• Career Center

    Career Limiting Moves: A Beginner’s Guide

    By | August 5, 2014

    I’m a little rough around the edges because – Detroit. However, I – like every other fresh-faced A1 who has no idea what auditing a public company actually entails – once dreamt of the partner track. I pictured myself seven years down the line in a velvet-lined corner partner office with enough cash to buy the city of Detroit and raze it to the ground. (Too soon?) But let’s face it. A woman who dries her hair in the car’s heating vent while doing sixty in a twenty-five because she woke up twenty minutes late for work yet again has little (to no) hope of jumping through accounting rings of fire to make it to senior – let alone partner. 

    I’m just not partner track material. I once told a client that my car caught fire because I was too cheap to repair the vehicle, and once over lunch, I told my manager all the creepy shit I know about Florida. Spiders the size of a grown man’s hand is all I’m saying.

    Then there were the real Career Limiting Moves (CLMs) I made during my public accounting tenure. CLMs are the things a firm won’t ever forget – like that one unfortunate intern (not me, I swear) who responded to a partner’s group “thanks for all your hard work” email by hitting ‘Reply All’ and writing “Ya’ll are welcome.”

    Career Limiting Moves (CLMs) can knock even the most stellar CPA off the partner track pretty quickly, and they fall into three basic categories: (1) The Late Train, (2) The Derailment, and (3) What Train? (Ain’t no commuter trains in Detroit)

    (1) The Late Train
    This one won’t knock you off the partner track completely, but it might push you off the fast track. Example:

    In my early days, I emailed my manager saying “I can’t plan my life when we’re working this late – could you let me know what time we’ll be leaving each night this week? Working until midnight? Surely you jest. I’m a CPA not a coal miner.”

    He forwarded my email to the entire team with the following message:
    "So you can plan your life, plan to work the following schedule:"








    Until 1:30am

    Until 1:30am 

    Until 1:30am

    Until 1:30am

    Until 1:30am

    Until 1:30am

    9:00pm (if we’re caught up)

    This stunt didn’t get me fired, and it didn’t give me *too much* notoriety, but my unwillingness to work like a third world factory worker to go the distance to complete the audit probably slowed my partner track train down. 

    (2) The Derailment

    These ones knock you off the partner track, but the firm might keep you around for a year to train (no pun) your replacement. Example:

    As a tax-paying adult, I have to manage a lot of things like remembering to brush my hair before I leave for work in the morning. I don't have time to clean my car. I’ve long suspected that a small animal has been living underneath my passenger seat, and on that particular morning, the floor of the passenger side was full to the top with Diet Coke cans and granola bar wrappers. I never expected to drive anyone around in my vehicle. That’s what partners and managers are for.  

    Then the senior manager’s BMW ran out of gas, and she needed a ride from the client site.

    I shoveled the cans and wrappers into the back seat. The drive went well until I turned out into traffic and the can stack shifted. A half-full can of diet rolled from the back seat to the front and sloshed against the pant leg of her $1,000 power suit. She asked me honestly “Do you live in this car? Do you need me to help you find a place? I’m a little concerned…”

    So my career derailed at that point. To be fair, could YOU picture a partner driving a client/associate to lunch in a car that looks to be inhabited by a homeless man? Like I’ve said, I’m much better suited for a life of leisure.

    (3) What Track? Ain’t no commuter trains in Detroit.

    This Career Limiting Move won’t just slow a partner-track CPA down or derail her – this one will actually get a person fired. Ain’t no track because honey, you ain’t got no job. I’m not guilty of this one – give me a little credit – but here are three examples that I’ve heard about through first and second hand accounts (which, as we all know, are totally reliable sources in this line of work):

    • Ghost ticking That time the A3 “tied out” an entire asset rollforward – complete with tickmarks – and submitted the workpaper to the file. The catch? The client hadn’t submitted any PBC items yet. As it turns out, auditing – like most things in life — gets done a lot faster when you fake it.
    • Scabies That time the high-level manager slept with the twenty year old intern.
    • Spitting That time the S1 spit in a bartender’s face at training and then proceeded to trash the hotel room before passing out. Apparently, the other seniors called 911, and he was hospitalized and subsequently fired.

