Posted by: LYF | September 24, 2010

When is the best time to look for a new job?

I finally got my designation last week.  Well I didn’t really get it, my 30 months were up and I sent in my experience requirement.  It feels nothing like passing the UFE.  It was the most anti-climactic experience ever.  My family was pretty psyched though.  Especially my bubby, who was visibly glowing after I told her.

Things are pretty comfortable right now.  My designation is locked down.  I’m working at a good firm.  And I have my own place downtown.  Nothing is awful.  But is everything awesome?  Maybe?  I guess it depends on the person.  I don’t necessarily want to leave my job – this is a crucial point to keep in mind as you continue reading – but I need to know what else is out there.  I know that I don’t know much when it comes to opportunities for newly designated CA’s.  And it worries me because I could be missing out on some really cool stuff.

I spoke to a recruiter last week – again, I don’t want to leave me job right now – to get a better idea of what’s out there.  In the nicest and most round-about way possible, she told me I had no idea what I was talking about and that I needed to do some research before she or anyone could help me.  Fair enough.  She was really cool too.  Fortunately, I like doing research and I think I’m pretty decent at it.  So for all the newly designated CA’s out there, who don’t know if they want to stay in public accounting forever, but get a little nervous when they can’t narrow down what else they want to do, this post should offer some help.  And a little head’s up, this post will be long.  If you don’t want to continue, then watch this charming video of a cat jumping into a box.

“Niche it down”

To use a phrase from Ramit, you have to “niche it down.”  This is my largest problem.  I want a “good job”, someplace downtown that hopefully allows me to travel.  Too bad that’s ridiculously vague and consequently extremely unhelpful.  After talking to enough people, the first thing I – and you if you’re in the same boat as me – should be doing is figuring out what sectors or industries you want to work in.  And to do that you need some content to get yourself informed.  Here are some good resources to start with – i.e. they won’t put you to sleep.

The New York Times – The business section is pretty good and so is their “most emailed” list.  You’ll always find something cool in the latter.  And if you have an ipod touch or iphone you can download the app too – I highly recommend this.

Inc. Magazine – Inc. targets small business owners and entrepreneurs.  This may not be helpful for those of you who want to transition to a large public company, but give it a shot.  This whole process of information gathering is akin to brainstorming, just like there’s “no bad ideas”, the more business related information you have, the better off you’ll be.  Their articles are often interesting too.

Wired Magazine – I’m a little biased here because this is my favourite magazine.  If you’re into tech related things it could point you in the direction of some cool start-ups, venture capital firms or fast growing industries.

Fast Company Magazine – Reminds me a bit of Inc., except with more of a focus on technology and design.  Again, they offer good content, reading their articles won’t feel like a chore.

Delicoius – You can use a cool trick I picked up from Charlie Hoehn.  Go to the delicious home page and play around with the tags.  For example, if I were interested in start-ups I would type in my firefox address bar.  I like searching delicious because it’s only made up of bookmarks other people found interesting or valuable.  For a more detailed rundown of how to do this check out Charlie’s post.  I highly recommend you read and apply what he suggests.

You can also come at research gathering from the opposite end.  Focus on what you like or companies that you are passionate about.  Passionate?  If you do something actively for more than an hour a day, it means you like it.  Start googling information about that industry.  As for the companies that you’re passionate about, just think about the stuff you use on a regular basis.  Do you watch HBO compusively?  Did you download the latest Tokyo Police Club CD from the itunes store, to listen on your ipod as you create a slideshow on your mac?  You get the point.

Organize your data

I’m the kind of guy that knows a little about a lot.  And I usually find it extremely difficult to explain how I came about certain pieces of information – i.e. the origin of the “teddy” bear, the difference between a notched and peak lapel, where to shoot guns in Toronto, or the proper way to eat a mango.  That’s because information gathering isn’t a linear process.  As you go through some of the resources I’ve listed, you may come to realize that you absolutely hate all the suggestions I’ve given.  But through them you may find links to other things you find interesting.  And through those, you could end up at a completely different website that turns out to be exactly what you’re looking for.  That’s how this usually works – in a very messy fashion.

