November 14, 2018

Big 4 careers

Learning From Andersen: Opportunities and Pitfalls in a Long-Term Audit Career With the Big 4

Does anyone remember –- or care about -– the collapse of Arthur Andersen back in 2002? If recalled, what lessons might it have for young professionals taking serious stock of their career choices?

Recruiting Season: Crossing State Lines; Starting Salary Disappointment; Choosing an Industry

Welcome to this week's roundup of baffled buckaroos. Each week we'll try to save some hapless accounting students from embarrassing themselves somewhere along recruiting trail. Have a question about recruiting season? Email us at [email protected] with "Recruiting Season Questions" in the subject line. We'll kick things off with a follow-up from last week when "Pissed […]

Future Big 4 Auditor Concerned That Body’s Need for Sleep Will Doom Career

Lost your easy button? Email us your worries, problems, questions, and requests for gluten-free recipe ideas. I was fortunate enough to received an offer for a full-time audit position with one of the Big 4 following the conclusion of my graduate program. I received the offer at the end of an internship, so I did […]

Is It Shallow to Choose One Accounting Firm Over Another Based on Prestige?

If you have a problem that your spouse, friends, or Labrador can't seem to fix, why not ask emotionally detached accounting bloggers who can barely run their own lives to help? Email us your questions and we'll pull it together just for you. Dear Going Concern,   I know you get a lot of these […]

How to Manage Up and Keep Your Bosses Happy (Well, Most of Them)

Don't wanna work? Just wanna to bang on a drum all day? Okay, but the noise may result in you being escorted out by security. Best to ask us about something that's been bugging you. Shoot us an email and we'll keep you out of trouble. Hi, this isn't a tip but can you do […]

Intern Weighs Betraying a Small Firm for the Big 4

Suffering from Big 4 burnout? Want ideas for your Sarbanes-Oxley 10th anniversary celebration? Need help making a smart the least stupid choice at the vending machine? Email us your questions and let us feel your pain. Hi GC,   Looking for some advice. I am interning at a small firm and I am 95% sure I will […]

Where Does a KPMG Risk Consultant Go From Here?

If you're tired of listening to your stupid friends and co-workers try to give you professional/life/style/dietary/love/major purchase advice, why not turn to your friends at Going Concern for a little wisdom? You'll get the brutal honesty you're craving and if you don't like it, just write us a nasty email blaming us for all your […]

Accounting Students Looking for That Extra Edge Should Look No Further Than Big 4 Bootcamp

Many dewey-eyed accounting students dream of capping off their time in college with a job at a Big 4 firm. But getting that elusive offer isn't as easy as it seems. There are many ambitious candidates that would step over their own mothers to get an offer so some candidates want a little extra edge […]

Restless Accountant Considers a Second Chance with a Big 4 Firm

Have a question on anything from career limiting moves to plausible excuses for blowing off a random Tuesday to identifying that odor in the audit room? Email the Going Concern Brain Trust with your queries. And remember, there's no such thing as a dumb question; just dumb people who ask questions.  So here's the deal. I […]

Big 4 Advisory Intern Wants To Squeeze Blood Out Of A Turnip

Your daily serving of vegetables, brought to you by GC. Subject: Advice: negotiating a starting salary GC,I am graduating in December from a masters in accounting program and I am currently interning at Big 4 firm in advisory.  I am hoping to get an offer after the internship and join the firm in January.  Is […]

Big 4 Manager Is Itching to Leave But the Partner Carrot Is Being Dangled

Have the busy season blues but too lazy or untalented to write a song about it? Email us at [email protected] and someone will tell your story. Hi GC   Long time reader, first time emailer.   I am a first year manager at a Big 4 firm. For the past 4 months I have had this […]

Public Accounting New Hire Fears That Application Fib Will Jinx The Big Job

Greetings, GC'ers.  Damn, it feels good to be back after a minor hiatus. Let's get to it, shall we? Subject: Big 4 Dilemma First off, I want to thank Going Concern for all of the public accounting insight. Now on to my dilemma. Last fall I accepted a full-time audit position with of one of […]

This Is How A Soon-to-Graduate Accounting Major Makes An HR Rep’s Head Explode

GCers – we love your contributions and could use some more to get us through these first few weeks of “not really busy but not 9-to-5” season. But be advised: advice emails that meet the qualifications of #longreads drive us to our breaking points. Caleb overdoses on steamed carrots, Adrienne takes her frustration to the roads […]

Why Do People Become Auditors in the First Place?

