July 17, 2018

industry choice

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.