July 19, 2018

Internships

Good News, Future Accounting Firm Interns: You Have Options

Vault, the ratings and rankings website, released a slew of internship rankings yesterday including one for accounting firms. The most notable thing about the accounting-only list of 15 firms is that no Big 4 firms appear in the top 5. The best showing is PwC at #8, followed by KPMG at 9. Vault's rankings has […]

Look, It’s Okay, The Big 4 Doesn’t Want You

Sometimes the world looks perfect, nothing to rearrange. Sometimes you get a feeling like you need some kind of change. If you're not quite standing tall on the wings of your dreams, get in touch and we'll let you crash on our couch while you figure it out. Hi All, First let you know I […]

You Interned At Big 4 And Didn’t Get an Offer, Now What?

Let's face it, your mom is sick of hearing about your career troubles. Stop ruining her Sunday afternoons with your depressing phone calls and email us for advice instead. Hi, I have a question! I interned with a Big-4 in the summer and didn't get an offer. I was wondering if I could apply to […]

What Can Accounting Firm Interns Do To Be Ready For The Big Day?

Happy Moanday, everyone.  Let's pass the time with some feel-good internship preparation, shall we? Hey GC, I've been a big fan, followed advice, and am now starting my Big 4 audit internship. I know that we are not expected to know anything because they know that we don't. I've heard it way too many times […]

Accounting Student with Internship in Hand Is Having Second Thoughts

Ed. note: Desperate for advice but surrounded by idiots? Email us immediately. Oh, but read this first.

Hey GC,

I’m a junior at a well-respected New England college with a double concentration in accounting and marketing. A few weeks ago, I accepted an offer as an audit intern for next summer from a public accounting firm just outside of the Big 4. Just as a background, my GPA sucks (sub-3.0), but I enjoy doing interviews. While I was excited to get the job, I’m still not sure if auditing is a career path I want to go down.

My biggest fear is a high-paced, numbers-intensive career tra to people, forming relationships, and pretty much anything that doesn’t involve crunching numbers. Ideally, I’d like to pursue a career that highlights my writing ability and interests, like sports marketing (which I’m sure will be scoffed at in the comment section). Additionally, as my GPA suggests, I hate studying for tests, so I don’t anticipate doing the CPA thing or going to grad school. Do you have any general advice? Any chance I survive this internship?

Love the site, keep up the good work.

My first drafted response:

***Start***
Drop the accounting degree, focus on marketing, and start going to class to get your grades up before you’re unemployed.
***End***

My second:


You remind me of countless other students, studying a subject that you have little interest in. I don’t know your backstory: maybe you did well in accounting in high school; maybe one of your parents is a CPA; maybe one of your Helicopter parents told you that “you can do ANYTHING with a degree in accounting” and you earnestly believed them. Frankly, I don’t care what the story is…but you need to kick yourself in the ass and either suck it up and commit to an accounting career or get the hell out.

What you have going for your career:

• A paid internship with a mid-sized CPA firm. Ignore the fact that the Central Banks came to the rescue this morning (even Groupon is up!). The economy is in the can and because hiring trends are reactionary and delayed in a services industry like public accounting, fulltime job opportunities will be even scarcer when you’re graduating. That’s to say you want to work in the industry; but I think you don’t and you came to GC hoping we’d tell you otherwise.

What you have going against your career:
• Your grades are terrible compared to market. Firms are turning 3.8 GPA’s away at the door.
• You have little/no work ethic.
• You do not plan to do graduate school (presumably to be CPA eligible).
• You don’t plan to take the CPA exam.

If everything remains constant, you will not survive in a career in public accounting. You claim that your biggest fear is a “high-paced, number-intensive career track,” where in reality it should be more in line with “living in my parents’ basement, playing video games and ‘networking’ over Linkedin.” What would you prefer – a slow-paced environment where hypothetical interview questions are tossed around? Do you think “sports marketing” isn’t a fast-paced environment?? And what do you even KNOW about audit? Being that you’re a junior, you might not even take an auditing course before your internship. Don’t knock it just yet, man. It sounds to me like you’ve given up on accounting before you’ve even started. Which is fine if that’s the case; just accept it yourself and believe in what you actually want to do.

