead an engagement. If you did not meet their expectations this busy season, they are looking at you as a bad investment.
    For your next position in public, you should consider either taking a demotion which would be fine because as I said before, a senior in industry is not the same as a senior in public, or you will have to really strap in and work your ass off to learn everything without having your hand held otherwise you might live a repeat of this situation.

    Jimmy Dugan

    Hate you are going through this. I think it was probably a poor hiring decision on their part. Please don't get me wrong, I am sure you are great at what you've done in the past and will be awesome at whatever you do in the future. It's just that a senior in public is way different than a senior accountant in private industry. It's not the same job at all. A senior in public isn't better or worse than you, but different and way more experienced at performing tasks in the public space, which are themselves very different from what we do in private. They should have steered you into a role for less experienced associates so that you could cut your teeth on smaller jobs with more oversight, and build yourself up incrementally. This doesn't have to ruin public for you. I'd just take a lower level role and work on your game for awhile before shooting for senior again.

    AUD - 95
    BEC - 87
    FAR - 84
    REG - 90
    You're killing me Smalls



    I agree with all of you. I think it’s a mix of poor hiring decisions (after all they hired me after a 10 minute interview) and me not being senior material for a public accounting job. I was so excited to break into public accounting that i completely ignored the red flags. I think they hired me as a senior to justify my pay because I got paid great in industry, but I think it’s irresponsible not to provide basic training to anyone coming in regardless of their position.

    I realize now that maybe that’s just the way public accounting is.

    Our department doesn’t actually have a busy season, we focus on litigation more than anything and the learning curve is 2 years in our department.

    They have told me I have a couple of weeks to figure things out and resign but my husband told me that I’m not allowed to quit and I need to swallow my pride so I can collect unemployment because we have a family to support.

    I don’t know what’s worse to be fired or to quit after only a few months. Either way I feel like it makes me look unstable. I’ve gotten several calls from recruiters and they’re all trying to put me in construction companies which I do have a lot of experience in, but I do not like the culture in construction so I’m frustrated.

    I do have an interview tomorrow for a smaller firm in their tax department but I’m afraid I will flail and I will have to take a 20k per year pay cut to justify my true lack of experience and I’m not sure it’s worth it. I mean I know it’s worth it but I just feel so mortified after this experience. I wish I could just quit and go home and recharge. Ugh. Thanks for letting me vent. I appreciate all of your advice and love it when I hear from you all.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - 79
    FAR - 80
    REG - 81
    Can’t fail unless you quit.

    There should be no need for on-boarding or training as the expectation is you should already know what needs to be done and adapt to the firm's methodology.

    I disagree with this 100%. You cannot hire a senior and not train them on the software or show them how the firm's methodologies work. That would be absolutely setting them up for failure.

    AUD - 75
    BEC - 77
    FAR - 77
    REG - 76
    Licensed in VA
    Pork Flavored Bacon

    Yes, they should definitely train you on how to use the software. All the different programs out there are different especially the ones that are developed in-house. God knows the ones used by KPMG and PwC are “simple” yet convoluted as all hell.
    As for methodologies, I'm not sure how much training one actually needs besides learning how to use the software. An audit is an audit. GAAP is GAAP. FIDS is FIDS. Discouragedinpublic stated she was focused on litigation so that might sound like FIDS to me. I'm not sure what kind of methodology training there is besides knowing how to document, research, and organize. With litigation, every case can be different so you have to adapt.
    I started as an associate (taking a demotion from being a senior in assurance) doing investigations and disputes preparing reports for litigation. By the time I was a senior, I could run an entire engagement from beginning to end. You get the “training” during the experience of moving up in levels which is what I was getting at saying being hired on as a senior comes with different expectations.
    Sure, maybe a week or two, tops, to learn how the firm likes to do things but the work is still the same, just a different way to put it together. I know I will sound like a jerk but really, it should be an effortless transition.
    Discouragedfrompublic, I'm sorry this happened to you. It's a crappy situation. I think the firm made a decision too quick to hire you and didn't properly inform you of the expectations of the position after seeing your previous experience. But at least you now know and can better prepare yourself for the next position you take. I am not trying to attack you with my posts so I hope you do not take it that way. As you have learned, public is a different animal than industry. Don't let this experience throw you off from public. It's really not that bad. You might just have to take a small step back and gain some different experience before jumping into a senior role.


    Discouraged – Your employer sounds like a scumbag. They are asking you to quit to lower costs rather than laying you off properly. Keep working and be the best employee you can be so they cannot say anything to unemployment or in a future reference. CPA firms pull this trick time and time again.
    If you want to work in public, you should stay in public and look for another job. Maybe go for staff, your experience and salary will catch up. Don't let one bad job spoil your career goals.

    CA Certified Public Accountant

    I've had a few firms do this to me; they'll essentially use you for tax season, then drop you afterwards. This is especially true for smaller firms. One time, I had a firm hire me for an internship, during tax season, then afterwards tell me that “they weren't hiring” (despite being told we did well – I even went back and asked for honest feedback, but received the same response). On another occasion, I worked for a smaller firm right at the onset of tax season. The hours at this firm were 110+, during the last few weeks. Unfortunately, the work dried up and they canned me. Certainly, i played some role in both instances (primarily, the second one – not sure how I did badly for the internship honestly); the firms also operate this way. The second firm went on to hire, then get rid of the guy after me in a similar way (ie. hired him right before tax season, then canned him right after).

    I think it's just the nature of the beast that a lot of firms operate in a really cut-throat fashion.

    If you have a good reference at the firm (ie. friend level), I would just ask that person to tell your future employer you were “laid off.” You run the risk they'll go to HR as well, but it's unlikely. Ideally, try to find a new position before they officially get rid of you; then you can simply state the culture didn't match up with your expectations. In this market though, you'll realistically need at least 6-12 months to find something decent.

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