Future Big 4 Associate Needs Help Choosing Between Commuting Hell and a Happy Marriage

Ed. Note: DWB was sober long enough today to pen this post for the Friday edition of Accounting Career Couch. If you’ve got a question for us email us at advice@goingconcern.com. We’ll dispense with further pleasantries and get right to it.

I just received three offers from two Big 4 firms in San Francisco (Deloitte and KPMG) for audit and one Big 4 firm for advisory internal audit in San Jose. I really like the idea of going into advisory but the problem is that I live in San Francisco and the advisory clients for this firm are all located around San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This would likely mean at least a one hour and 15 minute commute every day each way from SF to SJ and back againlients I would likely be working on from SF are all located within 20 minutes of my apartment in the city. Moving to San Jose is out of the question for me because my wife works in SF and I’m not ready for a divorce just yet. My question to you and Going Concern readers is should I take the advisory job despite the crazy commute or should I take one of the audit positions?

I’d still be very happy taking one of the audit positions but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the more consistent working hours of advisory internal audit didn’t appeal to me much more than audit (no insane busy season in advisory). Much of this benefit would be negated by my much longer commute though. Also, if I choose advisory I would be likely getting reimbursed $0 for my commute since the job is based out of the SJ office and I am based in SF. Although $0.50 a mile doesn’t sound like a lot, it really does add up to several thousand dollars in missed reimbursement expenses for such a long commute (assuming 80 miles a day in reimbursable driving). Also, the advisory position pay is slightly less to begin with (approximately $1,500 less) than my audit offers. Other considerations that I am thinking about are that many people from the Deloitte office (mostly associates) have said that the Deloitte SF office is understaffed. To me this means more opportunity for advancement but also more hours of work. Also, I feel that if I started in audit I could do two years of audit and if I didn’t like it then could jump ship to advisory in SF rather than having to start at advisory in SJ and beg to get a transfer to the SF advisory practice in a year or two. So what should I do? Should the lengthy and costly commute for advisory versus audit be a deal breaker? Will I struggle to break into advisory after two years in audit if I decide to make the switch?

Hopefully I’ve given enough info about my choices so that DWBraddock will stop complaining about us not saying enough in our requests for advice.

Kudos to you and your detailed email. Peons of the accounting world – take note [Ed. note: but there is something to be said for brevity. Yeesh.].

First off, my advice is from the “this is usually how it works” camp. Are there exceptions? Of course, and I’m sure that commenters will point them out.

Are you sure you will be reimbursed for every single mile that you travel? The HR policy is typically the net difference between your home to the office and your home to the client site. For example if you live 50 miles from the office and the client site is 53 miles from your home, you are reimbursed for the three mile difference. I strongly encourage you to consult HR before you go re-adjusting the all-in value of the advisory offer with thousands of dollars of mileage.

Now that I crushed your dream of banking $1,000’s, let’s discuss the audit vs. internal audit battle. You make a lot of assumptions in your email, but I think these bullets cover everything you discussed:

• Internal audit should not be looked at as a green-lighted pass to jump around the advisory practice. Many advisory roles are target recruited and are very specialized from a work capacity point of view. The name “advisory” doesn’t mean the roles are similar; it’s simply a nicer way of saying “everything that’s not audit and tax.”

• You will not be fast-tracked at Deloitte just because they’re short staffed. You will work your ass off.

• It’s easier to go from internal audit to external audit, not the other way around (the way you mentioned).

• Don’t think a transfer is a simple process. There has to be a need in the office you want to transfer to, and considering you’re contemplating and office and practice switch-a-roo in one swift motion…really? This is not a game – this is business and not everyone gets what they want.

• PS – I forwarded this to your wife. She said you’re sleeping on the couch for the next week.

Ed. Note: DWB was sober long enough today to pen this post for the Friday edition of Accounting Career Couch. If you’ve got a question for us email us at advice@goingconcern.com. We’ll dispense with further pleasantries and get right to it.

I just received three offers from two Big 4 firms in San Francisco (Deloitte and KPMG) for audit and one Big 4 firm for advisory internal audit in San Jose. I really like the idea of going into advisory but the problem is that I live in San Francisco and the advisory clients for this firm are all located around San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This would likely mean at least a one hour and 15 minute commute every day each way from SF to SJ and back again whereas the audit clients I would likely be working on from SF are all located within 20 minutes of my apartment in the city. Moving to San Jose is out of the question for me because my wife works in SF and I’m not ready for a divorce just yet. My question to you and Going Concern readers is should I take the advisory job despite the crazy commute or should I take one of the audit positions?

I’d still be very happy taking one of the audit positions but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the more consistent working hours of advisory internal audit didn’t appeal to me much more than audit (no insane busy season in advisory). Much of this benefit would be negated by my much longer commute though. Also, if I choose advisory I would be likely getting reimbursed $0 for my commute since the job is based out of the SJ office and I am based in SF. Although $0.50 a mile doesn’t sound like a lot, it really does add up to several thousand dollars in missed reimbursement expenses for such a long commute (assuming 80 miles a day in reimbursable driving). Also, the advisory position pay is slightly less to begin with (approximately $1,500 less) than my audit offers. Other considerations that I am thinking about are that many people from the Deloitte office (mostly associates) have said that the Deloitte SF office is understaffed. To me this means more opportunity for advancement but also more hours of work. Also, I feel that if I started in audit I could do two years of audit and if I didn’t like it then could jump ship to advisory in SF rather than having to start at advisory in SJ and beg to get a transfer to the SF advisory practice in a year or two. So what should I do? Should the lengthy and costly commute for advisory versus audit be a deal breaker? Will I struggle to break into advisory after two years in audit if I decide to make the switch?

Hopefully I’ve given enough info about my choices so that DWBraddock will stop complaining about us not saying enough in our requests for advice.

Kudos to you and your detailed email. Peons of the accounting world – take note [Ed. note: but there is something to be said for brevity. Yeesh.].

First off, my advice is from the “this is usually how it works” camp. Are there exceptions? Of course, and I’m sure that commenters will point them out.

Are you sure you will be reimbursed for every single mile that you travel? The HR policy is typically the net difference between your home to the office and your home to the client site. For example if you live 50 miles from the office and the client site is 53 miles from your home, you are reimbursed for the three mile difference. I strongly encourage you to consult HR before you go re-adjusting the all-in value of the advisory offer with thousands of dollars of mileage.

Now that I crushed your dream of banking $1,000’s, let’s discuss the audit vs. internal audit battle. You make a lot of assumptions in your email, but I think these bullets cover everything you discussed:

• Internal audit should not be looked at as a green-lighted pass to jump around the advisory practice. Many advisory roles are target recruited and are very specialized from a work capacity point of view. The name “advisory” doesn’t mean the roles are similar; it’s simply a nicer way of saying “everything that’s not audit and tax.”

• You will not be fast-tracked at Deloitte just because they’re short staffed. You will work your ass off.

• It’s easier to go from internal audit to external audit, not the other way around (the way you mentioned).

• Don’t think a transfer is a simple process. There has to be a need in the office you want to transfer to, and considering you’re contemplating and office and practice switch-a-roo in one swift motion…really? This is not a game – this is business and not everyone gets what they want.

• PS – I forwarded this to your wife. She said you’re sleeping on the couch for the next week.

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