Leaving Time--Unless You Want to be a CPA Partner
The Coenen brothers employment recruiting firm in Minneapolis concluded that CPAs not on track for partnership should leave their firm after 3-6 years or during the first two years as a senior accountant. Former Big 4 Manager Andy Dahl said that he learned the most during his CPA experience during the third to sixth year and very little new after that. Terry Schweigel of General Mills concurs, saying that GenMills hires about three seniors per year but only one manager per three years; in part because the seniors are considered more flexible. The Coenen brothers recommend developing a relationship with a recruiter shortly after becoming a senior to maximize the number of available opportunities.
I did not stay in public accounting long enough to reach the "sweet spot" for the Robert Halfs of the world--but can point out that for non-international (middle-sized or small) CPA firms that best opportunities are more likely based on relationships with specific clients rather than the amount of time worked in the CPA firm. Conclusion: as important as knowing when to leave a CPA firm is knowing why you are willing to leave and what you want to do next.