July 18, 2018

Jumping ship

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 […]

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 […]

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) […]

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 During the past 13 months of my career here, I’m just tired of using their outdated office technology, audit tools (an electronic audit system that was made in 2010 when all other big 4s started at least 5 years ago), unfriendly people culture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.

Global Robert Half Study Reveals Financial Executives Are Trippin’ Over Retaining Talent

Forgive me for suggesting this to (alleged) financial professionals but perhaps if they treated their current talent like, well, talent as opposed to third-rate street whores, they might not have this problem. One need look no further than the comment section on any of our salary posts to find warranted discontent, anger, frustration and threats of exodus.

The Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor was developed by Robert Half International and is based on surveys conducted by independent research firms. The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and business confidence, includes responses from more than 6,000 financial leaders across 19 countries.

Here are the key findings:

• Two-thirds, 67 percent, of financial leaders reported at least some level of recruiting difficulty. Approximately one out of five (19 percent) respondents said it is very challenging to find skilled accounting and finance professionals today.

• Retention concerns are rising. Globally, 56 percent of executives said they are either very or somewhat concerned about losing top performers to other job opportunities in the year ahead. This is an 11-point jump from the 2010 survey.

• In the United States, 43 percent of executives cited worries about keeping their best people. This is up from 28 percent in 2010.

• Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported being at least somewhat confident in their organization’s growth prospects for the coming year.

Survey nerds can dig deeper into the research highlights or data tables for more information.

More disturbing, retention issues seem to be a globally pervasive issue. More than half of executives, 56 percent, said they are very or somewhat concerned about losing valued employees to other opportunities in the coming year. This compares to 45 percent who cited retention concerns in the 2010 survey.

In some countries, the results were much higher. The number of executives worried about keeping key employees is up 16 points in Singapore, for example; 91 percent of respondents there said they see retention as an issue. In Hong Kong and Brazil, 88 percent and 85 percent of financial leaders, respectively, noted retention concerns.

What this means, of course, is that if any of you are desperate for work and somewhat decent at your jobs, you might want to look into tapping these markets. Despite what the IASB may like you to think, U.S. GAAP isn’t dead and knowledge of it is still a marketable skill, though a decent command of international standards will obviously benefit you more going forward.

Or turn your keepers’ fears into a tool to be leveraged and get yourselves raised up to at least second-rate street whore. Stranger things have happened.

Big 4 Senior Associate with ‘Offers in Hand’ Wants to Ask for a Raise Without Sounding Like a Greedy Bastard

Ed. Note: Give DWB a warm welcome back to regular posting. If you’ve got a question for the advice column, email us at [email protected].

Good afternoon, everyone. Caleb must have tripped and knocked his sombrero-wearing-head last night, because he has invited me back for a weekly post. Regardless, I’m excited to be back. Let’s knock the rust off, shall we?

I am a 2nd year senior associate at a Big 4 firm. I like doing public accounting but am thinking that at my level and performance I am underpaid. I’ve several offers in hand but I do like what I am doing.

Now this does seem like a silly question – how do I go about asking for a raise without making it sound like that all I care about is money? In this economy…what are the chances that I am gonna get what I ask for?

Thanks a bunch!

You don’t specify whether your “several offers in hand” are for positions in the private sector or with other public accounting firms, so I’m going to address both.

Private sector – why are you interviewing with companies if you “like doing public accounting?” Turn these down.

Public accounting – you should be considering these offers if they are with another Big 4 firm. Do not go from Big 4 to mid-tier. Don’t have any offers with the other Big 4? See your own comments above and interview with the other firms. All four have problematic staffing issues this spring as the young guns continue to burn out. Sure, you’ll receive a nice little bump in pay when you transfer from one firm to another, but remember you’ll be down at the bottom of the networking food-chain.

Considering both the fact that you work at a Big 4 and it’s only a few months away from mid-summer raises and/or compensation restructuring, asking for a raise now will probably not lead to much. You work for an international firm responsible for more than 100,000 employees…you are one person. Granted, you are a second year Senior, which is one of the areas that all firms have a shortage at.

