5 Tips for Making a Lateral Move Between Public Accounting Firms

As accountants, we have studied long and hard, through college, graduate school, and entry-level accounting positions, to develop our careers.  In choosing the accounting industry, we knew that we were developing transferable skills that allow us to move freely between different organizations and locales.  Additionally, as rules-oriented accountants, traditionally, we thought of advancing our career in a straight, forward-looking manner.  However, as we manage our career growth, sometimes we need to be flexible in identifying the next step in accomplishing our career goals.  As we seek to achieve our goals, because of slow growth within flattened organizations or changes in the global economy, sometimes, our career path will need to travel sideways, laterally, and diagonally, as well as upwards.  With that measure of flexibility in mind, strategic lateral moves can help obtain overall goals – and, those moves will enable us to gain skills, broaden experience, and expand networks so we are positioned for new future opportunities.

Below are five tips for making a lateral move between public accounting firms:

#1— When is the best time to make a lateral move? 

Don’t leave your current position in a short amount of time.  Typically, a candidate will not seek a new position for at least one year.  Moving too frequently will demonstrate to employers that you have no commitment to your career and will project poor judgment.  The hiring official and/or recruiter may think that you are unable to get along with co-workers or that you repeatedly make poor decisions . . . or some other negative assumption.

#2—Have a good reason for leaving.

To prevent the above situation from occurring, you need a convincing reason to show that you’re an ideal candidate.  If you do need to leave a job quickly, you will need to have a convincing reason.  In considering your options, a “career story” that demonstrates that a job was not the right fit because of a specific reason, and, that a new opportunity solved that problem and provided better professional development can overcome an employer’s doubts about “job-hopping.”  However, if you try to convince an employer that three jobs in a row were the wrong fit, then you’re going to look more suspicious.

#3—Think twice.

Since you’re not satisfied with your current position, then are you certain that you’re going to like your new job or boss?  Conduct research regarding the consequences of your lateral move.  You will not only need to consider what your career path would look like at your target new firm, but you also should think comprehensively about it.  This includes reviewing location, salary, and company culture, which could be the potential reason to make another lateral move in the future.

#4—Consult with advisers.

It’s difficult to anticipate what’s going to happen if you’ve never made any lateral moves before.  So turning to someone who has this kind of experience is a wise choice.  You may look to those who know you best and those who know the market.  Friends and family—with whom you share a long history—can offer insight into your true nature, and have your best interests at heart.  Additionally, consult with professional mentors, career coaches, and/or recruiters to assist you further – in making your choice, these professionals can add a dose of pragmatism and industry advice, keeping you grounded in the realities of the marketplace.

#5—Be positive.

A strategic lateral move is a positive! If you know the position to which you’re moving allows for more growth, both monetarily and in terms of experience, a well-researched lateral move brings you one step closer to your ultimate career goals!

As you prepare to make your lateral move, you will undoubtedly run into unexpected obstacles.  However, if you keep these tips in mind, you will be better prepared, and your lateral move should proceed smoothly.  As mentioned earlier, as you consider your move, don’t be afraid to ask for help from or brainstorm ideas with a seasoned professional or a trusted senior mentor or friend.  Further, for more help with your specific situation, please don’t hesitate to contact a Lexacount Search Finance/Accounting Search Consultant at 215-740-0104 or info@lexacount.com.




Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

This post was written by .

Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at jacqueline.hill@lexacount.com or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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