November 20, 2018

Career Advice

No, Letting a Recruiter Place You in a Job When You’re Starting Another One in a Few Months Is Not Okay

When experiencing a moral or professional dilemma, your best option is usually to A) take advice from complete strangers too cowardly to sign their own names to the comments they make and B) seek assistance from a bunch of degenerates who couldn't hack it in public accounting, amiright? If you're feeling the burn and seeking […]

What’s the Key to Making Partner at a Public Accounting Firm?

For some capital market servants the number one goal in their careers, the crown jewel, the ultimate feather in the cap, the most memorable notch on the bedpost, is being admitted to the partnership of his/her public accounting firm. It's an accomplishment that takes commitment, perseverance, hard work, dumb luck, brown nosing, corporate politicking, very […]

Where Does a KPMG Risk Consultant Go From Here?

If you're tired of listening to your stupid friends and co-workers try to give you professional/life/style/dietary/love/major purchase advice, why not turn to your friends at Going Concern for a little wisdom? You'll get the brutal honesty you're craving and if you don't like it, just write us a nasty email blaming us for all your […]

Is There Life Outside Public Accounting for Tax Accountants?

Are you considering a line of work that’s not so heavy on the Excel? Does your co-worker’s audible humming drive you crazy? Is it possible that you’ve been working too hard and are just hearing things? Email us your questions and we’ll make it stop. Hey GC, There have been a lot of articles lately about […]

If You Could Give a Public Accounting Newbie One Piece of Advice…

We have a reader question from a self-identified public accounting newbie: What is the best advice that experienced Big 4 employees can offer to new hires starting in the next couple of months? Thanks! Instead of long, rambling rants about not drinking the Kool-aid, I'd be curious to hear just one concise piece of advice […]

Are Small Accounting Firm Summer Programs Worth It?

Have your colleagues quit taking you seriously? Are you a serial mismatcher of shoes and socks? Wondering if moving back in with your parents is a good idea? Email us your questions and we'll try to get to them before Labor Day. I'm currently set to attend a two-day summer program at a smaller office of a […]

Advice From a Partner On How To Make Partner For Those Who Don’t Want to Be Partner

We now present to you, dear GC readers, the third of our potential Going Concern freelancer submissions. Let's give Andrew a "warm" GC welcome! There were four of us in the car at the time.  I was the senior; there was a staff person, the manager, and the engagement partner.  It was a second or […]

Four Things to Remember Before You Leave Public Accounting

This is our second submission from the stable of Going Concern freelancer candidates. The following is by Bob Loblaw. Notwithstanding a few e-mails I’ve written in the past that had a wider circulation than intended, this is my first piece of journalism (Ed. note: relative term). With that in mind, it’s important to my unpaid […]

So…Your Mother-in-law Is a Partner at a Competitor of Your CPA Firm…

Perplexed by corporate fashion dos and don'ts? Need remedies for comp/bonus anxiety? Are you an auditor that needs a go-to quip for those relatives who want help with their taxes? Email us your questions and we will answer them in order of stupidity. I have an upcoming interview at a large firm, but in one of […]

What Kind of Raise Can a New CPA at a Publicly Traded Company Expect?

Looking for the right way to tell your colleague he has a hygiene issue? Not sure if dark khakis go with that dusty blue button-up shirt? Want confirmation that you haven't sold your soul to the Devil himself? Get in touch with us and we'll do our best to help without making you cry. Hello […]

Restless Accountant Considers a Second Chance with a Big 4 Firm

Have a question on anything from career limiting moves to plausible excuses for blowing off a random Tuesday to identifying that odor in the audit room? Email the Going Concern Brain Trust with your queries. And remember, there's no such thing as a dumb question; just dumb people who ask questions.  So here's the deal. I […]

Big 4 Boomerang: Former Advisory Professional Has People Whispering Sweet Nothings in His Ear

Considering a change in cubicle scenery? Cooking up hypothetical situations for your last day at work? Recently thrown out of the house and need someone to pick out your work clothes? Email us with your questions and we'll manage a few sentences that resemble an answer. Going Concern:   There is a lot of information […]

Accountant with Too Many Career Options Needs Help

Struggling with your breakfast options? Trying to resist the siren's call that is a cushy government accounting job? Confused as to whether you should try your new 'edgy' stand-up material on your co-workers before the next open mic night? You have questions; we have ideas in our heads that may vaguely resemble answers. Email us. I left […]

A Miserable Internal Auditor Wants to Jump Into Public Accounting

Need help putting together your typo-laden farewell email? Need assurance that your GC trolling doesn't present an ethical conflict? Unsure which flavor of Doritos to choose from the office snack machine? Get in touch and we'll do what we can. Hi Adrienne, I have not seen a post about Internal Audit to Public Accounting so […]

Should You Disclose Your Questionable Past Before They Run a Background Check?

Are you a reformed or current degenerate looking for anything but legal advice? Get in touch with our shady team of not lawyers and one of us will eventually get around to your question. Hey Adrienne, I know you have addressed background checks before.  Specifically, if, on the application, it asks about felonies or misdemeanors […]

Want a Transfer Within Your Accounting Firm? Then Don’t Get Wishy-washy Over Money.

Ed. note: Stuck in a predicament at work? Not sure how to break it off with your busy season love interest? Wondering how best to prepare for bonus disappointment? Email us your questions. Anything goes.  Dear Going Concern,   A question from the great white north.  I'm a second year auditor with a Big Four […]

Small Firm Associate Wants the Scoop on Jumping to a Bigger Accounting Firm

Has busy season made you question everything and everyone around you? Great! Email us your troubles and we'll marginally improve your life.  Howdy!I've combed through the many post on the site, but I haven't been able to find one about my situation. Here goes…I'm finishing up my second busy season at a small local firm […]

“Average” KPMG Intern Is Concerned About the Firm’s Dance Around Full Time Offers

Do you have a question about, well, anything but are surrounded by fools who couldn't possibly enlighten you? The sages of Going Concern are here to help. Email us with your questions.  Dear Going Concern,   I recently finished my winter internship with KPMG and I am not sure how I felt about it. On […]

Help This Old Guy Figure Out His Accounting Career Dreams

Have a question for the GC public accounting dropouts, degenerates and rejects? Email us. We'll fight over who gets to call you out. After spending four years in the Navy, I went back to school and graduated with a BA in English in 2007. After looking for a job for a few months and watching […]

You Should Update Your Résumé Today

Yes, it's Wednesday, otherwise known to some of you as, "half way through a week that I have no days off," but what many people don't realize is that busy season is the perfect time to be updating your résumé. This post is more geared to be a gateway to productive commentary, so read and then […]

Big 4 Advisory Intern Wants To Squeeze Blood Out Of A Turnip

Your daily serving of vegetables, brought to you by GC. Subject: Advice: negotiating a starting salary GC,I am graduating in December from a masters in accounting program and I am currently interning at Big 4 firm in advisory.  I am hoping to get an offer after the internship and join the firm in January.  Is […]

Those Annoying Recruiter Calls Might Be Slowing Down Next Quarter

In a few weeks, many of you plugging along through busy season will decide to call those incessant recruiters back and test the job market. Last week's report by Robert Half and published in the Journal of Accountancy miiiiight rain on your parade, at least in the short term.  Ninety-one percent of CFOs said they don’t expect […]

Will One Bad Class Spell Doom for a Big 4 Recruit?

Today's blog post is brought to you by a worrisome soon-to-be-grad. Hi GC, I already accepted an offer from one of the Big 4 firms. When I did, my GPA was very solid. However, I took a class last semester with a professor that has the highest drop rates and the lowest grade average given […]

Big 4 Manager Is Itching to Leave But the Partner Carrot Is Being Dangled

Have the busy season blues but too lazy or untalented to write a song about it? Email us at [email protected] and someone will tell your story. Hi GC   Long time reader, first time emailer.   I am a first year manager at a Big 4 firm. For the past 4 months I have had this […]

Public Accounting New Hire Fears That Application Fib Will Jinx The Big Job

Greetings, GC'ers.  Damn, it feels good to be back after a minor hiatus. Let's get to it, shall we? Subject: Big 4 Dilemma First off, I want to thank Going Concern for all of the public accounting insight. Now on to my dilemma. Last fall I accepted a full-time audit position with of one of […]

This Is How A Soon-to-Graduate Accounting Major Makes An HR Rep’s Head Explode

GCers – we love your contributions and could use some more to get us through these first few weeks of “not really busy but not 9-to-5” season. But be advised: advice emails that meet the qualifications of #longreads drive us to our breaking points. Caleb overdoses on steamed carrots, Adrienne takes her frustration to the roads […]

Why Do People Become Auditors in the First Place?

Ed. note: Is busy season bringing out the worst in you? CPA exam seem hopeless? Having trouble finding the box of tickmarks in the supply room? Email us your problems and one of us will put you on the couch. GC,   I recently decided to leave my position in a Big Four Advisory position after […]

Big 4 Advisory Professional Wonders What a Title Is Worth

Ed. note: Whatever your problem is, we can fix it. Or at least make you feel better for the rest of the day. Email us your query at [email protected] Going Concern: There is a good amount of time spent discussing careers moves within and outside of the public accounting world, but one topic I have not come […]

Should Big 4 Interns Be Hazed?

This is our second intern-themed post this week, which gets me thinking that some of you are neck-deep in coffee jockeys. This can be a trying time for those of you that are A) impatient B) dicks C) control freaks D) all of the above. As such, the following has probably crossed your mind at […]

What’s the Cutoff Date for Leaving Your Accounting Firm Pre-Busy Season?

Are you in desperate need for advice from one of the GC hacks? Email us at [email protected] and we'll draw straws to see who gets to ruin your life. Hello GC,   This is more of an opinion question from you and the GC community than actual advice. My question is particularly now before busy […]

A Young Accountant’s Beard Makes for a Hairy Career Situation

Today's advice column started off with the subject "Accountants with beards." My first thought was "damnnnn that'd make a great Tumblr," one that could rival the creeps at Messages from Match and the political poignancy of Kim Jong-un Looking at Things. WE COULD TAKE OVER THE WORLD. But…then I continued reading.  Wait. This is about an otherwise qualified […]

What Would You Do If Your Boss Quit Tomorrow to Join a Big 4 Firm?

Ed. note: Looking for above average advice from some snide, know-it-all hipster doofi? Take a number by emailing your problems to [email protected] and, if you're lucky, your position in the queue will still be in triple digits! Hi GC, I am going into my 7th busy season at a mid-tier ("MT") (2nd as a manger) […]

What’s a Single, New-to-DC, CPA-to-Be Girl to Do?

Ed. note: Stuck in a career that is on the road to nowhere? CPA flunk streak got you down? Want to march in boss's office all Costanza-like but not sure it's the right thing to do? Email us for advice and if things don't work out, you have full permission to blame Adrienne. Hey GC (probably […]

Can a Reformed Degenerate Drug Addict Break Into Public Accounting?

Ed. note: Are family and friends frequently throwing labels like "workaholic loser who will be alone forever" in your direction? Maybe you need some advice on how to balance things better. Email us your situation and we'll shovel some guidance your way. I would appreciate your guidance on how to break into the public accounting […]

Government Do-gooder Contemplates a Dream Job in Public Accounting

Need some advice? Email the GC team with your burning questions. Just be warned – our advice might rain on your parade. Dear GC, I am on my 6th month with a Government Audit team and got an offer to join one of the Big4. The job is of the same nature and the pay […]

Is Deciding Between Forensic Advisory Work and Auditing Really That Difficult?

Our inquisitor has options. Don't you hate that? If you're stumped on career multiple choice question or need help with picking out something for the gift exchange, email us at [email protected] I was fortunate enough to receive two full time entry-level offers from two Big 4 firms: 1 in Audit and 1 in Forensic Advisory […]

Exit Interviews: Speak Your Mind or Let It Go?

Ed. note: Is your career somewhere in between mundane and craptacular? Email us at [email protected] and we'll help you improve your life slightly up from SUCK. GC, I'm a semi-frequent reader (hey I still have to get some work done) so I wasn't sure if this topic was covered, but I just got done reading your recent […]

A Sunshine and Rainbows GC Advice Column Success Story

It must be advice week here on GC, what with me yelling at everyone and DWB pulling double duty pissing on kids’ dreams of a fulfilling life in public accounting. I’m OK with that.

But today, I’ve got something a little different. You see, giving advice here is sort of like working at an animal shelter. You deal with the person extensively up until the moment that you hand over the animal, after which you probably never hear from them again. It’s rare that we ever get follow-ups from those who’ve written in for advice, so all that much more special to see that everything worked out for this repentant public accounting wanna-be.


Back in September, we met the Zero to Hero, who took a page from the AG playbook and decided to enjoy his youth instead of frittering it away with responsibility. While I’m sure this made for a much better experience than many of you had in your very early twenties (except for PwCASSociate, who probably woke up in the same pool of vomit as I did many a morning), it also made it difficult for this guy to get serious once he realized GPA is a real number and that cute face just isn’t going to be able to pull all the weight anymore.

DWB advised him to be honest and network his ass off, advice that many of you agreed with. Since we know for a fact many of you are confirmed slackers who somehow stay gainfully employed in this industry, it was safe to say that advice was spot on.

And now we know just a few short months later that we were right. Writes Zero to Hero:

Daniel et al:

Just to let you fine people know, the recruiting process is over for me. I ended up receiving offers from EY, Deloitte, and two second tier firms. I officially signed myself over as an EY Advisory intern last week. I am really appreciative of the advice I received and believe that it is one of the reasons I was successful. Thanks again, you guys rock.

Love,
Z to H

Congrats, kiddo, we’re proud of you.

Check back in and let us know if when you get a full-time offer, and remember, we’ll be here in a year when you’re hating life and wishing you were back in the van getting stoned.

How Soon Is Too Soon To Leave Your New Firm for a Better Opportunity?

Ed. note: Back with a second edition of the advice column today. Thanks to D Dubs. for stepping up today.

Dear GC,

I graduated in December 2010 with a degree in accounting from a well-known university. Because of my grades (2.9 Accounting GPA, 3.0 accumulative GPA), I was shunned by nearly all of the accounting firms. This has led me to working in the accounting department at a fortune 500 company.

While in school, I was able to network and make several connections at both Big 4 and regional firms. I was told repeatedly by recruiters to “pass the exam and get some experience, then come talk to me.” I have passed the CPA exam and have almost a year of experience under my belt at this point.

In early November I signed with a small regional accounting firm set to begin in January. I know that it’s bad business to immediately bail on a company, but is it too early to get in touch with my contacts at the bigger firms? While I’m very grateful for the local firm, I have my sight set on a much bigger firm, and I want to make it to the big leagues sooner rather than later. Should I gain a year or two of experience at the local firm in order to move to the Big 4 as an experienced associate or possibly a senior associate? Or would it be better to reach out to my network now and attempt to make a transition?

Thanks!

