By Robert G. Epstein, President and CEO of CareerBank.com
The holiday season brings job opportunities as companies prepare for Tax Season. As winter begins, thoughts of holidays and shopping replace job hunting in the minds of most job seekers. This can be a mistake.
The interval between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when many retailers earn most of their annual revenue. What many people don't realize is that, just like the retail industry, public accounting has a seasonal nature. The "busy season" for public accounting firms runs from January 1 to April 15, a span of weeks leading up to Tax day. During this time, many public accounting firms earn up to 70% of their annual revenue preparing tax returns for their clients.
To prepare for the busy season, the prime hiring season for public accounting firms typically runs from September through December. The hectic holiday season is actually the best time to look for public accounting positions.
The savvy job seeker can get top dollar from CPA firms as they gear up for their busiest time of the year. Wait until the start of the new year, though, and you will have lost your best opportunity to maximize your earnings and achieve the best possible position/title.
Public accounting firms typically need to procure their new hires sometime before the busy season begins so that they have enough lead time to train them on their systems, policies and procedures. It also allows the firm enough time to integrate new employees into the company workflow.
Waiting and switching jobs during the busy season can also have some negative impacts. First, employers will have less time to train new hires, which puts job switchers more at risk for getting laid off when the season ends. Second, an individual may take a hit when it comes to their reputation. After all, the person left one accounting firm high and dry during the most critical part of the year, without adequate time to find and train a replacement. An employer has to wonder if they'll do it again...to them.
It's a good time of year for temporary tax help, when companies need extra heads for the season. And the private accounting area looks good during this season as well. As year-end fast approaches, private accounting firms are in a crunch to finalize numbers and perform corporate tax planning. With many employees taking vacations during the holiday season, this puts extra pressure on these firms to get the job done despite being understaffed.
The bottom line is that the salaries and positions that accountants can realize are heavily influenced by supply and demand. Right now, the demand is high and the supply of job seekers is low. This means great things for job seekers. However, if you wait until April 15, 2003, the situation reverses dramatically. The demand is substantially lower, and the market becomes flooded with employees laid off at the end of the busy season. This lowers salaries and increases competition for the best jobs.
A savvy job seeker will take advantage of the season, not to celebrate a holiday, but to find a rewarding position with a company when the conditions are just right.