    Now that we’ve gone through the basic types of Career Limiting Moves – the late train, the derailments, and the termination track – are you or anyone you know guilty of any of these? If you did commit a CLM, did you stage an epic come back, or did you slink off into industry?

    • advisorynerd

      The manager sleeping with the intern is a CLM for which party? I’ve seen that work out for both parties on more than a few occasions.

      • b4snrdos

        one hundred thousand thumbs up

      • EeWhy

        I cannot “like” this comment enough.

    • RecoveringFromPublic

      “slinking” off to industry is the best move I ever made. Unless you wake up and love the live to grind mentality, industry is pretty great. Put in your time in public for a few years, come out with a good work ethic and some ambition and you’ll end up alright. Not to mention the better salaries, work life balance that actually exists, and fringe benefits other than “only having to work 45 hours a week during the summer” really makes it sweet.

    • The Horniest Partner

      My first busy I was trying to be responsible so instead of going down to the bar district on Friday night, I hung out with a buddy at a local Applebees bar. Saturday was at the client’s office and I puked in the client’s bathroom. I barely made it inside the bathroom and ralphed in the waste basket by the door. I had to leave it there. I went back to the audit room and left the manager a note. Thankfully he was due in later. I stumbled out to my car and lost it again in the client’s parking lot. Never heard anything so somehow no one ever pinned it on me.

      • Smack That

        Going to Applebee’s is a life limiting move.

        • The Horniest Partner

          Yeah their food sucks but I was just a new staff and couldn’t afford nicer rest. I was hooking up with a hot 21 y/o waitress with DDs who worked there.

    • PrivateIndustry

      “So you can plan your life, plan to work the following schedule:”

      “Then the senior manager’s BMW ran out of gas, and she needed a ride from the client site.”

      Clearly even senior managers CAN NOT plan their lives. If this woman did not have time to fill up gas, she will hate having to make time to take her car to her mechanic for a fuel pump replacement for prematurely burning out her fuel pump.

    • Neal S

      Very well written article, actually one of the few on here that is well thought out and not biased/slanted. I really enjoyed this. Couple follow up thoughts

      1. Would expensing a pair of dirty underwear for 1.99 on your co-workers computer when he wasn’t looking into the client billing system be considered a CLM? Noting this made it through reimbursement

      2. How about going out for dinner on an audit job, but not really eating dinner. Instead you expense 500 dollars of stripper dollars as a meal at a local strip club since it shows up on the bill as Joe’s Steak House. Is this a CLM?

      3. Or how about calling an intern up on the phone from a conference room and asking him to go down to the 6th floor and ask for a partner named Jack Mihoff? Is that a CLM???

      4. How about finishing up an audit job 5 days early, than spending the entire next week on the beach and expensing entire trip while still billing the job the full amount of hours. Is that a CLM?

      5. And finally, how about signing up an audit partner you really didn’t like to receive 75 calls from used car dealerships on his work phone. Would this be considered a CLM?

      • JessterCPA

        Its Jack Mayhoffer by the way, Mihoff is too obvious.

      • The Horniest Partner

        #5 I signed up our dick managing partner to a bunch of mailings and catalogs. His name was Tim but as a joke everyone called him Timmy. Every one of the mailings was to “Timmy _____”.

      • Bias? What??

    • Guest

      “Spitting That time the S1 spit in a bartender’s face at training and then proceeded to trash the hotel room before passing out. Apparently, the other seniors called 911, and he was hospitalized and subsequently fired.”
      This one sounds like Deloitte University

      • guestied

        Deloitte doesn’t use terms like A1 and S1

      • apples

        This sounds like basically every training I ever heard about. There was always that guy. Might not have been this bad all the time, but yeah, not unique.

