USA Career Advice--Should I leave accounting?

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Hi Everyone,

I need some advice about whether I should seek to leave my accounting firm and maybe the accounting field altogether. I would really appreciate any advice I could get on the troubling situation I am currently in. Sorry for the essay, there is just a lot of background and emotional build up that lead up to this whole problem.

I used to be a client service rep in a financial planning firm. After working in the financial services industry for about 10 years, I met some C.P.A’s that did the taxes for a client I worked with. I was really impressed with this group of people and admired them and their careers. Since I was thinking about a career change anyway I researched tax accounting, talked with the C.P.A.’s I met and a career counselor and started back to school on a master’s program in accounting (my BA is in journalism, so I took some preliminary courses for the master’s). I really enjoyed the classes and did well, not long after starting the program, I found a job at a local, private C.P.A. firm.

Here is where things started to go wrong with my plans. Since I was hired with only two classes under my belt (intermediate accounting and managerial accounting) I was not as good as everyone else at doing taxes, they had their degrees already and some were C.P.A.s. I could only do very simple returns, I handled small trusts, individual returns and simple partnerships. I was not very good at meeting the time budgets on even these simple returns and went over sometimes. Eventually I was just not getting as much work assigned to me as everyone else and the managers and seniors just started giving me stuff to scan and file and I helped the administrative assistant with her work. Even though I tried to remain positive about it, my self-esteem really started to suffer because I didn’t feel like one of the team. Everyone else had tax work to do and I could really only help with the simplest things and I felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight. The managers and seniors really liked my organization skills with the client files and they bragged on that all the time, but I really felt bad about not being able to work more with the taxes.

On my first review I did not meet expectations. I thought I was going to be let go and really this was their chance to do that if they thought I was not working out. I had savings and would have been ok had they decided to do that. But they didn’t, they still kept me because of the filing work and my communications skills (they liked how I wrote notice response letters, engagement letters, etc.) Now mind you, I am making the salary of a tax staff but doing something that it seemed to me they could hire someone for $10 an hour to do. To me, the scanning and filing and writing I was doing was not that big of a contribution to the firm but they convinced me to stay and said they thought I was learning and that I could make progress and in a way I felt like I was so I agreed with them.

Now it is another year later and this year I did meet expectations on my performance review. I got a lot better with the smaller, simpler returns and even handled a few complex ones. But I am still not as good as the other tax staff and they still get more work sent their way than I do. I still handle the scanning and filing of all the client documents we get and still assist with the admin duties while the admin is gone. I still have difficulty meeting the time budgets on the more complex returns and am only assigned the simpler projects. At this point, I am frustrated. I don’t feel like I have a real career as a tax staff. I finish up my master’s degree this fall and I’m thinking about considering other options for a career, maybe not even in accounting but business related. I have a 3.6 GPA, so that is really not that good for an accounting degree. My manager said the biggest thing I did to help in the past year was to keep the files in order (in case they ever got audited). They are still valuing that over any tax work I have ever done. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a valuable skill, it is just that I have not spent two years getting a master’s to make a career out of filing and doing the simplest tax returns. If this isn’t something I’m going to be good at, I think I need to move on. It’s been two years and if I’m not good enough now, I’m afraid I’m never going to be. I think I should leave and then they can just hire another admin, which is what they probably really need. They don’t seem to want me to leave and I have gotten to be good friends with some of them so I’m torn about what to do and could use some advice.
 
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Hi Abby,

There are a few things to consider whether you should leave and what should be your next step.

1. Compensation aside - which do you enjoy more? The organizational tasks or the tax returns? If the tax returns don't come naturally to you and you don't actually enjoy it, there are so many other options besides tax accounting where you could utilize your strengths. Especially with a Master's degree.

2. What is your end goal? Would you want to a partner in a public accounting firm? Or work in industry doing something else? Once you have a good handle on what your end goal is, it is much easier to make decisions in the short term.

3. Don't sell yourself short! 3.6 is a great GPA and you have a Master's degree. There are so many opportunities with your background.

I am a CPA and a career coach if you would like to discuss more. I can help!

Rachel
Founder, Rethink Nine to Five
 
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I think you should leave your current accounting company but stay in the accounting field.To be honest, you are undervalued and underutilized at your current company. Your Degrees are not needed to file anyones taxes. Anyone who pays $50 for a PTIN and EFIN can file taxes.verify this at Irs.gov. You don't need anyone giving you a job for small tasks you can do on your own. You already know how to market. You stated you write Great response and engagement letters. You can scan, file , and stay organized. You can purchase software online to keep your books and client records together.

To be honest, you sound like the entrepreneurial type.

I agree with Rethink Nine To Five's comment about not selling yourself short, and with all those degrees and schooling, you are selling yourself short. You sound like you really love what you do and that's the first step in finding a business plan. Having a Passion! You are highly talented and your skills can be used elsewhere. Why not apply the skills you already have and incorporated in a home based business educating the community about their finances?

The reason I mentioned that is after the years you have dedicated to this field, it's not working out at the current company and many accountant jobs are a dime a dozen. Make your own job and get paid what you're worth. Call yourself a Financial Coach, Financial Mentor, tax preparer or something like that. I am apart of a business like that and your skills will take you far very quickly with us. Plus we offer residiual income. You don't actually teach the classes yourself. You invite people them. If you are interested, I'd be more than happy to share .PM me for more info.
 

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