Ed. note: Is busy season bringing out the worst in you? CPA exam seem hopeless? Having trouble finding the box of tickmarks in the supply room? Email us your problems and one of us will put you on the couch. GC,   I recently decided to leave my position in a Big Four Advisory position after […]

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 […]

New Big 4 Associate Wants to Know If His Career Will Go Up in Smoke After Pot Possession Arrest

Welcome to the bullshit-faux-holidays-that-accountants-don’t-get-off edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. Today we have a new Big 4 associate who’s wondering how much trouble he could get in for a recent arrest for pot possession. If his firm finds out will they just blow it off or is his career baked?

Do you need advice on your career as “The Help” to our capital markets? Whether it’s CPA exam anxiety or minding your debits and credits at career fairs or putting together a to-do list after you put in your papers, we’ve got solutions for you. Email us at [email protected] if you’re in haze.

Now, then:

I just started at a Big 4 firm and to celebrate the college life being over my friends had a party over Labor Day weekend. To cut to the point, I ended up being arrested and charged with marijuana possession in a city about 2 hours away from my office. I had a prior arrest for marijuana from 4 years prior as well. Basically, my question is, how likely is it that the firm finds out about this incident without me telling them? Also, if they do find out does this mean automatic termination?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Dear Stoney Jabroni,


Let me just say first that I’m not a lawyer, so take this advice for what it’s worth (not much more than a dime bag). Having said, that, your solution is easy. Move to Colorado. Or California. Or anywhere pot is decriminalized. Maybe I’m misinterpreting “arrested” but here in in the MHC, for example, adults don’t really get “arrested” for possession of less than one ounce and thus, there is really no problem. I realize this is probably unrealistic advice but your state’s laws will ultimately determine how “serious” this really is. Generally, this is not a serious issue but if you’re in state that likes to throw the book at marijuana users, then it gets more complicated.

To answer your first question – since you work in a city that’s two hours from where your arrest occurred, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone at your firm will find out you had your little run-in with the law. Unless, of course, there’s townie that would go out of their way to contact your firm to fink on you. That seems unlikely but, hey! you never know.

As far as termination is concerned, it depends on the agreement that you signed when you accepted your offer. If you’re held to specific code of conduct, it’s possible that this arrest could violate that code. If there’s nothing in the agreement that would cover something like this, your firm doesn’t really have grounds to dismiss you. There are plenty of Big 4 employees and partners that enjoy a nice toke every now and again and it is more socially accepted than ever. If someone at your firm does get a whiff of this news, certainly some will frown on this behavior and you may get a talking to but does it mean the end of your career? That’s just wack, man.

First World Problem: When Does a Big 4 Tax Accountant Jump Ship for a Job at a Hedge Fund?

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

Dear Going Concern,

I have been in Big 4 FS Tax for the past two years and recently was promoted to Senior. Headhunters have been calling me with great opportunities in the tax departments of Hedge Fund/PE firms. The pay increase is significant and the hours will undoubtedly be better. However, I’m worried about leaving Public Accounting too early in my career. My eventual career goal is to become a Controller or CFO at a Hedge Fund. The headhunters I’ve spoken with insist that HF/PE firms prefer candidates with a mix of Public and Private experience for those positions. I’m wondering if I should stick around until making manager at Big 4 or if, as the headhunters recommend, leaving now as a Senior is the right move for me.

Thanks,
First world problem

Dear First World Problem,


Alright, listen up. The most important thing to do when you want to start looking for a role is to find a headhunter or two that you trust (and hopefully can trust you to not tattle on them for $5 worth of Starbucks). Yes, we all loathe headhunters. They call, they email; some pester more than others. Sure, most are in the same pool with real estate brokers (an evil means to an end), but there are some that see you as more than a pay-day and will serve as excellent resources throughout your career. A good recruiter will send you a select handful of opportunities that fit exactly what you’re looking for, not a blast email with 17 write-ups all containing the same five bullet points.

