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Young Accountants Face Tough Decisions Early in Their Careers

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 29, 2024


Young accountants are faced with tough decisions when starting out, and the two most important may be picking a firm and choosing among tax, audit and bookkeeping as a career focus, Accounting Today reported.

Culture is important, and flexibility is a part of that, said Sonia Freeman, chief culture officer at PKF Texas, in an interview with Accounting Today. "If you need to do something personal, it's not an act of Congress to go do it."

A firm's willingness and ability to embrace technology is another important consideration, according to industry experts,  as technology can relieve entry-level accountants of time-consuming, repetitive work, allowing them to focus on matters that add value, such as client relations.  

“As we continue to lean into technology—we standardize, we centralize, we automate—we're better able to spread the work, reduce the amount of overtime and the number of weekends," said  Becky Sproul, audit talent and culture leader at KPMG, in an interview with Accounting today.

Young accountants should also consider whether there is room for growth within a firm, which is especially important in achieving long-term career goals.

"Don't think about roles. Really think about experiences," Deloitte chair Lara Abrash told Accounting Today. "What are the building blocks of the experiences you want? And is it a reasonable period of time for you to get it?" 

Longevity at a firm can also matter when it comes to career growth. 

"A lack of continuity with a firm could sneak up on you and slow you down once you get past the manager role," said Mike Nichols, founder and CEO of Vine Creek Consulting, in an interview with Accounting Today. "You may not have the relationships within the company. You may not have the political wherewithal or the credibility. You may not have the client continuity—clients who want to work with you and continue to work with you. That may catch up with people."

But younger generations may not share that sentiment. Both The New York Times and Business Insider have reported that Gen Zers are likely to job hop. Four out of five Gen Z workers consider themselves job hoppers, with only 43  percent of that cohort saying they are willing to plant roots at a company for two years, according to a 2023 ResumeLab survey of over 1,100 U.S.-based Gen Z workers. 

"In the old days, you came into the audit or tax department, and you'd stay there. Now there's a lot more opportunity to change," said Sarah Jennings, principal at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm Maner Costerisan, in an interview with Accounting Today. "People get antsy after the three-, five-, seven-year mark, and you think, 'Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?'" 

In such instances, Jennifer Wilson, partner and co-founder at ConvergenceCoaching, told Accounting Today that she encourages people “to stop and be transparent and say, 'This is not working for me, and here's why,' and seek alternatives inside the place. If they can't find those, or they just feel like they're getting lip service to those, vote with your feet. Walk out the door.”

But, she added, dissatisfied workers should communicate their goals and expectations with their managers. "It's hard for leaders to put people in the right place when the people aren't being clear about what that is for them," she said.