Career advice

Want a Transfer Within Your Accounting Firm? Then Don’t Get Wishy-washy Over Money.

Ed. note: Stuck in a predicament at work? Not sure how to break it off with your busy season love interest? Wondering how best to prepare for bonus disappointment? Email us your questions. Anything goes.  Dear Going Concern,   A question from the great white north.  I'm a second year auditor with a Big Four […]

Small Firm Associate Wants the Scoop on Jumping to a Bigger Accounting Firm

Has busy season made you question everything and everyone around you? Great! Email us your troubles and we'll marginally improve your life.  Howdy!I've combed through the many post on the site, but I haven't been able to find one about my situation. Here goes…I'm finishing up my second busy season at a small local firm […]

“Average” KPMG Intern Is Concerned About the Firm’s Dance Around Full Time Offers

Do you have a question about, well, anything but are surrounded by fools who couldn't possibly enlighten you? The sages of Going Concern are here to help. Email us with your questions.  Dear Going Concern,   I recently finished my winter internship with KPMG and I am not sure how I felt about it. On […]

Help This Old Guy Figure Out His Accounting Career Dreams

Have a question for the GC public accounting dropouts, degenerates and rejects? Email us. We'll fight over who gets to call you out. After spending four years in the Navy, I went back to school and graduated with a BA in English in 2007. After looking for a job for a few months and watching […]

You Should Update Your Résumé Today

Yes, it's Wednesday, otherwise known to some of you as, "half way through a week that I have no days off," but what many people don't realize is that busy season is the perfect time to be updating your résumé. This post is more geared to be a gateway to productive commentary, so read and then […]

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 […]

Those Annoying Recruiter Calls Might Be Slowing Down Next Quarter

In a few weeks, many of you plugging along through busy season will decide to call those incessant recruiters back and test the job market. Last week's report by Robert Half and published in the Journal of Accountancy miiiiight rain on your parade, at least in the short term.  Ninety-one percent of CFOs said they don’t expect […]

Will One Bad Class Spell Doom for a Big 4 Recruit?

Today's blog post is brought to you by a worrisome soon-to-be-grad. Hi GC, I already accepted an offer from one of the Big 4 firms. When I did, my GPA was very solid. However, I took a class last semester with a professor that has the highest drop rates and the lowest grade average given […]

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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 advice@goingconcern.com. 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 […]

Should Big 4 Interns Be Hazed?

This is our second intern-themed post this week, which gets me thinking that some of you are neck-deep in coffee jockeys. This can be a trying time for those of you that are A) impatient B) dicks C) control freaks D) all of the above. As such, the following has probably crossed your mind at […]

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 […]

What’s the Cutoff Date for Leaving Your Accounting Firm Pre-Busy Season?

Are you in desperate need for advice from one of the GC hacks? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we'll draw straws to see who gets to ruin your life. Hello GC,   This is more of an opinion question from you and the GC community than actual advice. My question is particularly now before busy […]

A Young Accountant’s Beard Makes for a Hairy Career Situation

Today's advice column started off with the subject "Accountants with beards." My first thought was "damnnnn that'd make a great Tumblr," one that could rival the creeps at Messages from Match and the political poignancy of Kim Jong-un Looking at Things. WE COULD TAKE OVER THE WORLD. But…then I continued reading.  Wait. This is about an otherwise qualified […]

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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) […]

What’s a Single, New-to-DC, CPA-to-Be Girl to Do?

Ed. note: Stuck in a career that is on the road to nowhere? CPA flunk streak got you down? Want to march in boss's office all Costanza-like but not sure it's the right thing to do? Email us for advice and if things don't work out, you have full permission to blame Adrienne. Hey GC (probably […]

Can a Reformed Degenerate Drug Addict Break Into Public Accounting?

Ed. note: Are family and friends frequently throwing labels like "workaholic loser who will be alone forever" in your direction? Maybe you need some advice on how to balance things better. Email us your situation and we'll shovel some guidance your way. I would appreciate your guidance on how to break into the public accounting […]

Government Do-gooder Contemplates a Dream Job in Public Accounting

Need some advice? Email the GC team with your burning questions. Just be warned – our advice might rain on your parade. Dear GC, I am on my 6th month with a Government Audit team and got an offer to join one of the Big4. The job is of the same nature and the pay […]

Is Deciding Between Forensic Advisory Work and Auditing Really That Difficult?

Our inquisitor has options. Don't you hate that? If you're stumped on career multiple choice question or need help with picking out something for the gift exchange, email us at advice@goingconcern.com. I was fortunate enough to receive two full time entry-level offers from two Big 4 firms: 1 in Audit and 1 in Forensic Advisory […]

Exit Interviews: Speak Your Mind or Let It Go?

Ed. note: Is your career somewhere in between mundane and craptacular? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we'll help you improve your life slightly up from SUCK. GC, I'm a semi-frequent reader (hey I still have to get some work done) so I wasn't sure if this topic was covered, but I just got done reading your recent […]

A Sunshine and Rainbows GC Advice Column Success Story

It must be advice week here on GC, what with me yelling at everyone and DWB pulling double duty pissing on kids’ dreams of a fulfilling life in public accounting. I’m OK with that.

But today, I’ve got something a little different. You see, giving advice here is sort of like working at an animal shelter. You deal with the person extensively up until the moment that you hand over the animal, after which you probably never hear from them again. It’s rare that we ever get follow-ups from those who’ve written in for advice, so all that much more special to see that everything worked out for this repentant public accounting wanna-be.


Back in September, we met the Zero to Hero, who took a page from the AG playbook and decided to enjoy his youth instead of frittering it away with responsibility. While I’m sure this made for a much better experience than many of you had in your very early twenties (except for PwCASSociate, who probably woke up in the same pool of vomit as I did many a morning), it also made it difficult for this guy to get serious once he realized GPA is a real number and that cute face just isn’t going to be able to pull all the weight anymore.

DWB advised him to be honest and network his ass off, advice that many of you agreed with. Since we know for a fact many of you are confirmed slackers who somehow stay gainfully employed in this industry, it was safe to say that advice was spot on.

And now we know just a few short months later that we were right. Writes Zero to Hero:

Daniel et al:

Just to let you fine people know, the recruiting process is over for me. I ended up receiving offers from EY, Deloitte, and two second tier firms. I officially signed myself over as an EY Advisory intern last week. I am really appreciative of the advice I received and believe that it is one of the reasons I was successful. Thanks again, you guys rock.

Love,
Z to H

Congrats, kiddo, we’re proud of you.

Check back in and let us know if when you get a full-time offer, and remember, we’ll be here in a year when you’re hating life and wishing you were back in the van getting stoned.

How Soon Is Too Soon To Leave Your New Firm for a Better Opportunity?

Ed. note: Back with a second edition of the advice column today. Thanks to D Dubs. for stepping up today.

Dear GC,

I graduated in December 2010 with a degree in accounting from a well-known university. Because of my grades (2.9 Accounting GPA, 3.0 accumulative GPA), I was shunned by nearly all of the accounting firms. This has led me to working in the accounting department at a fortune 500 company.

While in school, I was able to network and make several connections at both Big 4 and regional firms. I was told repeatedly by recruiters to “pass the exam and get some experience, then come talk to me.” I have passed the CPA exam and have almost a year of experience under my belt at this point.

In early November I signed with a small regional accounting firm set to begin in January. I know that it’s bad business to immediately bail on a company, but is it too early to get in touch with my contacts at the bigger firms? While I’m very grateful for the local firm, I have my sight set on a much bigger firm, and I want to make it to the big leagues sooner rather than later. Should I gain a year or two of experience at the local firm in order to move to the Big 4 as an experienced associate or possibly a senior associate? Or would it be better to reach out to my network now and attempt to make a transition?

Thanks!

I admire your tenacity to make it to the Big Four Leagues. Staying in touch with your contacts will hopefully prove to be beneficial. I suggest reaching out to them now, as it’s prime-time hiring season for public firms leading into busy season. Provide them with an update of your progress on the CPA exam and that a local firm has expressed interest in hiring you. In turn, express your interest in working at XYZ instead, and you were hoping to inquire about any openings they may have. If they have openings, be flexible to whatever level they want you to start at, as it’s more important to get your foot in the door. Leveraging off of your recent success with the local firm would not be the worst thing you could do; you’d hardly be the first or the last person to do so.

GC’ers – what do you think? Have any of you made the quick transition like described above?

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.

Future Ernst & Young Associate Can’t Stop Talking About PwC

If you haven’t already, please read Adrienne’s post on submitting questions to the site. I applaud her for hitting every damn nail on the head, and I want to echo her bottom line: we love hearing from you; the advice columns keep this place buzzing; but please check to see if we answered your question last week. I’d also like to add that the details you can provide (practice lines, office location, level, etc.) make it easier for us to offer more precise feedback. Keep ‘em coming.

In the meantime, consider this post as Example A as to what will happen when a lazy ass individual seeks advice they can find right under their noses. With thistried to find some shred of a question to answer, but instead I found myself screaming at my monitor. If this is the product of Helicopter Parenting, we as a society are screwed. Nevertheless, we’ll get right to it:

Hey GC, how’s it going? I am writing about making a decision between EY’s FSO practice and their TAS practice. Right now there is a lot of squawk about PWC’s FSR and EY’s FSO practices. These are both very hot topics and I believe relevant to readers, as seen after the EY FSO Assurance article [this one].