It also depends on your what practice line, your performance rankings and industry, as all of these factors play into how much leverage you will have. If you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall, your firm may toss you a $1,500 bone to keep you salivating for summer raises. If you’re more of the middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type it would not totally surprise me if you were not given a raise or even shown the door. It would take the length of an episode of “30 Rock” for the word to spread through your office that all it took to get a bump in pay was to claim you had an offer from another firm. Leadership isn’t stupid.

Regardless of where you stand when compared to your peers, be absolutely certain you’re comfortable taking one of the offers you have should the latter situation happen. Your best bet is to wait until summer raises come through. The other firms will still be hiring experience staff in September.

Big 4 Employee with an Itch to Jump Ship Wants to Know What His Options Are

Welcome to the the-shutdown-will-probably-last-45-minutes edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Big 4 senior associate has a hanker to jump ship. Problem is, corporate accounting and internal auditing don’t sound like appealing life-preservers. Are there other options or is our hero doomed for permanent Big 4 burnout?

Nervous about a promotion? Back on the hunt for a co-worker to canoodle with after an unfortunate experience? Concerned about where your bonus is going? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll sort you out one way or another.

Meanwhile, back on the Titanic:

Hello there,

So I’m a senior associate at a big 4 accounting firm and needless to say, I’m getting the itch to leave this gig. The problem I’m facing though, is that I don’t know what job I want to take when I leave.

While the hours may be better, going into corporate accounting and doing journal entries / reconciliations sounds just as mind numbing. Likewise, doing the same old routine in internal audit doesn’t really sound riveting either. So outside of those, what are my options? What jobs are out there that will let me put my CPA to good use while actually enjoying my career?

– Not sold on corporate accounting

Dear NSOCA,

Ah, you’ve come to see that the grass isn’t always THC-ier on the other side. It’s important that you’ve come to this realization, so I don’t have to give you a sermon about that. However I should say, you seem to have your priorities a little backwards: “The problem I’m facing […] is that I don’t know what job I want to take when I leave.” This sounds like you’re ready to leave your Big 4 firm with virtually no plan; that would suggest A) your “itch” is really a full-body rash and B) you’ve only had preliminary thoughts about what life after Big 4 can really be like.

In addition to the plethora of corporate accountant and internal audit gigs, there are many opportunities for various analyst positions – cost, budget, financial – if that’s something that would be of interest to you (check out this post on cost accounting positions from last summer for more details). If you’re the wonky type, a SEC reporting or a technical accounting position may be up your alley.

With all that in mind, don’t dismiss all senior accountant job. If you find a company that’s the right for you (i.e. size, responsibilities, money, etc.) you’ll end up learning a lot and in addition to your Big 4 experience, you’ll have a nice skillset that will prepare you for your next move. As far as internal audit is concerned, I personally never had much interest, simply because I discovered that auditing was nothing I wanted to do. If you do like auditing (God help you), then I wouldn’t dismiss all of those opportunities but like the senior accountant positions, I’d be pretty selective.

Just remember, don’t get anxious to leave just because you’re miserable. Figure out what your real interests are and then start your job search, working with a recruiter or pounding the pavement yourself. You might discover that you need to get of this accounting thing altogether. I’m a living, breathing example of that and there are plenty more out there like me. You may be one of them too but I admit, you have to be willing to make sacrifices (mostly money). The worst thing you can possibly do is take any old job with a fancy title and a bigger paycheck to only hate it in three months. Good luck.

Should a Big 4 Auditor Jump Ship for a Rival After Four Months on the Job?

Welcome to the you-better-get-work-done-today-because-no-one-is-doing-shit-tomorrow edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an experienced Big 4 auditor has recently gotten the interest of a rival firm after just four months on the job. Does he risk a disloyal reputation if he jumps ship again?

Have a career question? Trying to deal with a troublesome co-worker? Concerned that your firm isn’t offering you enough chances to crush some Chardonnay at the office? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll attempt to find you a firm that isn’t full of teetotalers.

