• Career Center

    Intern With Uncertain Future Wants to Know If It’s Time to Stay or Go

    By | January 19, 2017

    Need some career advice? Email Rachel at [email protected] and your question may be featured on Going Concern.

    My question is a little bit of a twist on the internship question. As an older accounting student, I struggled to get any real offers or opportunities. Right after I graduated, I interviewed with PwC for an audit specialist job at their Service Delivery Center (or SDC) which is the US form of audit outsourcing. I noticed over 150-200 of us got hired with contracts, but only 50 or so fulltime offers are available. My contract ends in February, and this seems like dismal odds. Normally, I hear at a PwC internship you are very likely to get an offer…but now I feel I was lied to and that there isn’t opportunity available. Should I stick with it? Look for a job on the down low? Maybe combine both strategies? Should I talk to anyone in PwC about what to do?

    Should I stay or should I go now?

    It’s understandable that you would feel frustrated about your full-time prospects when you are seeing “dismal odds.” Most in your situation would feel the same way. There are two parts to this situation that I believe will be helpful for you: 1) Advice on how to navigate the internship stage of your accounting career and 2) How to handle career frustration and make it work for you.

    First things first: navigating the internship stage. Specifically, the internship stage when your shiny full-time offer is not yet in your hands. Just as a rule of thumb, it is NEVER a bad thing to network with other accounting firms and hear about different opportunities. 3 reasons why this is important:

    • You are not putting all of your eggs in the PwC full-time opportunity basket. Especially since it sounds like your gut is telling you (and the 33% retention rate that you calculated) that your full-time offer is not guaranteed. The same way we are told to diversify our investments, diversify your job prospects so you don’t wind up disappointed and unemployed.
    • You may meet a different firm that may be a better fit. I would be curious to hear why you hesitate to talk with other firms. At the internship stage, it is expected and you deserve to work at a firm that you enjoy. If you view this as an opportunity (more on this later), then the results would be a win for you (full-time offer, money, glory!) and a win for your future firm (engaged & loyal employee).
    • If you receive multiple full-time offers, then you have negotiating power. Oh, the power of negotiation with supply and demand. For every position, there is a salary range. Do you want to be at the bottom or the top of that range? If you show that you and your skills are in demand, then you can better negotiate the result.

    The internship process is like a cattle call; it’s the opportunity for accounting firms to hire the best of the best when they are fresh out of school. It’s also an opportunity for you to play the hiring game to show why you are unique and why you are a good fit. Which leads me to point number two — how to handle career frustration.

    Right now, you are viewing this situation as a problem. With the words “dismal,” “lied to,” “isn’t opportunity available,” it makes sense that you see this situation as black and white. “Should I stay at PwC or should I go?”

    What if you challenged this thinking? What if you saw this situation not as a problem, but as an opportunity? Let me spell this out for you.

    Person A (problem thinking): Ugh, my full-time offer isn’t guaranteed. I’m stressed and nervous and I can’t believe that PwC lied to me. I feel frustrated and can’t do anything about it.
    Person B (opportunity thinking): I know that my full-time offer isn’t guaranteed so I want to do my research, attend job fairs, and utilize my network. My goal is to receive a full-time offer from at least 2 firms that would be a great fit so I can choose the best opportunity for me.

    One more thought to leave you with…yes, it is true that there is 33% chance of you receiving a full-time offer. If you start thinking about this as an opportunity and feel confident about your ability, then who wouldn’t want to hire you? People will start to notice, including PwC and those other firms that you are going to network with. Instead of worrying about the future unwanted result — not receiving a full-time offer — focus your energy today working towards the goal that you really want — full-time offers, money, glory!

    Image: iStock/StockFinland

    • ANN

      I’m currently at an internship and looking to graduate after the internship is over. The staff in the firm says is that they are overstaffed. There isn’t any work for the interns including myself and the prospects of being hired is slim.

      Can a person apply to other locations whilst in an internship? Would it be bad to be apply for a full time position at other firms whilst the internship is still in progress? If not, should the internship be included on the resume despite it still ongoing or is that bad to have?

      • Big4Veteran

        At its best, an internship is a job (at its worst, its slavery). A job is at will. The firm can fire you at any time, and you can leave at any time. There’s no rule or law that says you can’t apply for other jobs during your internship.

        General Rule: Loyalty is for suckers. You will learn this lesson sooner or later in the accounting profession.

        • ANN

          Thank you. Would you recommend to put the internship on the resume and have it listed in progress when applying places or have it off? Would it be frowned upon by recruiters or be considered a positive?

          • Big4Veteran

            Internships are a positive on your resume.

            Fun fact: Because the accounting firms are managed by depraved assholes, one of their hobbies is to steal interns from their competitors. They put a feather in their cap when they successfully do this. An internship on your resume makes you more attractive. Just like wearing a wedding ring makes you more attractive.

            I am reminded of a line by the great Alec Baldwin in the Academy Award winning movie “The Departed”…

            “Marriage is an important part of getting ahead. It lets people know you’re not a homo. A married guy seems more stable. People see the ring, they think ‘at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch.’ Ladies see the ring, they know immediately that you must have some cash, and your cock must work.”

        • Damn! It took me so long! No, not really. I suspect the majority of Accountants were bullied at school but now in the real-world, the roles are reversed. Life is sweet.

          • Adam Hill

            Those that strive for partner after one busy season were bullied in school, and are still being bullied.

      • Rachel Andujar

        Hi Ann. I agree with Big4Veteran and like I said in the article, definitely apply to other opportunities! For the resume question, include the internship because it is where you are currently employed and it is great experience. Put when the internship began through the present. For example, September 2016 – Present.

    • Big4Veteran

      This article was long and boring. Just my two cents.

      • Rachel Andujar

        Oh no! Glad to hear that you liked the last one though.

        • Big4Veteran

          You are killing me with kindness. It’s so hard to dislike you.

    • Midtier Mope

      I disagree with the point about an intern having negotiating leverage if one has multiple full-time offers. An intern has no leverage to negotiate a higher starting salary at a national firm and to advise one to hold out for more, especially when there are 100 other interns who would take any offer in a heartbeat, is irresponsible. If an intern has multiple offers, then they have a choice, not leverage.

      I’d tell the letter writer (who may be completely made up) to accept the first offer you receive. If you gets another offer before the full-time start date and it is for more money or you prefer the assigned work group, tell the the first firm to pound sand.