That said, with two years into your career you’re just starting to see the wave of job opportunities. Two to four years is the window that many most staff roles fall into at hedge/PE firms, both on the fund accounting and tax side. This is because most asset management firms consider the Big 4 (and regional firms that have an alternatives focus) to be training grounds for their back office hires. Why hire an accountant off of a college campus to do fund accounting work when you can have the Big 4 train ‘em up and toughen ‘em, up for you?

However, the difference is that the number of tax staff positions in-house at a hedge/PE firm are limited. Example: a hedge fund running $5bil in assets under management through six separate funds needs a tax director (typically 7+ years of public/private) and a staff member to assist with work. The same firm would have Sr. Controller/CFO, 1-3 fund controllers and a small staff of accountants running the day-to-day. Because of this prime example in supply and demand, I’d encourage you to interview for any and all roles that interest you, but more important than when you leave is what you leave for. In your case, being a CFO is your ultimate goal – you should be looking at opportunities that are a blend of tax and fund accounting. These roles typically exist at less institutionalized funds, so do your due diligence on opportunities at the likes of Och-Ziff, Blackstone, Fortress, etc. Talk to your recruiter about your long term goals and the need to better position yourself by diversifying your professional experiences. Right now you know K1’s, wash sales and partner allocations; a good recruiter knows what it takes to get you on the Controller/CFO track. It might be the first firm you interview with, or the tenth. When you find it, you’ll know.

Big 4 Boomerang: Former Auditor, Bored with Corporate Gig, Wants to Join Advisory Group

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

Dear Going Concern,

I started my career in B4 Assurance, got the bump to SA relatively quickly (1.5 yrs), stuck it out for another year, then jumped ship for corporate goodness (Fortune 100 – double the money, half the hours). I’ve been doing that for 5 years now, and I feel like I’ve plateaued. I’ve been promoted 3 times in those 5 years, but I’m sufficiently elevated in the corporate ranks now that my next step is likely to be more a function of “serving my time” rather than continued innovation and stand-out work product; a war of attrition, if you will. I put in 40 hours in a rough week, don’t travel, and my comp is on par with (or slightly in excess of) a B4 Senior Manager in major markets (think NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc).

So, on to my dilemma: Am I crazy to be considering a jump back to B4? I miss the challenging work, and the energetic work-force, but I don’t necessarily miss working 80 hours a week. My primary driver is to be interested and engaged in what I do every day. Making partner and a seven figure income is a nice idea, but is just an afterthought in the context of this decision. I wouldn’t make this move expecting to become a partner (although if that’s how it played out, hooray for me). I’m looking for your candid feedback, criticism, blunt verbal beat downs, etc. I’m also looking for input from the GC rank and file – particularly those that have done what I’m considering: B4 -> cush corporate gig -> back to B4.

Let’s assume for the sake of this question that with my skill set, I could re-enter as the equivalent of an experienced Manager, or first year Senior Manager in one of the Advisory practices. Let’s also assume that I have partner friends at all of the Big4, that my experience and academic pedigree are top notch, and that I have a lot of corporate contacts that are ideal for selling new business. So essentially, the option is there – I just have to choose to do it.

Sincerely,

Glutton4Big4

Dear Glutton4Big4,

Crazy is a relative term, and we’re all a little crazy around here at GC. I find your confidence in both your Big 4 and private industry contacts to be refreshing and brazen. Who cares that the economy is still a sputtering engine block inside a car chassis that’s resting on blocks, you have connections! Of course you’ll get a job back in public! OF COURSE your private industry drinking buds will want to sever whatever pre-existing consulting relationships they have with other vendors and go wherever you are!

My advice is simple – play both fields. Look into the Big 4s and their needs for someone with your background and experience in addition to pursuing opportunities that might be with your corporate contacts. You are not necessarily locking yourself into a career in public should you transition into a Big 4 advisory practice, whereas returning to assurance would be moral and career suicide. The advisory lines are generally more fluid opportunities and can act as stepping stones back into a corporate world after a few years.