I admire your tenacity to make it to the Big Four Leagues. Staying in touch with your contacts will hopefully prove to be beneficial. I suggest reaching out to them now, as it’s prime-time hiring season for public firms leading into busy season. Provide them with an update of your progress on the CPA exam and that a local firm has expressed interest in hiring you. In turn, express your interest in working at XYZ instead, and you were hoping to inquire about any openings they may have. If they have openings, be flexible to whatever level they want you to start at, as it’s more important to get your foot in the door. Leveraging off of your recent success with the local firm would not be the worst thing you could do; you’d hardly be the first or the last person to do so.

GC’ers – what do you think? Have any of you made the quick transition like described above?

Future Ernst & Young Associate Can’t Stop Talking About PwC

If you haven’t already, please read Adrienne’s post on submitting questions to the site. I applaud her for hitting every damn nail on the head, and I want to echo her bottom line: we love hearing from you; the advice columns keep this place buzzing; but please check to see if we answered your question last week. I’d also like to add that the details you can provide (practice lines, office location, level, etc.) make it easier for us to offer more precise feedback. Keep ‘em coming.

In the meantime, consider this post as Example A as to what will happen when a lazy ass individual seeks advice they can find right under their noses. With thistried to find some shred of a question to answer, but instead I found myself screaming at my monitor. If this is the product of Helicopter Parenting, we as a society are screwed. Nevertheless, we’ll get right to it:

Hey GC, how’s it going? I am writing about making a decision between EY’s FSO practice and their TAS practice. Right now there is a lot of squawk about PWC’s FSR and EY’s FSO practices. These are both very hot topics and I believe relevant to readers, as seen after the EY FSO Assurance article [this one].

First off, you’re making a decision between two different options at EY, yet refer to the “hot topic” of PwC’s FSR practice (Financial Instruments, Structured Products and Real Estate). Let’s spell out some definitions for people here who are not familiar:


1. EY FSO – Not a practice but rather a term that stands for Financial Services Office. Per their website (which I Googled like any child can do) EY’s FSO practice includes all three lines of business: assurance, tax, and advisory. It’s a go-to-market philosophy/marketing strategy/organizational hierarchy more than anything else. Go to the website to learn more, if you’re so inclined.

2. EY TAS – Transaction Advisory Services – an advisory practice by name, includes a variety of services (due diligence, restructuring, valuation, etc.). Without splitting hairs here, a TAS associate will work on FSO clients (e.g. valuing insurance claims at AIG). Said associate could also work on a transaction involving a factory in Topeka, Kansas.

3. PwC FSR – Most closely related to EY TAS as it would fall under TAS if it were at EY. But it’s not. It’s at PwC, where you don’t have an offer. Again, not relevant.

Many students have accepted or are contemplating offers from the big 4, and there are rumors circulating that FSR and FSO employees work banker hours and get paid like consultants.

You are clearly new to public accounting, Going Concern, and the world in general. Get paid like consultants? WTF does that even mean? And for the love of God, you’re not working at PwC. Stop talking about it. Note: At this point the contributor goes on with a list of questions; my feedback at the bottom.

I am having trouble making a decision between TAS and FSO. For staff one’s in NYC, total year one compensation with salary and signing bonus is between 60-70 thousand on average. Not bad, but with what kind of hours?

On the other hand, TAS year one salary is about 55k, no bonus. What type of hours can be expected? Being that all new hires in EY FSO start in BAP [link for those playing at home], a 4 year rotational program, does good old uncle Ernie just rotate their staff through busy season after busy season? How much travel can be expected in NYC, aren’t most financial clients located in the city? FSO and FSR new hires are earning on average about 10k more than their audit and TAS counterparts. If the hours are comparable to these service lines, why so much more money? If the hours are much longer in FSO, does the staff ever receive a bonus? There must be a hitch…

Readers should note: This contributor happened to email us from a company email address of a flailing/failing/going-down-in-flames investment bank and – in this writer’s opinion – should be thankful to have ANY job at ANY Big4 firm. Turns out this person has already worked at EY during a previous (and VERY recent) internship and assumedly had ample time/networks/professionals/resources/access to the Internet to answer the above asinine questions.

The hitch is that you don’t have an offer from PwC, so drop the comparison. It’s like comparing my ideal commute to work (jet pack, duh) to the one I currently have (6 train, running with delays). Comparing a PwC FSR offer to an EY TAS offer would at least be a bit more relevant.

I’m going to ignore all questions about busy season hours/travel because you should have asked them while going through the interview process. After all, that’s the point of the interview process. I’m also going to point out that your statement that, “FSO and FSR new hires are earning on average about 10k more than their audit and TAS counterparts” is wrong on many levels. First, FSO includes auditors. Second, new hires within FSO make different salaries (tax hires make XYZ, auditors makes ABC, etc.). Finally, STOP COMPARING EVERYTHING TO PwC’s FSR PRACTICE.

What you do have:

1. An offer in EY FSO: What group? I don’t have a f*cking clue, and you never told us.

2. An offer in EY TAS: Which sub-group? There are six spelled out on the company website.

So, back to one the question in your email that hasn’t been answered at GC a thousand times before:

Hey GC, how’s it going?

Overworked and underpaid. Ring a bell? Take a number.

Bottom line: read through EY’s website to understand their practice lines and acronyms, something you should have done before emailing us. Also, consider taking a job in a “safer” practice…because the last time we had record Black Friday sales was November 2008…and we all know that the house was on fire then…

How To Effectively Ask Going Concern For Advice

Welcome back from the turkey coma, kids, I had to take an extra day just to shake it off but all is well now and we’re totally ready for action, at least until I take half a week off for my birthday in two weeks. Ah, life is good.

Anyway, a desperate plea for advice we received over the weekend got me thinking – I figure it’s about time we set some ground rules for writing us for advice. Why we’ve waited two years to do this is beyond me but I don’t run the show so let’s forget that part.

Caleb was concerned by publishing said letter, I might come off as a judgmental, xenophobic prick (isn’t that the brand I’ve worked so hard to craft? Oh well) so I will refrain from publishing it to maintain some sense of decency and openness to all types and cultures don’t really have an issue with foreigners with poor English comprehension, lost little sheep or clueless accounting students; if I did, I would’ve quit this gig to write a racy sex blog a long time ago. I do, however, have an issue with lazy ass people who expect to be hand-fed the answers by us as if we don’t have anything better to do.


NOW, since you probably think I’m a dick at this point, I need to be clear when I say that I LOVE the advice component of this site. It has turned into an unexpected bright point among the lame Hans Hoogervorst jokes and Caleb’s Grover Norquist obsession, and I’m constantly both delighted and disturbed by the reactions in our comment section. You guys have proven yourselves to be mostly useful, sometimes funny and generally helpful to your fellow capital market servants seeking wisdom, and that part is great. So great that I don’t mind so much that so many of the questions we get tend to be very similar.

Keeping in mind, of course, that though we were all told how special we were when we were little, there are really a limited number of scenarios a young accountant might need help navigating. Low GPA, no Big 4 offers. A couple of offers to consider, no idea which to take. High GPA, low social skills, you get it.

But here’s a tip. We’ve been doing this so long that chances are, we’ve covered a scenario similar to yours. So your first best friend is the search bar. You will find this on the upper right-hand corner of the website just under whatever ad we’re running at that time. Type in whatever you are looking for, “compensation,” “opportunities,” “Caleb’s embarrassing affinity for wearing Brazilian women’s underwear,” whatever. If we’ve written about it, you’ll find it. If we haven’t, you won’t. Try to be vague, so instead of searching for “Caleb’s embarrassing affinity for wearing Brazilian women’s underwear,” try “Brazilian underwear” and you might have better luck.

Your second BFF is our comprehensive, all-encompassing tagging system. You may have noticed by now that both Caleb and I enjoy employing useless, often one-time-use tags just for the sake of continuing whatever joke we cracked ourselves up over when we wrote the post but we do also use tags for easy organization of information. Let’s say you’re interested in KPMG and PwC, guess what? We have a whole tag JUST for KPMG v PwC! Amazing, isn’t it?

Now, you’ve searched the site and gotten a good idea of what others are asking and are ready to write us an email. Awesome! We love emails! But please, let’s go over what is appropriate for an advice email and what isn’t.

Remember, we are NOT professionals, we are writers. In fact, some might call us degenerates. So while we know the game well enough to gently shove your confused ass in the right direction, we cannot evaluate your transcripts, refer you to credentialed programs, take the CPA exam for you, decipher your foreign credits, pretend to be you in a job interview or any matter of issues such as these. We don’t sponsor H-1B Visas, we don’t validate parking and we don’t hold hands unless you’re really, really scared.

In the same vein, we cannot draw out your entire future for you. So writing us asking for advice on how to get started in public accounting and realize your dreams of CPAhood will go unanswered. We’re not freshman career counselors. We’re also not mind readers, so know what you want answered before you write some vague email asking how to live your life when you’re old enough to have figured that out by now. To me, asking such broad questions shows that you’re a drive-by who just stumbled across the site and I’m sorry but I work for pageviews, which means I’m far more likely to coddle someone who proves they spend 5 billable hours a day here over someone who Googled “accounting” and didn’t bother to read any previous posts we’ve written. I have given up week-long benders to crank out this content, it’s offensive to get the sense someone hasn’t taken the time to read any of it before writing us. So don’t do that.

Are we clear? With that said, please keep ’em coming. I love you. Each and every one of you, even the trolls. Fuck, especially the trolls.

Is It Time To Start Fresh at a New Accounting Firm?

Ed. note: Need career advice or a last minute sweet potato recipe? career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll stuff you full of wisdom.

Hi GC,

After two years at a national mid-sized firm I’m seriously considering a lateral jump to either another mid-size or local firm. Through some bad luck and my own failure to balance work and my parental responsibilities (aka, put the spouse and kids completely on the backburner), I have gained a reputation among some of the higher-ups in my office for not being committed. While I believe this perception is unfair (I get all my work done on time and on budget), hat it is preventing my promotion to Senior. I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to, but would like to make the Senior level.

I’d like to stay with my current firm, but I’m concerned that I’m in too deep a hole now to climb out. Almost all the clients I was in line to inherit have been acquired, and I haven’t been picked up on as many engagements as I’ve lost. So even if I get good ratings on my jobs, I am pretty sure that my utilization figures are going to be ugly. A blank slate, full schedule, and even the chance at making Senior earlier are very appealing right now. But is a lateral jump worth the risk? Which is better (or worse) on a résumé: 2.5-3 years with one firm and not making Senior or 2 years with one firm as an associate and 1 year with a different firm as senior?

Please help!!

During my time in and around public accounting, I have found the promotion from Associate to Senior Associate to be a fairly automatic process. Come to work, do your work, make yourself available to go the extra mile (even if it’s not needed), don’t knock up the administrative assistant in the coat closet at the holiday party, and you’re handed the title (instead of a paycheck). Several top notch and newly minted seniors jump ship for private, further justifying the promotion of average Associates to Senior. For you not to be made Senior in the normal time period, I’m going to assume you screwed up somewhere.

From the leadership’s view, public accounting thrives on firm loyalty and employee trust. Whether it’s justified or not, you’ve been labeled as someone that management cannot trust. Somewhere along the line you must have done something to challenge these fundamental rules. The majority of partners and managers still to this day believe in the mantra that “I went through busy seasons of hell when I was young, so you can/should/deserve to, too.” Silly or not, it’s part of the code. So if I understand your statement above regarding family and work/life balance, you didn’t communicate fully with your managers/partners that you needed time with your young family. More likely is that you didn’t make your own “sacrifices” to make the work up: working from home in the evening after kids are in bed, bringing work home on weekends, etc. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t; what matters is that you need to accept the fact that your clients are being ripped from your ownership – this does not happen unless you’re dropping the ball.

Clean Slate.

You’re up against a challenge by staying at your current firm. Considering your attitude toward your career is, “I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to” you should work on your résumé this weekend and apply to other firms. The time between now and January is a hot hiring period for CPA firms of all sizes, but be sure to focus on the smaller, regional firms. You’ll have better luck finding the work/life balance you require. That said, do not think that you’ll automatically be handed the title of Senior this fall. A firm will want to see how you do as a experienced associate (how you work with management, the quality of your work, etc.) before trusting you to lead their associates.

Trust. There’s that pesky word again. Taking a busy season to prove yourself at a new firm will be a better use of your time than if you stayed where you are to fight the gossip mongers and labels that are undoubtedly floating around your office. Accept the challenge of proving yourself at a new firm – for the sake of your career and the benefit of your family.

While you’re sitting around the house this weekend, work on the following:

• Updating your résumé
• Updating your LinkedIn account (describing the industries you work on, add a nice – but not Sears photo studio nice – headshot, etc.)
• Researching the CPA firms in your area
• Digging up a recruiter’s contact information

Good luck.

Interns, Here’s the Lowdown on Ernst & Young’s FSO Assurance Practice in NYC

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected] with your problem(s) but only if you’re comfortable being mocked in an older sibling kind of way.

GC,

I know my question is somewhat specific but I just accepted an Internship offer for E&Y FSO Assurance in NYC and was interested in gaining some insight into the 3 divisions within FSO Assurance. First, I would love to hear your opinion on the pros and cons of each of the three sectors (Asset Management, Banking, & Insurance) including which EY is best known for. I was also wondering if there was a clear leader in each of those sectors in NYC and was wondering which of the Big Four was bestnks so much for your help. I know I am still a year away from having to actually select one of those options but gaining people’s opinions never hurt. Thanks so much.


Congratulations on landing a sweet summer gig with Uncle Ernie. You’ll be working for a great firm in a great city making a great salary while fetching great coffee for your superiors. Cheers!

But really, welcome to New York. You’re smart in thinking ahead to the fact that where you start with your internship will lead to a fulltime offer with the same group. This is because internships are essentially training camp for your first year – make it through the summer successfully and you’re in the club. I did a little digging within my professional circle to uncover some of the EY clients that you’d have the potential of working on, as well as my own two Lincolns.

Insurance – Let’s start with this one because I have a feeling that the group consensus will be unanimous: DO NOT JOIN THIS GROUP. Sure, it is a small, “family-like” practice in the financial services industry, but you’re not coming to work for the warm and fuzzies (if you are, avoid public accounting altogether). You’re coming to make yourself a valuable asset to future employers – one, three, or ten years from now. Can you receive accelerated responsibilities and extensive interaction with your clients? Yeah, but that’s because your co-workers are jumping ship and no one within the firm wants to transfer to the Insurance group. Unless you have an absolute passion for the industry (which you don’t, since you emailed us), I would avoid this group. Stay in this group for five years (you know, to make the dream promo to manager) and you’re setting yourself up for a career working for an insurance (or re-insurance) firm.

Banking and Capital Markets – This group is bigger and more prominent than the Insurance group. It’s taken its hit in recent years because…ummm…the banking industry is in turmoil, but some of the pain has been buoyed by their growing Broker Dealer client base (also falls into this group). Potential clients include Bank of America (*gulp*), UBS Wealth Management (the shining star in the UBS sky), Icahn Securities, JG Wentworth, ING Financial Holdings, and Cantor “run for the hills” Fitzgerald. Sources tell me audit staff are constantly trying to take rotations to the asset management group, so take that for what it’s worth. Career advancement outside of public can take you to either a banking or hedge fund depending on your client exposure, but have you read the papers recently? Banking ain’t the hottest date to the prom to these days.