First off, you’re making a decision between two different options at EY, yet refer to the “hot topic” of PwC’s FSR practice (Financial Instruments, Structured Products and Real Estate). Let’s spell out some definitions for people here who are not familiar:


1. EY FSO – Not a practice but rather a term that stands for Financial Services Office. Per their website (which I Googled like any child can do) EY’s FSO practice includes all three lines of business: assurance, tax, and advisory. It’s a go-to-market philosophy/marketing strategy/organizational hierarchy more than anything else. Go to the website to learn more, if you’re so inclined.

2. EY TAS – Transaction Advisory Services – an advisory practice by name, includes a variety of services (due diligence, restructuring, valuation, etc.). Without splitting hairs here, a TAS associate will work on FSO clients (e.g. valuing insurance claims at AIG). Said associate could also work on a transaction involving a factory in Topeka, Kansas.

3. PwC FSR – Most closely related to EY TAS as it would fall under TAS if it were at EY. But it’s not. It’s at PwC, where you don’t have an offer. Again, not relevant.

Many students have accepted or are contemplating offers from the big 4, and there are rumors circulating that FSR and FSO employees work banker hours and get paid like consultants.

You are clearly new to public accounting, Going Concern, and the world in general. Get paid like consultants? WTF does that even mean? And for the love of God, you’re not working at PwC. Stop talking about it. Note: At this point the contributor goes on with a list of questions; my feedback at the bottom.

I am having trouble making a decision between TAS and FSO. For staff one’s in NYC, total year one compensation with salary and signing bonus is between 60-70 thousand on average. Not bad, but with what kind of hours?

On the other hand, TAS year one salary is about 55k, no bonus. What type of hours can be expected? Being that all new hires in EY FSO start in BAP [link for those playing at home], a 4 year rotational program, does good old uncle Ernie just rotate their staff through busy season after busy season? How much travel can be expected in NYC, aren’t most financial clients located in the city? FSO and FSR new hires are earning on average about 10k more than their audit and TAS counterparts. If the hours are comparable to these service lines, why so much more money? If the hours are much longer in FSO, does the staff ever receive a bonus? There must be a hitch…

Readers should note: This contributor happened to email us from a company email address of a flailing/failing/going-down-in-flames investment bank and – in this writer’s opinion – should be thankful to have ANY job at ANY Big4 firm. Turns out this person has already worked at EY during a previous (and VERY recent) internship and assumedly had ample time/networks/professionals/resources/access to the Internet to answer the above asinine questions.

The hitch is that you don’t have an offer from PwC, so drop the comparison. It’s like comparing my ideal commute to work (jet pack, duh) to the one I currently have (6 train, running with delays). Comparing a PwC FSR offer to an EY TAS offer would at least be a bit more relevant.

I’m going to ignore all questions about busy season hours/travel because you should have asked them while going through the interview process. After all, that’s the point of the interview process. I’m also going to point out that your statement that, “FSO and FSR new hires are earning on average about 10k more than their audit and TAS counterparts” is wrong on many levels. First, FSO includes auditors. Second, new hires within FSO make different salaries (tax hires make XYZ, auditors makes ABC, etc.). Finally, STOP COMPARING EVERYTHING TO PwC’s FSR PRACTICE.

What you do have:

1. An offer in EY FSO: What group? I don’t have a f*cking clue, and you never told us.

2. An offer in EY TAS: Which sub-group? There are six spelled out on the company website.

So, back to one the question in your email that hasn’t been answered at GC a thousand times before:

Hey GC, how’s it going?

Overworked and underpaid. Ring a bell? Take a number.

Bottom line: read through EY’s website to understand their practice lines and acronyms, something you should have done before emailing us. Also, consider taking a job in a “safer” practice…because the last time we had record Black Friday sales was November 2008…and we all know that the house was on fire then…

How To Effectively Ask Going Concern For Advice

Welcome back from the turkey coma, kids, I had to take an extra day just to shake it off but all is well now and we’re totally ready for action, at least until I take half a week off for my birthday in two weeks. Ah, life is good.

Anyway, a desperate plea for advice we received over the weekend got me thinking – I figure it’s about time we set some ground rules for writing us for advice. Why we’ve waited two years to do this is beyond me but I don’t run the show so let’s forget that part.

Caleb was concerned by publishing said letter, I might come off as a judgmental, xenophobic prick (isn’t that the brand I’ve worked so hard to craft? Oh well) so I will refrain from publishing it to maintain some sense of decency and openness to all types and cultures don’t really have an issue with foreigners with poor English comprehension, lost little sheep or clueless accounting students; if I did, I would’ve quit this gig to write a racy sex blog a long time ago. I do, however, have an issue with lazy ass people who expect to be hand-fed the answers by us as if we don’t have anything better to do.


NOW, since you probably think I’m a dick at this point, I need to be clear when I say that I LOVE the advice component of this site. It has turned into an unexpected bright point among the lame Hans Hoogervorst jokes and Caleb’s Grover Norquist obsession, and I’m constantly both delighted and disturbed by the reactions in our comment section. You guys have proven yourselves to be mostly useful, sometimes funny and generally helpful to your fellow capital market servants seeking wisdom, and that part is great. So great that I don’t mind so much that so many of the questions we get tend to be very similar.

Keeping in mind, of course, that though we were all told how special we were when we were little, there are really a limited number of scenarios a young accountant might need help navigating. Low GPA, no Big 4 offers. A couple of offers to consider, no idea which to take. High GPA, low social skills, you get it.

But here’s a tip. We’ve been doing this so long that chances are, we’ve covered a scenario similar to yours. So your first best friend is the search bar. You will find this on the upper right-hand corner of the website just under whatever ad we’re running at that time. Type in whatever you are looking for, “compensation,” “opportunities,” “Caleb’s embarrassing affinity for wearing Brazilian women’s underwear,” whatever. If we’ve written about it, you’ll find it. If we haven’t, you won’t. Try to be vague, so instead of searching for “Caleb’s embarrassing affinity for wearing Brazilian women’s underwear,” try “Brazilian underwear” and you might have better luck.

Your second BFF is our comprehensive, all-encompassing tagging system. You may have noticed by now that both Caleb and I enjoy employing useless, often one-time-use tags just for the sake of continuing whatever joke we cracked ourselves up over when we wrote the post but we do also use tags for easy organization of information. Let’s say you’re interested in KPMG and PwC, guess what? We have a whole tag JUST for KPMG v PwC! Amazing, isn’t it?

Now, you’ve searched the site and gotten a good idea of what others are asking and are ready to write us an email. Awesome! We love emails! But please, let’s go over what is appropriate for an advice email and what isn’t.

Remember, we are NOT professionals, we are writers. In fact, some might call us degenerates. So while we know the game well enough to gently shove your confused ass in the right direction, we cannot evaluate your transcripts, refer you to credentialed programs, take the CPA exam for you, decipher your foreign credits, pretend to be you in a job interview or any matter of issues such as these. We don’t sponsor H-1B Visas, we don’t validate parking and we don’t hold hands unless you’re really, really scared.

In the same vein, we cannot draw out your entire future for you. So writing us asking for advice on how to get started in public accounting and realize your dreams of CPAhood will go unanswered. We’re not freshman career counselors. We’re also not mind readers, so know what you want answered before you write some vague email asking how to live your life when you’re old enough to have figured that out by now. To me, asking such broad questions shows that you’re a drive-by who just stumbled across the site and I’m sorry but I work for pageviews, which means I’m far more likely to coddle someone who proves they spend 5 billable hours a day here over someone who Googled “accounting” and didn’t bother to read any previous posts we’ve written. I have given up week-long benders to crank out this content, it’s offensive to get the sense someone hasn’t taken the time to read any of it before writing us. So don’t do that.

Are we clear? With that said, please keep ’em coming. I love you. Each and every one of you, even the trolls. Fuck, especially the trolls.

Is It Time To Start Fresh at a New Accounting Firm?

Ed. note: Need career advice or a last minute sweet potato recipe? career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll stuff you full of wisdom.

Hi GC,

After two years at a national mid-sized firm I’m seriously considering a lateral jump to either another mid-size or local firm. Through some bad luck and my own failure to balance work and my parental responsibilities (aka, put the spouse and kids completely on the backburner), I have gained a reputation among some of the higher-ups in my office for not being committed. While I believe this perception is unfair (I get all my work done on time and on budget), hat it is preventing my promotion to Senior. I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to, but would like to make the Senior level.

I’d like to stay with my current firm, but I’m concerned that I’m in too deep a hole now to climb out. Almost all the clients I was in line to inherit have been acquired, and I haven’t been picked up on as many engagements as I’ve lost. So even if I get good ratings on my jobs, I am pretty sure that my utilization figures are going to be ugly. A blank slate, full schedule, and even the chance at making Senior earlier are very appealing right now. But is a lateral jump worth the risk? Which is better (or worse) on a résumé: 2.5-3 years with one firm and not making Senior or 2 years with one firm as an associate and 1 year with a different firm as senior?

Please help!!

During my time in and around public accounting, I have found the promotion from Associate to Senior Associate to be a fairly automatic process. Come to work, do your work, make yourself available to go the extra mile (even if it’s not needed), don’t knock up the administrative assistant in the coat closet at the holiday party, and you’re handed the title (instead of a paycheck). Several top notch and newly minted seniors jump ship for private, further justifying the promotion of average Associates to Senior. For you not to be made Senior in the normal time period, I’m going to assume you screwed up somewhere.

From the leadership’s view, public accounting thrives on firm loyalty and employee trust. Whether it’s justified or not, you’ve been labeled as someone that management cannot trust. Somewhere along the line you must have done something to challenge these fundamental rules. The majority of partners and managers still to this day believe in the mantra that “I went through busy seasons of hell when I was young, so you can/should/deserve to, too.” Silly or not, it’s part of the code. So if I understand your statement above regarding family and work/life balance, you didn’t communicate fully with your managers/partners that you needed time with your young family. More likely is that you didn’t make your own “sacrifices” to make the work up: working from home in the evening after kids are in bed, bringing work home on weekends, etc. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t; what matters is that you need to accept the fact that your clients are being ripped from your ownership – this does not happen unless you’re dropping the ball.