For those breezing the submission above, Glutton’s career has been as follows:

• 2.5 years in public (assurance)
• 5 years in private
• Potentially back to public (advisory)

Has anyone in the peanut gallery done this? Share your horror stories or little victories below.

Aspiring KPMG Manager Needs Help Defecting to Another Big 4 Firm

Welcome to another round of Accounting Career Emergencies (aka: “Decide My Life For Me: GC Edition”). Today we have a KPMG Senior Associate who badly wants to make manager except for the small matter of not being able to stand her client, manager, partner and basically everything else. Jumping over to another Big 4 firm is an option but how does one convince them that you’re worthy of the new stomping grounds.

Looking for an extra edge? Concerned that your performance isn’t up to snuff and need a contingency plan? Working in an environment that makes you uncomfortable? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll try to explain how poles and porn fit into “team building.”

Back to our Benedict Arnold du jour:

Hello dear friends at GC,

I am beginning my fourth year with audit at KPMG and would like to make it to Manager, if for no other reason than the title’s weight on the résumé. If I were to stay with KPMG and made manager in the average time frame, I would be here for another two years. To be frank, I can’t stand my client, manager, or partner and want nothing more than to quit tomorrow; I’ve already spoken to my PML (direct supervisor, basically), but there really isn’t an option for me to get out of working on this client and or this team any time soon.

My job is ok when I’m working on other clients, but this engagement is so terrible that I’m not sure I’m willing to stick it out long enough to get to my other clients. Like so many others, my primary goal is to make it to Manager at a Big 4 (have no idea if I will stay after I do, but that’s the goal at this point). There are needs for audit seniors at the other Big 4 firms in the city, and I’m thinking about jumping ship to another one. If I do this, I figure I’ll at least get a fresh start and shake things up a bit, while still working towards my Big 4 Manager goal.

So here’s the question: how do I convince another Big 4 firm to hire me? Also, if I were to get hired by the like of DT, E&Y, or PWC, could I feasibly expect to make Manager within two years? I have my CPA out of the way, so that shouldn’t be a big factor…

Help me, Going Concern. You’re my only hope.

-Big4FlipFlops

Dear Big 4 Flip Flops,

Your problem is easy, ring up PwC. They picking off KPMG people like a WWII sniper. But seriously, I’m a little perplexed by your question. When you go into an interview with any potential employer, how do you convince them to hire you? You research the company. You smile big and are ready to talk about things other than work. You discuss your accomplishments at KPMG, you play up your strengths, admit that you’re working on your weaknesses but ultimately, that you’re bringing A-1 talent to this organization and they’d DAMN FOOLS to pass up the opportunity to hire you. There will probably be a curveball question or two in the interview and those may help/hurt your chances but it’ll be a pretty standard interview.

As for your promotion timeline, I think you can safely ask your potential new firm about that without fearing any repercussions. If you adjust to the new firm quickly (e.g. new methodologies, navigating political waters) and are a performer there’s no reason you shouldn’t be considered for a promotion in another two years. Good luck and may the Force be with you.

Big 4 Aspirant Wants Help Choosing a City

Welcome to the way-to-double-bogey-18-Phil edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a prospective Big 4 associate wants help deciding between a large or mid-market city. Let’s see what we can do to get her out of the sticks.

Have a spotty past that may hurt your career aspirations? Need help spending some tools? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll point you to some sharper folks.

Meanwhile, back on the farm:

Hello,

I am preparing for recruiting season this Fall, and I attend a heavily-recruited university on the east coast. Recruiters from the Big 4 (as well as other firms) recruit nationally from my school, so I pretty much have my pick of what city I would like to work, if I were to get hired by one of them. I know that they ask us for our preference in location, and that is my current dilemma – I am not sure yet which one to pick.

I know for sure that I want to leave my current city, as it is mostly a college town. I have family in both Miami and Phoenix, so I am considering those options, but those are middle markets. My dream has always been to live in a big city, so I am considering NYC and possibly Chicago. Obviously there are big differences in size, both in terms of number of employees and clients. However, I have no family in any large city, so I would have to live on my own or find a roommate. But wouldn’t working in a bigger city provide me with a greater advantage, career-wise? There are a lot more possible clients and industries to pick from when you work out of a large city. I would really like to know the advantages and disadvantages of working in a middle-sized office versus a really large one (Big 4 firm specifically). I would truly appreciate any feedback that you may have on this matter – maybe even post it as a blog on the website so that the readers can share their insight.