      • GT cocktails

        Um, this is exactly the Q center. Wow. That night lives in infamy.

    • Big4Veteran

      This article was a good attempt, but the author is much too green to add any value here. The author clearly doesn’t understand how a large public accounting firm, much less the business world, works, and she is overly self-conscious.

      Emailing your manager to ask about expected work hours is not a CLM. Having a POS car as a staff, or not keeping the car clean, is also not a CLM. If you think either of these things, as a staff, would cause you to fall off the “partner track”, you are naive. At the staff level, to keep your career on track you need to be willing to work hard, try to figure shit out, be honest, be a team player and don’t piss off a superior or a client too much. No one gives a shit if you drive a POS car…in fact, driving a POS car actually gives you the appearance of being somewhat fiscally responsible as opposed to your fuckwad co-workers who live in credit card debt because they bought a brand new BMW on their $50k/year salary.

      The only legitimate CLMs in the above article are in area (3), and those all fall into the “no shit” category. Again, it was a good attempt by “Leona”, but I think she’ll add more value once she has more experience in the business world.

      • Dan

        Maybe so but it was well written at the very least and I enjoyed the story. You are a very frequent contributor to the comments section, perhaps you should write some stories from your days in the trenches?

        • Big4Veteran

          I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say already in the comments section on GC. Also, I’m pretty sure Adrienne thinks I suck at writing. But thanks for the suggestion.

          • Actually we talked about you writing for us because your comments are basically posts and your making money for greedy partners takes up too much time so you can’t, at least that’s what I gathered from what you told me.

            As for Leona, I think it’s good she lacks that much experience. She is at the level most of our readers are (unlike you, who was able to make a break).

            Is her dirty ass car a dealbreaker? Probably not, but most of the people here can relate to that.

            We really like her. I hope most of you agree.

            • Big4Veteran

              Based on the frequency of my comments on GC, I think I could make the time to write the occasional article. If you recall, the reason I gave you for not wanting to do so was that I suck at writing in this format…to which you replied that I was full of shit, and you basically challenged my manhood.

              So then I wrote an article for you, which despite putting some effort into, I didn’t think it was a very good final product. The fact that you never asked me to write another article after that was taken by me as evidence that you agree with my assessment of my (lack of) writing skills for this format.

              As for Leona, I stated above that I thought her first article was a good attempt. I just don’t see what value there is in a GC contributor saying things that aren’t true, even if the author is in the same shoes as many of your readers.

            • N.E.R.D.

              “As for Leona, I stated above that I thought her first article was a good attempt. I just don’t see what value there is in a GC contributor saying things that aren’t true, even if the author is in the same shoes as many of your readers.”

              This is her second article, and there’s value in hyperbole/”things that aren’t true”. It’s called entertainment value. We all do that from time to time here no?

              Leona was just the chosen writer among us to publish her brand of writing entertainment.

              Your age is showing B4V.

            • RandomExDeloitter

              I’ve enjoyed her articles so far and think she’s doing a good job. I see B4V’s points, but I’m not as cynical and jaded as he is.
              Tell Leona to keep up the good work.

            • Yeah, the article was fun to read actually. But I have to agree the examples she gave were a bit……exaggerated.

              Want a CLM? Be a Senior with 0 hours scheduled during busy season because you suck so much at your job no one wants you.

          • Uncle Ernie’s World Builder

            “I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say”

            If only that were true.

    • cool story brah

      Damn – that’s a lot of hyphens

    • guesticle

      God, stop letting this person write articles.

    • GAAPGirl

      Leaving the firm for a position with a head hunter….er, recruiting firm. A majority have gone on to do amazing things like; beg for their audit job back; bartend.

      • guest

        so much this…never EVER use a headhunter. doesn’t matter how green you are – use your network.

        • Keith Moon

          Let me guess, you believed what your headhunter told you.