Clean Slate.

You’re up against a challenge by staying at your current firm. Considering your attitude toward your career is, “I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to” you should work on your résumé this weekend and apply to other firms. The time between now and January is a hot hiring period for CPA firms of all sizes, but be sure to focus on the smaller, regional firms. You’ll have better luck finding the work/life balance you require. That said, do not think that you’ll automatically be handed the title of Senior this fall. A firm will want to see how you do as a experienced associate (how you work with management, the quality of your work, etc.) before trusting you to lead their associates.

Trust. There’s that pesky word again. Taking a busy season to prove yourself at a new firm will be a better use of your time than if you stayed where you are to fight the gossip mongers and labels that are undoubtedly floating around your office. Accept the challenge of proving yourself at a new firm – for the sake of your career and the benefit of your family.

While you’re sitting around the house this weekend, work on the following:

• Updating your résumé
• Updating your LinkedIn account (describing the industries you work on, add a nice – but not Sears photo studio nice – headshot, etc.)
• Researching the CPA firms in your area
• Digging up a recruiter’s contact information

Good luck.

Interns, Here’s the Lowdown on Ernst & Young’s FSO Assurance Practice in NYC

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com with your problem(s) but only if you’re comfortable being mocked in an older sibling kind of way.

GC,

I know my question is somewhat specific but I just accepted an Internship offer for E&Y FSO Assurance in NYC and was interested in gaining some insight into the 3 divisions within FSO Assurance. First, I would love to hear your opinion on the pros and cons of each of the three sectors (Asset Management, Banking, & Insurance) including which EY is best known for. I was also wondering if there was a clear leader in each of those sectors in NYC and was wondering which of the Big Four was bestnks so much for your help. I know I am still a year away from having to actually select one of those options but gaining people’s opinions never hurt. Thanks so much.


Congratulations on landing a sweet summer gig with Uncle Ernie. You’ll be working for a great firm in a great city making a great salary while fetching great coffee for your superiors. Cheers!

But really, welcome to New York. You’re smart in thinking ahead to the fact that where you start with your internship will lead to a fulltime offer with the same group. This is because internships are essentially training camp for your first year – make it through the summer successfully and you’re in the club. I did a little digging within my professional circle to uncover some of the EY clients that you’d have the potential of working on, as well as my own two Lincolns.

Insurance – Let’s start with this one because I have a feeling that the group consensus will be unanimous: DO NOT JOIN THIS GROUP. Sure, it is a small, “family-like” practice in the financial services industry, but you’re not coming to work for the warm and fuzzies (if you are, avoid public accounting altogether). You’re coming to make yourself a valuable asset to future employers – one, three, or ten years from now. Can you receive accelerated responsibilities and extensive interaction with your clients? Yeah, but that’s because your co-workers are jumping ship and no one within the firm wants to transfer to the Insurance group. Unless you have an absolute passion for the industry (which you don’t, since you emailed us), I would avoid this group. Stay in this group for five years (you know, to make the dream promo to manager) and you’re setting yourself up for a career working for an insurance (or re-insurance) firm.

Banking and Capital Markets – This group is bigger and more prominent than the Insurance group. It’s taken its hit in recent years because…ummm…the banking industry is in turmoil, but some of the pain has been buoyed by their growing Broker Dealer client base (also falls into this group). Potential clients include Bank of America (*gulp*), UBS Wealth Management (the shining star in the UBS sky), Icahn Securities, JG Wentworth, ING Financial Holdings, and Cantor “run for the hills” Fitzgerald. Sources tell me audit staff are constantly trying to take rotations to the asset management group, so take that for what it’s worth. Career advancement outside of public can take you to either a banking or hedge fund depending on your client exposure, but have you read the papers recently? Banking ain’t the hottest date to the prom to these days.

Asset Management – this is EY’s money train in New York when it comes to audit (and even tax) services. EY and PwC dominate this market in New York, and depending on whom you ask EY has a more rounded client base (blue chip and start ups). Premier clients include Eton Park, Reservoir Capital, Anchorage Capital, and Och Ziff Capital (do some Googling to get an idea about these firms). The exposure to different investment strategies and financial products you will see will be second to none. Don’t forget that you can count the relevant investment banks left standing on two hands, whereas there are thousands of hedge funds and private equity firms in the country (most of which are in the greater NYC area, too). Your easiest and most lucrative path out of audit and into the private sector will be with a background in asset management. Absolutely, positively, 100%.

So there you have it. As always, GC’er please chime in below with your comments.

Intern Needs Help Breaking the News of “The Decision” to Leave His Current Big 4 Firm for a Rival

Ed. note: Need advice on your career, the CPA exam or how to best enforce your firm’s dress code? Email the career advice brain trust at advice@goingconcern.com for answers.

Dear GC,

This past summer I worked as an intern with a Big 4 firm. Learned a lot, some decent people, long hours. Still felt relatively miserable considering most of the people I worked with were wound pretty tight. Fast forward to now, and I am considering “taking my talents to south beach” by switching to a different Big 4 firm. Yes, there is an immaterial amount of additional money on the table, so my decision comes down to (1) a more interesting client base and (2) a more exciting and open culture among the happier employees at the new firm.

To me “the Decision” has been made. How do I tell the firm I interned with (and accepted an offer with) that I won’t be coming to the party next year? Am I at risk of being “that guy?” Can you put me in contact with a cable network willing to run a one-hour special so I don’t have to tell them directly?

Thank you.

-Raymone James

LeBron Raymone,

First, congratulations on one-upping your entry level status in such a dire market. It sounds as though your decision is a done deal so cutting the cord with your personal version of Cleveland shouldn’t be hard to do.

Being that it’s already November, you need to reach out to the firm you’re breaking away from immediately. They’re in the middle of interview season anyway, and knowing that they have an additional spot in their budget now rather than later is important (and fair to their process). Reach out to the recruiter that was your point of contact within the firm (and probably the one that presented you with the original offer). Leave them a voicemail at work stressing the need to speak about a “time sensitive issue” and follow up with an email stating the same. Should you not hear back from them in 48 hours, follow up with another call. If it’s another empty voicemail, follow up with another email (forward the original) and state then that you will not be starting with them after graduation. Explain the situation (using the “it’s not you, it’s me” angle usually works), and thank them for the positive intern experience.

In fairness to them you should try to speak to them live on the phone; however you’re not obligated to make a dozen attempts to reach them. Everyone has email in their pocket these days and it’s reasonable to expect a response in two business days.

And why are you worried about being ‘that guy?’ If by that you mean ‘the guy who left for better money, clients, and culture,’ I’d bet it’s safe to say many of us wouldn’t mind being that guy (or lady) too.

Good luck.

You’ve Been Denied by the Big 4. What Next?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Hello Going Concern,

I’m currently finishing my last semester at the University of Kentucky, I’m a fifth year student that will be graduating in December with a dual degree in accounting and economics. The recruitment period for the big 4, regional and local firms are all over and done. I applied to basically all of the positions/internships and was not asked to interview for any of them. At first, I naively thought they just weren’t hiring from my school, but the voice of reason deep inside my head finally convinced me that it was indy own doing. My GPA was simply too low (about a 3.1).

Granted, accounting is a challenging course of study, also majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting that very good GPA. My problem now, is where to go from here. I can’t change the past and must move forward, from all indications I will graduate in December with no job prospects. Should I continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms, or should I just try and get a position somewhere….anywhere, accounting related to develop some valuable experience? I didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books. I’m not a social pariah by any means, however I know that this shyness of mine will not cut it and has hindered me tremendously at this point. I feel overwhelmed and a little disheartened at the makings of the future. If I don’t land a firm job will I be stuck in a perpetual rut in a dead end job? Is it important to avoid the private industry right out of college to get a taste of what you like in the public industry? How would you go about networking out of college, cold calling? I know I’ve asked a bunch of questions here, and maybe have not provided enough background information. To be outstanding you must stand out, now I’m at the crossroads of trying to do just that, but am a little unsure of how to start.

Sincerely,
Pablo


Pablo,

Playing the “I’m holding out for a job in public” doesn’t pay the rent or student loan bills. Not only are you up against stiff competition due to your lower-than-most-interns GPA, and self-decribed “shyness”, you’re fighting the timelines of every firm’s recruiting schedule. Meaning, the firms are done with their hiring needs by this point in time, especially if you are in a smaller market. You ask in your email to GC if you should “continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms” only to admit in the next sentence that you “didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books.” What the hell happened? Your email leaves me wondering if you simply dropped the ball on putting any effort into your job search, leaning too heavily on the notion that all you need is an accounting degree to receive free job handouts.

If going into public accounting was always the goal, your economics degree was not necessary. As “majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting a very good GPA,” why didn’t you cut your losses after a few classes and drop the major? If your answer is “because I was interested in the subject,” I’m going to call bullshit. If you were so interested in the topic, one would safely assume you would, you know, do well in those classes.

But enough about the past – given that you are about six weeks from graduating, you need to be aggressive with your job search.

Contact Career Services – Your school’s career services should have resources available to help you overcome some of the interview/social anxiety you might have that has held you back in your efforts to network with employers up to this point. They can set you up with meetings, discussions groups, mock interviews, etc. Take advantage of these free resources now; in six weeks it’ll cost you.