Dear Big City Dreamer,

Live on your own?! Roommate?! Is it possible that you’re becoming an adult? That may have a – gasp – job in the very near future? This can all be very scary, I realize so I’ll stop with the jokes…for now. Lucky for you, I’ve lived and worked in both a mid-sized and a large city, so I’ll share my personal experience and then we’ll throw it to the group.

When choosing where to live it’s important to know what you want to get out of that city. You’re going to be living there after all and believe it or not, you will have free time occasionally to do some things other than work. You say that living in a big city is your “dream” so I’d encourage you to go for a big market so you can enjoy everything that they offer. I lived and worked in New York for about two years and while the hours were long, I still had the great opportunity to experience everything the City has to offer. Plus, I made a lot of cool friends in a part of the country where I didn’t previously know anyone. Professionally speaking, it’s true that you’ll be exposed to a wider variety of clients and a bigger network of people. All good things for someone who’s looking for options.

The main disadvantage to a larger office is that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you’re not hell-bent on being Ms. PwC, just want to do your job and go enjoy your life outside of work, sometimes that can work against you. It’ll be important for you to foster good relationships with people that will go to bat for you when it comes to performance reviews and staffing you on clients. If you’re always billing and you’ve got a good relationship with your superiors, you should be fine. If you find yourself floating around, you may end up being a name no one recognizes and that makes you expendable.

A mid-sized office, on the other hand, is a little more familial. You’ll get to know everyone, including the support staff who can be lifesavers when you inevitably find yourself in some kind of jam where they can help. Mid-sized cities can be fun because they have a different feel from the big city. Denver, for example, has a great music scene and amazing weather so you spend a lot of time outdoors. No, you don’t have the Met or a grip of five-star restaurants but you make the most of wherever you go.

The main problem with a smaller city is that because it can feel familial, there’s always familial problems. It can feel a little bit like high school at times and most people will know your business one way or another. If there’s a beef amongst team members or someone else, EVERYONE WILL KNOW ABOUT IT. Also, because line-of-business groups are smaller, it can make the promotion process and the internal politics a little trickier. There are fewer clients to chase and so the higher up you go, the fewer manager and partner spots are available. As a staff you won’t really be affected by this but if you want to stay with your firm for awhile, it may become an issue later.

Ultimately, go with your instincts. If you want to live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, you should go for it. You’re young and eager, so you may as well use that high energy on those high-energy places now. Good luck.

Engineering Consultant Lands a Big 4 Gig, Now What?

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

Going Concern received not one but two emails from a contributor in recent weeks. Aptly named Enginerd, P.E., this fine gentleman had hopes of joying a Big 4 firm with Enginerd’s background is as follows:

I come from a technical background, 8-10yrs of consulting in engineering and regulatory roles, and am being courted by a B4 to join up with a technically minded advisory/consulting group. You may not know, but engineers are a forgotten bunch earning far less than many of our other professionally degreed brothers. I’m anticipating a very healthy offer, but I don’t have much to base it on; Bologna is better than SPAM, but that isn’t saying much.

For the doubters out there – yes, the Big 4 occasionally hires engineering experts in niche markets when expanding their advisory practices. These experts may work with Transaction Services teams in markets heavy with M&A activity (think technology, energy, environment, etc.). Even at that, they don’t hire C.A.D. experts but rather individuals with previous consulting experience, like Enginerd.

Admittedly, Enginerd’s original email sat unanswered in the advice box [Ed. note: you should see the backlog!]. He recently followed up with positive news:

No response from y’all, but I did get a response from B4. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

So the last questions still hold, Any thoughts on breaking into B4 consulting (done), not getting lost when you get there, and behaviors which will help make my stay a long and profitable one? I’m listed at about 85% billable, which isn’t bad, but is still a lot of hours. Short of rereading How to Win Friends and Influence Others, what is my Modus operandi?

Thanks,

Enginerd, P.E.

