How to initiate a transfer to another city in your firm

new york city skyline

So, you scored your dream job at a Big Four accounting firm, but then realized that your dream job is in the wrong city. Disappointing, but it happens. It is possible to transfer a job within the same company, by moving to a different office in your firm. Transferring offices at a Big Four firm is one of those things that is unfortunately much harder than it should be. I went through the process myself years ago and it was not easy! If you’re wondering how to transfer to a new city, here is a general list of steps to get a job transfer approved.

How to transfer your job to another city 

  1. Learn your firm’s rules
    I received a full-time offer with Deloitte in the Atlanta office back in 2014. The main reason my offer was for the Atlanta office was because I was from there and went to college in the south, so the recruiters were primarily giving offers for the southeast offices.

    After starting full-time, I quickly realized that while Atlanta was home to me, I wanted a bigger adventure. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to move to New York City.

    I started asking around and tried to learn more about the job transfer process. Unfortunately, I learned that Deloitte required at least one year at the firm before you could change work locations, so I was going to have to wait it out. Before planning your big move, be sure to check with your firm on how to transfer to ensure that you’re eligible for the internal job transfer process. 
  2. Talk to your team
    One year passed and I decided it was time to initiate the transfer! I was really nervous about talking to my team. My team was one of the best groups of people I’ve worked with. They really invested in my career development and taught me all of the basics about audit and how to succeed.

    I was really nervous to talk to them about my desire to transfer offices – I think partially because I didn’t want to let them down after they were so supportive and took me under their wing.

    I also feared that if I couldn’t get the transfer approved, they would think I wasn’t happy on their team, which was not the case.

    Despite these fears, I found some courage and talked to my manager. To my relief, she was very supportive and said I should go for it!

    Talking to your direct manager about your potential job transfer is an essential part of the process. You don’t want to burn any bridges and your manager will appreciate the open communication. 
  3. Put the official transfer request in
    With my team’s blessing, I thought the major challenges were behind me.

    However, when I clicked the “initiate transfer” button on the Deloitte Intranet, I nearly had a heart attack when I received a response that my transfer could not be approved because my firm was on a “transfer freeze”.

    Unfortunately, I discovered that firms go on “transfer freezes” all the time. It basically means that the desired office is sufficiently staffed and they currently are not accepting any employees from another office. There is no way to know how long the freeze will last.
  4. Get prepared to be patient
    Six months after submitting my official transfer request, I still hadn’t heard any updates. As far as I knew, the transfer freeze was still going on. I kept plugging away through busy season as a second year and assumed my transfer fell through the cracks and New York City just wasn’t in my cards.

    Out of nowhere, as I was wrapping up busy season, my manager pulled me aside and told me the exciting news. I still remember to this day: “Kristin, you’re moving to New York! …..IN SIX WEEKS!”.

    Not only was my transfer approved out after six months of silence  – but I also had to move in six weeks. My start date for the Deloitte New York office was already assigned, and  I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I packed my bags, moved out of my apartment, and was so excited (and terrified) for my next adventure.

Lessons learned

 My process was not the easiest and I know many other people also had challenging experiences getting a transfer request approved. As I considered how to transfer offices within my Big Four firm, there are two important lessons that I learned:

  1.  If I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice, I would have spoken up during the recruiting process – prior to starting full-time at Deloitte – about my interest in starting at another office. I have learned that it is so much easier to change your office before you start at the firm, rather than after. Recruiters are generally very flexible on practice or office changes before you accept your official offer.
  2. If your firm is being overly difficult about a transfer, another option is to look at another firm. Sometimes it’s actually easier to hop over to a different firm in the city that you want to live in rather than get a transfer approved.

I would love this series to be a dialogue, so if you have any additional advice to add or questions send me a message on Instagram

This piece is Chapter 11 in “The Life of an Accountant Series” by Kristin Lofgren of @Lets_Get_Fiscal. Read her prologue here.

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