Making a Career Change

Ask the Expert

Be honest with what you know and can do, and emphasize those points. Jeremy Clopton, CFE
Occupation:

Forensic Accounting

Industry:

Public Accounting

Location:

Missouri, U.S.

Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy, gained his real-world experience from his work with one of the top accounting and consulting firms in the country, where he led the firm-wide Big Data & Analytics and Digital Forensics practices. During his 12 years there, Clopton gained extensive experience in data analytics, fraud prevention and business intelligence, but his real passion was going beyond providing the services clients asked for to help them determine what they needed for future success.

Before he was recruited by Upstream, Clopton launched his own consulting company focused on developing more successful cultures by asking more strategic questions. He created the SQ Method, a framework designed to help firms overcome challenges, successfully adopt new technology, analyze and utilize data, encourage innovation and drive employee engagement.

Clopton has experience using ACL, IDEA and Tableau software for analysis, data visualization, visual analytics and dashboard development.

I have some experience in investigation/enforcement; however, I don't have an accounting or finance background. Will this hurt me in my plan to enter the anti-fraud field?

Most, if not all, frauds occur within or using some form of accounting system, so a foundational knowledge of how it all works saves investigators a lot of time if they understand these fundamentals. Training and continuing to educate yourself in all aspects of fraud awareness, deterrence, detection and investigation are key. Knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know and keeping up-to-date in both are critical to being an effective fraud examiner.

What specific skills should I highlight to prospective employers? What are they looking for besides a CFE/accounting background?

Highlight what you are good at, your past successes and accomplishments you had made an extra effort to learn on your own (i.e., training, etc.). Not everyone is an expert in all aspects of fraud examination. Be honest with what you know and can do and emphasize those points.

What specific networking steps should I take to expand my network to include anti-fraud professionals?

Meetings, chapter social and training events, conferences and training seminars are great places to meet practicing professionals from all walks of life. There are key social media sites that are important to participate in, for example, LinkedIn. Join discussion groups even if it’s just to look over the shoulders of those who are working on an open topic. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional you might want to make contact with and use current links and associations to broaden your network. Carry a lot of business cards all the time.

I have a background in accounting but would like to focus more on the law enforcement side of the anti-fraud profession. What are some ways to get my foot in the door of law enforcement agencies?

You may want to consider going back to school and focusing on criminology and other similar areas of study. Explore and research the different options so that you can make an informed decision about which type of law enforcement agency you want to approach: federal, state or local. Remember, this is a broad field in need of white-collar crime professionals, however, it is a lot of work to change careers and it may require taking a step or two back before moving forward again.

Obviously, when a career change is made, there is also an impact on salary. What degree of impact can I expect as an experienced professional in one field as I transition to the anti-fraud profession?

It depends on what direction you decide to go. An “impact on salary” can be negative and positive, and it’s not always measured in dollars. You could take a cut in pay and move to a region where the economics are more favorable, lower housing costs, etc., so there is a lot to the equation. Make sure you are transitioning for the right reasons and in the right direction. Salary takes care of itself and should not always be the deciding factor.

A career in the anti-fraud field sounds interesting and could be a good fit for me. What suggestions do you have for getting a feel for whether or not it is the right career move?

Take some courses, read every newspaper article on fraud, attend meetings where anti-fraud professionals gather and talk to them about your interests. It is not all glamour; much of the work is tedious and time-consuming with little in the way of allure. But, if you like solving complex puzzles, then the anti-fraud profession is a good field to be in.

Have questions for our experts about your career?