Dear Enginerd,

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of direct advice for you as I do not work regularly with employees in your position. That said, I suggest continuing to do what made you successful up to this point:

1. Network every day of your early career. Meet with the group leaders not only in your office, but in other offices as well (as it applies). Have a regional/national meeting coming up? Make plans to connect with your peers in other offices. Connecting faces with email addresses is extremely important as your responsibilities inevitably expand.

2. Find a mentor. Chances are you are not the only person in your group/office that has a background similar to your own. Feel the group out over the first few months, evaluating who you feel stands above the rest. Find someone with a background similar to yours (and senior to you in ranking) that has a strong future with the firm, and build a professional relationship with them. You shouldn’t hesitate in asking him/her to be a mentor for you. Generally speaking, people are flattered by such a request and can become excellent resources for you down the road.

3. Read advice from the Going Concern peanut gallery. I’m sure there are people with similar backgrounds to yours that are regular readers here on the site. With that said, I open it up to the group – what advice do you have for Enginerd as he joins the Big 4 consulting circus?

How Should a Big 4 Auditor Handle a Manager Blocking a Transfer to Transaction Services?

Welcome to the at-least-you’re-not-John-Edwards edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a first-year auditor has an opportunity to do a rotation with Transaction Services but feels that his senior manager has taken an aggressive cock-block position. Will our hero have to get their performance manager involved or resort to thinly-veiled threats?

Looking for new endeavors? Are the men in your office giving you a hard time? Is your job making you ill? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll give you a remedy for your troubles.

Meanwhile:

Caleb,

I am a long time GC reader, and I usually only read the career advice postings to feel slightly better about my own situation. Now, however, I find myself with a question that I would love to put before the GC readership. I am a first year at a B4. I enjoy my job, but am always interested in a new opportunity. Recently, I was offered a rotation in transaction services that will last a few months. I accepted the opportunity, but the timing of the rotation was not set in stone. I just found out that a sr. mgr. on my biggest client is trying to keep me staffed on that engagement at the expense of the opportunity of taking the rotation.

I have made my interest in taking a TS rotation since day one, and my performance manager supports it 100%. He knows that I was offered the rotation, but not that the sr mgr is standing in the way. I would like to know how to proceed. Should I go over the sr mgr? Should I forget the rotation? I enjoy my audit clients and don’t want to be seen as someone who will leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along, but this is a particular interest of mine that I made know upfront.

Please help!

Dear Cock-blocked Auditor,

Sounds like your senior manager has a non-sexual, professional crush on you. That can be a good thing but in your case, it’s a very bad thing. Your senior manager probably wants the best team possible and it sounds like that would involve you but you’ve got your own ambitions and those need to be respected. This especially true because TS has already offer has been extended to you. It’s not for someone else (senior manager or not) to stick their beak in your business and prevent you from following the career path you choose.

Having said all that, I suggest that you first talk to the senior manager on your audit engagement. You say that they are blocking the rotation but how do you know? Nothing in your email indicates that (s)he walked straight up to you, pointed a finger in your chest and said, “You’re mine, bitch!” It’s entirely possible that the SM kept you on to prevent you from getting picked up by anyone else. This will allow you to get the story straight before running off to your performance manager. If your suspicions are true (or you did experience a finger pointing incident), then it’s time to get your PM involved. If he is “100%” behind this opportunity like you say, then this should get resolved rather quickly. Transaction Services obviously wants you to work with them and it’s something you’re interested in doing. That isn’t complicated but these things do take time and that may be the hold-up.

So be patient but be direct. Until your rotation’s timing is finalized, there’s no need to get anxious but confirm the motivation behind the scheduling before you have to pull out the big guns. Good luck.

When Should a Future Auditor Mention to His Firm That He’s More Interested in Forensic Accounting?

Welcome to the dead-seven-Irish-guys-in-a-garage edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future Big 4 auditor wants to get into forensics ASAP but is concerned about appearances. How should he broach?

Have a question about your career? Need a post-Valentine’s Day/busy season break-up plan? Want ideas for cheering up your co-workers? Email us at [email protected]Dear Caleb,

I’m starting with a Big 4 firm in October. I had an audit internship last summer where they spoke about all of the ‘flexibility’ within the firm. I was always more interested in the fraud/forensics side of accounting than audit; however, I felt that I had a better chance of getting an internship in audit due to the larger number of positions available. After taking a fraud course in my masters program this year, I confirmed my initial thought that I would much rather work in that field instead of audit.

