As we head into the big push for the March deadline and then another quarter end, my experience leads me to believe that many tax people will go through a process of re-assessing their professional goals over the next couple of months. Whether that means leaving public accounting for industry, changing companies or going back to school to pursue that degree in culinary arts; this is a time of year when many tax professionals begin to re-think their career choices and ponder the idea of change. The days of people choosing a career path and sticking with it for 40 years seem to be long gone. Now, more and more people make choices several times in their life that lead them down different paths in their career. I found this article, Re-evaluating Your Career Goals by Dorothy Tannahill Moran, on LinkedIn a few years ago and it does a nice job of helping you through the process of deciding when you should do something different. Although a lot has changed in how and where we work, many people still aren’t getting what they want out of a tax career. Maybe it’s time to draw a “T” account and list pros and cons…..debits and credits.


You woke up this week and realized the career direction you were headed in was no longer right for you. Knowing that isn’t a comfortable feeling; and you might even be denying it to some degree. You were very strong in your conviction of this goal, so it’s not an easy thing to let go of. How did you get to this point? Was your original career goal wrong to begin with? Should you really be thinking of reevaluating your career goals?

It would be nice to think that, like some people out there, that you knew what you wanted to be and stayed the course for the next 40 years. That doesn’t happen to too many people, so consider it an unrealistic expectation for you.

Even when you have clarity about your direction, you don’t have to stay the course at all costs. Most careers weave in a variety of directions for all sorts of reasons and if resetting your goals looks like the right thing to you, don’t waste your time worrying. It’s clearly think time.

Let’s look at a couple reasons for this reevaluation:

Now that you’re close, it’s not that cool. When we develop our ideas of our career direction, we think of all the great things about that position. Usually there are several steps and a few positions to pursue before you arrive. At each step you get better visibility, as well as more personal insight. It might not be that great now that you can see it better; or you simply might not want to do what it takes to make that next step.

Priorities change. As we go through life, it has an interesting way of changing our minds about what’s important. You may have changed your priorities without outwardly realizing, and now that you have, your previously chosen career goal doesn’t fit well.

You have other interests. You may now be at a point where you have discovered new directions for your career that now hold more interest to you. That’s fine because that’s how life works, the longer you live the more new things you get exposed to.

Whatever the reason for the change of heart you need to move forward to rethink your career goals. Once you’ve arrived at this point you have many different directions you could take and steps to go with them. You have work to do to help you identify both your direction and the steps you have to take to get there.

Complete career change. This one can be tricky because most of us really don’t know how to start from the beginning at figuring out a new career path. If you’re at a point of completely changing, it’s best to pull out all the tricks and settle in for a while to get this figured out. There are books to help you and career coaches that can help guide you through a self discovery process. No, there is not an assessment that will tell you. I might help point you but you’ve got work to do to arrive at a good decision.

Course correction. You may have thought you wanted to be CFO but now that you’re a group controller you may be thinking Operations Management might be better for you. While it is a new career goal, the order of magnitude is more like a course correction. You can capitalize on your background to get to this new career goal but you may need to figure out what assignments you need that will better qualify you. Speak to your management to get their viewpoint on things you can do to better qualify you.

One step back. You may have gotten promoted but now that you’re there, you like your previous job better. No problem unless you work for a company that can only see one direction for you which means you will most likely need to leave for another company. If that isn’t the case, then speak to your management and HR about your career direction to see if they can help support it.

Your career is a constantly moving thing just like you. No longer do we have a “life work” that goes on for decades which means that rethinking and reevaluating your career goals will happen a few times. When the time comes it may take some time to get used to the fact that you want to change direction but once you’re there do the work to make that next step really worth taking.

Bonus Tip: Adapting is key to your career survival, growth and advancement.

Whatever decision you make, I’m happy to give guidance on reaching your career goals. Although we focus on tax positions and assisting people in advancing their tax career, I can also share my knowledge of transitioning out of tax and into something else. Not everyone that starts their professional career in tax stays in tax. Feel free to call or email me anytime. Until next month, good luck with your next deadline.

To your continued success,

Jay McCauley
Executive Recruiter, Oxford Tax Recruiting
(303) 730-0100