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Benefits of Public and Private Experience

As long as the debate has waged regarding Coke vs. Pepsi, so too have opinions over which experience is more beneficial: public or private accounting. To add my voice to the dialog, I decided to reach out to a few of the dozens of finance professionals I have placed over the last six months and get their views. Take a look at how accountants see value in experience with both public and private firms.

The following are the top five benefits of public and private accounting firm positions:

Private Accounting Benefits

  1. Opportunities for Every Level: Private firms have positions open for new graduates through senior leaders. This makes private accounting a good choice throughout your career.
  2. Emerging Industry Opportunities: Bio-tech, energy, and healthcare are all emerging industries – all with accounting positions currently available. Joining a public firm in these sectors lets you be part of the cutting-edge of business.
  3. High Demand: Private organizations have both an ongoing and growing need for accounting professionals. And, if you have public experience you will be in even higher demand.
  4. Work/Life Balance: Accounting positions in private organizations do not have the long hours associated with public accounting. This allows for finance professionals to enjoy work/life balance.
  5. Industry Focus and Expertise: By working for a private organization you have the chance to dig-in to one industry and gain deep knowledge and expertise.

Public Accounting Benefits

  1. International Opportunities: Experience working outside of the U.S. makes you more marketable and public accounting firms offer this – sometimes right from your first assignment.
  2. Autonomy: Public accounting firms give professionals the chance to dig-in and work at client locations with little supervision. This allows you to spread your wings and learn new skills quickly.
  3. Travel Opportunities and Perks: Public accounting firms give professionals the chance to travel around the globe, sometimes to exotic places you might not see on your own. Also the accommodations are often top notch.
  4. Compensation: Public firms ask more and pay more. In addition, most have performance based bonus programs that reward top performers.
  5. Broad-based Experience: Public firms provide experience in a variety of industries, providing you with exposure to a wide range of topics.

As shown by professionals working in the field, it’s clear that there are great opportunities in both public and private accounting.

Benefits of Public and Private Experience

It’s All About Communication

What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: Feedback. Don't forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.

As a manager it is imperative that you are a good communicator. Often you are letting your team know what you need from them. Maybe you’re talking to clients and must convey what you can do for them. And, everyday you hear from colleagues, employees, even your own boss - and you must respond to them.

Employees need clear communication and prompt feedback. Whether they're working effectively and making great strides on a project, or taking way too long and making little mistakes, employees need to know clearly and promptly that you appreciate their hard work and accomplishments, or that you expect them to work harder and smarter.

Be sure your message is heard. Regular meetings to give feedback and direction are often key to successful management. Or, you may want to let your team know you're thoughts through e-mail, conference calls, or periodic status updates. Probably a combination of all of these – but be consistent.

The key to good feedback is clarity and detail. Offer solutions if there is a problem. State specific examples of what your coworkers accomplished that was great. Recap why the timeline was unacceptable. Clear, prompt, and detailed feedback leaves little room for future misunderstandings and positive feedback starts that next project off on a happy note with motivated employees!

Don’t forget to respond to those emails. I know, we all have a full in-box, but nearly every email deserves feedback. Even a brief, “Thank you for your email.” is appreciated. Acknowledging that you have received the information or update may not warrant a conversation, but remember that a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way in making people feel appreciated and valued.

It’s All About Communication

Managing Salary Expectations

Whether you are negotiating with a new employee or conducting an annual review with someone already on your staff, sooner or later the conversation turns to money. According to a survey of 13,500 random visitors, 65% of respondents said they are looking for a new job within the next three months. Of those, 57% say they are looking because they believe they are underpaid. Even more interesting is that when compared with the firm’s market data on similar positions, only 19% of the group is actually underpaid; 17% appear to be overpaid, and 34% are fairly compensated. In other words, perception and expectations about salary compensation are not always accurate.

When it comes to managing salary expectations for finance professionals, a little preparation goes a long way:

Look at the Market: Have updated and reliable market data for each position on your team from peer organizations. Know how your compensation offer compares. If you are paying less, be prepared to explain why and how other aspects of your organization bridge the gap. The SNI Companies Salary Guide is great resource for current, relevant salary information for finance professionals.

Talk to Your Peers: Get an understanding what other departments within your organization are offering as far as salaries, increases, and other incentives. It is difficult to defend holding the line on minimal raises or salary demands when other parts of your organization are exceeding the boundaries your department has set.

Consider the Person: Conduct an assessment of the specific person. Take a look at their current value and how their future contributions will benefit you and your organization. It is important not to let personality or emotions enter your assessment. You need to look at each person as a resource.

Once you have done your homework the next step is to make certain that you communicate clearly and assertively. It helps to do this early in the process - that way neither party is surprised or feels mislead. In an attempt to seem “nice” reviewers are often not as direct as needed in salary discussions. It benefits you, and the person with whom you are speaking, to make sure there is no confusion about what you have to offer.

Salary discussions are challenging, especially when you can’t give the person all they are seeking. However, doing your homework and making a fair offer - backed with clear and direct communication - is the best way to ensure that your candidates and employees feel respected, informed, and fairly compensated.

Managing Salary Expectations