Stop being so damn picky – Your questions above gave me the impression that you’re being too picky (dead end jobs worries, hesitation about entering private industry instead of seeking public accounting experience, etc.). The economy – if you haven’t noticed – sucks. You’re entering a job market that is sputtering around nine percent unemployment and approximately 103 percent underemployment. Your competition is more experienced and potentially has better grades and soft skills than you.

The job market – even for accountants – is a simple numbers game – You apply to 30 jobs. You receive interviews at five. You receive second rounds at three. You hope for one offer. You should be applying to accounting roles in every industry in every sized firm. If they’re seeking an accounting degree, your résumé should be there. Search Indeed, LinkedIn, and the Monsters of the world on your own. Look into your college’s resources for alumni. Get in touch with recruiters in your area to see if they have any entry level or temp to perm positions. Play the numbers and see what hits. Good luck, and keep your head up.

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 advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

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 advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

Here’s Another Accountant Feeling Sorry For Himself Because He Doesn’t Know What to Do with His Life

Personally, I don’t know I have the energy for this shit today but here’s a sob story we’ve all heard before:

I was born to be a lot of things, but being an accountant isn’t one of them. In my heart of hearts I have always known this, but for some stupid subconscious reason, I have always ignored it.

Why? Well…um…err…I didn’t know what else to do.


Okay, I’ll jump in now – this just pisses me off. Why? Because I have the solution and it’s easy. Quit. Immediately. I don’t give a baker’s fuck if you don’t know what else to do; don’t wait, just quit your job. I spoke with a friend recently who has been with a Big 4 firm for over ten years. This person was in a similar situation as this guy, not sure what to do other than what they were doing right now (i.e. “auditing”). Then they decided that enough was enough. Forget the money. Forget not having a plan. They just up and quit without a plan. I was so thrilled to hear someone finally going with their gut rather than thinking about all the practical bullshit that ties people down. Speaking of, what’s this guy’s excuse?

You might be left asking, “If you hate it so much, then why don’t you just leave?”

I’m the first person to berate myself for sticking with it for so long. It never helped that accounting, and the financial sector for that matter, pays so well and instantaneously blindsides with dollar signs. I was always caught up chasing the next pay cheque, hanging around a few more months for a bonus and salary hike, and holding my breath for my well-deserved promotion.

The result always afforded me the trips overseas, a new car, the latest gadgets, elevation up the clothing-label food chain, gambling in a few shares here and there, and even a deposit on an investment property. Important things in a twenty-something year-old’s life, right?

It sounds like I’m making excuses. Well I am. It’s hard to walk away. But hey, if it pays well and the bills get paid, shouldn’t that be enough? And shouldn’t I just be grateful to even have a job in this economic climate?

First off, you’re using the money as the excuse. Money is a terrible excuse. Sell your car. Sell your investment property. For God sake, pull your money out of the casino that is the world’s financial markets. And the mantra “I should be grateful to have a job in this economy” is the biggest crock. Grateful for a job you hate? That’s like being grateful to be getting laid with a partner that’s lousy in bed and hates your guts. What’s the point? Go find something you want to do and never look back. Life is too short to be wasting it doing something you don’t want to do. This is not Earth-shattering advice but sometimes it bears repeating. Will your life change? You bet your ass it will and it’ll be better for it.

And that’s goes for anybody else. You know who you are. Don’t wait for this year’s busy season to come and go so you can see what the raise will be or to get another bonus. I assure you that you’ll still be miserable. Probably more so. There’s still time to save yourself. You’ll thank me. But you don’t have to.

Anxious Accounting Student Needs Advice for a PwC “Superday”

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Caleb,

I’m an avid reader of Going Concern and I was wondering if you could help ease my anxiety on my Superday coming up fairly soon. I’m currently a senior in a master’s program and I am looking for an internship this Winter. I’ve interviewed with all Big 4 and only managed to score a second round with PwC for a Northeast location. I do have a couple back up offers but really want PwC. Do you have any tips or other insights on these superdays? I often read that the majority of people attending superdays get an offer but I don’t wident. Any insights you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Anxious Student

Dear Anxious,

I’ll do my best to give you some honest insight on Superdays, although I don’t know if it will quiet your fears.


Your biggest competition at the Superday will be yourself and your choice to pursue a winter internship (presumably tax?). Everyone knows that the summer internship programs are the bees’ knees: barely 40 hours a week; summer outings; awesome schwag. Winter internships, on the other hand, have been traditionally limited in numbers but extensive in experience. This is changing a bit this year, as firms are looking for a small uptick in winter interns to help offset the turnover in staff. The firms’ practices have higher standards for the students they hire for this time of year because they’ll be doing actual work (relative to the summer class). But should you land one of the spots on the winter intern bench, you’ll be poised to rake in a lot of overtime $$$. So, what do you need to do at the Superday to best position yourself for one of the internship spots? Keep your cool. Keep your confidence.

Be flexible. Winter interns are oftentimes from local universities, since many students balance a light credit schedule while putting in long hours at 300 Madison Avenue (or 345 Park, or…okay you get it). If you’re in this position, oversell your availability to work. Think you’re taking 15 credits? Say your’e taking 12. Available on weekends? You bet! They’re looking to hire workhorses, not show ponies. If you’re taking the semester off, that’s great; make sure the recruiter knows this. Talk about your willingness to work long hours and do “what’s best for the team” even if that means working weekends. The goal is to land an offer, not sound like someone with a grasp on reality. “Work the entire month of February and sleep under my desk?!?! Sign me up!!!”

Now, then. General advice for Superdays:

You’re always being watched. Think that the teambuilding event is trivial? Think again. The recruiters will be watching how you interact with the team members. One comment of “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done” will get you dinged. Sit down, shut up, and BE REALLY EXCITED TO PLAY WITH MARKERS.

Careful with the booze. Every firm’s 2nd round interview program is different, but be sure to take it easy if there is booze involved. Take a page out of my BFF Patti Stanger’s book: keep it to two drinks. You’ll loosen up, it’ll taste GREAT after the long day, but you won’t get too loose lipped. Just because the evening’s atmosphere is casual, doesn’t mean the office managing partner should know what you’re getting your boyfriend for Christmas.

Shoot for the middle of the fairway. Every in-office interview program has the same cast of characters. The Funny Guy. The Guy Who Thinks He’s Funny But Isn’t. The Girl Who’s Skirt is Questionably Short. The Guy Who is Wearing His Father’s Suit. The Sit in the Corner Special. The Candidate with Too Much School Pride. The Leader Who Doesn’t Know How to Be a Team Player.

Umm, yeah. Don’t be any of those.

Easy on the cellphones. Silence it, turn it off, and only look at it on breaks. Nothing pisses off an over-the-hill recruiter more than watching a room full of Millennials texting and tweeting over their morning fruit salads.

Good luck.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

Fence-crossing Regulator Wants to Know How to Jump into a Big 4 Firm

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

I have a senior-level job with a regulator that has jurisdiction over accounting firms. (Don’t want to say much more, because it would be self-identifying.)

I think my credentials may be good enough to land a partner-level job with a Big Four to help with compliance and whatnot. I’d like to pursue this some time over the next several years.

But how should I make the approach? Should I contact the firms directly at the appropriate time? Or go through a headhunter? If a headhunter, which ones have the best contacts for senior positions?

Thanks for your help.

–Fence-crosser (sorry, I couldn’t come up with a witty name)

Fence-crosser,
Give yourself some credit – your nickname is wittier than most (and by most, I mean people usually sign their first and last names and add their Social Security number for good measure).


After a quick (and confidential) search for your background on LinkedIn, I have a much better understanding of your seniority and depth of experience in the regulatory space. Very impressive. Considering your educational background (for those of you playing at home – very strong undergrad and advanced degree programs), I have no doubt that you’ve made your mark within the inner circles of both your industry and your city (major US market).

Before we talk about how to go about pursuing opportunities within the Big 4, let’s talk about this so-called “partner-like” level where you’d like to land. Without a CPA you cannot be a partner, however principals are a non-certified equivalent and directors are nothing to slouch at, either. You’d most easily transition into either 1) a firm’s internal professional practice, helping decipher government regulation and how said firm’s practices are affected by changing laws or 2) a firm’s advisory group, aiding clients with the same issues. The upsides – both monetarily and network-wise – would be in advisory. But do not overlook being an internal expert; they are paid handsomely for their work.

When it comes to seeking out the Big 4’s interest in your particular skillset, I suggest starting with their in-house Experienced Hire recruiters. All of the firms are hot to hire people with your experience. Look into their publicly posted opportunities first; either you will find something in line with your background or at the very least find a name to contact. Check out last week’s post for links to each firm’s experienced hire pages. Your skillset would be an exceptional value added to a firm’s compliance/regulatory departments. Best of luck in transitioning.

Readers – are you familiar with this kind of transition? Have you made the move yourself? Email Caleb and he’ll connect you with Fence-crosser should you be able to help. Are you a recruiter at one of the Big 4? Do the same – contact Caleb and make this happen.

Will Years Out of the Game Negate the Big 4 Boomerang Effect?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Here’s an issue I rarely see. I joined PwC management consulting right out of my Ivy League school, and have my undergrad degree in Economics. I loved it, worked hard, made manager in five years and worked for some huge clients. I did all of the extras, methodology writing, promotion committees, coaching, proposals, etc. Managed some huge high profile projects too. Was offered a slot at PwC’s new executive MBA program, and was in the alpha class, graduating with a concentration in Marketing (picked by the firm). But then we had huge post 9/11 layoffs, were spun off and bought by IBM. I left soon after to start a family. I was there nearly ten years.

I went back to school and got my MSAT, and now am halfway through my CPA exam, acing it thanks to my teaching and experience. I’ve been teaching accounting and tax at a major university for the past four years as an adjunct, and doing a little private consulting.