Not speaking for the GC commenters, but I won’t scoff at your desire to work in sports marketing. I will, however, challenge your ass to do more. What are you doing to break into the incredibly competitive sports marketing world? A piss-poor GPA, marketing degree (from a university whose program is not in the top tier for marketing…go Eagles!), and self-proclaimed writing abilities are not going to cut it. I’m not an expert on the industry, but I do know that “sports marketing” is like saying you want “a job in finance.” What do you want to do? Product development? Management? Retail marketing? Brand management? Selling Gatorade at Red Sox games?

You need to figure your shit out. That’s as much handholding as you’ll get from me. I could sit here and babble off that you need to study more, focus your efforts on your future, yada yada yada. So, here’s my advice: do some serious soul searching. If accounting is not what you want to do for the next 40 years, give up your internship. Take summer classes to get your GPA up or sweat your summer in an unpaid marketing internship making copies for the local single-A minor league baseball team. Do SOMETHING to get your career on track. At the very least, go ask your questions on a marketing-focused website. Find out how cut-throat the industry is right now. If you are hoping to ride the waves of your alma mater into some sweet gig at an agency, you are setting yourself up for a rude awakening.

Possible Future KPMGer Is Drawn to the Culture But Turned Off By KPMG’s Reputation

Oh dear, have we taken the Big 3 joke a little too far?

I just received my internship offers (audit), one from each of the Big 4. The office culture I like the most and felt I had the most connection with is KPMG. However, I know KPMG’s reputation as the “worst of the big 4”. I don’t want to stay in public accounting forever and want the firm name on my resume to say something when I am looking for jobs in the future. Since I have other options, am I dumb to turn them down? Deloitte has offered the most money, but I don’t want to chase money, I want to go somewhere I’ll actually like. I just don’t want people to look down on my choice, or have to deal with crappy audit software and be miserable.
Help!

Well congratulations on a grip of offers; for someone in a predicament, it’s a pretty nice predicament to be in. That being said, I think your best bet is going to be to ignore the complaints (there are plenty, and not just about KPMG) and listen to your gut.

Who told you KPMG is the worst of the Big 4? I really hope you’re not going solely on what has been said here on Going Concern, because it’s fair to say we get trolled pretty heavily by competing firms (and by firms I mean PwC) trying to start a who has the biggest dick contest on the Internet. For as much as we joke about how KPMG isn’t really a Big 4 firm, for all intents and purposes they are. Hey, our own downward-dog-facing, veggie-eating public accounting refugee Caleb came from there, so they can’t be that bad. OK, maybe he’s a bad example of what good comes out of the firm. Forget I mentioned it.

Yes eAudit sucks according to those doomed to use it but are you really getting into this line of work for the cool, totally functional software?

Who are you worried about looking down on you? It’s KPMG, not GT (I kid, GTers). For real though, it’s KPMG, not Johnson and Johnson, CPAs in some guy’s basement. You’ll still be getting the Big 4 experience and exposure to large clients that you’re after. KPMG’s reputation is mostly an inside joke, it’s highly unlikely that someone in private industry looking at your resume is going to exclaim loudly that you’re some kind of loser for spending your internship with them. Seriously.

What I would suggest to you is to keep in touch with your points of contact at the other firms just in case and take the KPMG gig. If your heart is telling you KPMG is the one and you don’t have any real evidence proving otherwise, it’s worth a shot. If it doesn’t work out, having those contacts at the other firms will come in handy – and even if you stick around at KPMG for awhile, you can expect the poachers to reach out later anyway. Point being, let everyone down softly but keep those doors open in case you need to GTFO through them later.

You are not dumb for turning down other options if you feel your choice is the best. You are, however, dumb for not taking an opportunity that excites you just because some people have said some not so nice things about it.

