Recruiting Season: Ascending to Public Accounting Royalty; Choosing Between 3 of the Big 4; Doomed to Depression?

Welcome to the latest edition of Recruiting Advice: Take it or Go Screw Yourself. Have a question about recruiting season? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and put "Recruiting Season Questions" in the subject line.

One programming note – for those of you who are on the hunt for full-time offers this year, be sure to email us as soon as you know your starting salary number (and signing bonus, if applicable). Include your firm, location, and practice, so that there is some method to the madness when we throw up posts on starting salaries. Now, on to this week's letters.
 
"Less-Pretentious-than-Probably-Perceived":
I have been reading for just over a year now and it is abundantly clear that most people want to get out of Dodge by manager and never look back.  I've corroborated this through interaction with other professionals as well, and I completely understand it.
 
I, on the other hand, want to stay until partner.
 
Assuming I have the social and technical skills, a decent pedigree from a target school, the motivation to work all of the hours, and assuming I can be a world class suck up, that I don't change my mind, AND that I have the right amount of luck (attrition, etc.), what are the chances of starting from a Staff 1 nobody and becoming a Managing Partner or having some Area or National Leadership?
 
What kinds of things, beyond what I mentioned, will I have to do?
It is abundantly clear that you've gone right out of your mind, but we'll try to answer you as best we can.
 
In the past, we've discussed the piss-poor odds of simply making partner in the Big 4. Now you want to discuss the chances of being an OMP, an Area/Regional Managing Partner or in National Leadership? This is easy: the short answer to your question of "what are the chances?" is "slim."  The slightly longer answer would include all of the things that you mentioned (luck being a huge factor), however, there is a couple things you can do, in my opinion, that will increase your chances at becoming a bigger-than-average BSD.
 
1. Be willing to move – Whenever you're offered a random agreed-upon-procedures assignment in Budapest, the best thing you can do is accept it. And accept it enthusiastically. Sacrifice life, limb, and your family and social life to move to the ends of creation for your firm. If you look at the current leaders in the largest firms, almost all of them have bounced around like Tigger on ecstasy, and it's in a variety of places around the U.S. and abroad. A lot of people in the firms these days want to do the travel/move thing early in their careers and while that's great, it's your willingness to pick up and leave a place where you have roots that will show the current leadership how committed you are to the firm.
 
And probably MOST importantly:
 
2. Be a fixer – Do you remember when Harvey Keitel appears in Pulp Fiction and simply says, "I solve problems." This has to be you. And again, do it with enthusiasm. The complicated, impossible, chronic pain-in-the-ass things that no one wants to do? You chase these problems down, tackle them to the ground, own them, and then jump up drooling for more. The catch is, obviously, that you could screw one of these problems up and it completely railroads your career. But if your track record of successes versus failures lopsided in the win column, you'll get a reputation as a miracle worker and that will lead to more opportunities for leadership opportunities. 
 
Ultimately, if you want local, regional, or national positions you have to put everything aside for whatever TPTB ask of you after you make partner. If you find a city that you like and you and aren't willing to pack up the fam every 3-5 years, then you have no chance. 
 
"Too many options":
 I have internship offers from three of the Big 4 firms (E&Y, Deloitte and KPMG). Do you have any advice on how I should go about picking which firm to intern at?
It really depends on your location, the clients the firm serves there, and your practice. If you're near Silicon Valley (or interested in emerging tech companies) and are interning in audit, E&Y would probably be my pick since they have some of the sexier clients in those area. If you're in New York, however, you'll have to make a decision that is based more on the people and culture of each firm as all of the firms have lots of opportunities in all three practices (although we hear KPMG has been on the ropes lately).
 
If you're in the DC area, Deloitte and KPMG have the biggest presence in federal government services, so either one of those would be your best bet. In flyover country, Ernst & Young and KPMG have both made hiring announcements in Chicago, although I can't imagine Deloitte starving.
 
In general, it's best to consider what the local reputation for each firm is. If, for example, you hear that E&Y is losing clients like made in Dallas, try to learn more about the situation. Or if Deloitte's Atlanta office is experiencing a mass exodus, that could be a warning sign. The best thing you can do is talk to your professors and other people that have been watching the firms from the outside for an unbiased take.

"Blackhawk Fan":

I will be starting full-time with my Big Four firm soon in a major city.  I will need to move into the city when I start work.  Is it too late to inquire about the firm assisting with moving expenses?  Was this supposed to be negotiated prior to accepting the offer?  In other words, did I blow it and now have to find a way to pony up the dough myself?

It's never "too late" as you put it, but you really didn't blow anything. Find a truck/trailer and be sure to lift with your legs, not with your back.

"Already Depressed":

Having recently graduated, I have an office interview coming up with a top 10 firm and feel really good about my chances of getting an offer. Throughout the process, everyone I've met has seemed really nice and the culture they talk about at the company is something I feel I can really succeed in. However, after spending some time on your website reading comments, the general feeling I get about the accounting profession is everything you're told is a lie, you'll despise the people you work for, you'll hate the work you do, monetary compensation is an insult, and any enjoyment you find in your profession will be stomped in the mud. So, tell it me to straight, should I start setting up a calendar to count down the days until I retire or is there some hope of me actually liking what I do?

Hope was soooo 2008, friend.

Seriously though, the GC peanut gallery – God bless them – is not exactly a citadel of cheerful accounting professionals. Occasionally, a satisfied CPA will chime in only to be mocked incessantly, which results, in what appears to be, a very unsatisfied industry. There are plenty of accounting professionals that jump out of bed and sprint to work because they genuinely enjoy what they do. These people read posts on GC, laugh at the razor-edged wit, and then peak at the comments, roll their eyes, and think, "It must really suck to be so miserable." 

Good luck, everyone.

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