Can I get back in to Big 4? Do I do it as an experienced hire? I know I’ve never been a practicing auditor but I know the methodology and how to manage large engagements. What’s the best way for me to work my way back in? My former colleagues are all at IBM or have left. I am not eligible for on campus since I graduated with my latest masters in 2009.
Thanks!

DISCLAIMER: not every circumstance in the history of circumstances has been taken into consideration when making this statement:

Public accounting – you can always come back.

The flow of people out of public accounting is much more intense and consistent than the experienced hire onboards, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. I did a little searching on LinkedIn and realized that you live in the greater New York City area, which is to your advantage. Many of the Big 4’s support staffs are located in NYC, so there might be options in those areas of the firms if a return to client servicing is not possible. so your odds of finding an opportunity and a new home with one of the Big4 improve slightly. Start with searching their Experienced Hire websites for open opportunities. Links are below:

Deloitte

E&Y

KPMG

PwC

Scour LinkedIn for experienced hire recruiters within each firm and reach out to them directly; have them hear your story. Most importantly, be persistent. The experienced hiring model within the Big 4 is can be touch and go, especially considering the recent uncertainty in the economy.

Will a Floundering GPA Doom a Recruit’s Big 4 Hopes?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Hi GC,

I am interviewing with multiple big four firms but I am a little worried that if I receive an offer it may be revoked later on. I graduate in December with my masters and due to recruiting season and studying for the CPA exam I have not focused much on school. My current GPA is 3.5 and I feel that after this semester it will be in the 3.3-3.4 range. Have you ever heard of a CPA firm revoking a new graduate offer due to their grades slipping? I am getting a little worried. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Scared

Scared,
Welcome to the trials and tribulations of recruiting season. Unfounded rumors. Random interview selection. Lost sleep over imploding GPAs. Epic amounts of money wasted on free schwag*.

Rest assured, the drop in your GPA should not affect your eligibility. Consider this: your candidacy for a spot at a Big 4 firm consists A) your undergraduate GPA/degree B) any relative internships you’ve landed C) your first semester of grad work (the 3.5 GPA) and D) your CPA eligibility. I say “should not” without making a promise because the world could end tomorrow (Greece! UBS! HPV shots!) and recruiting could dry up but it’s not likely. Okay, UBS could be toast…

I’m not suggesting that you let things slide, either; you will need to provide a final transcript upon graduation. Assuming you took an equal amount of credits across two semesters for your Masters program, your first semester of a 3.5 GPA will be match up with a second semester of 3.2/3.3. Not the end of the world.

Keep interviewing, keep studying, and keep us informed of how things play out. Good luck on campus this fall.

*GC contributors will gladly accept schwag.

Career Fairs: The Do’s and Don’ts of Emailing Recruiters

127. That is the number of unread emails in my inbox at this very moment (Wednesday @ 2:28pm). Two meetings, a list of high priority to-do’s, and a number of phone calls to return when I hit my desk before 8:00a this morning. What’s the point? We professionals are busy creatures and as much as we appreciate the thoughtfulness of a “thank you” email when we meet you at a Career Fair, we don’t want to hear about your interest in IFRS issues. In an effort to build off the advice in the comments of Monday’s post, here are some things to keep in mind before hitting send on your thank you email to us.


Do: Keep it short, but personal. When we attend a career fair, we can meet upwards of 200 students in an afternoon. Even if 25% send emails, that’s 50 interspersed amongst our regular business inbox. Keep it short, to the point, but also relevant so it doesn’t seem like you sent the same message to every firm. Tip: reference something professional the two of you spoke about, reference to the recruiter what professional you met, or thank them for the invite to an event later in the week; something to make the connection to your brief in-person encounter.

Don’t: Regurgitate your cover letter. It’s a “thank you” email, not an opportunity to over-sell your candidacy.

Do: Triple check your grammar. Nothing takes you out of the running faster than a misspelled name or the incorrect verb tense in a sentence. Sure, accountants are notoriously bad with spelling and grammar, but leave the misspellings to the managers. When you sign off, go with “sincerely” or “regards” followed by your name.

Don’t: Make us feel old. Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs. are all off the table. We are not our parents, capisce? More importantly, you need to put yourself on the same level as us. You want to be treated as the adult you are, so speak to us as equals. This goes for everyone up and down the hierarchy (first-year professionals to partners). We’re all on the same level when it comes to addressing us in emails.

Do: Capitalize. keep the lowercase sentences to yourself. and your texting buddies. okay? okay.

Don’t: Attach your résumé. Submit through the website like the recruiter mentioned 32 times.

Do: Keep it light. Remember – we enjoy spending time on campus and interacting with the future of our firms. We had a great time meeting you – remind us of that.

Don’t: Get offended if you do not receive a response. Oftentimes the professionals will just forward the emails to the recruiter to keep track of. You wouldn’t expect a “you’re welcome” note if you were mailing a thank you note, would you?

What Can a Big City Big 4 Auditor Expect at Small City, Second-tier Firm?

Back with another edition of “Decide My Life for Me – Public Accounting Edition.” Today, an antsy Big 4 employee in a large city wants to know if moving to second-tier firm in small city will mean a demotion or cut in salary.

Do you have trouble matching your socks? Need help making sense of your cryptic performance review? Are you worried that someone with a bun in the oven is also capable of doing their job? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and someone will try to straighten you out.

Back to our “Should I Stay or Should I Go” du jour:

Hi,

I was curious if you had any information on employees jumping from Big 4 firms (auditing) to upper-mid-tier (i.e. McGladrey). Do you find that they are often promoted? I am currently in a large city and am uninterested in staying in the city long-term. I was thinking of moving to a 300,000 person city with some firms like McGladrey, Grant Thornton, etc. If I am jumping ship as a senior or manager, where should I expect to come in at? Same level? Same salary?

Thanks
Jumper

Dear Jumper,


Had it with Big 4 life, eh? Let me guess, the groupies got to you, didn’t they? Every damn time.

As to your inquiry, here’s the deal – you won’t be promoted if you decide to accept a position with McGladrey or Grant Thornton. Why? There are a few reasons: 1) You don’t have the experience; 2) You don’t have the experience; 3) You don’t have the experience. We all know that Big 4 auditors think they’re pretty special and that anyone who doesn’t soil themselves after looking at their stellar résumés followed by an immediate job offer is simply stupid. So it comes as a shock to many when this scenario doesn’t play out. As far as second-tier firms go, they definitely want Big 4 talent when they can get it but they’re aren’t about to throw you a bone because you worked at E&Y Chicago or PwC New York.

What you can expect – if you’re senior associate or a manager at a Big 4 firm, you can reasonably expect to be offered (not a guarantee, obv) a similar position at GT or Mickey G’s that you currently have. If you’re moving to a smaller city, you could see a similar salary but you should not expect a raise. You’ll receive the market rate for your position in your new city. The firm may put you at the high range of pay for your group but be prepared to be reminded of that fact come merit increase time.

Anyone made a similar move with different results? Share below.

Big 4 Recruiting Season: Career Fair Tips

Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Good afternoon, GC’ers. I’m going to be devoting posts to general campus recruiting advice this week. College students – listen up. Already-employed cohorts – chime in with your own advice. Today I’m going to cover Career Fairs, everyone’s favorite meat market.


Questions you should be ready for – “Did you submit your resume through Career Services? Did you submit our firm’s additional paperwork? When do you graduate? What office are you interested in? Will you be CPA eligible up graduation? What practice are you interested in?” If you know what practiced you’ sure to have your paperwork submitted through the necessary online means. Don’t know what you’re applying for? Read below…

Know what you’re applying for – Nothing worse than talking to a student who is, “Uhhhhhhh, you know, I’m open to anything.” To me, that means you are unfamiliar with my firm’s services and you’re standing in line like a lemming because you know it’s good for you. Do you homework ahead of time about what practice groups are being targeted on your campus. Here’s a hint – focus on the job posts that are on your Career Services site; this is what each firm is focused on and actively recruiting for from your particular school. Don’t see Transaction Advisory Services listed? Probably ain’t gonna happen.

Suit up – Take a piece of advice from Barney Stinson and rock a suit to the Fair. It doesn’t need to be an expensive suit; heck, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Personally, I’m not a fan of the trend of suits becoming the norm at career fairs but it is better to match your competition than to assume “different is better.” Accounting firms are not Google; they breed a conservative culture. Play along, at least until you have an offer.

In an effort to avoid this becoming an Esquire-like blog post, I’ll keep my suit advice simple.

Ladies: Make sure your blouse is comfortably but securely buttoned, and take the potential of taller recruiters (aka wandering eyes) into consideration. Also, avoid hot magenta or any other color that would be included in a pack of highlighters.

Gents: That Calvin Klein tag on the outside of your jacket’s left sleeve? Yeah, that’s supposed to come off. Also, be sure to open your pockets and jacket vents before going to the Fair. It’s always awkward to see a guy trying to stuff a business card into a sewn up pocket.

Relax. Don’t sweat it. – Really, I mean that. Few things are more repulsive than shaking the moist hand of an anxious student. It can get hot at career fairs, I know. You can do a couple of things to chill out if you have a sweating problem: 1) Hold you résumé folder in your left hand and keep your right hand out of your pocket. This will let your hand breathe. 2) Small talk the person next you – it will help both of you relax. 3) A good swipe of your right hand on the back of your leg when you know your turn is coming up is totally fair game.

Always mints, never gum – There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the Big 4 booths. As you’re waiting in the mass herd of people, pop a few Tic Tacs or mints (avoid Altoids – too strong). They’ll help you relax and will be gone before you start speaking to the recruiter.