Back to our Judas-in-waiting:

Hi Going Concern,

I recently made the move to a Big 4 firm after completing two full years at the largest mid-size firm in the U.S. I was promoted to Senior right before I left my old firm but was offered a position as a Staff 2 (with a nominal increase in pay). I am in the middle of my third busy season (assurance) and I just got an e-mail from one of the other Big 4 firms I was in communication with when I was looking to split from my previous firm. The e-mail is describing an open position that they have in a client acceptance specialty group, based in the NJ office (I currently live and work in NY).

I have only been at my current firm for about four months – is it too early to contemplate considering the opportunity? Of course I would have to go through the whole interview process so this could be a moot point but I can’t help wondering if the move would be a bad idea? Would it limit my ability to work in the private sector later on? Would my résumé scream DISLOYAL? My main incentive would be a pay/title increase (opening is for a Senior position) and what I would hope would be a less stressful “busy season” but at this point I have no clue what to do.

Thanks,

Ship Jumper in NY

Dear Ship Jumper,

Simply put: when given an opportunity, I a big believer in making a run at it. I don’t see anything wrong with going through the interview process with your prospective firm and seeing where it leads. If you don’t get the job, what have you lost? The answer is “nothing,” and you won’t wonder whether or not you should have gone on that interview. I’m not really sure how you feel about being an auditor but joining a speciality group could be a nice change of pace.

Scenario B is that you land the gig and you’re worried about the appearance it will have on your résumé. First of all, you make it sound like you’re one of those bounders who jumps around because they hate every job they’ve ever had. Two years here; eighteen months here; six months here. If you end up going down that road, the answer is yes, that is a warning sign to potential employers. If this opportunity is really the direction you want to take your career, then there’s very little risk of that. In the future when discussing the brief stint to an interviewer (if they even ask), you’ll be able to explain it this way, “The opportunity came up and I went for it. I’ve been working in this group for X number of years and have enjoyed my time there. This is just another opportunity.”

I think future employers should be interested in someone who recognizes opportunity when they see it as opposed to someone who is content to sit back and wonder what might have been. This goes for aspects in your work, not just career moves. As long as your intentions and ambitions about this opportunity are sincere and not simply opportunistic, employers won’t be worried about the brief pit stop at your current firm.

Do I Stay in Public Accounting Until Manager? Part XXXIII

Welcome to but-what-does-Emilio-think? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition we revisit the age-old debate of a senior associate wondering if they should stick with their firm until they get the bump to manager. It’s been awhile since I’ve addressed this, so it’s about time we went for another go-round.

Getting bad career advice? Trying to patch things up with the boss? Trying to land some goddesses at your firm? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll get you back to WINNING.

Back to our SA:

Hey Going Concern,

I’m an S2 working for a 2nd tier accounting firm. I’m contemplating looking for a new job once this busy season is over, but am also considering working 1 more year and making manager before moving on. What do you think? Is it worth leaving now when I’m so close to manager or should I stick it out 1 more year? Will I have more/less or better/worse job opportunities after I make manager?

Thanks.


Dear Maybe Manager,

As I alluded, your plight is common amongst many in the world of public accounting. And as you can imagine, there are two divergent camps in this debate: those who think you should stay and those who think you should jump ship. I’ll do my best to tackle both arguments, running down the pros of each first.

PROS

Stay until promoted – Staying until manager means you get a title, a nice bump in salary (historically) and if you’re lucky, a little bonus. You’ve either mastered the art of navigating the political waters of your firm or you’re such a superstar at your job that TPTB had no choice but to recognize your talents with a promotion. Now that you’ve reached this crucial level in your firm, clients, recruiters and others view you slightly differently. You’ve got experience (obviously), management skills (presumably), are smarter than the average accountant (sometimes a BIG assumption). This will – right or wrong – give you the opportunity to get into similar more senior positions when you are ready to leave public.

Leaving prior to promotion – Jumping ship now allows you to move into a company where you’ll get the opportunity to learn what it’s like to be on the client side of the equation. Whether you’ll actually interact with your public counterparts will be determined by what kind of job you take (that may be a good thing). Regardless, you’ll learn a lot in your new job that you won’t in a public firm. This is ideal if you see yourself working in-house somewhere as opposed to making a career in public.