How realistic is it to try to switch from audit to forensics within a Big 4 firm? How long should I wait until I ask about switching without burning any bridges? I feel like I already know about the normal downsides of a career in auditing, are there any unique differences (good or bad) from a career in forensics?

-Confused New Hire

Dear Confused,

We’re impressed. It was quite the sly move on your part, playing the numbers game. And per usual for a new associate, you’re thinking WAY ahead, which is fine but don’t forget you haven’t even set foot on hallowed Big 4 ground yet.

Regarding the “realistic” question, we’d venture that it falls somewhere in between “somewhat” and “not very” given the fact that your start date is months away. It’s closer to “not very” at this juncture because you have no work experience whatsoever. Forensics involves turning over lots of rocks and that simply takes time and it’s helpful if you have experience in another investigative career. Now, a switch is “somewhat realistic” for you because you know exactly what career path you’re interested in taking. You have many of your future colleagues (and some superiors) beat in this regard. To appropriately address this with your firm, discussing your interest in forensics with your career counselor and mentors is the best way to go. Simply asking about a transfer in your first year or two at the firm is coming on a little strong. Besides, a few years of auditing will serve your skills well as you prepare for a career in forensics.

As for pros and cons in forensics versus auditing, you’ve already discovered one advantage – the work is far more interesting. It’s also a specialized area, so it can be potentially more lucrative and is a unique skill set. As for disadvantages, forensics is a hot area right now and the groups are relatively small. The groups and demand for services may be growing but lots of people have are exploring this area and spots will fill up quick.

Another big disadvantage is that there’s an intangible quality that forensics experts have, that some people don’t and that is an inherent skeptical attitude and investigative intuition. Here’s what forensic expert Tracy Coenen told us last year:

It’s common for people to think that a good auditor makes a good forensic accountant, and that’s simply not the case. Some people have a gift for thinking outside the box and can get a gut feel for what’s wrong. Others only have a gift for reconciling numbers and using checklists. The [AICPA] survey addressed investigative intuition, but it didn’t even make it into the top five of core skills. I think that’s wrong on many levels.

In that same post, GC friend Sam Antar talked about having additional qualities:

An effective forensic accountant must have a pair of double iron clad balls and a triple thick skin. Prospective forensic accountants can count on making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct. […] Effective forensic accountants must at least think like a scumbag to understand criminal behavior, techniques, and countermeasures.

So, in other words, you need to have raw talent and instincts. You may have wanted to be a professional baseball player when you were a kid but still couldn’t manage to hit a ball off a tee or catch a cold.

So to wrap it up, express interest in forensics but we don’t think you should come on too strong. If you do some time in auditing and perform well, you’ll give yourself a better chance of dipping a toe into a forensics group down the road. Good luck.

Is There a Polite Way to Quit During Busy Season?

Welcome to the one-week-of-mall-madness-left edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a new hire is ready quit her Big 4 gig after three months on the job. Is there a nice way to do this during busy season?

Freaked out over your first busy season and need medication suggestions? Concerned about the lack of communication in your office? Curious about the drawbacks of a landing ��������������������ignificant other? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll tell you what’s what.

Back to fed up in Big 4:

Hi,

I’m a recent new hire at a big 4 firm in LA, and I’ve been working for the firm since October. I’m hating the job and already want to quit. I’m currently looking for jobs as we speak. Is it inappropriate to quit during busy season? How do I do so in a “polite” way?

Thanks for the advice,
HatingMyJob


Dear HatingMyJob,

Your dilemma is not uncommon but we are curious as why you would accept a job that, at least semi-consciously, you already hated before you started. You essentially took a job from someone else that probably would sacrifice an appendage for the opportunity you have.

Now that we have sufficiently guilt-tripped you, we’ll address your problem. Way back in February, we addressed this very issue and here are a few thoughts we had then:

All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do. Why the hell didn’t you quit prior to busy season? You really felt like sticking it to everyone?