Business cards = cheat sheets – Ask for business cards when you meet with the professionals at the career fair (note – if they don’t have any, just remember to get their name so you can take notes later). Generally speaking, they are alums from your school and are excited to be back on campus and they can be a great resource going forward. They will also be at other events, even as early as the same week as the career fair. In between visiting booths, take two minutes to scribble notes on the back of the business card to help you remember who they were. “Black hair.” “Red glasses.” “Talked about baking.” “Mentioned she was an Eagles fan.” Reviewing these cards prior to next week’s firm-sponsored social event on campus will help you remember the connections much better.

Find out when they’ll be back – The five minutes you spend with the recruiters and professionals at the career fairs are not enough to earn yourself an interview. It is imperative you make personal connections with members of each firm. Beta Alpha Psi presentations. Cheesy happy hour mixers. Whatever. Go, shake hands, and laugh at their jokes. Earn yourself an interview.

Remember your manners – Thank everyone for their time. As happy to be on campus as they may be, many of the professionals will put in hours for work back at their hotels later that night. It is not always easy for them to take time off from work to make the trips back, so have a little respect for their time and their neglected inboxes.

Have anything to add? Email us or leave your comments below.

Leaving Your Accounting Firm? Here’s Your To-Do List Before Your Last Day

Ed. note: Got a question from the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Happy Friday, folks. Even though Summer Fridays are a thing of the past, we have much to be thankful for. College football on the tube. Ya’ll are getting laid, apparently. And we have some great questions coming into GC.com, like this one here:

I’m ready to leave the Big 4 for industry but want to make sure I don’t m��������������������make the jump. Is there a GC cheat sheet on things to take care of (and take with you) during the 2 week lame duck period after I give my notice? (e.g. contact info, CPE profile, etc.)

I’d love to hear GC readers’ thoughts.

Thanks.

Caleb and I scratched our brains on this one and realized that no – we’ve never really covered this topic. I know some if not all offices allow employees to take care of loose ends during the two week downtime but wouldn’t you rather be prepared to turn everything over on the same day? What I want to do here is cover the basics from the angle that you want to be able to put in your notice and walk out the door the same way. You fill in the details in the comments section below, as I’m sure I’ve missed some of the finer points. Share your horror stories and little victories alike.

1. A. Back up your personal computer files – Technically your work computer is reserved solely for work files and functions but for many of you it is a secondary (even primary) personal computer. I’ve seen laptops turned in with the likes of iTunes libraries, photo albums, tax returns and personal financial tracking files just hanging around in plain sight. You don’t know when HR or your partner will demand to seize your computer (I’ve even seen partners’ commuters seized with no access granted to the files for weeks), so make sure you back everything up onto your own USB drive.

1. B. Delete your personal computer files – Once everything is backed up (make sure the files open on another computer), delete everything personal that’s on the computer. Don’t forget to empty the trash can, too.

2. Get a new wireless plan – If you’re wielding a firm-purchased phone, you’ll be needing to turn that over as well. Take the initiative to get a new phone and have the contacts from your current (firm) phone transferred to your new (personal) device. Every carrier is different, but some will let you buy the new phone without having to activate it immediately, thus giving you the option to walk in there later (presumably, after you’ve dropped the bomb on leadership) and transfer the number over. If you prefer a clean slate and want a new number, so be it.

Also, remember to delete your recent call log, Blackberry Messenger conversations, texting history, sensitive contacts (*cough* your recruiter *cough*), etc. Granted if they really want go through an archive they will, but that really only happens if suspicious/illegal activity is suspected.

3. Organize your client work – This can be a very mundane and verbose task however necessary it may be. The goal here is to make things as easy as possible for your colleagues. Use separate USB drives for different managers and partners. Give everyone an update “open items” list for your active engagements. Make it so organized that a new person to the team would able to seamlessly come on board, read your notes, and pick up where you left off.

Chances are good that you like your co-workers, as one of the most common hesitations staff members have when leaving public accounting is, “I would feel bad leaving my co-workers swamped with my work.” Here’s the deal: they survive. I mean, think about it – how many times has a coworker left before you? Sure, the first few days can be a slow go, but they’re out-of-sight-and-mind within a week. Work is divvied up and completed.

4. Link in with people – I covered this back in June.

5. Mentally prepare yourself – Accounting firms are hit the hardest with employee turnover around this time of year so you need to expect your employer to put up a bit of a fight. Better clients, better work life balance, rotation to another group, verbal praise and affection. (Where was that love when you were working 7:30a to 11:30p during busy season?) You need to prepare for the pressure to be there to turn down your other offer on the spot. There’s nothing wrong with hearing out what your firm can put on the table, but you are under no obligation to turn around and be back on Team PwC or Kamp KPMG during the same meeting you put in your resignation.

Also, remember: you can always go back. Not sometimes. Not usually. ALWAYS. The only thing more valuable to a public accounting firm than its employees are employees that return with private experience.

6. Copy down contact information – There are people you will want to stay in contact with as your careers progress. This should be a no-brainer.

7. One last thing – There’s that colleague with whom you have some tension. Maybe they’re seeing someone, maybe they’re not. Screw the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and say something before you leave. Be bold.

How Should an Academic Zero to Hero Approach Recruiting Season?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Going Concern,

I’ve been worrying about this for so long, I’m hoping some people in the profession can shed some light on my fears. When I was 18, I was an idiot. I attended a school far away and I literally never attended class. I also never dropped any classes. Needless to say, I flunked out with many Fs on my transcript (almost a full year’s worth). Later on, I went to a community college and remained an idiot. I did the same thing. My GPA was ~0.9.

Fast forward a few years in a new location, and things are a different story. I went to a community college down here and after screwing up yet again in the first term, I had a 4.0 GPA for the remaining 18 classes. I matriculated to a 4 year school (automatic admission in Florida for AA graduates) and continued. My last 64 credits have been straight As, and I have taken some of the hardest accounting classes – including Cost and two Theories.

I am absolutely dreading recruiting. My institution tells me that my “real” GPA consists of the grades I’ve earned at the school – which would make my GPA a 4.0. However, my transcript is going to have my overall GPA of 2.6 on it. To make matters worse, my actual coursework from the newer community college won’t be on the transcript so they won’t even notice much of an admirable grade trend.

I am also not a member of Beta Alpha Psi. To be an accounting major at my school, you need a 3.0 GPA – I was ineligible my first semester. Since I did not have an accounting GPA before last week, I have to submit my application in the next few weeks. I hope their admissions process isn’t so slow that I miss out on any of their opportunities. OCR is next month.

I know this is a scattered story that very few people can relate to. I don’t know what happened in those years and can’t understand it either. If anyone has some direction for me I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you and I love the site. It’s easily my favorite place for shameless mental masturbation when I’m feeling anxious.

– Zero to Hero

Dear Z to H:

Whatever you did to break out of the unfortunate streak of bottom feeding failures in the classroom and get yourself up to a 4.0-GPA-earning level, please tell me. I would like to make it, bottle it, and sell it to the masses.

The way that your college calculates “real” GPAs is standard for the industry; realize that this is absolutely to your advantage. The 4.0 you are currently carrying should be reflected on your résumé. Also on your résumé should be the time you spent at the community college. The time there launched you to where you are now.

Do not be afraid to approach recruiters. That said, I recommend talking to every firm regardless of size. Some might be turned off by your unconventional path to Dean’s List. Be prepared to be honest with the recruiters about your first attempt at college and the years you took off and when you began to right the ship. Honesty is absolutely the best approach here, because come offer time you will need to provide a transcript of your academic history. You want the transcript to be confirmation of your story, not the bombshell. Good luck.

Should an “Accidental” Tax Lawyer Go Back to School to Qualify for the CPA?

Back again with another edition of fix my career ASAP. Today, “an accidental tax lawyer” wants to obtain a CPA to bolster his small practice. Other lawyers look at him like he’s “crazy” when he discusses the IRC but our Regretful JD enjoys all the minutiae. Problem is, he’ll have to start from scratch since he has business background. Is this plan gold or is he a glutton for punishment?

Are you suffering from a case of summer-is-ending-which-means-busy-season-is-right-around-the-corner blues and are wondering if it’s time for a new job? Does your golf game suck? Do you wear pinstripes? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll suggest something that wins.

Back to our lawyer friend:

So, long story short:

I’m an accidental tax lawyer. I studied neuroscience in college and went to law school to do patents. I took personal income tax as a summer course after my first year, was surprised that I both liked it and did well. Through the remaining two years of law school, I took corporate tax, gift and estate tax, state and local tax, natural resource taxation, two tax seminars, and averaged an A- in them all. Graduated, passed the bar and opened my own tax shop, mostly small business and non-profit formation, opinion letters for CPAs and walking taxpayers through audits. I operate on a one-stop-shop model-come to me and I’ll handle your legal and tax planning needs. I’m good at what I do, and I’ve been profitable since the first year.

Here’s where you guys come in: I think I’d really enjoy being a CPA. Other lawyers look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about the internal revenue code, but I find tax planning enjoyable and it lets me be creative. Am I crazy to consider going back and taking the courses necessary to qualify for the CPA exam? My local public university offers a graduate “Pre-CPA” program, with just the courses required to qualify for the exam. As an undergrad, I took two semesters of calculus and two semesters of inferential statistics, but the rest was basically hard science (physics, microbiology, organic chemistry, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, etc). Except for my tax law background, I’d basically be starting from scratch.

Hell, is there even a market for CPA/JDs? I don’t need to work Big Four (I like meeting with and managing my clients on a personal level. I find it very rewarding), but to keep a roof over my head I’d need to earn at least mid-five figures. If I continue with the solo practice model, I’d be able to provide accounting, tax and legal services, but I’m not sure that accounting as a value-add would be worth tuition + lost opportunity time when I’m studying instead of working.