Big 4 Recruiting Season: When Are a Good GPA and Internship Experience Not Enough?

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

Is it just me or has it been a strange, weird week? I mean, look at yesterday’s Accounting News Roundup for what’s been happening:

• Everyone’s favorite shove-chips-down-your-throat airline lost its chief financial guru.
• The curtain continues to be pulled back on the next great technology company bubble.
• Rick Perry
• Capitalism is on life support

And oh yeah, Ohio was momentarily resembled a safari. Christ. Get a re-fillturn up your iPod. Let’s push through this week. On to the questions:

My question is about recruiting. On Campus Recruiting has ended last week and unfortunately I wasn’t invited to any of the Big 4 interviews. I really thought that my high GPA and my experience at a F500 company and a large governmental organization would land me the internship.

After being rejected, I started talking to some friends to see who had Big 4 interviews coming up, and I found out that only campus leaders had interviews. By campus leaders I mean BAP, ALPHA, NABA, and etc board members. I’m currently a senior and I will be applying for full-time positions next year. Since I’m not in any leadership position, and probably won’t be by next year, am I screwed? Also, is it true that 90% of Big 4’s entry level full time positions are filled by interns?

Thanks.

Maybe you’re a sloppy dresser. Maybe you have sweaty palms. Maybe you think brushing your teeth is more of a take-it-or-leave-it option than a societal norm. Possibilities…but unlikely. This sounds more like a case of “Good College in a Small Market Where the Firms Just Don’t Need to Hire Many People.” Unfortunate, but it happens.

Here’s the sitch: the firms love to hire out of universities with a broad range of students. The USCs and U. of Texases (at Austin, yes, yes) and Penn States of the world; even smaller schools like Lehigh and NYU. Why? Because they have national appeal – good programs, brand names, and students from every state. A Longhorn from Austin could be interested in working in Boston or Chicago or New York. Lehigh grads regularly pursue options in Philadelphia, DC, Pittsburgh, and the NYC/Chicago/the west coast hotspots. Alums of these schools can share their stories of the recruiting factory lines – Beta Alpha Psi board execs, members, and club rejects alike find jobs with the Big 4. The Budgeting Gods love these schools and make a concerted effort to build robust programs around these schools and those like them.

Your current situation falls into a different category. You’re either:

a) at a good school in a smaller market and the local firms have limited hiring needs
b) at a small school that the firm is obligated to recruit from because the Office Managing Partner graduated from there in 1963.

Whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate because there are probably a number of qualified applicants like you who are out of luck. The firms have fairly tight budgets on a per-school basis; even if they had a lack of candidates at another school, it would be a one-off case.

All that said, you’re not necessarily “screwed.” The officers will most likely accept fulltime offers they receive at the end of their internships. There is a possibility that the firms will have additional needs for fulltime hires; I recommend keeping your options open (audit, tax, etc.). As far as your projection that 90% of fulltime positions are filled by interns, I don’t know if it’s that high (it was in ‘08/’09), but above 75% on a national average. The goal is “as many as $%*@ing possible.” Good luck.

And Now…We Try to Keep Three Prospective Accountants From Freaking Out About Not Having Jobs

Welcome to the Lindsay-Lohan-prison-jumpsuit-fitting edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, we’ve received a flurry of emails from Big 4 hopefuls who can’t land interviews and are FREAKING OUT. Are they doomed to the breadline and/or parents’ basement or can their CPA firm dreams still come true?

Are you working for the devil this busy season? Are you looking for a summer activity that doesn’t involve three letters? Need an excuse for not passing the CPA exam that will pass the mustard with the Email us at [email protected] and we’ll try to come up with something better than, “The dog barks whenever Peter Olinto is on screen and I can’t concentrate.”