Asset Management – this is EY’s money train in New York when it comes to audit (and even tax) services. EY and PwC dominate this market in New York, and depending on whom you ask EY has a more rounded client base (blue chip and start ups). Premier clients include Eton Park, Reservoir Capital, Anchorage Capital, and Och Ziff Capital (do some Googling to get an idea about these firms). The exposure to different investment strategies and financial products you will see will be second to none. Don’t forget that you can count the relevant investment banks left standing on two hands, whereas there are thousands of hedge funds and private equity firms in the country (most of which are in the greater NYC area, too). Your easiest and most lucrative path out of audit and into the private sector will be with a background in asset management. Absolutely, positively, 100%.

So there you have it. As always, GC’er please chime in below with your comments.

Intern Needs Help Breaking the News of “The Decision” to Leave His Current Big 4 Firm for a Rival

Ed. note: Need advice on your career, the CPA exam or how to best enforce your firm’s dress code? Email the career advice brain trust at [email protected] for answers.

Dear GC,

This past summer I worked as an intern with a Big 4 firm. Learned a lot, some decent people, long hours. Still felt relatively miserable considering most of the people I worked with were wound pretty tight. Fast forward to now, and I am considering “taking my talents to south beach” by switching to a different Big 4 firm. Yes, there is an immaterial amount of additional money on the table, so my decision comes down to (1) a more interesting client base and (2) a more exciting and open culture among the happier employees at the new firm.

To me “the Decision” has been made. How do I tell the firm I interned with (and accepted an offer with) that I won’t be coming to the party next year? Am I at risk of being “that guy?” Can you put me in contact with a cable network willing to run a one-hour special so I don’t have to tell them directly?

Thank you.

-Raymone James

LeBron Raymone,

First, congratulations on one-upping your entry level status in such a dire market. It sounds as though your decision is a done deal so cutting the cord with your personal version of Cleveland shouldn’t be hard to do.

Being that it’s already November, you need to reach out to the firm you’re breaking away from immediately. They’re in the middle of interview season anyway, and knowing that they have an additional spot in their budget now rather than later is important (and fair to their process). Reach out to the recruiter that was your point of contact within the firm (and probably the one that presented you with the original offer). Leave them a voicemail at work stressing the need to speak about a “time sensitive issue” and follow up with an email stating the same. Should you not hear back from them in 48 hours, follow up with another call. If it’s another empty voicemail, follow up with another email (forward the original) and state then that you will not be starting with them after graduation. Explain the situation (using the “it’s not you, it’s me” angle usually works), and thank them for the positive intern experience.

In fairness to them you should try to speak to them live on the phone; however you’re not obligated to make a dozen attempts to reach them. Everyone has email in their pocket these days and it’s reasonable to expect a response in two business days.

And why are you worried about being ‘that guy?’ If by that you mean ‘the guy who left for better money, clients, and culture,’ I’d bet it’s safe to say many of us wouldn’t mind being that guy (or lady) too.

Good luck.

You’ve Been Denied by the Big 4. What Next?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Hello Going Concern,

I’m currently finishing my last semester at the University of Kentucky, I’m a fifth year student that will be graduating in December with a dual degree in accounting and economics. The recruitment period for the big 4, regional and local firms are all over and done. I applied to basically all of the positions/internships and was not asked to interview for any of them. At first, I naively thought they just weren’t hiring from my school, but the voice of reason deep inside my head finally convinced me that it was indy own doing. My GPA was simply too low (about a 3.1).

Granted, accounting is a challenging course of study, also majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting that very good GPA. My problem now, is where to go from here. I can’t change the past and must move forward, from all indications I will graduate in December with no job prospects. Should I continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms, or should I just try and get a position somewhere….anywhere, accounting related to develop some valuable experience? I didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books. I’m not a social pariah by any means, however I know that this shyness of mine will not cut it and has hindered me tremendously at this point. I feel overwhelmed and a little disheartened at the makings of the future. If I don’t land a firm job will I be stuck in a perpetual rut in a dead end job? Is it important to avoid the private industry right out of college to get a taste of what you like in the public industry? How would you go about networking out of college, cold calling? I know I’ve asked a bunch of questions here, and maybe have not provided enough background information. To be outstanding you must stand out, now I’m at the crossroads of trying to do just that, but am a little unsure of how to start.

Sincerely,
Pablo


Pablo,

Playing the “I’m holding out for a job in public” doesn’t pay the rent or student loan bills. Not only are you up against stiff competition due to your lower-than-most-interns GPA, and self-decribed “shyness”, you’re fighting the timelines of every firm’s recruiting schedule. Meaning, the firms are done with their hiring needs by this point in time, especially if you are in a smaller market. You ask in your email to GC if you should “continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms” only to admit in the next sentence that you “didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books.” What the hell happened? Your email leaves me wondering if you simply dropped the ball on putting any effort into your job search, leaning too heavily on the notion that all you need is an accounting degree to receive free job handouts.

If going into public accounting was always the goal, your economics degree was not necessary. As “majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting a very good GPA,” why didn’t you cut your losses after a few classes and drop the major? If your answer is “because I was interested in the subject,” I’m going to call bullshit. If you were so interested in the topic, one would safely assume you would, you know, do well in those classes.

But enough about the past – given that you are about six weeks from graduating, you need to be aggressive with your job search.

Contact Career Services – Your school’s career services should have resources available to help you overcome some of the interview/social anxiety you might have that has held you back in your efforts to network with employers up to this point. They can set you up with meetings, discussions groups, mock interviews, etc. Take advantage of these free resources now; in six weeks it’ll cost you.

Stop being so damn picky – Your questions above gave me the impression that you’re being too picky (dead end jobs worries, hesitation about entering private industry instead of seeking public accounting experience, etc.). The economy – if you haven’t noticed – sucks. You’re entering a job market that is sputtering around nine percent unemployment and approximately 103 percent underemployment. Your competition is more experienced and potentially has better grades and soft skills than you.

The job market – even for accountants – is a simple numbers game – You apply to 30 jobs. You receive interviews at five. You receive second rounds at three. You hope for one offer. You should be applying to accounting roles in every industry in every sized firm. If they’re seeking an accounting degree, your résumé should be there. Search Indeed, LinkedIn, and the Monsters of the world on your own. Look into your college’s resources for alumni. Get in touch with recruiters in your area to see if they have any entry level or temp to perm positions. Play the numbers and see what hits. Good luck, and keep your head up.

Burned Out KPMG Associate Looking to Extend Stay in Public Accounting Purgatory with Another Big 4 Firm

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us [email protected].

Dear GC:

I am an associate working for KPMG. During the past 13 months of my career here, I’m just tired of using their outdated office technology, audit tools (an electronic audit system that was made in 2010 when all other big 4s started at least 5 years ago), unfriendly people culture (politics and white-eyes), and stingy meal reimbursement ($14 for dinner). I often work really late hours (utilization rate more than 180%), at the year-end review, I am really unhappy for the rating and raise they gave me.

But still, I want to work in public accounting for the next 2 to 3 years. My question is, do Big 4 recruiters share their employee’s review? Does a recruiter at DTT/EY/PwC know what the employee’s performance is at KPMG (maybe a call to his/her close-friend in KPMG to find-out)? Also, while I’m choosing my next target, which Big 4 has better people-culture so that I will be motivated to work hard for the 2 or 3 years?

Thanks,

An Escaping Klynvedian

Dear Soon-To-Be-Escapee,


Oh, the woes of a being a first year associate: you think the hours/pay/bennies can be substantially better at another firm in your area, but really where you’re at now is oftentimes par for the course. Yes, the audit tools at KPMG are antiquated compared to the others (to their credit: they’re desperately playing catch up now), but with the other areas of complaint I doubt the GC crew has much sympathy for you. Your $14 Per Diem rate is not a KPMG decision but rather based on rates set by IRS. As someone who has traveled extensively for my firm (and uses the IRS rates), I’ve never had a problem ordering in or dining out within the rates set for any given city. Hellz, you could live on $14 a night in NYC if you had to (street meat, anyone?). On to your other concerns:

1. Hours – going to be bad wherever you are. 180% chargeability bad? I don’t know. Talk to anyone you know at the local offices of your competitors and ask about their busy seasons. Also ask if they’re hiring.

2. Unfriendly culture – I think we can all agree that this is different for every office, for every firm, for every city. Best way to find a better one is to look around.

3. Sharing employee reviews – it’s unlikely that one HR professional will call up his/her counterpart at your firm and inquire directly about your reviews. However, they will most likely ask that you provide copies of past reviews before making you an offer. This is a legitimate request and you should be prepared to cooperate. Based on your expressed concern, I’m going to guess that your reviews are not that…great. If this is the case, be prepared to explain any average/less than review points made by your manager(s).

GC’ers – who has some advice for our fleeing first year? Hit up the comments below.

Here’s Another Accountant Feeling Sorry For Himself Because He Doesn’t Know What to Do with His Life

Personally, I don’t know I have the energy for this shit today but here’s a sob story we’ve all heard before:

I was born to be a lot of things, but being an accountant isn’t one of them. In my heart of hearts I have always known this, but for some stupid subconscious reason, I have always ignored it.

Why? Well…um…err…I didn’t know what else to do.


Okay, I’ll jump in now – this just pisses me off. Why? Because I have the solution and it’s easy. Quit. Immediately. I don’t give a baker’s fuck if you don’t know what else to do; don’t wait, just quit your job. I spoke with a friend recently who has been with a Big 4 firm for over ten years. This person was in a similar situation as this guy, not sure what to do other than what they were doing right now (i.e. “auditing”). Then they decided that enough was enough. Forget the money. Forget not having a plan. They just up and quit without a plan. I was so thrilled to hear someone finally going with their gut rather than thinking about all the practical bullshit that ties people down. Speaking of, what’s this guy’s excuse?

You might be left asking, “If you hate it so much, then why don’t you just leave?”

I’m the first person to berate myself for sticking with it for so long. It never helped that accounting, and the financial sector for that matter, pays so well and instantaneously blindsides with dollar signs. I was always caught up chasing the next pay cheque, hanging around a few more months for a bonus and salary hike, and holding my breath for my well-deserved promotion.

The result always afforded me the trips overseas, a new car, the latest gadgets, elevation up the clothing-label food chain, gambling in a few shares here and there, and even a deposit on an investment property. Important things in a twenty-something year-old’s life, right?

It sounds like I’m making excuses. Well I am. It’s hard to walk away. But hey, if it pays well and the bills get paid, shouldn’t that be enough? And shouldn’t I just be grateful to even have a job in this economic climate?

First off, you’re using the money as the excuse. Money is a terrible excuse. Sell your car. Sell your investment property. For God sake, pull your money out of the casino that is the world’s financial markets. And the mantra “I should be grateful to have a job in this economy” is the biggest crock. Grateful for a job you hate? That’s like being grateful to be getting laid with a partner that’s lousy in bed and hates your guts. What’s the point? Go find something you want to do and never look back. Life is too short to be wasting it doing something you don’t want to do. This is not Earth-shattering advice but sometimes it bears repeating. Will your life change? You bet your ass it will and it’ll be better for it.

And that’s goes for anybody else. You know who you are. Don’t wait for this year’s busy season to come and go so you can see what the raise will be or to get another bonus. I assure you that you’ll still be miserable. Probably more so. There’s still time to save yourself. You’ll thank me. But you don’t have to.

Anxious Accounting Student Needs Advice for a PwC “Superday”

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Caleb,

I’m an avid reader of Going Concern and I was wondering if you could help ease my anxiety on my Superday coming up fairly soon. I’m currently a senior in a master’s program and I am looking for an internship this Winter. I’ve interviewed with all Big 4 and only managed to score a second round with PwC for a Northeast location. I do have a couple back up offers but really want PwC. Do you have any tips or other insights on these superdays? I often read that the majority of people attending superdays get an offer but I don’t wident. Any insights you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Anxious Student

Dear Anxious,

I’ll do my best to give you some honest insight on Superdays, although I don’t know if it will quiet your fears.


Your biggest competition at the Superday will be yourself and your choice to pursue a winter internship (presumably tax?). Everyone knows that the summer internship programs are the bees’ knees: barely 40 hours a week; summer outings; awesome schwag. Winter internships, on the other hand, have been traditionally limited in numbers but extensive in experience. This is changing a bit this year, as firms are looking for a small uptick in winter interns to help offset the turnover in staff. The firms’ practices have higher standards for the students they hire for this time of year because they’ll be doing actual work (relative to the summer class). But should you land one of the spots on the winter intern bench, you’ll be poised to rake in a lot of overtime $$$. So, what do you need to do at the Superday to best position yourself for one of the internship spots? Keep your cool. Keep your confidence.

Be flexible. Winter interns are oftentimes from local universities, since many students balance a light credit schedule while putting in long hours at 300 Madison Avenue (or 345 Park, or…okay you get it). If you’re in this position, oversell your availability to work. Think you’re taking 15 credits? Say your’e taking 12. Available on weekends? You bet! They’re looking to hire workhorses, not show ponies. If you’re taking the semester off, that’s great; make sure the recruiter knows this. Talk about your willingness to work long hours and do “what’s best for the team” even if that means working weekends. The goal is to land an offer, not sound like someone with a grasp on reality. “Work the entire month of February and sleep under my desk?!?! Sign me up!!!”

Now, then. General advice for Superdays:

You’re always being watched. Think that the teambuilding event is trivial? Think again. The recruiters will be watching how you interact with the team members. One comment of “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done” will get you dinged. Sit down, shut up, and BE REALLY EXCITED TO PLAY WITH MARKERS.

Careful with the booze. Every firm’s 2nd round interview program is different, but be sure to take it easy if there is booze involved. Take a page out of my BFF Patti Stanger’s book: keep it to two drinks. You’ll loosen up, it’ll taste GREAT after the long day, but you won’t get too loose lipped. Just because the evening’s atmosphere is casual, doesn’t mean the office managing partner should know what you’re getting your boyfriend for Christmas.

Shoot for the middle of the fairway. Every in-office interview program has the same cast of characters. The Funny Guy. The Guy Who Thinks He’s Funny But Isn’t. The Girl Who’s Skirt is Questionably Short. The Guy Who is Wearing His Father’s Suit. The Sit in the Corner Special. The Candidate with Too Much School Pride. The Leader Who Doesn’t Know How to Be a Team Player.

Umm, yeah. Don’t be any of those.

Easy on the cellphones. Silence it, turn it off, and only look at it on breaks. Nothing pisses off an over-the-hill recruiter more than watching a room full of Millennials texting and tweeting over their morning fruit salads.

Good luck.

New Big 4 Associate Wants to Know If His Career Will Go Up in Smoke After Pot Possession Arrest

Welcome to the bullshit-faux-holidays-that-accountants-don’t-get-off edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. Today we have a new Big 4 associate who’s wondering how much trouble he could get in for a recent arrest for pot possession. If his firm finds out will they just blow it off or is his career baked?

Do you need advice on your career as “The Help” to our capital markets? Whether it’s CPA exam anxiety or minding your debits and credits at career fairs or putting together a to-do list after you put in your papers, we’ve got solutions for you. Email us at [email protected] if you’re in haze.