CONS

Stay until promoted – Simply put: managers have it bad in public accounting. They get shit from partners; they get shit from seniors; they get shit from staff; they get shit from clients. Managers are swimming in shit. As a senior, you definitely have to deal with a lot of the same people but the pressure from partners and clients, as a manger is different. You’re expected to be able to deal with all of it well. Mediocrity isn’t really an option. The only way to get around your mediocrity is to get really, really, really good at throwing people under the bus. If you’ve found yourself in that situation, you can probably count the people who think you’re a “good manager” on one hand and none of them work with you. Also as a manager, you’re so caught up managing, there’s very little time leftover for professional development. Granted, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more things but will you want to? You’re already overweight or severely sleep-deprived. Are you really the type to spend your precious spare time boning up on the latest developments in accounting rules or tax law? Probably not but the catch is, you’re expected to. Lastly, once you move outside the firm, your perspectives on audit/tax/consulting will largely be formulated and lots of employers are looking for people that still a tad impressionable. Prospective employers aren’t crazy about 30-something know-it-alls that just want a CFO/controller title and a salary.

Leaving prior to promotion – The biggest risk here is that you’ll end up making a move that feels lateral. You may get a nice bump in salary but you’ll probably feel like you’re still in the same spot on the pecking order. Most SAs – regardless of practice – have self-inflated their own professional value and finding out that your experience is pretty unexceptional can be a shock. Sure, there are some opportunities for vertical move when you leave public but the odds are against you.

So there you have it. And to answer your question directly – I’m a believer that you’ll have more and better career opportunities if you leave your firm prior to being promoted to manager. Your experience will be more diverse, you’re hopefully still open to seeing how other companies do things and your brain won’t be watered down with “managing” so much. That will come later.

I’m sure I missed some things, so jump in people. I still haven’t watch the GMA interview.

Mid-tier Manager’s Phone Blowing Up with Calls From Big 4; Is It Time to Jump Ship?

Welcome to the winesday edition of Accounting Career Couch. In today’s conundrum, a mid-tier manager is getting aggresively courted by three of the Big 4 firms and what’s to know the True Accounting Firm Story about them before dropping his current firm like a bag of dirt.

Trying to figure out your next career move? Getting anxious about busy season and need some new survival tips? Did you recently receive an email that you really want to share with other but it may or may not be appropriate? WAIT! Email us at [email protected] and we’ll steer you in the right direction.

Back to our greener grass hunter du jour:

Caleb,

The recent improvements in the fortunes of the Big 4 have yielded some opportunities for certain of us in the mid-tier firms. In the past two weeks I have been contacted by Deloitte, KPMG and E&Y regarding open positions they are trying to fill.

I am an experienced manager at a mid-tier firm that has not quite recovered from the recession. The firm is struggling to bring in new clients and has had almost no success in this area. The Big 4 have aggressively cut fees and have a generally better reputation to rely upon. While I like the opportunities as they are advertised, what kind of situation am I stepping into at these firms? Should any of these firms be avoided? I could stay until promotion to senior manager, but the firms is currently very top heavy. I see limited benefit to staying as my share of the work increases and my pay has not kept pace. Any thoughts?

It’s pretty difficult to pick one firm over the other without details about your city (memo to advice-seekers: GIVE US LOTS OF DETAILS ABOUT YOUR PROBLEM) but we’ll take a stab here.

Choosing one firm over another is purely a matter of your own preference. If you’re a fan of yellow, this is an easy decision. Prefer blue? Your decision is a little harder, unless you’re a Phil Mickelson fan, in which case there’s no debate here.

But seriously – if you specialize in a specific industry, you’ll probably meet a partner that you’ll work for when you interview with the firm. Hell, if it’s a small enough office you might meet all the partners in your group. That should give you a pretty good feel for what you’re getting into. Like we wrote last to Jersey Girl, a partner’s behavior during the interviewing process can be a good sign of who to choose.

If you’re antsy about your current firm, then you’re probably not alone. Regarding your concern about your current firm being “top heavy” the parking lot at senior manager is pretty full anywhere you go, so can’t really help you there.

Bottom line – go on some interviews and feel the firms out. Throwing darts won’t get you anywhere. Get a feel for the people you’ll be working with and your decision should be easy.