Fine. Perhaps your desire for sweet, sweet revenge against your senior/manager/partner/firm is more powerful than any shred of integrity you may have but for crissakes, that makes you a very bitter person. More so than the average accountant.

We’re not sure what has happened in the last 10-ish months but we’ve mellowed on this position. That being said, we’re putting you on notice, regardless of whether you quit now (pre-busy season) or in mid-February, people will be JUDGING YOUR ASS. We’re not talking Chief Justice judging, we’re talking the WRATH OF THE ALMIGHTY judging (if your an atheist, think of it this way – science will get medieval on you with Lou Gehrig’s or something else sufficiently terrible). Hopefully you’re okay with that because your ears will be burning.

Accordingly, there’s no reason for you to worry about being polite about it. In fact, you’re better off admitting that you hate the job (feel free to get specific) and it isn’t for you. That involves you admitting that you made a mistake but hey, we all make them. It may save you a little face with some of your colleagues.

The good news is, your recruiter – if you’re using one – is going to be able to help you more during busy season because they won’t have a backlog of people burning up their phones with, “For the love of GOD, get me out of this job!” If you’re not using a recruiter, we suggest you find one and level with them about your situation. You’re not desperate but you want out ASAP. The process takes a little bit of time and you’ll be ahead of the people that choose to battle out busy season.

So, if you’re fed up. Fine. Nothing you can do to change that. If you’re looking, that’s good; you’ll have a leg up on the new associates that decide to leave after busy season. Good luck.

What Can a New Big 4 Associate Expect Their First Week?

Welcome to the Holiday Hump Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future tax associate wants to know how to prepare for the first few weeks on the job. Can we help this newbie avoid a nervous breakdown?

Need career advice? Looking for busy season survival tips? Curiosity around the dirt of our country’s diplomatic relations getting the best of you? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll make sure you don’t end up in a room with no windows.

Back to our nervous Nellie:

Hey guys,

I apologize if this is a duplicate of a prior question; but I’ve scoured the forums and can’t seem to find an answer.

I am starting at a Big 4 firm in January as an associate in the Federal tax practice. I have a few weeks at my local office before leaving for national training.

Could anyone give me an idea of what to expect from the first few weeks? Like most new associates, I feel like HR’s oversight. I really want to give myself the best possible chance to not look like a complete idiot. What can I do to prepare for my first few weeks at work? What am I expected to know or not know going in?

Constructive comments (I’ve heard all the “get ready to have no life”, “you are a slave” comments already) would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Booker T. Nervousman

Dear Booker T.,

Constructive comments? Where do you think you are? If you want real help, call Dr. Phil (the real Dr. Phil, not his Deloitte doppelgänger).

Kidding aside – it’s pretty difficult for us to predict what your first couple of weeks as a newbie will be like (our personal experience was as an experienced hire) but we’ll give it a shot. You’re likely to get a whole lot of mindless training thrown at you – diversity, sexual harassment, the ushe. This will be useful when you’re sitting around with nothing to do, while a SA or manager tries to drum up some work for you. Like everyone, you’ll get the office tour but since you’re in tax, you’ll want to pay close attention because you are going to spend all your time at the office; our guess is that you’ll have a cubicle waiting for you.

Things to keep an eye out for – a) bathrooms with lighter foot traffic; b) hotties (regardless of proximity to where you sit); c) easily accessible stairs so you can avoid awkward elevator encounters; d) break rooms with real coffee (not that Flavia garbage).

You’re likely to get some work in your first couple weeks leading up to your national training but it’s not like you have to memorize Bittker & Eustice before starting work. Chances are your seniors will assume you don’t know jack and in some respects they’re right. Hopefully, they’ll walk you through exactly what they need from you but remind them that you do have training coming up so you don’t have work sitting on your desk for the better part of a week. Keep in mind that if you had an internship with the firm and will be working with a lot of the same people, they may have higher expectations for you than if you end up on a brand new team.

Ultimately, your first-ish week(s) will be hectic but you’ll be fine. Make like an eager beaver but not too eager. Oh, and look sharp. Nothing worse than sloppily dressed newbie.

Surely we’re missing some things here, some chime with appropriate insight, keeping in mind that Booker T is already aware that their life is about to come to end.