Now, then:

I just started at a Big 4 firm and to celebrate the college life being over my friends had a party over Labor Day weekend. To cut to the point, I ended up being arrested and charged with marijuana possession in a city about 2 hours away from my office. I had a prior arrest for marijuana from 4 years prior as well. Basically, my question is, how likely is it that the firm finds out about this incident without me telling them? Also, if they do find out does this mean automatic termination?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Dear Stoney Jabroni,


Let me just say first that I’m not a lawyer, so take this advice for what it’s worth (not much more than a dime bag). Having said, that, your solution is easy. Move to Colorado. Or California. Or anywhere pot is decriminalized. Maybe I’m misinterpreting “arrested” but here in in the MHC, for example, adults don’t really get “arrested” for possession of less than one ounce and thus, there is really no problem. I realize this is probably unrealistic advice but your state’s laws will ultimately determine how “serious” this really is. Generally, this is not a serious issue but if you’re in state that likes to throw the book at marijuana users, then it gets more complicated.

To answer your first question – since you work in a city that’s two hours from where your arrest occurred, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone at your firm will find out you had your little run-in with the law. Unless, of course, there’s townie that would go out of their way to contact your firm to fink on you. That seems unlikely but, hey! you never know.

As far as termination is concerned, it depends on the agreement that you signed when you accepted your offer. If you’re held to specific code of conduct, it’s possible that this arrest could violate that code. If there’s nothing in the agreement that would cover something like this, your firm doesn’t really have grounds to dismiss you. There are plenty of Big 4 employees and partners that enjoy a nice toke every now and again and it is more socially accepted than ever. If someone at your firm does get a whiff of this news, certainly some will frown on this behavior and you may get a talking to but does it mean the end of your career? That’s just wack, man.

Fence-crossing Regulator Wants to Know How to Jump into a Big 4 Firm

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

I have a senior-level job with a regulator that has jurisdiction over accounting firms. (Don’t want to say much more, because it would be self-identifying.)

I think my credentials may be good enough to land a partner-level job with a Big Four to help with compliance and whatnot. I’d like to pursue this some time over the next several years.

But how should I make the approach? Should I contact the firms directly at the appropriate time? Or go through a headhunter? If a headhunter, which ones have the best contacts for senior positions?

Thanks for your help.

–Fence-crosser (sorry, I couldn’t come up with a witty name)

Fence-crosser,
Give yourself some credit – your nickname is wittier than most (and by most, I mean people usually sign their first and last names and add their Social Security number for good measure).


After a quick (and confidential) search for your background on LinkedIn, I have a much better understanding of your seniority and depth of experience in the regulatory space. Very impressive. Considering your educational background (for those of you playing at home – very strong undergrad and advanced degree programs), I have no doubt that you’ve made your mark within the inner circles of both your industry and your city (major US market).

Before we talk about how to go about pursuing opportunities within the Big 4, let’s talk about this so-called “partner-like” level where you’d like to land. Without a CPA you cannot be a partner, however principals are a non-certified equivalent and directors are nothing to slouch at, either. You’d most easily transition into either 1) a firm’s internal professional practice, helping decipher government regulation and how said firm’s practices are affected by changing laws or 2) a firm’s advisory group, aiding clients with the same issues. The upsides – both monetarily and network-wise – would be in advisory. But do not overlook being an internal expert; they are paid handsomely for their work.

When it comes to seeking out the Big 4’s interest in your particular skillset, I suggest starting with their in-house Experienced Hire recruiters. All of the firms are hot to hire people with your experience. Look into their publicly posted opportunities first; either you will find something in line with your background or at the very least find a name to contact. Check out last week’s post for links to each firm’s experienced hire pages. Your skillset would be an exceptional value added to a firm’s compliance/regulatory departments. Best of luck in transitioning.

Readers – are you familiar with this kind of transition? Have you made the move yourself? Email Caleb and he’ll connect you with Fence-crosser should you be able to help. Are you a recruiter at one of the Big 4? Do the same – contact Caleb and make this happen.

Will Years Out of the Game Negate the Big 4 Boomerang Effect?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Here’s an issue I rarely see. I joined PwC management consulting right out of my Ivy League school, and have my undergrad degree in Economics. I loved it, worked hard, made manager in five years and worked for some huge clients. I did all of the extras, methodology writing, promotion committees, coaching, proposals, etc. Managed some huge high profile projects too. Was offered a slot at PwC’s new executive MBA program, and was in the alpha class, graduating with a concentration in Marketing (picked by the firm). But then we had huge post 9/11 layoffs, were spun off and bought by IBM. I left soon after to start a family. I was there nearly ten years.

I went back to school and got my MSAT, and now am halfway through my CPA exam, acing it thanks to my teaching and experience. I’ve been teaching accounting and tax at a major university for the past four years as an adjunct, and doing a little private consulting.

Can I get back in to Big 4? Do I do it as an experienced hire? I know I’ve never been a practicing auditor but I know the methodology and how to manage large engagements. What’s the best way for me to work my way back in? My former colleagues are all at IBM or have left. I am not eligible for on campus since I graduated with my latest masters in 2009.
Thanks!

DISCLAIMER: not every circumstance in the history of circumstances has been taken into consideration when making this statement:

Public accounting – you can always come back.

The flow of people out of public accounting is much more intense and consistent than the experienced hire onboards, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. I did a little searching on LinkedIn and realized that you live in the greater New York City area, which is to your advantage. Many of the Big 4’s support staffs are located in NYC, so there might be options in those areas of the firms if a return to client servicing is not possible. so your odds of finding an opportunity and a new home with one of the Big4 improve slightly. Start with searching their Experienced Hire websites for open opportunities. Links are below:

Deloitte

E&Y

KPMG

PwC

Scour LinkedIn for experienced hire recruiters within each firm and reach out to them directly; have them hear your story. Most importantly, be persistent. The experienced hiring model within the Big 4 is can be touch and go, especially considering the recent uncertainty in the economy.

Will a Floundering GPA Doom a Recruit’s Big 4 Hopes?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Hi GC,

I am interviewing with multiple big four firms but I am a little worried that if I receive an offer it may be revoked later on. I graduate in December with my masters and due to recruiting season and studying for the CPA exam I have not focused much on school. My current GPA is 3.5 and I feel that after this semester it will be in the 3.3-3.4 range. Have you ever heard of a CPA firm revoking a new graduate offer due to their grades slipping? I am getting a little worried. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Scared

Scared,
Welcome to the trials and tribulations of recruiting season. Unfounded rumors. Random interview selection. Lost sleep over imploding GPAs. Epic amounts of money wasted on free schwag*.

Rest assured, the drop in your GPA should not affect your eligibility. Consider this: your candidacy for a spot at a Big 4 firm consists A) your undergraduate GPA/degree B) any relative internships you’ve landed C) your first semester of grad work (the 3.5 GPA) and D) your CPA eligibility. I say “should not” without making a promise because the world could end tomorrow (Greece! UBS! HPV shots!) and recruiting could dry up but it’s not likely. Okay, UBS could be toast…

I’m not suggesting that you let things slide, either; you will need to provide a final transcript upon graduation. Assuming you took an equal amount of credits across two semesters for your Masters program, your first semester of a 3.5 GPA will be match up with a second semester of 3.2/3.3. Not the end of the world.

Keep interviewing, keep studying, and keep us informed of how things play out. Good luck on campus this fall.

*GC contributors will gladly accept schwag.

Career Fairs: The Do’s and Don’ts of Emailing Recruiters

127. That is the number of unread emails in my inbox at this very moment (Wednesday @ 2:28pm). Two meetings, a list of high priority to-do’s, and a number of phone calls to return when I hit my desk before 8:00a this morning. What’s the point? We professionals are busy creatures and as much as we appreciate the thoughtfulness of a “thank you” email when we meet you at a Career Fair, we don’t want to hear about your interest in IFRS issues. In an effort to build off the advice in the comments of Monday’s post, here are some things to keep in mind before hitting send on your thank you email to us.


Do: Keep it short, but personal. When we attend a career fair, we can meet upwards of 200 students in an afternoon. Even if 25% send emails, that’s 50 interspersed amongst our regular business inbox. Keep it short, to the point, but also relevant so it doesn’t seem like you sent the same message to every firm. Tip: reference something professional the two of you spoke about, reference to the recruiter what professional you met, or thank them for the invite to an event later in the week; something to make the connection to your brief in-person encounter.

Don’t: Regurgitate your cover letter. It’s a “thank you” email, not an opportunity to over-sell your candidacy.

Do: Triple check your grammar. Nothing takes you out of the running faster than a misspelled name or the incorrect verb tense in a sentence. Sure, accountants are notoriously bad with spelling and grammar, but leave the misspellings to the managers. When you sign off, go with “sincerely” or “regards” followed by your name.

Don’t: Make us feel old. Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs. are all off the table. We are not our parents, capisce? More importantly, you need to put yourself on the same level as us. You want to be treated as the adult you are, so speak to us as equals. This goes for everyone up and down the hierarchy (first-year professionals to partners). We’re all on the same level when it comes to addressing us in emails.

Do: Capitalize. keep the lowercase sentences to yourself. and your texting buddies. okay? okay.

Don’t: Attach your résumé. Submit through the website like the recruiter mentioned 32 times.

Do: Keep it light. Remember – we enjoy spending time on campus and interacting with the future of our firms. We had a great time meeting you – remind us of that.

Don’t: Get offended if you do not receive a response. Oftentimes the professionals will just forward the emails to the recruiter to keep track of. You wouldn’t expect a “you’re welcome” note if you were mailing a thank you note, would you?

What Can a Big City Big 4 Auditor Expect at Small City, Second-tier Firm?

Back with another edition of “Decide My Life for Me – Public Accounting Edition.” Today, an antsy Big 4 employee in a large city wants to know if moving to second-tier firm in small city will mean a demotion or cut in salary.

Do you have trouble matching your socks? Need help making sense of your cryptic performance review? Are you worried that someone with a bun in the oven is also capable of doing their job? Email us at [email protected] and someone will try to straighten you out.

Back to our “Should I Stay or Should I Go” du jour:

Hi,

I was curious if you had any information on employees jumping from Big 4 firms (auditing) to upper-mid-tier (i.e. McGladrey). Do you find that they are often promoted? I am currently in a large city and am uninterested in staying in the city long-term. I was thinking of moving to a 300,000 person city with some firms like McGladrey, Grant Thornton, etc. If I am jumping ship as a senior or manager, where should I expect to come in at? Same level? Same salary?

Thanks
Jumper

Dear Jumper,


Had it with Big 4 life, eh? Let me guess, the groupies got to you, didn’t they? Every damn time.

As to your inquiry, here’s the deal – you won’t be promoted if you decide to accept a position with McGladrey or Grant Thornton. Why? There are a few reasons: 1) You don’t have the experience; 2) You don’t have the experience; 3) You don’t have the experience. We all know that Big 4 auditors think they’re pretty special and that anyone who doesn’t soil themselves after looking at their stellar résumés followed by an immediate job offer is simply stupid. So it comes as a shock to many when this scenario doesn’t play out. As far as second-tier firms go, they definitely want Big 4 talent when they can get it but they’re aren’t about to throw you a bone because you worked at E&Y Chicago or PwC New York.

What you can expect – if you’re senior associate or a manager at a Big 4 firm, you can reasonably expect to be offered (not a guarantee, obv) a similar position at GT or Mickey G’s that you currently have. If you’re moving to a smaller city, you could see a similar salary but you should not expect a raise. You’ll receive the market rate for your position in your new city. The firm may put you at the high range of pay for your group but be prepared to be reminded of that fact come merit increase time.

Anyone made a similar move with different results? Share below.

Big 4 Recruiting Season: Career Fair Tips

Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Good afternoon, GC’ers. I’m going to be devoting posts to general campus recruiting advice this week. College students – listen up. Already-employed cohorts – chime in with your own advice. Today I’m going to cover Career Fairs, everyone’s favorite meat market.


Questions you should be ready for – “Did you submit your resume through Career Services? Did you submit our firm’s additional paperwork? When do you graduate? What office are you interested in? Will you be CPA eligible up graduation? What practice are you interested in?” If you know what practiced you’ sure to have your paperwork submitted through the necessary online means. Don’t know what you’re applying for? Read below…

Know what you’re applying for – Nothing worse than talking to a student who is, “Uhhhhhhh, you know, I’m open to anything.” To me, that means you are unfamiliar with my firm’s services and you’re standing in line like a lemming because you know it’s good for you. Do you homework ahead of time about what practice groups are being targeted on your campus. Here’s a hint – focus on the job posts that are on your Career Services site; this is what each firm is focused on and actively recruiting for from your particular school. Don’t see Transaction Advisory Services listed? Probably ain’t gonna happen.

Suit up – Take a piece of advice from Barney Stinson and rock a suit to the Fair. It doesn’t need to be an expensive suit; heck, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Personally, I’m not a fan of the trend of suits becoming the norm at career fairs but it is better to match your competition than to assume “different is better.” Accounting firms are not Google; they breed a conservative culture. Play along, at least until you have an offer.

In an effort to avoid this becoming an Esquire-like blog post, I’ll keep my suit advice simple.

Ladies: Make sure your blouse is comfortably but securely buttoned, and take the potential of taller recruiters (aka wandering eyes) into consideration. Also, avoid hot magenta or any other color that would be included in a pack of highlighters.

Gents: That Calvin Klein tag on the outside of your jacket’s left sleeve? Yeah, that’s supposed to come off. Also, be sure to open your pockets and jacket vents before going to the Fair. It’s always awkward to see a guy trying to stuff a business card into a sewn up pocket.

Relax. Don’t sweat it. – Really, I mean that. Few things are more repulsive than shaking the moist hand of an anxious student. It can get hot at career fairs, I know. You can do a couple of things to chill out if you have a sweating problem: 1) Hold you résumé folder in your left hand and keep your right hand out of your pocket. This will let your hand breathe. 2) Small talk the person next you – it will help both of you relax. 3) A good swipe of your right hand on the back of your leg when you know your turn is coming up is totally fair game.

Always mints, never gum – There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the Big 4 booths. As you’re waiting in the mass herd of people, pop a few Tic Tacs or mints (avoid Altoids – too strong). They’ll help you relax and will be gone before you start speaking to the recruiter.

Business cards = cheat sheets – Ask for business cards when you meet with the professionals at the career fair (note – if they don’t have any, just remember to get their name so you can take notes later). Generally speaking, they are alums from your school and are excited to be back on campus and they can be a great resource going forward. They will also be at other events, even as early as the same week as the career fair. In between visiting booths, take two minutes to scribble notes on the back of the business card to help you remember who they were. “Black hair.” “Red glasses.” “Talked about baking.” “Mentioned she was an Eagles fan.” Reviewing these cards prior to next week’s firm-sponsored social event on campus will help you remember the connections much better.

Find out when they’ll be back – The five minutes you spend with the recruiters and professionals at the career fairs are not enough to earn yourself an interview. It is imperative you make personal connections with members of each firm. Beta Alpha Psi presentations. Cheesy happy hour mixers. Whatever. Go, shake hands, and laugh at their jokes. Earn yourself an interview.

