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QUITTING BIG 4? Must See Before you EXIT Big Four Firm

Considering quitting the Big 4? Don't want to burn any bridges before you go?

Make sure you have a strategic exit plan because you never know when you are going to cross paths with the people you work with. Maybe you may even end up deciding that you want to return in the future (never say never). It's always smart to keep your options open and to maintain a good reputation before you leave.

So what must you do to keep that rapport and exit the Big 4 gracefully? Here are my tips:

1) Consider whether you are leaving for the Right Reasons

So why are you leaving the firm? Were you offered another job with better pay? Do you want to switch gears and try a different career path? Do you want to go back to school, perhaps even travel? Or, have you just had enough and just want to call it quits?

Make sure whatever reason you have is not based on emotional factors alone. Consider what next steps you want to take very carefully, as part of your long-term plans, so that you don't waste time or have any regrets. Don't just switch jobs for better pay if it doesn't align with your long-term goals of where you want your career to go. If you want to try a different career path, take into consideration that if you switch back, you may lose your momentum compared to if you had stayed. If you want to just quit - make sure you have enough money to pay your expenses! If the decision you want to make is aligned with your future vision and reversible if things take a turn for the worse (ie. just go back to your original job) - than go for it!

2) Have a Plan Secured

Make sure that if you end up leaving the firm that you have a plan in place, whether that is having a job already secured, you getting into that MBA school of your dreams, or you having enough money saved up to take time off.

There is no need to advertise your plans to your Firm - it's better to be stealthy and work behind the scenes. If you want to go for a new job - go through the interview process and get that OFFER LETTER in hand. If you want to go back to school, make sure you have that ACCEPTANCE LETTER in hand. If you want to take time off to travel, make sure you have enough MONEY saved up. Plan ahead.

3) Give your Notice and Let People Know

So you are finally ready to leave the firm. There is a standard 2 week notice required to be given before you go. Once you hand in the resignation notice to Human Resources, make sure you let partners, managers, colleagues, peers you worked closely with about you leaving. I think it's common courtesy to let people you worked with know before they hear it through the grapevine.

You don't need to explain yourself - you can just briefly mention that an opportunity you couldn't pass up came along, or that you want to try something different for a while.

4) Allocate your Files

Don't think that now that you have given your notice, you are free from all your responsibilities. You still need to work for 2 more weeks and, if you want to leave on good terms, it's a good idea to help with transitioning all of your projects and files. You will spend a lot of time with the resource leader to talk about the projects you have on your plate so that they can reallocate the jobs to other staff members. In case of Big 4s, they are usually understaffed so delegating one person's entire portfolio isn't so easy.

Once your projects are assigned, you may even be required to meet with the new staff member taking over your file and give them a bit of a background for smooth transitioning. This would be much appreciated by the staff who had just received another file on top of their current workload. Instead of trying to figure everything themselves from scratch, it would be reflected positively on you to provide them with the status on the file, what work they can expect, timeline, etc.

5) Wrap up Remaining Projects

Now that all your projects have been allocated, there may be a few projects that are at an awkward stage to transition. For example, say your Client A had been transitioned to another staff member, Susie, and you are leaving first week of June. The projects for Client A consist of partnership returns due end of May and corporate returns end of June. You may be close to completing your review of the partnership returns, given the timeline, while the corporate returns haven't been started yet.

It would make sense to transition the corporate returns to Susie, but it would be nice of you to wrap up the review of the partnership returns. It would definitely be annoying for Susie if she had to pick up your file half completed right before the deadline. Not only would she need to familiarize herself with the client, details of the file, figuring out what you did on the file, etc. - it would probably take her twice as long to complete it compared to you. If it doesn't take you too long to do, spend your last few weeks wrapping up remaining projects that make it easier on other staff and the Firm.

6) Best Times to Leave

So talking about deadlines and busy seasons, when is the best time to leave? I would say to avoid leaving right smack dab in the middle of busy season. Not only would that be difficult on the Firm to find someone last minute, but you would have a hard time transitioning your files when everyone is busy. You don't want to leave as the person who dropped everything in the middle of busy season.

Leaving in slower seasons is best so you have a chance to connect with people and leave on good terms. Depending on whether you are in Audit or Tax, your slow seasons may be different. For Tax, leaving in the New Year (after Christmas break) or before/after busy season would be best.

7) Connect with People

Before you go, make an excuse of you leaving to reach out to people at the firm and connect with them. This may be your last chance to make that lasting impression and reason to connect after you leave. It also offers you a chance to close loose ends, reminisce about "good" times, and exchange personal contact information to keep in touch after you leave the Firm.

8) Writing the Goodbye Email

Now, it's finally your last day. Instead of disappearing from the Firm, write a heartfelt Goodbye email to everyone at the Firm. You can write about what you learned, the people who helped you, the good experiences, the funny and memorable moments. Reflect on this chapter of your life positively, as you would on all stages of your life, as an opportunity to grow, and look back and laugh at all the good and the bad. Also remember to leave your personal email, LinkedIn, and other contact points to further invite people to reach out to you in the future.


#Big4accountant #big4accounting #taxaccounting #tax

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