Any advice you can offer me is appreciated.

Sign me off,
“Regretful JD”

Dear Regretful JD,

First off, if that’s the short version, thanks for sparing us the details. YEESH. Secondly, neuroscience to patents to tax is quite the interesting progression but we won’t pry…it was a woman, wasn’t it?

Now, then. Your situation. Personally I think you’re at a huge advantage compared to the CPAs out there that are thinking about going to law school. Some of you remember the post we did last year discussing that particular jump and it’s not an easy one. Law school grads, as our friends at Above the Law will tell you, aren’t exactly drowning in job opportunities these days but they are being suffocated by six-figure school debt. For you, Regretful JD, that ship has sailed. You’ve got your practice set up, enjoy the work, and are earning a steady dollar.

The problem, as you stated, is that you’d be starting from scratch. If you’re single and don’t have a grip of cash stuffed in your mattress to get you through the “Pre-CPA” program, you’re going to be living on Cup o’ Noodles and saltines smeared with dijon mustard. Are you ready to make that sacrifice? What about your clients? Are you just going to drop them or will you attempt to keep them by promising the world and more once you’ve got your CPA? Your life could be a living hell trying to juggle tax seasons and school work.

As for your question regarding “a market for CPA/JDs” our aforementioned post found that, yes, there is something to be said for the CPA and JD white-collar, one-two punch. Being able to understand legal ramifications of your clients’ decisions as well as being able to dig into the numbers and actually understand them has proven to be a great selling point.

Ultimately the decision comes down to one of logistics. Can you work, go to school and maintain your sanity and/or shred of a social life that you have left? It’s not impossible but you’ll have a rough couple of years, to be sure (don’t forget about the CPA Exam!). Those that have done it will likely say it was worth the struggle but everyone has their breaking point. What’s yours?

Also see:
Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course? [GC]
The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t [GC]

Big 4 Senior Wants to Know If Her Family Planning Scheme Is Crazy

Ed. note: Are you in the middle of a career conundrum that could use some third-rate advice? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we just surprise you with some sensibility.

Hi!

I work in audit at a Big Four firm in Europe. I’m starting my second senior year and I’ve received good evaluations so far (B+ on my first year,
and then A’s on my second and third years). I love the job, but I know I won’t stay forever (too many long nights, plus I just don’t think
I’d like to be manager). I’m 25, I’ve been married for 2 years and I want kids. I want to start trying, keep working through pregnancy, take the usual time off after birth (paid by government), and return to work part-time. Then after some time I’d probably look for a job elsewhere to work full time (but not Big Four hours).

I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when
I tell him I’m pregnant? Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?

Thank you!

Hi Europe,

Greetings from across the pond. I’ll do my best to help with your questions, but seeing that I am neither a) pregnant nor b) part of the busy season cycle, I hope the GC.com community can pitch in their own advice. My advice is based on a combination of what I’ve seen here in New York, my general knowledge of Big 4 firms, and what I think (or hope) is common sense.

EU: I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when I tell him I’m pregnant?

DWB: The timing of your pregnancy and pending childbirth will determine how your senior manager takes the news. Generally speaking (again, from what I see here in the States), it’s better from a career move perspective to be pregnant during busy season than to give birth and be out of the office during final reviews, sign-off’s, etc. So, conceiving in the next few months shouldn’t pose too much of an issue.

Let’s say your nine month clock kicks off in October; you’re looking at a July baby. Like the rest of your life, working through busy season will require an adjustment on your part and open communication with your team will be essential. Summer babies are a very common and oftentimes planned with busy season in mind.

EU: Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?

This question contradicts with what you said earlier in your email, so I’m going to say stay where you are for now. You’re doing well at your firm, and your job there might even act as a rock as you transition into parenthood. I suggest taking advantage of the support groups your firm has in place, and seek out the advice of senior employees who balance work and parenting already.

Good luck with starting your family! GC’ers – what kind of advice can you provide to our hopeful accountant-and-mother-to-be?

Turn Off Your iPod and Listen to Steve Jobs

My oh my, it’s been a strange week in the world. Going Concern blackout aside, Irene is hoping to rain on parades and summer cook-outs from the Carolinas to Boston; Libya is out of control; the Washington Monument has seen the US economy – errr Apple – lost its leader in Steve Jobs. His resignation sparked conversations across the globe, from Wall Street trading desks to Main Street to our little corner of the blogosphere here. At some point this week even my geeky-self thought things reached extreme Steve-Jobs-Oversaturation levels.

While perusing Lifehacker.com (see? geek) for Do-It-Yourself advice last night I was not able to avoid their mildly-inappropriate-titled-article about a commencement speech Jobs delivered to Stanford graduates. I would recommend the YouTube clip to anyone, both those of you who are green in your careers and those who are balancing work with family responsibilities. One of the more-HR friendly quotes to come from Jobs’ speech was the following:

Don’t settle. You’ve got to find what you love…your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is do to great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

How many of us can say that what we do at work – sometimes 40 hours a week, sometimes 80 – do what we love? Not “like,” not “well, it’s okay.” I’m talking about jump-out-of-bed-in-the-morning-with-excitement kind of love. I can’t say it. I like what I do, and there are moments in my job that I love. But love this shit every day? No.

But I’m working on it. And so should you.

Assess your current situation. Can you leave your job tomorrow? Would you? Note – job responsibilities (i.e. deadlines) are not valid excuses. Every job has deadlines – if you hold on to just “Oh, but my manager will be upset if I leave now” you are looking out for your boss more than yourself. Suck it up and be selfish. It’s okay to be selfish.

For me, I can’t leave my job tomorrow. For where I want to be in five years, I need to stay where I am for a bit longer. So in my case (and probably in many of your cases), a change of employer is off the table. So what do we do? We change what we can control.

We can all improve our lives, and I’m not talking about the “eat more vegetables” kind of improvements. I’m talking about transitions in lifestyle that affect the mental and emotional capacity of your day-to-day. Become an active member in an interest group at work. Volunteer more. Research inter-office rotation opportunities. Bust your ass four days a week so you can leave at 5:00p every Wednesday to catch your child’s soccer game. I don’t know what you need – that is for you to figure it out. So sit down and figure it out.

If you pump more life into your days, just think of the possibilities. You’ll sleep better. You’ll be a better coworker/partner/friend/parent/friend. You’ll find satisfaction in your day-to-day that makes the rest of the craziness in the world seem more bearable.

This is not easy. No one said it was. Not me, not Jobs, not your mother. But summer is wrapping up and before we know it (or as the partnership tax group is currently experiencing), busy season will be down your throats and all sweet, fond memories of 12% salary bumps will be swiftly diminished. But it’s not about the bumps in salary or the iPad giveways. It’s about (re)igniting the inner swagger and passion we all hold within ourselves. Think I’m spewing HR bull$@%^? Then you’re not ready for this post, and that’s okay. Come back in November, January, March. We’ll be here.

Share your thoughts below. Cheers.

Is a FASB Internship the Path to Prosperity?

Ed. note: If you’re desperate for career advice from a couple of Big 4 refugees or someone who won’t bother sitting for the CPA Exam, shoot us an email at advice@goingconcern.com. Thanks for your support of Going Concern.

A reader asks on behalf of a “friend”… right:

GC,
A friend of mine was accepted as one of the FASB interns right out of his master’s program, and was wondering what he can expect regarding salary/perks when he is done with the internship. They choose 12 total people per year. His email would give away his name, so I had to send it.

We are not looking for specific numbers, rather, with your past experience, would you expect firms to offer higher salary and perks osed “elite” position? He merely wants a 2nd year salary and to get his CPA bonus and materials paid for (since he lost these benefits by declining his current offer from one of the Big 4.

Thanks again,
Young and Naive.

First off, Y&N, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out here that we don’t make a habit of publishing email addresses under any circumstances, so in the future, your “friend” is welcome to get in touch directly and we will not blab to everyone about “his” business. Then again, with 12 folks entering this “elite” position, it’s not that hard to narrow down the choices and figure out who is who. But who cares?

You mentioned that your “friend” turned down a Big 4 offer (presumably to take this FASB internship) so what are you, er, he thinking is going to happen when the internship is over? All Big 4 firms pay for CPA review, most of the larger firms offer some sort of CPA bonus so he’d be wise to get as much done as he can during the internship so he can knock out that last part just after the ink has dried on his offer letter and get the larger bonus offered.

That said, not sure if you’ve heard but FASB isn’t exactly the elite accounting standard setting body it once was back in the days before mark-to-market. It’s hard to tell you – er, your “friend” – how valuable this internship will be without knowing more about what it entails. If it’s some legitimately elite program that only a handful of accounting students qualify for every year that will teach your “friend” the ins and outs of accounting standard setting under the watchful guise of seasoned pros, perhaps your “friend” will have a little leverage when it comes to negotiating a better payout in public accounting after leaving FASB but I wouldn’t expect to be pulling 6 figures or anything. In fact, I wouldn’t expect much at all beyond the usual salary bump one gets for being a high performing MAcc student with skills beyond binge drinking.

Could this be the Postgraduate Technical Assistant Program, by chance? You don’t have to tell us, lest your “friend” get put on blast, just asking.

Obviously this valuable experience will put your “friend” a step above slackers, and will teach your “friend” all sorts of marketable skills such as time management, prioritization and critical thinking in the scope of accounting, not to mention offer all sorts of networking opportunities should your “friend” decide to stay or return to the realm of policy over public drudge work. In the long run, these skills will probably be worth more (figuratively, not literally in the sense of buckets of cash delivered to this person’s front door just for being such a talented human being) than any imagined huge salary perk your “friend” is expecting for coming into public with this experience.

