February 18, 2020 | 5 min read
Setting The Record Straight On Leaving During Busy Season


Busy season. It’s one of the toughest times of the year for public accountants, and we’re right in the middle of it. As the hours get longer and your workload increases, you might be dreaming of what’s next. And some of you may even be ready to make that move before busy season is officially over. So, what’s holding you back from leaving during busy season?

Your answer may vary from your peers’, but for many, there is this underlying pressure to stick around through the end of busy season. Whether this is self-imposed or an organizational norm, it often may seem easier to go through the motions than to take the leap. However, this may not always be the right strategy for your accounting career.

“There will always be a reason to search for a new job and another reason to stay,” says Michael Cooke, Executive Vice President at The Execu|Search Group. “However, you should never let cyclical times of year dictate your job search. There will never not be a busy time in today’s accounting landscape, so your decision about leaving during busy season needs to be about you—not your employer.”

If busy season is making you think about making a change, you first need to determine if this is a temporary feeling or if now is the right time. If any of the following red flags resonate with you, chances are it’s time to bite the bullet:

You’ve hit a plateau or are no longer challenged

Think about your current breadth of responsibilities. How have they grown since you first started? When was the last time you were asked to take on a new project or client? Have you learned any new skills lately? “If nothing has really changed in recent years, it might be time to ask to expand your role or to explore new opportunities for growth with a different firm,” advises Michael. “In today’s evolving industry, the last thing you want to do is become stagnant in your career. And sometimes, a new job is the push or challenge you need to learn a new skill or accounting technology.” Read also: 3 Ways The Candidate-Driven Market Can Help You Advance Your Accounting Career

You’ve lost your motivation

While your colleagues can still depend on you to get your work done, crossing tasks off your to-do list might feel easier said than done. Whether you are scraping by on the bare minimum or going into work feels like a daily struggle, these can be solid reasons to look for a new accounting job.

“Having the occasional ‘off’ day at work is normal, but anything beyond that could point to a larger problem,” says Michael. “A lack of interest in your role or motivation to do your work is not only bad for the company, but your career as well. If you do not have the drive to go above and beyond, it will be quite difficult to continue learning and growing in your current role.”

You are constantly stressed or unhappy

Every job has different expectations and varying levels of stress, especially in public accounting. But if your anxiety is at a constant high and it starts affecting your health, it might be time to find a different work environment or even consider leaving during busy season. “It’s normal to feel elevated levels of stress during your busy season,” says Michael. “Anything more than this, however, can take a major toll on your physical and mental health. Fortunately, this is something that many accounting firms have started to address. If your organization is not one of them, know that you have other options.” Read also: Accounting Professionals: Take Advantage Of Flexible Company Policies

Your hard work goes unnoticed

When an employer appreciates your skills and efforts, they make it known. Even in large companies where there is less one-on-one interaction, there should be some type of acknowledgement—whether it be a promotion, an opportunity for additional training, a good review, or even a simple thank you. If it’s been a while since you’ve felt appreciated at your firm, that is not a great sign.

You’ve been slowly thinking about a change

In today’s candidate-driven market, it’s possible for even the happiest employee to get excited by a job posting or experience some jealousy when a friend lands a new job. However, when every job sounds better than your own, this is a clear indicator that it is time to explore the market.

“If you are considering leaving during busy season, first evaluate your long-term career goals and begin educating yourself on your options,” says Michael. “This might involve taking interviews, going to networking events, and meeting with an industry expert, like an accounting recruiter. Taking these steps does not mean you have to make a move until you are ready, but rather proactively arms you with the tools you need to make an educated decision once you do.”

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