Now, then. Today is a little bit different in the ol’ advice column. And since everyone out there seems TOO BUSY to engage in any busy season chicanery and tell us about it, this thing will be a tad lengthy. In the last week, we’ve received three emails from people who are borderline having panic attacks because they can’t land interviews. Obviously, this is a problem worth these pages but if you think we’re writing three columns on the same damn thing, you’re all a bunch of mental cases. And for those of you thinking that this sounds like you, don’t even try giving us the “well, this doesn’t address my specific situation,” story. Sure, everyone is special but not so special that you need the delicate intricacies addressed. [BREATHE]

All right. Let’s do this, shall we?

Here’s a portion of email #1:

I interned at PwC with an internal position during Summer 2008 and I did audit with them in Spring 2009. I wasn’t given an offer for full-time employment and I have been looking for a job since. I tried recruiting with Ernst and Young last year and they kept saying they did not have any positions and then last summer they hired another candidate from my school with whom I graduated. Just about everyone I’ve graduated with has a position at an accounting firm. I’ve applied nearly everywhere (other big 4, mid-tier, local acct firms, industry, and even Craigslist). I can’t help but start to take it personally. Career services at my school doesn’t seem too interested in helping me…in fact one of the counselors actually was a recruiter at PwC when I worked there and she just recently left a voicemail that we should stop talking. I have one professor that still keeps in touch. I knew I wasn’t going to get an audit position even though I still applied but I’ve even been turned down for staff accountant positions. Last September I passed all four sections of the CPA exam. I’ve been told that I’m either “over-qualified” or I don’t have enough years of experience.

That should be enough but if we suffered through them, then you are too. An excerpt from email #2:

I have been to numerous career fairs since then and I’ve made significant contacts with some big 4 recruiters and other regional firms. But after sending my carefully prepared résumé by mail and continuous attempts to get some information about an interview, I‘ve been always getting the usual “we are looking at other candidates and wish you the best” reply or none at all. The only significant feedback I received was from a regional firm that was really interested, but was drawn back when I told them my college GPA. I take full responsibilities for my shortcomings in college, but I have invested the needed time and effort in doing what EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TOLD ME TO DO, which is passing the CPA exam. I have also gained significant and progressive experience at my current workplace, but I still have not even gotten an interview! I am 25 and I feel time is running out for me. I’m even thinking of getting other certifications like the CFE or ACCA (Association of certified chartered accountants), to make me a more desirable candidate.

Sick of it yet? Here’s a bit from #3:

I’m in my last semester and will have my 150 hours at the end of this spring. I am also preparing the the CPA exam (have started Becker, taking my first section, AUD, at the end of February). As a student in these times, I have never been able to find an accounting internship or any part time accounting work as all of my job inquiries wind up unanswered. It’s not for lack of trying, but my GPA isn’t spectacular (3.2) and my résumé is average. At the college job fair a few weeks ago, I put in resumes with all big 4 and all mid tier firms and was NOT INVITED TO A SINGLE INTERVIEW. I became an accounting major because I thought there were jobs available to qualified students. I have an accounting and finance degree, 150 hours and will have the CPA under my belt in a few months…what the hell am I missing. Am I really not qualified to become a slave to the Firms?

Good Lord. Let’s see if I can do this without LOSING IT.

For starters, we’re making the assumption all three of you are socially capable individuals. If you’ve noticed people responding to your typical conversation with “That’s awkward,” or “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” then we suggest engaging a life coach or some other professional that can help you with your awkward tendencies. Secondly, all three of you need to stop freaking out. Sure, you’ve got responsibilities and school loans and whatnot but thank your lucky stars you’re not a lawyer. You have a good educational skill set, a job market that is thawing out and your debt is probably under six figures. CALM DOWN.

