How to Find the Best City for Your Next Accounting Job

By Robert Half on November 1, 2016 at 8:10am

Thinking of moving? Maybe you’re after a change of scenery, or perhaps your current location doesn’t have many accounting job opportunities. Whether you’re a student preparing for your first job or a seasoned accountant ready for a new challenge, you may be wondering how to choose the best city for you and your career.

The world is big, and moving is a major life change — exciting but also a little scary. A city-by-city comparison can help narrow down your options and focus your job search. Here are some tips for deciding on where you should resettle.

1. Know yourself

The United States has 50 states, several territories and thousands of metropolitan areas, each with their good and not-so-good qualities. A smart first step when picking the best city is to understand your personal priorities and values.

What’s more important to you — a location with plenty of lucrative finance jobs or a low cost of living? Perhaps your desire for vibrant cultural options and good weather surpasses all other factors? Make a list of all the attributes you seek in your dream city, and then rank them in order of importance.

2. Identify your best city

Information is key to pinpointing the best city for you. Now that you have a rough idea of what factors you prioritize, you can use the Robert Half City Comparison Tool. This interactive app asks you to use a sliding scale to indicate your preference for four overarching factors: career prospects, quality of life, cost of living and cultural diversity. Then it calculates a possible best city for you based on our research of the 25 largest metros in the U.S. Play with the tool to find other locales that may suit your preferences and life goals.

Which 10 cities offer the best career prospects? See our slideshow below.

3. Evaluate the job market

The city comparison tool is a good way to focus your job search on the best city for you. Now that you have a short list of places relative to your personal preferences, it’s time to take a look at the finance and accounting market in those locations.

What are salary ranges for corporate and public accounting jobs, and how do they compare with the area’s cost of living? Are there certain employers there — Big Four accounting firms, multinational company headquarters — that excite you and look promising for your accounting career? What is the unemployment rate like? Take all that information and shuffle around the cities on your list.

Read How to Compare Accounting and Finance Salaries By City on the Robert Half Blog.

4. Consider your partner

When you’re in a long-term relationship, you need to also keep in mind your significant other’s job prospects. Some couples do just fine apart, but most do not.

If your partner is open to moving as well, take his or her career goals into account. Some people have very niche professions. For example, if you want to open a public accounting firm in your small hometown but your husband is in the entertainment industry, he may have trouble finding work there. In other words, make it the best city for both of you, not just one party. Be sure to set aside time to discuss potential job changes with your significant other.

5. Dig into job listings

A good next step is to search for current job openings in a potential best city. The ideal accounting job description details the employer’s corporate culture, specific job duties of the position and the required and preferred career skills of top candidates. Perhaps one of the reasons you’re considering a move is for a better work-life balance. If so, keep an eye out for companies that highlight perks such as flextime and telecommuting options.

The natural places to look for job postings are job boards. Be sure to also check out other career tools that are more tailored toward accountants.

Visit the Accounting and Finance Professionals' Career Center for more job search tools.

6. Increase your connections

Another way to make a successful best city comparison is by putting your networking skills to work. Reach out to your college’s alumni organization in each city on your list. Check on LinkedIn to see whether a former colleague or classmate is located in the areas you find compelling. It’s worth the effort to attend conferences and networking events in several locations on your best city list.

Before you take these road trips, be sure your accounting resume and social media profiles are current and in tip-top shape. Also prepare and refine your elevator pitch. You never know who you’ll meet and what exciting opportunities might arise.

Although in-person meetings are most effective, they do take time and money. That’s why you should also be networking in online chat rooms and via social media.

7. Take a temporary job

After you’ve decided on the best city for you, it may be worthwhile to do a trial run. This is a smart move, especially if you’re a recent grad or between jobs and don’t have to resign from a current position.

When you take on temporary employment, you have the chance to evaluate a location in much more depth than a short visit would allow, all while earning a decent paycheck. Project-based work can also help you develop skills, gain experience and make important new contacts in a new city. Interim work gives you the flexibility, resources and time necessary to find the best city for you.

The best-case scenario is that you love your new home, and the temporary gig develops into a full-time role. But if things don’t pan out, you’re free to try again somewhere else.

Accounting is a wonderfully portable career. Your skills as a CPA allow you to find satisfying, well-compensated jobs in practically all corners of the U.S. (You may need a reciprocal license, depending on what state you move to and what types of services you perform, according to the AICPA.)

Doing a city comparison is a worthwhile endeavor, and finding the best city for you can open doors that you hadn’t considered before. As an accounting professional, this is a career risk worth taking. And after your move, you may discover that what started as a need for a change of scenery has turned into a rewarding new trajectory in an exciting field.

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