Remember your manners – Thank everyone for their time. As happy to be on campus as they may be, many of the professionals will put in hours for work back at their hotels later that night. It is not always easy for them to take time off from work to make the trips back, so have a little respect for their time and their neglected inboxes.

Have anything to add? Email us or leave your comments below.

Leaving Your Accounting Firm? Here’s Your To-Do List Before Your Last Day

Ed. note: Got a question from the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Happy Friday, folks. Even though Summer Fridays are a thing of the past, we have much to be thankful for. College football on the tube. Ya’ll are getting laid, apparently. And we have some great questions coming into GC.com, like this one here:

I’m ready to leave the Big 4 for industry but want to make sure I don’t m��������������������make the jump. Is there a GC cheat sheet on things to take care of (and take with you) during the 2 week lame duck period after I give my notice? (e.g. contact info, CPE profile, etc.)

I’d love to hear GC readers’ thoughts.

Thanks.

Caleb and I scratched our brains on this one and realized that no – we’ve never really covered this topic. I know some if not all offices allow employees to take care of loose ends during the two week downtime but wouldn’t you rather be prepared to turn everything over on the same day? What I want to do here is cover the basics from the angle that you want to be able to put in your notice and walk out the door the same way. You fill in the details in the comments section below, as I’m sure I’ve missed some of the finer points. Share your horror stories and little victories alike.

1. A. Back up your personal computer files – Technically your work computer is reserved solely for work files and functions but for many of you it is a secondary (even primary) personal computer. I’ve seen laptops turned in with the likes of iTunes libraries, photo albums, tax returns and personal financial tracking files just hanging around in plain sight. You don’t know when HR or your partner will demand to seize your computer (I’ve even seen partners’ commuters seized with no access granted to the files for weeks), so make sure you back everything up onto your own USB drive.

1. B. Delete your personal computer files – Once everything is backed up (make sure the files open on another computer), delete everything personal that’s on the computer. Don’t forget to empty the trash can, too.

2. Get a new wireless plan – If you’re wielding a firm-purchased phone, you’ll be needing to turn that over as well. Take the initiative to get a new phone and have the contacts from your current (firm) phone transferred to your new (personal) device. Every carrier is different, but some will let you buy the new phone without having to activate it immediately, thus giving you the option to walk in there later (presumably, after you’ve dropped the bomb on leadership) and transfer the number over. If you prefer a clean slate and want a new number, so be it.

Also, remember to delete your recent call log, Blackberry Messenger conversations, texting history, sensitive contacts (*cough* your recruiter *cough*), etc. Granted if they really want go through an archive they will, but that really only happens if suspicious/illegal activity is suspected.

3. Organize your client work – This can be a very mundane and verbose task however necessary it may be. The goal here is to make things as easy as possible for your colleagues. Use separate USB drives for different managers and partners. Give everyone an update “open items” list for your active engagements. Make it so organized that a new person to the team would able to seamlessly come on board, read your notes, and pick up where you left off.

Chances are good that you like your co-workers, as one of the most common hesitations staff members have when leaving public accounting is, “I would feel bad leaving my co-workers swamped with my work.” Here’s the deal: they survive. I mean, think about it – how many times has a coworker left before you? Sure, the first few days can be a slow go, but they’re out-of-sight-and-mind within a week. Work is divvied up and completed.

4. Link in with people – I covered this back in June.

5. Mentally prepare yourself – Accounting firms are hit the hardest with employee turnover around this time of year so you need to expect your employer to put up a bit of a fight. Better clients, better work life balance, rotation to another group, verbal praise and affection. (Where was that love when you were working 7:30a to 11:30p during busy season?) You need to prepare for the pressure to be there to turn down your other offer on the spot. There’s nothing wrong with hearing out what your firm can put on the table, but you are under no obligation to turn around and be back on Team PwC or Kamp KPMG during the same meeting you put in your resignation.

Also, remember: you can always go back. Not sometimes. Not usually. ALWAYS. The only thing more valuable to a public accounting firm than its employees are employees that return with private experience.

6. Copy down contact information – There are people you will want to stay in contact with as your careers progress. This should be a no-brainer.

7. One last thing – There’s that colleague with whom you have some tension. Maybe they’re seeing someone, maybe they’re not. Screw the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and say something before you leave. Be bold.

How Should an Academic Zero to Hero Approach Recruiting Season?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Going Concern,

I’ve been worrying about this for so long, I’m hoping some people in the profession can shed some light on my fears. When I was 18, I was an idiot. I attended a school far away and I literally never attended class. I also never dropped any classes. Needless to say, I flunked out with many Fs on my transcript (almost a full year’s worth). Later on, I went to a community college and remained an idiot. I did the same thing. My GPA was ~0.9.

Fast forward a few years in a new location, and things are a different story. I went to a community college down here and after screwing up yet again in the first term, I had a 4.0 GPA for the remaining 18 classes. I matriculated to a 4 year school (automatic admission in Florida for AA graduates) and continued. My last 64 credits have been straight As, and I have taken some of the hardest accounting classes – including Cost and two Theories.

I am absolutely dreading recruiting. My institution tells me that my “real” GPA consists of the grades I’ve earned at the school – which would make my GPA a 4.0. However, my transcript is going to have my overall GPA of 2.6 on it. To make matters worse, my actual coursework from the newer community college won’t be on the transcript so they won’t even notice much of an admirable grade trend.

I am also not a member of Beta Alpha Psi. To be an accounting major at my school, you need a 3.0 GPA – I was ineligible my first semester. Since I did not have an accounting GPA before last week, I have to submit my application in the next few weeks. I hope their admissions process isn’t so slow that I miss out on any of their opportunities. OCR is next month.

I know this is a scattered story that very few people can relate to. I don’t know what happened in those years and can’t understand it either. If anyone has some direction for me I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you and I love the site. It’s easily my favorite place for shameless mental masturbation when I’m feeling anxious.

– Zero to Hero

Dear Z to H:

Whatever you did to break out of the unfortunate streak of bottom feeding failures in the classroom and get yourself up to a 4.0-GPA-earning level, please tell me. I would like to make it, bottle it, and sell it to the masses.

The way that your college calculates “real” GPAs is standard for the industry; realize that this is absolutely to your advantage. The 4.0 you are currently carrying should be reflected on your résumé. Also on your résumé should be the time you spent at the community college. The time there launched you to where you are now.

Do not be afraid to approach recruiters. That said, I recommend talking to every firm regardless of size. Some might be turned off by your unconventional path to Dean’s List. Be prepared to be honest with the recruiters about your first attempt at college and the years you took off and when you began to right the ship. Honesty is absolutely the best approach here, because come offer time you will need to provide a transcript of your academic history. You want the transcript to be confirmation of your story, not the bombshell. Good luck.

Should an “Accidental” Tax Lawyer Go Back to School to Qualify for the CPA?

Back again with another edition of fix my career ASAP. Today, “an accidental tax lawyer” wants to obtain a CPA to bolster his small practice. Other lawyers look at him like he’s “crazy” when he discusses the IRC but our Regretful JD enjoys all the minutiae. Problem is, he’ll have to start from scratch since he has business background. Is this plan gold or is he a glutton for punishment?

Are you suffering from a case of summer-is-ending-which-means-busy-season-is-right-around-the-corner blues and are wondering if it’s time for a new job? Does your golf game suck? Do you wear pinstripes? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll suggest something that wins.

Back to our lawyer friend:

So, long story short:

I’m an accidental tax lawyer. I studied neuroscience in college and went to law school to do patents. I took personal income tax as a summer course after my first year, was surprised that I both liked it and did well. Through the remaining two years of law school, I took corporate tax, gift and estate tax, state and local tax, natural resource taxation, two tax seminars, and averaged an A- in them all. Graduated, passed the bar and opened my own tax shop, mostly small business and non-profit formation, opinion letters for CPAs and walking taxpayers through audits. I operate on a one-stop-shop model-come to me and I’ll handle your legal and tax planning needs. I’m good at what I do, and I’ve been profitable since the first year.

Here’s where you guys come in: I think I’d really enjoy being a CPA. Other lawyers look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about the internal revenue code, but I find tax planning enjoyable and it lets me be creative. Am I crazy to consider going back and taking the courses necessary to qualify for the CPA exam? My local public university offers a graduate “Pre-CPA” program, with just the courses required to qualify for the exam. As an undergrad, I took two semesters of calculus and two semesters of inferential statistics, but the rest was basically hard science (physics, microbiology, organic chemistry, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, etc). Except for my tax law background, I’d basically be starting from scratch.

Hell, is there even a market for CPA/JDs? I don’t need to work Big Four (I like meeting with and managing my clients on a personal level. I find it very rewarding), but to keep a roof over my head I’d need to earn at least mid-five figures. If I continue with the solo practice model, I’d be able to provide accounting, tax and legal services, but I’m not sure that accounting as a value-add would be worth tuition + lost opportunity time when I’m studying instead of working.

Any advice you can offer me is appreciated.

Sign me off,
“Regretful JD”

Dear Regretful JD,

First off, if that’s the short version, thanks for sparing us the details. YEESH. Secondly, neuroscience to patents to tax is quite the interesting progression but we won’t pry…it was a woman, wasn’t it?

Now, then. Your situation. Personally I think you’re at a huge advantage compared to the CPAs out there that are thinking about going to law school. Some of you remember the post we did last year discussing that particular jump and it’s not an easy one. Law school grads, as our friends at Above the Law will tell you, aren’t exactly drowning in job opportunities these days but they are being suffocated by six-figure school debt. For you, Regretful JD, that ship has sailed. You’ve got your practice set up, enjoy the work, and are earning a steady dollar.

The problem, as you stated, is that you’d be starting from scratch. If you’re single and don’t have a grip of cash stuffed in your mattress to get you through the “Pre-CPA” program, you’re going to be living on Cup o’ Noodles and saltines smeared with dijon mustard. Are you ready to make that sacrifice? What about your clients? Are you just going to drop them or will you attempt to keep them by promising the world and more once you’ve got your CPA? Your life could be a living hell trying to juggle tax seasons and school work.

As for your question regarding “a market for CPA/JDs” our aforementioned post found that, yes, there is something to be said for the CPA and JD white-collar, one-two punch. Being able to understand legal ramifications of your clients’ decisions as well as being able to dig into the numbers and actually understand them has proven to be a great selling point.

Ultimately the decision comes down to one of logistics. Can you work, go to school and maintain your sanity and/or shred of a social life that you have left? It’s not impossible but you’ll have a rough couple of years, to be sure (don’t forget about the CPA Exam!). Those that have done it will likely say it was worth the struggle but everyone has their breaking point. What’s yours?

Also see:
Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course? [GC]
The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t [GC]

Big 4 Senior Wants to Know If Her Family Planning Scheme Is Crazy

Ed. note: Are you in the middle of a career conundrum that could use some third-rate advice? Email us at [email protected] and we just surprise you with some sensibility.

Hi!

I work in audit at a Big Four firm in Europe. I’m starting my second senior year and I’ve received good evaluations so far (B+ on my first year,
and then A’s on my second and third years). I love the job, but I know I won’t stay forever (too many long nights, plus I just don’t think
I’d like to be manager). I’m 25, I’ve been married for 2 years and I want kids. I want to start trying, keep working through pregnancy, take the usual time off after birth (paid by government), and return to work part-time. Then after some time I’d probably look for a job elsewhere to work full time (but not Big Four hours).

I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when
I tell him I’m pregnant? Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?

Thank you!

Hi Europe,

Greetings from across the pond. I’ll do my best to help with your questions, but seeing that I am neither a) pregnant nor b) part of the busy season cycle, I hope the GC.com community can pitch in their own advice. My advice is based on a combination of what I’ve seen here in New York, my general knowledge of Big 4 firms, and what I think (or hope) is common sense.

EU: I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when I tell him I’m pregnant?

DWB: The timing of your pregnancy and pending childbirth will determine how your senior manager takes the news. Generally speaking (again, from what I see here in the States), it’s better from a career move perspective to be pregnant during busy season than to give birth and be out of the office during final reviews, sign-off’s, etc. So, conceiving in the next few months shouldn’t pose too much of an issue.

Let’s say your nine month clock kicks off in October; you’re looking at a July baby. Like the rest of your life, working through busy season will require an adjustment on your part and open communication with your team will be essential. Summer babies are a very common and oftentimes planned with busy season in mind.

EU: Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?

This question contradicts with what you said earlier in your email, so I’m going to say stay where you are for now. You’re doing well at your firm, and your job there might even act as a rock as you transition into parenthood. I suggest taking advantage of the support groups your firm has in place, and seek out the advice of senior employees who balance work and parenting already.

Good luck with starting your family! GC’ers – what kind of advice can you provide to our hopeful accountant-and-mother-to-be?

Turn Off Your iPod and Listen to Steve Jobs

My oh my, it’s been a strange week in the world. Going Concern blackout aside, Irene is hoping to rain on parades and summer cook-outs from the Carolinas to Boston; Libya is out of control; the Washington Monument has seen the US economy – errr Apple – lost its leader in Steve Jobs. His resignation sparked conversations across the globe, from Wall Street trading desks to Main Street to our little corner of the blogosphere here. At some point this week even my geeky-self thought things reached extreme Steve-Jobs-Oversaturation levels.

While perusing Lifehacker.com (see? geek) for Do-It-Yourself advice last night I was not able to avoid their mildly-inappropriate-titled-article about a commencement speech Jobs delivered to Stanford graduates. I would recommend the YouTube clip to anyone, both those of you who are green in your careers and those who are balancing work with family responsibilities. One of the more-HR friendly quotes to come from Jobs’ speech was the following:

Don’t settle. You’ve got to find what you love…your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is do to great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

How many of us can say that what we do at work – sometimes 40 hours a week, sometimes 80 – do what we love? Not “like,” not “well, it’s okay.” I’m talking about jump-out-of-bed-in-the-morning-with-excitement kind of love. I can’t say it. I like what I do, and there are moments in my job that I love. But love this shit every day? No.

But I’m working on it. And so should you.

Assess your current situation. Can you leave your job tomorrow? Would you? Note – job responsibilities (i.e. deadlines) are not valid excuses. Every job has deadlines – if you hold on to just “Oh, but my manager will be upset if I leave now” you are looking out for your boss more than yourself. Suck it up and be selfish. It’s okay to be selfish.

For me, I can’t leave my job tomorrow. For where I want to be in five years, I need to stay where I am for a bit longer. So in my case (and probably in many of your cases), a change of employer is off the table. So what do we do? We change what we can control.

We can all improve our lives, and I’m not talking about the “eat more vegetables” kind of improvements. I’m talking about transitions in lifestyle that affect the mental and emotional capacity of your day-to-day. Become an active member in an interest group at work. Volunteer more. Research inter-office rotation opportunities. Bust your ass four days a week so you can leave at 5:00p every Wednesday to catch your child’s soccer game. I don’t know what you need – that is for you to figure it out. So sit down and figure it out.

If you pump more life into your days, just think of the possibilities. You’ll sleep better. You’ll be a better coworker/partner/friend/parent/friend. You’ll find satisfaction in your day-to-day that makes the rest of the craziness in the world seem more bearable.