Now. If the Big 4 isn’t interested in what you have to offer, you have to get over it. Somewhere in your gray matter, you knew striking out with all of them was a possibility. Now that it has become a reality, you need to move on. If you’ve managed to do that and say you’ve gone to Grant Thornton, BDO, Rothstein Kass and McGladrey and you’ve been denied there too. And maybe you’ve gone to regionals like Moss Adams, BKD, Clifton Gunderson, Plante & Moran, WeiserMazars, Dixon Hughes Goodman et al. [ugh] At this point, it’s natural for frustration to start creeping up on you. But if you want to work in public accounting, you can’t get discouraged. Next thing you should do is to knock on all the doors in your geographic location. The Vault 50 is a good place to start. Firms from every part of the country are on the list and you can specifics on them over at the Vault website. Pound the pavement, people.

If that doesn’t work, then we suggest calling some reputable recruiters in your area to find out if they have any entry-level positions at CPA firms. Keep things cool, don’t act desperate and put your best qualities forward. The recruiters should be able to help you polish your résumé if needed and find you an interview or two. IF ALL THAT FAILS and you simply need a job, look for an in-house accounting job to get your career started. Just because you don’t start in public accounting doesn’t mean you’re doomed to work a dull job and have a lackluster career. And who knows, you might – gasp – like the work.

Any words of encouragement from the peanut gallery? I need a drink.

Should I Focus on the CPA Exam or an Internship with the Big 4?

Because I never check my LinkedIn messages, this is the first I’m getting to this particular question. That goes for Facebook, Twitter DMs, and/or @s because if it doesn’t land in my inbox directly I’m probably going to get to it last. That being said, if you have a question for either Caleb or myself (we have the industry somewhat completely figured out between us), get in touch with us directly and we’ll try not to steer your entire life wrong.

This ended up coming to me after I told the boyfriend of a would-be accoungirlfriend could probably find a gig in public if she got her CPA. Like any major life decision, it’s a commitment and as any of you who have whined about failing the CPA exam know, it isn’t an easy career path to take. Our asker today wants to know if he should jump too:

I really liked your response to Matt, regarding his girlfriend (who was taking ACCT 101 at the time he sent you a message). You had some great advice on things to consider before making accounting the career to devote one’s time to. I understand the importance you mentioned in having CPA next to your name when applying for jobs; because of this, I wonder if you think it would be better to get experience/internship first or invest the time into studying for the CPA exam and pass it before persuing [sic] any other obstacles of life?

I tapped Caleb for his thoughts first since he knows better than I do what it takes to be a Big 87654 grunt having done it himself.

If you want a job with The Big 4, go for the internship. The recruiting is far more competitive than in the past few years so if you want a job with one of those firms, than the best way to make that happen is to intern with them.

From a more general perspective, the work experience is invaluable as opposed studying for the exam. Sure you might have a jumpstart on your peers getting the CPA but an internship is individual experience that cannot be duplicated. The CPA exam is just at test that many of your peers will pass at one point or another during their careers. However those with internship experience will be able to point to specific experiences and accomplishments that other candidates may not have, setting you apart from them.

In my view, it appears as though the CPA is much easier to get through before you actually commit to A) a career B) a family C) just about anything else that you might be thinking about taking on at this point. Work experience is awesome but who can just grab that? You might get sucked into the public accounting whirlpool and 5 years later wonder why 5 busy seasons have gone by and you still haven’t passed the CPA exam.

Then again, your best chance to hit the Big 4 is as a new associate is right out of school – you might be the fluke who manages to get their attention at 35 once you’ve “figured out what you want to do with your life” but by then it’s likely too late for you to suddenly warm up to the Big 87654. It’s worse than trying to get into the military at that point, you’re flabby and already set in your ways, they need someone young and hungry and not yet jaded by a career in accounting. Good luck with that.

I say pass the exam now while you can (if you can). Then again, with passing CPA exam scores from the beginning you’re also a threat to the firms as you can easily bail for a real work-life balance in private accounting once you meet the work experience requirement. Who would continue to put up with the sort of abuse some of these firms put you guys through? Someone who has taken 3 years to get through FAR or made the mistake of starting a family AND a career in public before getting through or even touching the CPA exam.

If you don’t really want it (which it sounds like you don’t), be careful because it’s going to be harder for you if you’re just going through the motions. My advice.