In my grandfather’s days, people stuck to one career for their whole lives. It was even typical to remain in the same job for many years.
However, things have changed.
Today, people change jobs all the time. Opting to completely change careers is not unusual either.
If you’re currently thinking about switching from auditing to consulting, you’re not alone. This is a popular career shift among auditing professionals since consulting is a lucrative and in-demand profession.
Making the move can be tricky, though. To help you navigate the shift more easily, I provide a few tips below on how to best switch from auditing to consulting below.
Auditing Vs Consulting
Switching from auditing to consulting might seem daunting because the two careers are quite different. Auditing involves reviewing the finances and records of an organization to verify that financial statements, inventory, tax documents, and other aspects of operations are accurate and that a company is operating legally and properly.
Consulting, on the other hand, has a much bigger scope. Consultants analyze businesses, identify key issues and risks, and then provide solutions. This type of work is future-oriented, as opposed to auditing, which involves making sure that past and current financial records are correct.
Consultants don’t only consult on the financial aspects of a business, but can also advise on strategy, management, technology, and operations, depending on their area of focus.
The two careers require different qualifications. External auditors who work for public accounting firms are often required to have a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license, which is a professional certificate awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
To work as a consultant, however, you don’t need specific qualifications. While many consultants hold degrees in business administration or finance, some have a background in marketing, computer science, or other relevant fields.
Why Do People Leave Auditing?
If you’re planning on switching from auditing to consulting, you’ll probably be asked in interviews why you want to leave auditing. For this reason, it is worth your while to think about this interview question in advance and to plan your answer carefully.
Many auditors choose to make the shift to consulting because they don’t find their occupation challenging enough. Auditing can be quite a restrictive, limited role since your job is to constantly check another company’s financial statements and make sure there are no problems with their controls and figures.
Consulting, on the other hand, offers a lot more variety. Since the work is typically project-based, your responsibilities and focus can be completely different from one project to the next. Even within a project itself, your day-to-day activities can vary.
In addition, consultants typically earn more than auditors. Since Big 4 firms tend to pay their consultants over 30% more than their auditors, wanting to move from Big 4 auditing to consulting is an understandable desire.
However, it may be wise to remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. If you’re planning on switching from auditing to consulting, you should aim to leave your current position on a good footing.
It’s advisable not to burn your bridges in case consulting doesn’t work out for you and you’d like to perhaps return to auditing.
You should also refrain from just accepting any consulting job that comes along. Remember, as an auditor, you have valuable and transferable skills and experience and you’re bound to have options.
How To Make The Shift From Auditing To Consulting
So, if you want to make the move from CPA to management consultant, how should you go about it? While some people may state that going from accounting to consulting is difficult or even impossible, you will be happy to learn that there are various steps you can take.
1. Apply To Move Internally
One of the ways in which you can move from auditing to consulting is to apply internally at your current company.
A Big 4 company like Deloitte, for instance, constantly offers opportunities for employees to move to other positions within the company. After applying for a consulting position, you can expect tough interview processes, and you may also need to do presentations.
A word of caution: companies sometimes tend to restrict the roles that auditors can apply for, since they don’t want auditors to leave their current roles.
If you’re thinking about making a horizontal career shift within your company, networking is an excellent way to further your interests. Knowing the right people in the right places can be very helpful when you’re trying to move internally.
2. Apply at Another Company
If there are no opportunities to move to a consulting position within your current company, or you’re blocked from doing so, you will have to apply externally.
Auditors who are working for a Big 4 company will have an easier time finding a consulting position at another firm, especially when applying at another Big 4 company.
Landing a position at a Big 4 firm means that you’ve gone through a rigorous process and that you’ve received comprehensive training. For this reason, Big 4 companies prefer to retain such employees.
In addition, consulting services are the main revenue generator for the Big 4 companies, so they’re always on the lookout for new talent.
Even if you’re not working for a Big 4 company, you can apply for a consulting position at other firms with confidence.
As an auditor, you hold well-respected qualifications and you have valuable skills and experience that are transferable to the world of consultancy.
Inform yourself regarding the clients that the companies have where you are applying and what their specific needs are so that you can streamline your application accordingly.
3. Obtain an MBA
A CPA is a well-respected qualification that can be useful for a consultant, especially if you’re aiming to work in financial management consulting at a Big 4 company or a large accounting firm such as Grant Thornton.
However, if you wish to work as a strategy, operations, or management consultant, for instance, the best way to gain entry into your new career is to obtain an MBA from a top business school.
Top consulting firms actively recruit from top business schools. Obtaining an MBA from a top business school, paired with your auditing work experience, will put you in a good position when you’re applying for a consulting position.
Tips To Remember
If you’re hoping to make the shift from auditor to consultant, here are a few tips to consider:
Network, Network, Network
Networking is one of the most effective ways in which you can facilitate the move from auditing to consulting.
Even if you’re CV doesn’t really stand out from the rest, you can convince leaders and decision-makers of your authenticity and suitability for a consulting position by connecting with them through your network.
Be Transparent About Your Decision To Switch Careers
If you’re hoping to move to a consulting position within your current company, it’s advisable to be honest about this decision with your supervisor or manager.
They can open doors for you by putting you in touch with relevant partners in different departments.
Chatting with people from various departments within your company may just lead you to a suitable role that’s available in your firm.
Focus on Your Transferable Skills
It is important that you focus on the transferable skills that you have as an auditor. Auditors need certain core soft skills to be successful at their job.
For instance, auditors need to be good at client relationship building. As an auditor, you have to get a client to like you if you want them to cooperate during an audit.
Since auditors also typically work in big teams, they need good teamwork skills. Critical thinking is another key skill that’s transferable to the world of consultancy.
What Consultancy Position Should Auditors Go For?
Consultancy is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide array of services. As an auditor, you have a variety of skills that can be applied in various consulting roles.
Consultants advise clients on various aspects of business, including technology, marketing, operations, finance, and business development. You need to decide what type of consulting work you’d like to do and should then identify any gaps in your skills.
Which Big 4 Is Best for Consulting?
All four of the Big 4 companies offer consulting services to help companies improve their business strategies and operations, so you can apply at any of these firms for a consulting position.