This is not easy. No one said it was. Not me, not Jobs, not your mother. But summer is wrapping up and before we know it (or as the partnership tax group is currently experiencing), busy season will be down your throats and all sweet, fond memories of 12% salary bumps will be swiftly diminished. But it’s not about the bumps in salary or the iPad giveways. It’s about (re)igniting the inner swagger and passion we all hold within ourselves. Think I’m spewing HR [email protected]%^? Then you’re not ready for this post, and that’s okay. Come back in November, January, March. We’ll be here.

Share your thoughts below. Cheers.

Is a FASB Internship the Path to Prosperity?

Ed. note: If you’re desperate for career advice from a couple of Big 4 refugees or someone who won’t bother sitting for the CPA Exam, shoot us an email at [email protected]. Thanks for your support of Going Concern.

A reader asks on behalf of a “friend”… right:

GC,
A friend of mine was accepted as one of the FASB interns right out of his master’s program, and was wondering what he can expect regarding salary/perks when he is done with the internship. They choose 12 total people per year. His email would give away his name, so I had to send it.

We are not looking for specific numbers, rather, with your past experience, would you expect firms to offer higher salary and perks osed “elite” position? He merely wants a 2nd year salary and to get his CPA bonus and materials paid for (since he lost these benefits by declining his current offer from one of the Big 4.

Thanks again,
Young and Naive.

First off, Y&N, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out here that we don’t make a habit of publishing email addresses under any circumstances, so in the future, your “friend” is welcome to get in touch directly and we will not blab to everyone about “his” business. Then again, with 12 folks entering this “elite” position, it’s not that hard to narrow down the choices and figure out who is who. But who cares?

You mentioned that your “friend” turned down a Big 4 offer (presumably to take this FASB internship) so what are you, er, he thinking is going to happen when the internship is over? All Big 4 firms pay for CPA review, most of the larger firms offer some sort of CPA bonus so he’d be wise to get as much done as he can during the internship so he can knock out that last part just after the ink has dried on his offer letter and get the larger bonus offered.

That said, not sure if you’ve heard but FASB isn’t exactly the elite accounting standard setting body it once was back in the days before mark-to-market. It’s hard to tell you – er, your “friend” – how valuable this internship will be without knowing more about what it entails. If it’s some legitimately elite program that only a handful of accounting students qualify for every year that will teach your “friend” the ins and outs of accounting standard setting under the watchful guise of seasoned pros, perhaps your “friend” will have a little leverage when it comes to negotiating a better payout in public accounting after leaving FASB but I wouldn’t expect to be pulling 6 figures or anything. In fact, I wouldn’t expect much at all beyond the usual salary bump one gets for being a high performing MAcc student with skills beyond binge drinking.

Could this be the Postgraduate Technical Assistant Program, by chance? You don’t have to tell us, lest your “friend” get put on blast, just asking.

Obviously this valuable experience will put your “friend” a step above slackers, and will teach your “friend” all sorts of marketable skills such as time management, prioritization and critical thinking in the scope of accounting, not to mention offer all sorts of networking opportunities should your “friend” decide to stay or return to the realm of policy over public drudge work. In the long run, these skills will probably be worth more (figuratively, not literally in the sense of buckets of cash delivered to this person’s front door just for being such a talented human being) than any imagined huge salary perk your “friend” is expecting for coming into public with this experience.

This experience will get your “friend” into the Big 4 if that is the route “he” wants to take, and “he” may even be able to play “make the firms fight over who gets to have me” but “he” will likely have to put in blood, sweat, tears and – most importantly – time just like the rest of the grunts to make the big money.

Will “he” have a competitive advantage? Yes. Is that worth more money in the big picture of things? Yes. Is your “friend” going to be offered $30k more than his “average” MAcc classmate just because he went through this program? Doubtful. Is his lifetime earning potential slightly more due to the experience, knowledge and connections he will gain through this program? Totally.

Why did you write us to ask this? Just to have people congratulate you – er, your “friend” – for nailing such a “supposed ‘elite’ position?”

Does Being a Good Golfer Give You a Better Chance at Partner or CFO?

Welcome to the East Coast Earthquake edition of Help! My Accounting Career Is Doomed! In today’s edition, a young auditor is curious how much of an advantage a good golf game will give you on the road to partner/CFO. Not honed soft skills. Not a preternatural talent for Microsoft Excel. A laser-straight drive and wicked short game.

Are you one of those bounders? Looking to come up some ambitious career goals? Skeptical of your co-worker’s charm? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll put together a quick psych profile.

Back to our young duffer:

Konnichiwa,

I am a first year audit employee for a large accounting firm. My question is this; how much does your golf game factor into your ascent to partner, or perhaps ascent to CFO after jumping ship to a private company? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Not Tiger Woods

Dear NTW,

I’ll try to articulate my thoughts on golf as succinctly as possible for you: IT’S STUPID. The clothes are stupid (it’s double stupid that people can wear an outfit to work that also functions as a golf outfit). The rules are stupid. The announcers are stupid. The fact that you even have to ask this question is stupid because it just goes to show how shallow the accounting industry can be. “You’re a scratch handicap? Great! We’ve got some WASPy clients that value someone who knows their way around a double-dog leg par 5.” STUPID.

But back to your question – how much does exceptional short game combined with dazzling iron play factor in putting you on the fast track to partner? Simply put: Zero. Zero times Zero. Zero cubed. ZERO FUCKING INFINITY. On the scale of importance, your golf game ranks far below your ability to actually do something productive and far, far below your personal hygiene. Will it function as a nice ice-breaker with your senior/manager/partner who is also interested in what Davis Love III shot over the weekend? Possibly but will they think, “Ol’ Joe has some game, let’s promote him!”? HELL NO. If that does happen at your firm, then you work for shallow assholes. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get passed over for promotion. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get laid off. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. if you can shoot in the 60s on a regular basis. Plus, what the hell are you doing at an accounting firm if you can shoot scores like that?

How golf became one of those things that “makes a difference” is beyond me but it has sure fooled a lot of people. In reality, golf is one of those things that accounting professionals think will give them a leg up on the guy who prefers to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but in reality that guy is WAY SMARTER than you and, believe it or not, that still counts for something.

Tax Intern Wants to Know What Job Opportunities Exist After a Three Year Stretch at a Big 4 Firm

Ed. note: Willing to take some advice from three strangers and peanut gallery full of overworked, underpaid paper pushers (aka spreadsheet jockeys)? Email us at [email protected] with your problems.

Hi!

First I just want to say that this website made all the down time during my Big 4 internship bearable!! Seriously, there are no words to express my gratitude!

I’ve learned a lot from your site, and I’m kinda hoping you can give me some advice…

Right now I have a full time job offer in Tax, but lately I’ve been questioning if this is the right move for me.

Honestly, I don’t think I can handle more than 3 years of public accounting, so I was wondering what job opportunities there are in the private sector for tax professionals with only two to three years of public accounting experience? (I feel like the focus is usually on audit, so I’m finding I don’t really know a lot about the tax world outside of the Big 4).

Also, I would eventually love to work for a nonprofit…would I have better luck at finding a job in this sector with an audit or advisory background, as opposed to tax?

Thanks a million!!!!

Clueless

Dear Clueless,

Thanks for stopping by GC this summer and squeezing us into your “busy” internship days. (Shameless plug – remember to talk about this site when you return to campus this fall. We’ll be talking about recruiting on a regular basis).

Let’s assume that you are going to accept the offer for Big 4 tax. Maybe you have an MS in tax. Maybe there are not any audit positions available for campus hires. Maybe you have a crush on the lead engagement partner. Not my biz. Whatever your situation, you should be focusing on making yourself as merlo-rounded as marketable as possible. A few ideas:

1) CPA – Not even a question. Get it done immediately.

2) Request an audit rotation – As you experienced this summer, there are times when things get a bit slow for tax professionals. Request short term rotations into audit where you can receive additional exposure. This will be marginally easier to do if your CPA is already completed.

3) Seek out non-profit clients – It does not matter if your experience is on the audit or tax side; the goal here is to receive client exposure for a look at the culture/business model/workplace environment at some of your local NFP’s.

4) Volunteer – If NFP clients are not an option, try to find time in your schedule to volunteer. Like any new job possibility, you should research what life is like at a non-profit before jumping into the career move.

As for private sector jobs, with 2-3 years tax experience you’ll have little trouble, as many businesses are trying to do more tax work in-house as opposed to contracting it out to their CPAs. I’d encourage you to stick it out until Senior Associate if you can, since this will give you ample opportunities outside the firm (and maybe a nice get-away). Good luck.

GCers – your thoughts?

Public Accounting Interns: What to Do if You’re Wary of Accepting Your Fulltime Offer

The morning subway commute to work in Manhattan this week was refreshingly quiet; maybe it’s because so many bankers are in Cashew Mode (Street talk for the fetal position); the Hamptons are crowded; the interns are GONE. I know, staff members…time to return to the days of fetching your own copy paper and finding other “mentoring” reasons to light up the corporate card. But this is not about you – rather, it is about the suckling interns that are now the proud holders of fulltime offers.

Interns – what a long, sometimes awkward road of courtship it’s been, amiright? For some of you, the relationship with one or more of the firms started in your junior year, whereas others of you were swooned early and often from the wee days of being a fi��������������������But regardless, with a fulltime offer in hand your search for a job has finally come to a definitive end. Or has it?

It would be silly to think that every intern across the board has a positive summer experience. After all, the old school way of doing things was that internships were cutthroat programs that were unofficial “try outs” for only the top flight of students. Only if the i-ship was successful for both parties would a firm extend an offer. But remember, these were “real” internships with more in-depth work being done than the average fleets of thousands that we have now. Back then if a student didn’t receive an internship, it was not nearly the Scarlet Letter it is in today’s system. But in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of way, the modern day internship program is just one giant recruiting pipeline tool. You know it. I know it. Everyone (including the professors) know it.

What about that intern at ABC LLC that feels incredible pressure to accept the offer, oftentimes when recruiters remind them of how much the firms have invested in said student (University happy hours. Dinners. “Trainings” in Florida. I don’t need to keep going.). Is it worth risking not getting an offer from another firm during the Fall recruiting season? Afraid of being labeled as a “risky” candidate?

So, interns – what the hell are you supposed to do? Here are a few ideas.

Same firm, different role – This is the easier change to make. Maybe you interned in financial services tax, but you have a yearning to get involved with non-profit or corporate clients. Speak to your recruiter about the possibility of transferring your offer to a different group. This does not mean you can make the move from Assurance to Forensic advisory, however. Stay within the skill set your internship provided.

This kind of move will only be possible if the group you’d like to transfer to has vacant spaces. For example, if the corporate tax group has 10 fulltime needs for FY2012 and they extended five fulltime offers to interns, you have a decent shot of transferring groups. If there were nine offers made for the same ten spots, your chances are much slimmer. Why? Because your recruiter (and really, the practice leader) will want to keep some room in the budget in case the next big tax star is found on campus in the fall. If you are going to request a change, be absolutely sure it’s where you want to be. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot 1-2 years down the road from now.

Request a deadline extension – Look at the deadline on your offer. Got it? Good. Now go look at your university’s fall career fair schedule. Same date? Pretty damn close to it? Mmmhmm.

The turn-around on fulltime offers is a short window for two reasons: 1) because of the “you should be dying to work for us” Kool-aid and 2) because the recruiting teams need to know how many people to hire from campus. This is a fair and understandable, but it can put potential hires in a sticky situation if they are unsure of where they’d like to be come graduation.

Put your feelers out to the other firms early – before getting back to campus – Tell them about the positive experience you had during your internship, but express your continued interest in pursuing a fulltime option with them. It’s okay to ask them if there is any chance to be considered in the fall; recruiters do not waste time, especially their own. If you receive positive feedback from other firms, request an extension for your offer. Send your recruiter an email asking to speak with them over the phone; remain positive throughout the conversation (about your internship experience, your relationship with them, etc.); kindly ask for an extension. Most importantly, have a date in mind. Ask the other firms what their timelines are for interviewing on campus and extending offers. They are not immune to the situation themselves, and they will understand the sensitive timing.

Important to keep in mind: the conversation rate (interns who receive, then accept fulltime offers) is a critical aspect in many firms’ performance rankings for the recruiting staff, so it is in the recruiters’ best interest to do what is in their ability to land every acceptance possible. It should also be noted that the relationship you have within the practice you interned with and your recruiter are influential wild cards in these situations. The stronger the relationship, the more flexibility you will be privy to.

Seasoned vets – what advice can you give to you future staff members? Dish your details below.

Engineer Curious to Know if an Advisory Role with PwC or Deloitte Would Be a Good Opportunity

Ed. note: Looking for career guidance from a couple of Big 4 expats or our resident permanently ink-stained wench? Email us at [email protected].

Hello,

I have become an avid reader of your website and need your help regarding an opportunity. I have an engineering background and 5 years of experience in the heavy construction industry specifically oil & gas. In hopes to moving on to something different and possibly working as a consultant I have got a chance to work at PWC and Deloitte in a senior associate advisory role. I do know that these companies are primarily in audit but the sales pitch they gave me was that they were trying to build the Capital Projects Advisory division. Do you all think it is good opportunity?

Sincerely,
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

Dear Chugs,

As a self-proclaimed avid reader, I hope you caught the post I did in June about the engineering consultant in a similar situation as yours. Check it out for feedback focused on what to do once you start at your new gig in a Big 4’s advisory practice.

That said, you’re asking if the chance to work at the #1 or #2 public accounting firms in the world are “good” opportunities. I follow up your question with one of my own:

If working for #1 or #2 is not a good opportunity, what more are you looking for?

So yes, they are great opportunities to jump start your career into the “consulting” slash advisory biz. Sure, they crank out audits and tax returns, but those are very different revenue generating streams than their advisory practices. To put things in more engineering terms – wary of working in the advisory group of PwC or DT because they perform assurance services is like turning down an aerospace engineering job at GE because they also make light bulbs.

Assuming the offer details are similar, look at each firm’s Capital Projects practices. Which group is more established? Have they made other external hires recently? What is each group’s current market share/focus, and what are long term plans?

Good luck with whichever role you pursue, and welcome to the Big 4 community.

Cheers,
DWB

Military Man Needs Help Transitioning into Public Accounting

Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at [email protected].

Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualitiSCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).

My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.

Couple of things to consider:

Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.

Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.

Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.

Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.

Career Equation: CPA + MBA/CFA = Hooray?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected] and at the very least, we’ll keep you from getting involved with re-writing a Katy Perry song.

Hi Caleb,

I am a CPA with 5 years experience in a 2nd tier firm (i.e. BDO, Grant Thornton), with the first two years in the Financial Services audit group, and have spent the last three years in Financial Services tax group. All five years, I have pretty much been working on Hedge Funds, ��������������������, etc. Recently, I have come to the realization that I’m getting a little bored of accounting. I still have an interest in the financial markets, and would like to explore opportunities on the investment side, possibly as an analyst at either a fund or investment bank. I spoke to a buddy at one of the major investment banks who gave me some advice. He mentioned that my skills serving Financial Services clients as well as having an understanding of financial statements should translate well to an analyst type of role at a fund or investment bank. He also mentioned that to get my foot in the door, my choices are either to get an Ivy League MBA or take the CFA exam. With that said, I have the following questions: 1) Is it correct that a fund or investment bank would value my skills in terms of placing me in an analyst type of role? 2) What would be the better option, going for the MBA or studying for the CFA (keep in mind that I’d prefer studying for the CFA given the fact that tax season makes it difficult to attend class)? 3) Would I have to wait till I finish an MBA program or pass all 3 parts of the CFA exam or would I be able to make the change after say a couple of semesters into an MBA program or having passed one part of the CFA exam? I would appreciate your insight.

