In college, I’d hear professionals talk about the hours they worked during busy season and not quite get it. I understood time — you get in early, you leave late. You work weekends. What’s the big deal, right?
Sometimes you just must do more.
But the part I didn’t understand sitting in classrooms listening to presentations and during my numerous chats with accounting professionals, was the impact the long hours had on them.
I'm barely one month into my first busy season and I’m here to tell you three things:
1. The long hours of Busy Season are not hyperbolic.
It’s very real.
You’re required to work a certain number of hours past the normal 40. By hours, I mean “chargeable hours.” Chargeable hours are hours that go directly to client work, and thus could be billed to a client. If you come in, watch cat videos for 2 hours and do client work for 6, you have only 6 chargeable hours. You do that 5 days a week, you’ll think you’ve worked 40 hours right?
You just have 30 chargeable hours and will certainly be hearing from someone if that trend continues.
This is because your managers and clients know that you can’t perform all the tasks on your plate within 30 hours/week.
Accounting firms are in the business of servicing clients after all, therefore you must create value for the firm by creating value for the client. Watching videos on the internet doesn’t create value obviously.
2. The hours you work during Busy Season can take a toll on you.
You’re working 12-hour days and are rarely able to do the things you’re used to in non-busy season.
It’s especially tough for people with non-work commitments like family, hobbies, etc.
Other things will need to take a back seat for that 3–4-month period of busy season.
Additionally, the brainpower used up each given day for 10 hours straight is a lot, as well as the anxiety of executing at a high level. Clients pay the firms to do the things they can’t or are unwilling to do. Understandably, they expect a high standard of work.
While your work goes up the channels for review, you don’t want to be the guy who isn’t performing well. This burden can take a toll on you, especially if you’re hard on yourself like I am.
Finally, if you’re unlucky to be working with unpleasant people, the 4 months can seem like forever. Some friends of mine at different firms have experienced this situation. Thankfully, I have not.
3. Busy Season is important for career growth!
However, despite the long hours and sometimes stressful days, I love busy season. And that's because you learn a great deal in a short period of time. I believe in stretching and applying yourself — otherwise you won't grow in your career. Life is about pushing yourself and sometimes that means to your limits. Remember, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
-- Darryl Ucheya, Tax Associate at KPMG
Darryl Ucheya is currently a Tax Associate at KPMG and the creator of Shrewd CPA. The views represented in this post are his own. When he's not busy servicing clients, he enjoys the outdoors and writing about life as an accounting professional.