          • GAAPGirl

            It’s like the buddy everyone has who is convinced the stripper likes him.

        • GAAPGirl

          The Sr. Mgrs and Partners on my job have always told me that when I’m ready to move on, come to them and they’ll find me the right job. I’ve seen them make good on that promise numerous times for other colleagues and they always get MUCH better jobs than those who go through a recruiter. As far as networking goes, no one knows more people in high places than the partners.

    • Jumbi

      This person sounds like an HR crybaby. I would put money on that she had her local HR rep on speed dial.

    • Bum Cruncher

      Why do I feel like first year’s are such entitled whiners these days. My best bet is that this person spent more time writing this article than she actually spent working.

      • disqus_mbkF20E77K

        I know, right? Don’t you hate it when your 9-year-old comes home complaining after working 13 hours at the factory? Kids these days are so entitled with all that “school” they’ve got to attend nowadays.

    • TotesMcgotes

      Clearly the manager who emailed her to let her know baseline hours expectations is an asshole. I would be furious if a manager told me what to expect instead of wondering why we werent going home until 2am on a public client!

    • LovelyGT

      Oh hi KJ I hope all is well with you.

    • PwCASSociate

      Category “3” are the only ones I really see as problems. The rest would just be chalked up as newbie shit.

      Career limiting moves? Yelling at your senior during your second week at the firm. Being “that intern” who flat out told your audit teams that your offer was on lock since your dad is a VP at a small client – so you dicked off for the whole summer (it wasn’t – no offer was extended). Being that gal who had an inventory on New Years Day and showed up still drunk/puking to the client site.

    • AaronBalake

      That manager sounds like a douche bag. working until 1:30am? Pass. I’m in advisory and even with some tight deadlines the latest i’ve ever had to stay was until MAYBE 8pm. I don’t understand how you guys sustain life working hours like that.

      • AaronBalake’s BFF

        That quality of life has provided us with some epic bro-time!!!!!

        • AaronBalake

          It has? Tell me, what client do I work for, since we spend so much time together.

          • AaronBalake’s BFF

            Easy Bro – Vandelay Industries – they specialize in Latex.

            • AaronBalake

              good one.

    • Mrs. Fields

      So, I have been the late train. But it didn’t really affect my career – to achieve that you must wait to ask until you have demonstrated your willingness to work as needed – late/early/the one off saturday (in my group, you don’t have to put in a ton of hours or weekends at all so when you do it is a big deal) – and then if you say something it isn’t as big of a deal because mgmt knows you usually do what the team needs, etc etc.

      You should add: The Snack Car to this. At my first firm, straight out of college, living by myself and in an attempt to make friends, I would occasionally make baked goods and bring them in. This completely ruined any chances I ever had of being taken seriously and as such, I also was never able to earn the respect of any of my coworkers or managers. I had moved away from my family and friends to take my first real job in a city where I knew no one, and then found out that acting like myself made everyone dislike me. I then spiraled into a endless pit of self-loathing, self-fulfilling prophecies, and was about to just quit and move back to my parents and work as a barista. I finally decided it wasn’t me, it was them, and i got a new employer. All is well.

      • Guest

        Baking cookies for the office (especially if you are female) gets you seen as the motherly/husband-hunting type in just about any job. I highly suggest not bothering, or doing so only rarely, and not during busy season.

        (Buying baked goods and bringing them in says that you care, but you don’t have THAT much free time on your hands.)

        • Mrs. Fields

          so i learned. funny thing is i am not either and would stay up until midnight-ish or later to do it. Now I just do it for potlucks or, if I host a lunch an learn (as an incentive to get bodies in the chairs) or, bribing other contractors that I need to cooperate with me without having to get God and country involved.

          • disqus_mbkF20E77K

            That’s BS, I’d blame that on the cynical culture in Big 4 accounting. I brought something to share (bottle of liquor) to a new hire party as well and was similarly mocked for it as well, probably since nobody else brought anything.

