• Career Center

    The Best Line of BS I Ever Heard During My Time in Public Accounting

    By | March 7, 2017

    The best line that I ever heard about my career success during my time in public accounting was this: “Rachel, think long term. The more hours you work compared to your peers now, the more experienced you will be.”

    I heard this brilliant piece of advice as a young and naïve tax associate fresh out of school from one of my managers. Seriously. Now that I am older and at least a little bit wiser, I am calling bullshit. This pits the staff against each other in terms of who had the most hours, a sick and competitive game. It ingrained in the staff a culture of the more you work, the more successful you will be. And this culture, of course, is what the company wanted because it resulted in each full-time employee working more hours. But the problem with the whole “more hours, more experience” BS is that it is categorically untrue.

    According to a study by John Pencavel of Stanford University, research results found that employee output falls dramatically after a 50-hour workweek, and falls so much after 55 hours that there is actually no point in working anymore. Let that sink in: NO POINT IN WORKING ANYMORE. You aren’t gaining any more experience when you work to the point of exhaustion for weeks at a time. So print out this study, take it to your manager, and say that there is no point to working this weekend. I’m (kind of) kidding.

    The main problem with this already terrible advice nowadays is those pesky millennials don’t want to work at least 10 – 12 years all day and night for a partner spot. This has led to increasing difficulty in recruiting staff at the senior and manager level. According to a recent article titled “The Ongoing Crisis in Recruiting” on Accounting Today, an Institute of Management Accountants survey found that, “two-thirds of polled senior finance professionals cited recruiting Millennials as a ‘challenge.'”

    This “challenge” is actually a “paradigm shift” as referenced in a recent article on CPA Trendlines by Hitendra Patil. Patil shows that the first two categories in the hierarchy of needs of staff at accounting firms is actually “work-life balance” as well as “learning opportunities and early mentoring.”


    Is anyone surprised? As millennials continue to saturate the job market and technology sweeps the industry with changes, we can expect to see more of a cultural shift and as a result, a shift away from the “more hours, more experience” mentality.

    Would more work-like balance, value based projects, and learning and mentoring be so bad? The firm of the future will embrace these changes and the old school firms will not. Let’s see who survives.

    I invite anyone to top my favorite BS line that you have heard in public accounting in the comments

    • N.E.R.D.

      “We’ll fix it/look into it next year.”

      • Rachel Andujar

        Haha yes! That’s a good one.

    • Agent Oscar Wallace

      Picked up by another office for a public bank which just acquired 3 smaller regional banks in the fiscal year.

      “Oscar you learn the most from the hardest audits” – Partner

      While there is some truth there, no one wants to be charging 90+ hours on shitshow of an audit.

    • Big4Veteran

      “Perception is reality.”

      The automatic go-to response every manager would use when you challenge the “facts” they laid out in their evaluation of your performance.

      • Sixty109

        the original defense of “Fake News”

      • Smack That

        Yep. I got that one a few years ago at another firm. It was all personality-based, as well. I am not as social as most of the others in that firm, so it was frowned upon that I didn’t always participate in group lunches and various small talk. The perception was that I was standoffish (I don’t think that’s actually a word, but that’s what the managing partner said).

      • Bloviator

        But I have alternative facts.

    • I have a great opportunity for you.

      • keepin_it_real

        Derivative of this is the dreaded “great learning opportunity”.

    • HWSquared

      “Yes, the client has told me they’re absolutely ready for you to start on-site work.”
      Commonly heard when the client is the far side of the planet and you’ll have to spend most of a day on a plane to get there.

    • dumpus

      “c’mon man…we’re just going out for one drink…”

      • Agent Oscar Wallace

        Sounds like Thursday nights when there was an office training on Friday

    • McValue Meal Audit

      A great for public accounting quote is, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. 90% of the time, when i controlled the audit process start to finish, it was fine, the job wasn’t bad. It was when people didn’t do their job early in the process, that made it hell.

    • JessterCPA

      (On a Friday Afternoon)….


      Hey…It’s Jennifer from HR. Can you come down to my office for a minute?

    • Adam Hill

      Trusted advisor

    • Is it wrong that I read “The Hierarchy of Needs” as “The Hierarchy of Nerds” in the graphic? (The answer is No.)
      I get to work with all sorts of CPA firms and this is increasingly something that frustrates them. Some listen and make adjustments, resulting in happier staff, better work, satisfied clients and a much easier time recruiting the best talent, as everyone wants to work at the firm that isn’t demanding your soul. And then you have the others that think it’s just whining and folks will get over it, then can’t figure out why they don’t get the good candidates and why they aren’t growing at the rate they want. I know a shift in mindset can be difficult, but it’s necessary.