How to Leverage Your Experience in Public Accounting

March 30, 2023

If your expertise has extended itself into the world of public accounting, you’re well acquainted with the fact that it’s a great starting point for a career in finance and accounting. The experience gained in a public accounting firm can be leveraged in various ways to advance your career in countless ways and multiple directions. 

How do you make your public accounting skills take you a step further? Take some of these tips to heart on how to best leverage your knowledge and create more career mobility.

Develop a Strong Understanding of Accounting, Auditing Standards

Public accounting firms often require their employees to have a thorough understanding of accounting and auditing standards. The two most prominent:

  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP): Standards including and encompassing all of the rules, requirements, practices, details, complexities and legalities in business and corporate accounting, issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
  • Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS): Created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), these are the guidelines and standards utilized by auditors when conducting audits of a company’s financial records and information.

How do you keep up and stay abreast of evolving standards and updated guidelines to GAAP and GAAS? The AICPA publishes these updates for accounting professionals, including toolkits and technical and advocacy resources. Arming yourself with this knowledge will be valuable in any role within the accounting and finance field.

Harden Your Technical Skills

Technical skills are the quantifiable skill sets we acquire through education and experience to effectively perform our jobs. Some examples include:

  • Proficiency in accounting/payroll software and Excel
  • Bookkeeping
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Auditing
  • Analytical/critical thinking capabilities

How can you enhance your technical, aka hard, skills? Inquire with your supervisors and take advantage of and harness any training opportunities offered by your firm to improve and widen the breadth of your accounting abilities and knowledge.

Develop More Soft Skills

Let’s not neglect the importance of people skills in a successful career. Public accounting requires a great deal of teamwork, communication and time management — some of the most integral soft skills to cultivate. Others include:

  • Integrity
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability
  • Problem solving
  • Professionalism
  • Empathy
  • Dependability

Like technical skills, capitalize on the chance to build more people skills to leverage your public accounting experience. Take the opportunity to work on team projects, attend meetings and presentations and practice communication skills.

Build a Network of Contacts

Public accounting firms and their staff — from accountants to analysts, CPAs to CFOs — work diligently to get in shape the finances of individuals, companies and organizations whose financial health is critical to their growth and overall success. The larger and more diverse the group of clients, the more capable you can be to build a network of contacts. These contacts can be valuable in the future when looking for new job opportunities or seeking advice on career moves. Try these avenues to build out your network:

  • Attend trade conferences and networking events
  • Expand your LinkedIn network
  • Seek out volunteer opportunities within the industry

Consider a Transition to Industry

When should you make the move from the public to the private accounting sector? Public accounting experience can be an excellent stepping stone to a career in industry, since many finance and accounting roles in companies require a similar skill set to the public accounting equivalent. In fact, many industry-based financial and accounting employers prefer candidates with public accounting experience because it shows that they have been able to work under pressure, meet deadlines and manage large volumes of work. The path from public accounting to the Big 4 is attainable and achievable!

Take some of these points into account if segueing to industry is something you’re considering:

  • Don’t leave public accounting too soon; aim to leave as a senior or manager, not an associate.
  • Wait for the right industry opportunity; you don’t need to accept the first job offer you receive.
  • There are opportunities for every skill level, from financial analysis and reporting to auditing to senior accounting. 
  • Your work/life balance may likely improve, from steadier hours to more clearly defined roles and responsibilities to less field travel required.

Capitalize on Your Accounting Experience

Integrity. Expertise. Advancement. Pinnacle Consulting & Recruiting has been helping accountants in all areas and skill sets maximize and leverage the experience they’ve gained through working in the public accounting sector. If you’re looking to apply what you’ve learned into a new role, we can help you find one. Our comprehensive search process will help ensure a lasting, mutually beneficial fit between you and your future employer, taking the skills you’ve developed in public accounting to the next level. Contact us today to get started — together, we’ll reach the pinnacle.

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