            • OK, so the cookie story I can almost understand (though it’s completely fucked that doing something nice for the people you will spend half your life with at work is considered a weakness) but seriously, LIQUOR?? It sounds like you work with a bunch of assholes.

            • Guest

              Ehh, it’s a BIg 4 mentality thing. If the firm is sponsoring the event, they should pay for the booze. Unspoken, but still there, is the issue that the firm worries about liability should shit go wrong as people leave the event, so the firm kinda also wants to control the booze, even if it just means the partner with the credit card closing the tab. Staff or interns bringing in their own bottles makes it seem like a cheap BYOB event, which doesn’t fit the image that they want. Far worse, in the eyes of the worrywart partners, the firm no longer has any semblance of control over the amount of alcohol people are consuming at a firm event.

            • Just guessing

              They were the haters.

      • Put down the cookie

        “I would occasionally make baked goods and bring them in.”

        It may be the “feeder” principle. You are slim and bring in the goods to watch others eat them. And they are mad at you because they can’t stop eating the goods.

    • EeWhy

      What about these? CLM or not?

      1. That girl who won’t travel overnight for audit jobs, because her boyfriend will break up with her.
      2. That guy who took off his shirt and tie at the client site, because it was really hot in the audit room and the thermostat was in the CFO’s office.
      3. That girl whose dress fell apart at the office holiday party.
      4. That girl who showed up drunk in the office and yelled at the partner about who-knows-what.
      5. That guy with the unchecked body odor.

      All of them really happened at a firm that shall remain nameless. Not by me, really!

      • Tax Nerd

        All CLMs, with the possible exception of #3, which depends on the degree of “falling apart” and what she was wearing underneath it.

        Every seam bursts at once because it’s four sizes too small and cost $19 at Forever 21 AND she was commando underneath… is probably a CLM, no matter how much some of the audience may have enjoyed the show (or not). Something that can be fixed with a safety pin and nothing untoward was shown… the world may get over it.

      • Just guessing

        #4. Girl realized that the partner does not love her. She was just a fling.
        #5. Be kind – leave the guy some underarm protection.

    • adobebat

      I worked for a partner who drove a beat up early 90’s Saturn.
      Plenty of cheap-shit partners out there.

      • Neatnik

        Having a cheap car is one thing. Having a half-full can of Diet Coke in amongst the trash in your car is another, especially if it’s rolling around on the floor. A lot of accountants pride themselves on being organized. and this incident seems anything but. Tidying the car and keeping it vaguely clean is how you move past it.

        If you don’t have time to keep your car with only a small amount of trash in it, I’ll call bullshit. The accumulated crap doesn’t need to wait for a dedicated car cleaning. There are trash cans at the doors to every big box store. The old soda cans and granola bar wrappers get grabbed up and dropped off on your way into Target/Best Buy/Container Store. (You can buy a behind-the-seat trash bin for your car at the Container Store.) If that’s too much effort, you can pay people to clean your car for you, and most of them will throw out obvious garbage.

        • adobebat

          wow, you must be real fun to be around.

        • Well, I know who *I* am not giving a ride to. Your loss, bro.

        • Smack That

          I use the trash cans at the gas pump. Even easier.

          • I am really paranoid about my car blowing up if I open the doors to gather trash while I’m pumping gas and Instagramming selfies of me pumping gas at the same time, so I don’t do that.

    • guester

      CLM: not actually enjoying auditing as a career

    • Goblet of Amortization

      An intern farted in one of my audit rooms on a large public client. He was given an offer and everyone loved him for it, including partners. “Leona” was clearly doing it wrong. I assume that she was a bit of an outcast.

    • guest

      This is the kind of stuff I love to come back and read on GC to help me remember what I’m not missing and how glad I am I ran for my life from KPMG and auditing.

    • NotYoreMa

      lol just realized that im a senior manager now and still driving the same bmw that i had when i started in public accounting six years ago