Sincerely,
Bored of Accounting

Dear BoA (no, not the flailing AIG target),


Before I take my red pen to your hopeful ambitions of being an analyst, let’s take a few minutes to quickly set two things straight:

#1 – You should not be going to work at a bankUBS. Credit Suisse. RBS. Goldman. Barclays. Morgan Stanley. No, not a list of places you’re qualified to work because you know how to read a cash flow and prep a K-1. Cuts. Firings. Shit bonuses (relative). SEC in your face. Why the hell would you want to work for a bank, regardless of your level of qualification? You haven’t been auditing banks. You’ve been working in asset management.

#2 I’m going to assume you’re referring to a real analyst position – Not a management company accountant job that the HR guru at RBS slapped a “financial analyst” title on to make the recruiting process easier (“oh, but you’ll have the chance to MOVE AROUND IN THE GROUP YAYYYY.”) That shit doesn’t happen. So, judging by your CFA and MBA speak, you’re referring to a real analyst position, right? Right. Good, now on to your questions.

Q: Is it correct that a fund or investment bank would value my skills in terms of placing me in an analyst type of role?

DWB: You can answer this yourself. Analyze your own experiences – what makes you qualified for such a position? With a little digging on LinkedIn and a basic understanding of your firm’s asset management clients, I can assume that most of your clients fall into the long/short strategy (maybe some bank debt, probably no high yield or event driven exposure). What are your “skills”? K-1 preparation? Washes? Auditing control testwork? Reviewing a waterfall calc? Accounting, accounting, accounting. “But I read the Journal every day.” – So do I, and I’m in HUMAN RESOURCES. I also read Bloomberg and comment regularly on ZeroHedge, but that doesn’t mean I should be calling the shots on a desk.

Q: What would be the better option, going for the MBA or studying for the CFA (keep in mind that I’d prefer studying for the CFA given the fact that tax season makes it difficult to attend class)?

DWB: If you’re going the MBA – and based on your current experience – you need a top 10 MBA program. Attending night school at CUNY Baruch for an MBA will not do the trick. With regards to the CFA – you need to get to level 2 at a minimum. Level 1 is pie.

Q: Would I have to wait till I finish an MBA program or pass all 3 parts of the CFA exam or would I be able to make the change after say a couple of semesters into an MBA program or having passed one part of the CFA exam?

DWB: You really want to make the move? Forget the CFA for now, get into a top 10 MBA program, drop out of work, and go fulltime. Seriously. This will give you the opportunity to network with your classmates, pursue summer internships and rotational programs, and get things done (meaning – move on from accounting) in an efficient manner.

Listen, I’m just trying to be honest. None of this is meant to pee in your Cheerios or diminish what you’ve done so far in your career (by all accounts, you’ve been very successful). But think about the greater picture – the banks are in the shitter, the economy is sloppy mess, and the market is flooded with Ivy grads coming off of fresh experience from the banks’ two year programs. Simply put – you’re not on the same playing level. If you know how to maximize the profitability in the futures market on tankers trekking through hurricane season while carrying retail goods from China to US ports, then maybe we should talk but until then…it will be easier to stick with what you’re good at. Try getting into a middle office role at a fund, or even a role working as the #2 to the CFO of a small fund. Sure, you’ll have to close the books at the end of the month, but you’ll also have exposure to investment meetings, investor relations duties, etc. over time.

Corporate Accountant With a Broken Shift Key Seeks New Career

(Only until Caleb stops hitting on hot Polish girls) Ed. note: if you have a career question for our team of accounting drop-outs plus the one loser who never took the CPA exam, get in touch.

I am a young professional, I have an undegrad [sic] degree in finance and am finishing a masters in accounting. I’ve worked for 2.5 years in corporate accounting and 3 years in accounting/finance for a university. I have no public accounting experience. I want to gain a role in transaction advisory or the like.

I was recently offered a job with a small/mid size public firm in a Senior Associate role for their transactions group. The offer is 60k. should i jump at this offer, am i lucky to get a senior role? Should i hold out for a public firm in an associate role?

Can i make the jump from the midsize firm as a senior to a big 4 as a senior in a few years?

Thanks!
[Name redacted for privacy reasons. Let’s call him Barnabus]

Barnabus,
I’m going to keep this short because the financial world might come to an end before I reach the fourth paragraph.

I suggest you heed the Blacksmith’s advice and strike while the iron is hot.

The transaction advisory groups across the public accounting spectrum are heating back up from their frigid days of ’08 and ’09, with hiring numbers up for both the experienced and entry-level channels. Although your degrees will serve you well in your career, your 5.5 years of experience don’t bring much relevant experience to the table. Would it be nice to wait and see if you can land a transaction advisory role at a Big4? Sure. But with the market down 200 300 400 OMFG 500 POINTS TODAY, unemployment spreading like viral Bieber videos, and the economy stuck in park with four blown out tires and an elephant sitting on its trunk, you take the open door and thank your lucky #*&@ing stars your particular iron is hot. You have an opportunity to make a move right now in your career that will put your career on the track you want.

Philosophy Major Considering a Big 4 Career Needs a Reality Check, Better Grades

(Acting) Ed. note: if you have a question for our team of highly knowledgeable monkeys, email [email protected] and we’ll be happy to make fun of you in front of your peers, superiors and the Internet-at-large, unless it’s a good question, in which case we will do our best to give you awesome information.

Hello!

I found the advice column on your blog so I thought I would ask you this question:

I recently graduated from a state school in the California State University system as a Philosophy major. My original plan was to go to law school, but I am now thinking I may want to go into accounting instead (due to the terrible job market for lawyers and the 150k debt I’d be faced with). Parike to work at a Big 4 firm. Is this change possible? I found a “Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate” at Portland State University (I’d like to end up in Portland if possible). Does that program have any chance of helping me land a Big 4 job, or does it lack prestige? If you’d like to suggest the best post-bac/master’s program for me you should know that the only math I’ve taken is statistics 1, and I’ve taken micro econ and macro econ, but aside from that I’d be starting from scratch. My undergrad GPA is 3.13, which I believe is a little low for the Big 4. Could I make up for that with a good post-bac certificate GPA, or perhaps a good master’s GPA if that is the route I should go?

Thank you for your help!

Listen, Ambulance-Chaser-cum-Capital-Market-Hero, you need to slow down and do a little more research on the Big 4 before you even attempt this stunt. The Big 4 don’t want some 3.13er who originally picked a different profession and then just kind of stumbled upon accounting as a more “viable” option due to the long-term (or even short) career opportunities. Sorry the law school plan didn’t work out but no allegedly prestigious firm is going to want you with your “certificate” (unless it is one of these) and low GPA. So if I were you and actually attempting this, I would be sure to spin those particular details into as much gold as possible. Don’t lie but don’t be so upfront about it either.

You admit that you’re new here so I won’t rail on you too but hard I will highly recommend you catch up on some advice columns (and especially their comments) we’ve done before. If we can sniff out your “well looks like you’re the only viable option” attitude via email, I can only imagine which method recruiters will use to avoid your emails and talk about you behind your back.

You still have a chance here if (and that’s a huge if) you actually want to do this, get yourself into a real program and not some funky certificate program, you might as well get a degree from some adult college advertised during Maury Povich for as much good as that will do you. And for Christ’s sake, at least try to pull a 3.8.

Fast track the CPA exam if you can but I get the sneaking suspicion that you are one of the candidates who will end up having to take BEC 7 times based on the fact that accounting is not your background and you don’t seem all that excited about the prospect of ticking and tying your good years away for “The Man,” but are instead focused on making a few bucks in an industry that’s still actually hiring because your first choice is a really awful one. In my experience, those who do best on the CPA exam are those who actually want to do it (shocking, I know). The ones who are forcing themselves because of the economy, their parents, their boss, etc are the ones who fail miserably over and over, usually with infuriating 74s. If you managed 4 years of philosophy, you’re probably too right-brained for the CPA anyway.

Big 4 recruiters do hit Portland State but you’re going to have a hell of a time explaining to them what you did with the last four years of your life and convincing them that you’re in it for the long-term and not just to have a job ’til the economy looks better.

We’re not going to do your job for you and recommend “the best” program for you, but nice try. We recommend Google, it’s a pretty helpful career tool. That’s how you found us, right?

I’m not saying it can’t be done but you need to be realistic here. The industry has already reached its quota of useless, mediocre assholes who don’t know which side debits go on. If you’re OK with being an AP clerk or working at a smaller firm I say go for it but with your “credentials,” I wouldn’t count on having to beat off the Big 4 recruiters with a stick any time soon.

An Accounting Director, Who Really Needs a Drink, Needs Advice on His Next Career Move

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Advice gurus,

I’m a Accounting Director (upgraded staff accountant really) at a small non-profit. I’ve been with the org since getting out of college 2 years ago. My firm loves me but I’ve decided to switch, mainly because I’m not liking the AD position. First because come close of the year and January, I pretty much want to drown my life in as many Guinesses as I can find. 80+ hours per week just sucks after a while and my org doesn’t let me drink. 🙁 Second is personal – I’m wanting to be closer to family and friends.

I took the AD job because I thought it would put me well on my way to a CFO job down the road. So my question is this, are there other good ways to get to that end without going AD, Controller, CFO or something similar? Do I just need to suck it up and keep being an AD for a few more years before I can move to a controller position? Finally, if I take a staff accountant position how does that look? Thanks.

-Can’t wait to drink again

Good afternoon Guiness,
If being a CFO is your goal, you need to assess the qualities and skillsets that CFOs in your industry possess. Consider a few things when doing so:

1. Get Your CPA – There’s no denying the importance of getting the three letters next to your name. As you progress you in career, having a CPA will keep doors open for you. Read up on Adrienne’s great CPA coverage if you don’t know where to start.

2. Lose the title – You’re still very young in your career, so my advice to you is to worry less about titles and more about opportunities that open doors and expose you to a variety of accounting responsibilities. This is meant as no offense to you and your career thus far, but a staff accountant at a large corporation most likely sees more complicated accounting issues than say, a charity bookstore. Roll up your sleeves and challenge yourself.

3. Location – before you have a spouse, kids and a mortgage, get back to where you want to be. It will be easier to find a staff-level job than a specialized, more technical job that you’ll be qualified for five years from now. And call your mother, she misses you.

4. It’s not like Mad Men but… – The liquor store sells the little nip bottles for a reason. It’s a scientific fact that whiskey helps ease the frustration of 80+ hour work weeks.

May the drink-at-work Spirits be with you,
DWB

First World Problem: When Does a Big 4 Tax Accountant Jump Ship for a Job at a Hedge Fund?

Ed. note: Do you have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Dear Going Concern,

I have been in Big 4 FS Tax for the past two years and recently was promoted to Senior. Headhunters have been calling me with great opportunities in the tax departments of Hedge Fund/PE firms. The pay increase is significant and the hours will undoubtedly be better. However, I’m worried about leaving Public Accounting too early in my career. My eventual career goal is to become a Controller or CFO at a Hedge Fund. The headhunters I’ve spoken with insist that HF/PE firms prefer candidates with a mix of Public and Private experience for those positions. I’m wondering if I should stick around until making manager at Big 4 or if, as the headhunters recommend, leaving now as a Senior is the right move for me.

Thanks,
First world problem

Dear First World Problem,


Alright, listen up. The most important thing to do when you want to start looking for a role is to find a headhunter or two that you trust (and hopefully can trust you to not tattle on them for $5 worth of Starbucks). Yes, we all loathe headhunters. They call, they email; some pester more than others. Sure, most are in the same pool with real estate brokers (an evil means to an end), but there are some that see you as more than a pay-day and will serve as excellent resources throughout your career. A good recruiter will send you a select handful of opportunities that fit exactly what you’re looking for, not a blast email with 17 write-ups all containing the same five bullet points.

That said, with two years into your career you’re just starting to see the wave of job opportunities. Two to four years is the window that many most staff roles fall into at hedge/PE firms, both on the fund accounting and tax side. This is because most asset management firms consider the Big 4 (and regional firms that have an alternatives focus) to be training grounds for their back office hires. Why hire an accountant off of a college campus to do fund accounting work when you can have the Big 4 train ‘em up and toughen ‘em, up for you?

However, the difference is that the number of tax staff positions in-house at a hedge/PE firm are limited. Example: a hedge fund running $5bil in assets under management through six separate funds needs a tax director (typically 7+ years of public/private) and a staff member to assist with work. The same firm would have Sr. Controller/CFO, 1-3 fund controllers and a small staff of accountants running the day-to-day. Because of this prime example in supply and demand, I’d encourage you to interview for any and all roles that interest you, but more important than when you leave is what you leave for. In your case, being a CFO is your ultimate goal – you should be looking at opportunities that are a blend of tax and fund accounting. These roles typically exist at less institutionalized funds, so do your due diligence on opportunities at the likes of Och-Ziff, Blackstone, Fortress, etc. Talk to your recruiter about your long term goals and the need to better position yourself by diversifying your professional experiences. Right now you know K1’s, wash sales and partner allocations; a good recruiter knows what it takes to get you on the Controller/CFO track. It might be the first firm you interview with, or the tenth. When you find it, you’ll know.

IRS Agent Wants to Know If There’s Life After Government Work

Welcome to the when-do-the-blackouts-start edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an IRS revenue agent is thinking about the future and wonders if there is anything to look forward to after a stretch inside the House of Shulman. Will he be greeted with contempt or disdain by potential employers outside of the Treasury Department?

Trapped in your job? Not sure if you can bottle up your rage during your upcoming compensation discussion? Need ideas for your next [email protected] and we’ll come up with something to bring everyone closer together.

Back to the Shulman Soldier:

Dear Career Advice Brain Trust,

I am currently a freshly minted IRS revenue agent in the Northeast right out of school. I’m the guy that audits the tax returns of small business and the self-employed (Schedule C’s and 1120’s). I’ve been at the job for about 10 months, and lately I’ve been starting to wonder: if this whole IRS thing doesn’t pan out, what are my options? Do public accounting firms of any size see any value in the experience gained here? From what I’ve experienced, employment at the IRS is a one-way street, either attracting grads with the ink still wet from their degree, or mid-career public accountants who value personal and family time more than money. Since I’m a young grad with no family to speak of, I feel like a lot of the non-monetary benefits are lost on me.

This job has its pros and cons. It’s probably one of the safest jobs in the country for anyone with an accounting degree, and it’s borderline illegal to work more than 40 hours per week because we’re unionized. Supposedly once you’re in for a few years, you can do “anything you want” within the organization, but I find that hard to believe because due to our reduced FY 2012 budget, we’re the last class to be hired for a while, so who is going to keep doing my job when everyone goes to do “anything they want?” Also, after 3-4 years, the salaries plateau big time, and we definitely make less than our public accounting counterparts throughout our careers. Furthermore, it literally takes an act of Congress to get anything substantial changed.

