Accountants: Do you like your job? - Page 19
I totally agree and try to tell my colleagues the same. In your case, if you were to redo, when would you have left?
Advisory and consulting are both very broad groups with different teams under them. A couple of my former classmates are in strategy and operations, deloitte's top consulting group. According to them, they never take audit laterals. So if your main reason for accepting audit at deloitte was to get into that group, I'd reconsider. But other groups, such as Consulting ERS, may be easier to jump into from audit. Also, I wouldn't sweat which firm you pick that much if all the offers are for audit. Lateraling between the firms happens pretty easily cause all the firms are eager to pull talent away from each other. That aside, I'd choose the firm where you got along with people the most.
As far as the debate on when to leave public goes, doesn't that depend on what career path/exit opportunity you are trying to pursue? I think leaving at the manager level is more ideal if you wanted to pursue a controller path. If one wanted to work more in finance and operations (FP&A, treasury, etc) then it might make sense to leave earlier so one doesn't become too specialized.