Dealing with this mess is important.  I tend to sort everything on delicious under career or jobs.  I find delicious pretty helpful, but you can sort your stuff however you want.  If anyone out there has an iphone, you’d likely benefit from using evernote.  I guess you could even sign up for email newsletters and create filters to forward them to a “jobs” folder in your email account.  The point is you need to have something.  It doesn’t matter what that something is.  Buy if you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself overloaded with too much stuff.  Then you won’t be having very much fun, which usually leads to most people giving up on this process all together.  I know having a system may seem “obvious” and you may be tempted to skim through this paragraph, but let me say it again – make sure you have some sort of system in place, that can sort all of the information you gather, so you can find the stuff you saved later on.

Talk to people, but keep their motives in mind.

I’d recommend talking to recruiters.  They can give you a good idea about the job market as a whole.  You will have to be wary of some.  I’ve found the larger firms – Robert Half, Lannick etc – to be a little impersonal at times.  Though, you will learn something by sitting down with any recruiter.  I’m more of a “small-firm” guy so I tend to favour the smaller, more “boutique” recruiting firms.  I’ve found them to be more passionate about what they do, which translates into, “I’m not trying to make money off of you and I’d genuinely like to put you somewhere that’s a good fit.”  I guess it’s good to mention this.  Recruiters get paid by companies to help them hire people like you.  To be blunt, recruiters get paid when they find you a job, whether or not that job is a good fit.  Keep this in the back of your head, as you talk to them.  I’m not saying they’re out to screw you, but the incentives are there.  Take it for what it’s worth.

And to recap…

Again, I’m pretty cool with my job right now.  But that’s like saying, “yeah purgatory is cool because nothing awful happens.”  Yeah, well nothing awesome happens either.  I guess everyone always has the option of teaching English in a foreign country.  I’ve been thinking about this too.  Don’t know how anyone else feels, but after some research I’m leaning towards South Korea.  They have the highest salaries and pay for most of your stuff.  They’re also close to a ton of other countries I’d love to travel to.

Now there you have it.  A head’s up to all those UFE writers right now, this is what it’s like once you’ve received your designation.  A huge void, where you can basically do anything you want.  If you’re smart, be proactive and start reading as much as you can about everything now.  Find out what you like and don’t like and niche things down accordingly.  Create some way to sort everything out and repeat the process often.  What you’re left with should be what you’re passionate about.  Then it’s just a matter of tossing in your hat.  And keep in mind this takes time.



  1. At this stage of my life i feel that getting the CA Qualification is my ultimate aim, after which life will be piece of cake served on a plate. But after reading your post it seems like a never ending battle where the priorities change with years but the battle continues. .

    • It gives you the ability to create opportunities for yourself. Emphasis on “create.” Nothing gets handed to you. But being able to create opportunities is still a big deal.

  2. Good post – anticlimactic is the perfect word to describe the feeling!

  3. Keep learning – if you’re falling into a routine, that’s when you will be getting worried and taking the search more seriously.

    I have a friend who taught English in Korea. Not sure if you’d *really* like it though.

  4. Interesting look at a young CPAs life and thought. I’m sure you’ll find a niche you love.

  5. If you aren’t unhappy and your job is overall good, I suggest you stay put. I thought the grass was always greener and now I really miss some jobs I left for no good reason at all.

  6. Korea would definitely be a big culture shock. I looked into doing that for a semester or so in college, but ultimately, it didn’t fit into my schedule. I did read a lot about it though, and I’m glad my first attempt at living in a foreign country was Mexico, where I could at least buy American foods if I got super homesick. I would love to visit Korea, but I’d be a bit nervous to commit myself to a year-long contract there…

    • Where did you live in Mexico/for how long? Overall was it a good experience?

  7. I tried using delicious, but it didn’t take. I’m now using Diigo extension for Chrome and Android. Diigo is about the same as delicious except that it let’s me highlight and search my annotations.

    Anyways, I looked through your delicious bookmarks and probably imported half of them into Diigo.

    BTW, I saw that you bookmarked the NYTimes article, “What is it about 20-somethings.” With that article in mind, checkout this article on thoughtcatalog:

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