So my bottom line question to you (and the readers) is this: if I wanted to jump ship and go somewhere that my title carries a little less universal hatred, as well as advance my career prospects, what could I expect for opportunities, particularly in the public accounting sector?

Sincerely,
Agent Curious

Dear Agent Curious,

I’m happy to say that you’re first IRS agent to come to us for advice. Whether that means you value what we have to say or you’re simply desperate isn’t clear but regardless, thanks for reaching out.

Now then. Your problem. Personally, I feel as though the stigma associated with working for the IRS is a little overblown. Just because some of your colleagues chase down loose change and politicians call you names, that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that aren’t valuable for private employers. The knowledge you are curating about small businesses and their compliance issues are extremely valuable and many CPA firms would gladly talk to you about your experience and how it will work for them and their clients.

Furthermore, with your inside knowledge about the Service and how is picks and chooses returns for audit, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by saying, “I assure you this will result in a Young Buck-esque raid of your business.” This knowledge of the inner workings might even be more valuable than what you actually learn on the job.

Right now, your best opportunities would be with public accounting firms that specialize in tax compliance for small businesses. Just like any other job, if you are able to jump around inside the Service and see various types of returns (partnerships, larger businesses), your skill set will be even more valuable. A few more years doing Doug Shulman’s dirty work could pay big dividends down the road.

Any former/current IRS agents out there with insight? Drop your knowledge in the comments.

Big 4 Boomerang: Former Auditor, Bored with Corporate Gig, Wants to Join Advisory Group

Ed. Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Dear Going Concern,

I started my career in B4 Assurance, got the bump to SA relatively quickly (1.5 yrs), stuck it out for another year, then jumped ship for corporate goodness (Fortune 100 – double the money, half the hours). I’ve been doing that for 5 years now, and I feel like I’ve plateaued. I’ve been promoted 3 times in those 5 years, but I’m sufficiently elevated in the corporate ranks now that my next step is likely to be more a function of “serving my time” rather than continued innovation and stand-out work product; a war of attrition, if you will. I put in 40 hours in a rough week, don’t travel, and my comp is on par with (or slightly in excess of) a B4 Senior Manager in major markets (think NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc).

So, on to my dilemma: Am I crazy to be considering a jump back to B4? I miss the challenging work, and the energetic work-force, but I don’t necessarily miss working 80 hours a week. My primary driver is to be interested and engaged in what I do every day. Making partner and a seven figure income is a nice idea, but is just an afterthought in the context of this decision. I wouldn’t make this move expecting to become a partner (although if that’s how it played out, hooray for me). I’m looking for your candid feedback, criticism, blunt verbal beat downs, etc. I’m also looking for input from the GC rank and file – particularly those that have done what I’m considering: B4 -> cush corporate gig -> back to B4.

Let’s assume for the sake of this question that with my skill set, I could re-enter as the equivalent of an experienced Manager, or first year Senior Manager in one of the Advisory practices. Let’s also assume that I have partner friends at all of the Big4, that my experience and academic pedigree are top notch, and that I have a lot of corporate contacts that are ideal for selling new business. So essentially, the option is there – I just have to choose to do it.

Sincerely,

Glutton4Big4

Dear Glutton4Big4,

Crazy is a relative term, and we’re all a little crazy around here at GC. I find your confidence in both your Big 4 and private industry contacts to be refreshing and brazen. Who cares that the economy is still a sputtering engine block inside a car chassis that’s resting on blocks, you have connections! Of course you’ll get a job back in public! OF COURSE your private industry drinking buds will want to sever whatever pre-existing consulting relationships they have with other vendors and go wherever you are!

My advice is simple – play both fields. Look into the Big 4s and their needs for someone with your background and experience in addition to pursuing opportunities that might be with your corporate contacts. You are not necessarily locking yourself into a career in public should you transition into a Big 4 advisory practice, whereas returning to assurance would be moral and career suicide. The advisory lines are generally more fluid opportunities and can act as stepping stones back into a corporate world after a few years.

For those breezing the submission above, Glutton’s career has been as follows:

• 2.5 years in public (assurance)
• 5 years in private
• Potentially back to public (advisory)

Has anyone in the peanut gallery done this? Share your horror stories or little victories below.

Freaked Out Recruit Needs Fashion Tips for PwC Leaderhip Program

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Subject: Career Emergency

Well, not really. I’m just freaking out.

I have an office visit with PwC tomorrow. I’m doing a leadership program with them in two weeks. From what I’ve read online, office visits consist of interviews; however, the recruiter said dress for tomorrow is “business casual.” Can I really show up to an interview in khakis? I’m worried as small as wearing the wrong thing could ruin a potential internship offer. Gotta love the superficiality of public accounting. So do I rock a suit despite the recruiter saying busineisk underdressing for an interview?

Thanks in advance,
Freaked out junior

Dear Freaked Out,

No reason to panic, that’s what GC is here for. Since Caleb’s work attire is best suited for the pool these days (aka his “working office”) he asked that I respond to your message.

First off, congratulations on earning a spot in PwC’s two week leadership program. You are correct that there will be interviews at one point during the program, but you should also be viewing the entire two weeks as an interview. You will be evaluated throughout the period – how you interact with your peers; how you involve yourself in the group discussions; how you interview during the formal interview portion. The PwC recruiters will not only be making their own observations but they will also be soliciting feedback from the younger staff professionals who volunteer throughout the weeks. Be cognizant of the fact that every PwC professional you speak to could influence whether or not you receive an offer for the following summer.

Now – back to fashion. Unless you heard specifically from someone at the firm that interviews will be on the first day, you needn’t worry about suiting up tomorrow. They (the recruiters) want you to succeed, so they will tell you in advance about when the interviews will be. That said, it is always wise to make a positive impression on the first day. Below are a few tips on making sure you’re on spot for the first day:

Business casual: There is business casual and then there is public accounting business casual. The latter involves a wrinkled blue Oxford dress shirt and a pair of semi-pressed khakis. Sure, this counts as business casual, but…why? Do yourself a favor and avoid mimicking the Best Buy uniform on your first day.

My advice: If the recruiter said no suit, then don’t wear one (step 1 to receiving an offer is following directions). But it’s possible to have your business casual lean towards business professional without crossing the line. Go with either A) a suit (matching jacket and pants) or B) blue blazer with either grey or olive dress pants or khakis and then match with a pressed button down shirt. Avoid the plain white shirt if you can, as these are best paired with ties and you’re leaving yours at home for the day. The shirt you wear should work well with and without the jacket. These outfit options give you the ability to quickly “dress down” by leaving the jacket on the back of your chair during informal ice breakers but also allow you to quickly formalize yourself on the off-chance you’re meeting with a partner.

Additional tidbits:

• Brown/black – brown shoes and belts generally match with khaki better than black, but wear what you have and what you like. Also, make sure your shoes are polished.
• Suit/blazer jackets – double check to make sure the pockets and vents are open. Any string keeping a pocket closed is left over from production and is meant to be removed; it will come out rather easily. Also, remove the suit’s brand name tag from the sleeve if you haven’t already – only you should know your suit is Hugo Boss or JoS. A. Bank.
• Check the weather – if there’s a probability for rain, bring an umbrella. Don’t chance getting stuck in a summer storm.
• White socks: Just…don’t.

Any other advice from the peanut gallery? Share them in the comments.

Big 4 Newbie Wants the Scoop on Choosing an Industry

Welcome to the whose-missing-fingers? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. Today, a fall new hire is asking about industry placement at his Big 4 firm. How to choose, what to avoid, you know, the ushe.

Feeling violated? Is your firm’s macho culture cramping your delicate sensibilities? Need to get something off your chest and want a partner to be the one who hears it? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll share some magic words.

Meanwhile, back at school:

Dear Going Concern,

I’m going to be starting as a college [i.e. new] hire in assurance at a Big 4 firm in the fall (I was not previously a summer intern). I still haven’t heard any information about what industry I will be placed in. Which are the most desired industries, and which should be avoided like the plague? Do the firms have any methodology in in placing new hires in industry groups?

Thanks,

Procrastinating Exam Studier

Dear Procrastinating,

Why you felt the need to hint at your lack of CPA exam preparedness is curious but that’s AG’s beat, so take it up with her but prepare yourself for a verbal assault.

As for the question at hand, you have to look at this like you’re choosing from a lineup of people with whom you’ve gotten biblical to be your significant other. None of them are perfect but there are definitely pros and cons to each. It’s best to experience a few of your interests before you jump in head first with one particular option. Then, after playing the field a bit, you can determine: 1) Are you pursuing one possibility knowing that it’s a dead end? 2) Is one option hot for you but things aren’t mutual? 3) Is another choice easy but doesn’t have much going in the way of intellectual stimulation? You get the idea.

One other consideration is the city where you live. If you’re interested in the energy business, New York City isn’t going to have much to offer. Likewise, if you would like to explore things in the entertainment industry, you won’t find much in Kansas City. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Most cities will have the following industries: Financial Services, Consumer and Industrial Products, Information/Communciations/Technology, Healthcare/Public Sector/Governmental. Of course certain places have a higher concentration of these industries (e.g. NYC and Financial Services, DC and Governmental), so that will determine demand for particular areas. Lots of people get roped into F/S in places like New York and Chicago because there is lots of work, thus the need for warm bodies. That’s basically how firms decide who goes where – the need. Managers tell schedulers that they need a body and your name just gets thrown on a job. Unless you speak up, to your career/performance counselor. Be sure they know what you’re interests are, otherwise you’re just a new name that will end up wherever there is demand.

I’ll leave the “good industry v. bad industry” debate to the peanut gallery, as that varies by city but I will tell you that if you are in a market like New York, working in Financial Services is the best route simply because you’ll have many options when you decide to leave your firm. The work is hard and it’s competitive but it’ll be worth it long-term. Choose wisely.

Deloitte Auditor Wants to Know if Joining KPMG’s IT Advisory Group Is a Good Idea

Editor’s Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Hello C,

So with the new found (and welcome) love for Advisory on goingconcern.com I feel comfortable posing my question:
I am currently a 2nd year at D&T audit in Dallas, I am contemplating a move to KPMG’s IT advisory, I currently make $54k and KPMG has offered me $60k. I have some IT in my background and enjoy IT related stuff but don’t want to be stuck in Audit support as an IT Advisory Associate. KPMG has promised me the ability to move within Advisory…so here is my list of questions:

1. Would that switch be the right move for my long term career growth?

DWB:I cannot speak clearly on what your long term career growth can or cannot be without knowing what your goals are. Being that you’re two years into your career, I’m not expecting you to fully know either. That said, I suggest that you look at this in two ways: 1) what are you long term career options if you stay at DT, and 2) what are your options if you leave and enter the advisory practice at KPMG? Weigh these options with your roughly outlined career goals and take it from there. In your favor is the fact that Dallas is a larger market for both firms, so options are not as limited as they would be elsewhere.

2. Should I take the opportunity to progress towards specializing in an ERP and get more technical with IT or eventually switch to M&A/Forensics (another interest of mine).

DWB: Listen – playing first base for the Yankees is an interest of mine but it simply isn’t going to happen. I’m not saying you can’t bounce over to M&A or Forensic (drop the “s” from the name and realize they’re two separate groups at KPMG), but I am hinting at the fact that it is going to be difficult. Advisory lines of business are BOOMING right now for the Big 4, which means they have the ability to go to market and hire individuals with relevant talent. Also, should you move out of IT, that’s just one more position KPMG would have to fill as well. I’m not doubting your talents, skillset, and drive, but I don’t plan on batting clean up anytime soon.

3. What do I do after a few years of KPMG IT Advisory experience? would I be considered for Controller type (because of my Acct degree and Audit exp) jobs or only CIO career path (due to the IT tag)?

DWB: If the market dips again, prepare to fight for your current job. Advisory lines at Big 4 are the first to get slashed when the going gets tough (more discretionary lines of business, too dependent on an active client base, etc.), and IT Advisory at KPMG was slaughtered back in 2008/2009. Also, your two years of audit experience hardly prepare you to compete with senior staff and manager public accountants interviewing for the same controller roles.

4. Am I getting paid a competitive salary at $60k?

Honestly, I have no idea. Can someone in the peanut gallery chime in? What are experienced associates in Dallas making in IT advisory these days? If my gut tells me correctly, you’re a steal for KPMG. One more thing I want to harp on, although I touched on it above in #2:
“KPMG has promised me the ability to move within advisory.” This line is out of the Recruiting for Dummies. The different business lines in Big 4 advisory – as close as they may work together – are very specialized in their skill sets. Being an expert on SAS 70 reviews does not automatically make you an expert with regards to historical due diligence analysis and breaking down a company’s EBIDTA numbers.

How to Reject an Accounting Firm’s Offer

Welcome to the de minimis edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young accountant wants to know how to reject a firm in the most professional way possible. Is it best to give them the Band-aid™ treatment or can you simply not call and hope they get the hint?

Are you surrounded by idiots? Worried your firm is morphing into something undesirable? Thinking of giving it all up for a shot a culinary immortality? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll help you become the next Ray Kroc.

Returning to the rejector:

Dear GC,

I have two FT offers from mid-size firms. I know which offer I want to accept but my question is what is the best/most professional way to “reject” the other firm? Is it better to call or email them and how should I word it?

These two firms are competitors and they both know I have interned with the other. My second question is should I try to leverage the firm I want to accept from and negotiate a higher starting salary? I’m not sure I even want to bother if there is a possibility of “burning any bridges” with either firm if I’d only get an extra grand or two. I just graduated and this is my first time in this situation. Any advice from you or the GC community would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Here’s the thing – rejecting a firm isn’t like rejecting a human being. They don’t have feelings so don’t be afraid to be honest. Sure the person you speak to may sound disappointed but trust me when I say that they’ve heard it all before. That said, sending them an email with an image of your photocopied ass attached is not advisable. Your message can be communicated by either phone call or email and can give as little or as much detail as you like. You can keep it vague, “I’ve decided to accept another offer,” decline any pressing by your rejectee or you can go into detail, “I chose Firm A because [insert reason],” as long as you don’t feel like this is your opportunity to share thoughts on everything that is wrong with their firm. The person listening to you will appreciate your honesty and you can feel good that you’ve kept a professional decorum throughout the process.

What you don’t do, is this:

I recently learned [a recruit] cancelled his second round interview with us- said he broke his ankle and went to the ER- but was seen out partying that same night by one of our former interns.

This was sent to Adrienne by an HR professional at a firm regarding a potential recruit. Granted, this person may not have gotten an offer to begin with but considering the tact involved with this rejection, the firm is better without this loser.

As for trying to use one firm against the other to leverage a higher salary, this is hardly the time in your career to play hardball over your salary.

Bottom line is that you can reject a firm in a direct. professional manner and who knows, the contact may serve you in the future when/if your current situation doesn’t pan out. Or you can be ‘fraidy cat and tell them your mother is sick and you’re re-examining your life choices. That will your professionalism somewhere in between toddler and pre-pubescence. Choose wisely.