Welcome to the Lindsay-Lohan-prison-jumpsuit-fitting edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, we’ve received a flurry of emails from Big 4 hopefuls who can’t land interviews and are FREAKING OUT. Are they doomed to the breadline and/or parents’ basement or can their CPA firm dreams still come true?
Are you working for the devil this busy season? Are you looking for a summer activity that doesn’t involve three letters? Need an excuse for not passing the CPA exam that will pass the mustard with the Email us at email@example.com and we’ll try to come up with something better than, “The dog barks whenever Peter Olinto is on screen and I can’t concentrate.”
Now, then. Today is a little bit different in the ol’ advice column. And since everyone out there seems TOO BUSY to engage in any busy season chicanery and tell us about it, this thing will be a tad lengthy. In the last week, we’ve received three emails from people who are borderline having panic attacks because they can’t land interviews. Obviously, this is a problem worth these pages but if you think we’re writing three columns on the same damn thing, you’re all a bunch of mental cases. And for those of you thinking that this sounds like you, don’t even try giving us the “well, this doesn’t address my specific situation,” story. Sure, everyone is special but not so special that you need the delicate intricacies addressed. [BREATHE]
All right. Let’s do this, shall we?
Here’s a portion of email #1:
I interned at PwC with an internal position during Summer 2008 and I did audit with them in Spring 2009. I wasn’t given an offer for full-time employment and I have been looking for a job since. I tried recruiting with Ernst and Young last year and they kept saying they did not have any positions and then last summer they hired another candidate from my school with whom I graduated. Just about everyone I’ve graduated with has a position at an accounting firm. I’ve applied nearly everywhere (other big 4, mid-tier, local acct firms, industry, and even Craigslist). I can’t help but start to take it personally. Career services at my school doesn’t seem too interested in helping me…in fact one of the counselors actually was a recruiter at PwC when I worked there and she just recently left a voicemail that we should stop talking. I have one professor that still keeps in touch. I knew I wasn’t going to get an audit position even though I still applied but I’ve even been turned down for staff accountant positions. Last September I passed all four sections of the CPA exam. I’ve been told that I’m either “over-qualified” or I don’t have enough years of experience.
That should be enough but if we suffered through them, then you are too. An excerpt from email #2:
I have been to numerous career fairs since then and I’ve made significant contacts with some big 4 recruiters and other regional firms. But after sending my carefully prepared résumé by mail and continuous attempts to get some information about an interview, I‘ve been always getting the usual “we are looking at other candidates and wish you the best” reply or none at all. The only significant feedback I received was from a regional firm that was really interested, but was drawn back when I told them my college GPA. I take full responsibilities for my shortcomings in college, but I have invested the needed time and effort in doing what EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TOLD ME TO DO, which is passing the CPA exam. I have also gained significant and progressive experience at my current workplace, but I still have not even gotten an interview! I am 25 and I feel time is running out for me. I’m even thinking of getting other certifications like the CFE or ACCA (Association of certified chartered accountants), to make me a more desirable candidate.
Sick of it yet? Here’s a bit from #3:
I’m in my last semester and will have my 150 hours at the end of this spring. I am also preparing the the CPA exam (have started Becker, taking my first section, AUD, at the end of February). As a student in these times, I have never been able to find an accounting internship or any part time accounting work as all of my job inquiries wind up unanswered. It’s not for lack of trying, but my GPA isn’t spectacular (3.2) and my résumé is average. At the college job fair a few weeks ago, I put in resumes with all big 4 and all mid tier firms and was NOT INVITED TO A SINGLE INTERVIEW. I became an accounting major because I thought there were jobs available to qualified students. I have an accounting and finance degree, 150 hours and will have the CPA under my belt in a few months…what the hell am I missing. Am I really not qualified to become a slave to the Firms?
Good Lord. Let’s see if I can do this without LOSING IT.
For starters, we’re making the assumption all three of you are socially capable individuals. If you’ve noticed people responding to your typical conversation with “That’s awkward,” or “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” then we suggest engaging a life coach or some other professional that can help you with your awkward tendencies. Secondly, all three of you need to stop freaking out. Sure, you’ve got responsibilities and school loans and whatnot but thank your lucky stars you’re not a lawyer. You have a good educational skill set, a job market that is thawing out and your debt is probably under six figures. CALM DOWN.
Now. If the Big 4 isn’t interested in what you have to offer, you have to get over it. Somewhere in your gray matter, you knew striking out with all of them was a possibility. Now that it has become a reality, you need to move on. If you’ve managed to do that and say you’ve gone to Grant Thornton, BDO, Rothstein Kass and McGladrey and you’ve been denied there too. And maybe you’ve gone to regionals like Moss Adams, BKD, Clifton Gunderson, Plante & Moran, WeiserMazars, Dixon Hughes Goodman et al. [ugh] At this point, it’s natural for frustration to start creeping up on you. But if you want to work in public accounting, you can’t get discouraged. Next thing you should do is to knock on all the doors in your geographic location. The Vault 50 is a good place to start. Firms from every part of the country are on the list and you can specifics on them over at the Vault website. Pound the pavement, people.
If that doesn’t work, then we suggest calling some reputable recruiters in your area to find out if they have any entry-level positions at CPA firms. Keep things cool, don’t act desperate and put your best qualities forward. The recruiters should be able to help you polish your résumé if needed and find you an interview or two. IF ALL THAT FAILS and you simply need a job, look for an in-house accounting job to get your career started. Just because you don’t start in public accounting doesn’t mean you’re doomed to work a dull job and have a lackluster career. And who knows, you might – gasp – like the work.
Any words of encouragement from the peanut gallery? I need a drink.