This experience will get your “friend” into the Big 4 if that is the route “he” wants to take, and “he” may even be able to play “make the firms fight over who gets to have me” but “he” will likely have to put in blood, sweat, tears and – most importantly – time just like the rest of the grunts to make the big money.

Will “he” have a competitive advantage? Yes. Is that worth more money in the big picture of things? Yes. Is your “friend” going to be offered $30k more than his “average” MAcc classmate just because he went through this program? Doubtful. Is his lifetime earning potential slightly more due to the experience, knowledge and connections he will gain through this program? Totally.

Why did you write us to ask this? Just to have people congratulate you – er, your “friend” – for nailing such a “supposed ‘elite’ position?”

Does Being a Good Golfer Give You a Better Chance at Partner or CFO?

Welcome to the East Coast Earthquake edition of Help! My Accounting Career Is Doomed! In today’s edition, a young auditor is curious how much of an advantage a good golf game will give you on the road to partner/CFO. Not honed soft skills. Not a preternatural talent for Microsoft Excel. A laser-straight drive and wicked short game.

Are you one of those bounders? Looking to come up some ambitious career goals? Skeptical of your co-worker’s charm? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll put together a quick psych profile.

Back to our young duffer:

Konnichiwa,

I am a first year audit employee for a large accounting firm. My question is this; how much does your golf game factor into your ascent to partner, or perhaps ascent to CFO after jumping ship to a private company? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Not Tiger Woods

Dear NTW,

I’ll try to articulate my thoughts on golf as succinctly as possible for you: IT’S STUPID. The clothes are stupid (it’s double stupid that people can wear an outfit to work that also functions as a golf outfit). The rules are stupid. The announcers are stupid. The fact that you even have to ask this question is stupid because it just goes to show how shallow the accounting industry can be. “You’re a scratch handicap? Great! We’ve got some WASPy clients that value someone who knows their way around a double-dog leg par 5.” STUPID.

But back to your question – how much does exceptional short game combined with dazzling iron play factor in putting you on the fast track to partner? Simply put: Zero. Zero times Zero. Zero cubed. ZERO FUCKING INFINITY. On the scale of importance, your golf game ranks far below your ability to actually do something productive and far, far below your personal hygiene. Will it function as a nice ice-breaker with your senior/manager/partner who is also interested in what Davis Love III shot over the weekend? Possibly but will they think, “Ol’ Joe has some game, let’s promote him!”? HELL NO. If that does happen at your firm, then you work for shallow assholes. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get passed over for promotion. I’ve seen above-average employees with exceptional golf games get laid off. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. if you can shoot in the 60s on a regular basis. Plus, what the hell are you doing at an accounting firm if you can shoot scores like that?

How golf became one of those things that “makes a difference” is beyond me but it has sure fooled a lot of people. In reality, golf is one of those things that accounting professionals think will give them a leg up on the guy who prefers to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but in reality that guy is WAY SMARTER than you and, believe it or not, that still counts for something.

Tax Intern Wants to Know What Job Opportunities Exist After a Three Year Stretch at a Big 4 Firm

Ed. note: Willing to take some advice from three strangers and peanut gallery full of overworked, underpaid paper pushers (aka spreadsheet jockeys)? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com with your problems.

Hi!

First I just want to say that this website made all the down time during my Big 4 internship bearable!! Seriously, there are no words to express my gratitude!

I’ve learned a lot from your site, and I’m kinda hoping you can give me some advice…

Right now I have a full time job offer in Tax, but lately I’ve been questioning if this is the right move for me.

Honestly, I don’t think I can handle more than 3 years of public accounting, so I was wondering what job opportunities there are in the private sector for tax professionals with only two to three years of public accounting experience? (I feel like the focus is usually on audit, so I’m finding I don’t really know a lot about the tax world outside of the Big 4).

Also, I would eventually love to work for a nonprofit…would I have better luck at finding a job in this sector with an audit or advisory background, as opposed to tax?

Thanks a million!!!!

Clueless

Dear Clueless,

Thanks for stopping by GC this summer and squeezing us into your “busy” internship days. (Shameless plug – remember to talk about this site when you return to campus this fall. We’ll be talking about recruiting on a regular basis).

Let’s assume that you are going to accept the offer for Big 4 tax. Maybe you have an MS in tax. Maybe there are not any audit positions available for campus hires. Maybe you have a crush on the lead engagement partner. Not my biz. Whatever your situation, you should be focusing on making yourself as merlo-rounded as marketable as possible. A few ideas:

1) CPA – Not even a question. Get it done immediately.

2) Request an audit rotation – As you experienced this summer, there are times when things get a bit slow for tax professionals. Request short term rotations into audit where you can receive additional exposure. This will be marginally easier to do if your CPA is already completed.

3) Seek out non-profit clients – It does not matter if your experience is on the audit or tax side; the goal here is to receive client exposure for a look at the culture/business model/workplace environment at some of your local NFP’s.

4) Volunteer – If NFP clients are not an option, try to find time in your schedule to volunteer. Like any new job possibility, you should research what life is like at a non-profit before jumping into the career move.

As for private sector jobs, with 2-3 years tax experience you’ll have little trouble, as many businesses are trying to do more tax work in-house as opposed to contracting it out to their CPAs. I’d encourage you to stick it out until Senior Associate if you can, since this will give you ample opportunities outside the firm (and maybe a nice get-away). Good luck.

GCers – your thoughts?

Public Accounting Interns: What to Do if You’re Wary of Accepting Your Fulltime Offer

The morning subway commute to work in Manhattan this week was refreshingly quiet; maybe it’s because so many bankers are in Cashew Mode (Street talk for the fetal position); the Hamptons are crowded; the interns are GONE. I know, staff members…time to return to the days of fetching your own copy paper and finding other “mentoring” reasons to light up the corporate card. But this is not about you – rather, it is about the suckling interns that are now the proud holders of fulltime offers.

Interns – what a long, sometimes awkward road of courtship it’s been, amiright? For some of you, the relationship with one or more of the firms started in your junior year, whereas others of you were swooned early and often from the wee days of being a fi��������������������But regardless, with a fulltime offer in hand your search for a job has finally come to a definitive end. Or has it?

It would be silly to think that every intern across the board has a positive summer experience. After all, the old school way of doing things was that internships were cutthroat programs that were unofficial “try outs” for only the top flight of students. Only if the i-ship was successful for both parties would a firm extend an offer. But remember, these were “real” internships with more in-depth work being done than the average fleets of thousands that we have now. Back then if a student didn’t receive an internship, it was not nearly the Scarlet Letter it is in today’s system. But in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of way, the modern day internship program is just one giant recruiting pipeline tool. You know it. I know it. Everyone (including the professors) know it.

What about that intern at ABC LLC that feels incredible pressure to accept the offer, oftentimes when recruiters remind them of how much the firms have invested in said student (University happy hours. Dinners. “Trainings” in Florida. I don’t need to keep going.). Is it worth risking not getting an offer from another firm during the Fall recruiting season? Afraid of being labeled as a “risky” candidate?

So, interns – what the hell are you supposed to do? Here are a few ideas.

Same firm, different role – This is the easier change to make. Maybe you interned in financial services tax, but you have a yearning to get involved with non-profit or corporate clients. Speak to your recruiter about the possibility of transferring your offer to a different group. This does not mean you can make the move from Assurance to Forensic advisory, however. Stay within the skill set your internship provided.

This kind of move will only be possible if the group you’d like to transfer to has vacant spaces. For example, if the corporate tax group has 10 fulltime needs for FY2012 and they extended five fulltime offers to interns, you have a decent shot of transferring groups. If there were nine offers made for the same ten spots, your chances are much slimmer. Why? Because your recruiter (and really, the practice leader) will want to keep some room in the budget in case the next big tax star is found on campus in the fall. If you are going to request a change, be absolutely sure it’s where you want to be. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot 1-2 years down the road from now.

Request a deadline extension – Look at the deadline on your offer. Got it? Good. Now go look at your university’s fall career fair schedule. Same date? Pretty damn close to it? Mmmhmm.

The turn-around on fulltime offers is a short window for two reasons: 1) because of the “you should be dying to work for us” Kool-aid and 2) because the recruiting teams need to know how many people to hire from campus. This is a fair and understandable, but it can put potential hires in a sticky situation if they are unsure of where they’d like to be come graduation.

Put your feelers out to the other firms early – before getting back to campus – Tell them about the positive experience you had during your internship, but express your continued interest in pursuing a fulltime option with them. It’s okay to ask them if there is any chance to be considered in the fall; recruiters do not waste time, especially their own. If you receive positive feedback from other firms, request an extension for your offer. Send your recruiter an email asking to speak with them over the phone; remain positive throughout the conversation (about your internship experience, your relationship with them, etc.); kindly ask for an extension. Most importantly, have a date in mind. Ask the other firms what their timelines are for interviewing on campus and extending offers. They are not immune to the situation themselves, and they will understand the sensitive timing.

Important to keep in mind: the conversation rate (interns who receive, then accept fulltime offers) is a critical aspect in many firms’ performance rankings for the recruiting staff, so it is in the recruiters’ best interest to do what is in their ability to land every acceptance possible. It should also be noted that the relationship you have within the practice you interned with and your recruiter are influential wild cards in these situations. The stronger the relationship, the more flexibility you will be privy to.

Seasoned vets – what advice can you give to you future staff members? Dish your details below.

Engineer Curious to Know if an Advisory Role with PwC or Deloitte Would Be a Good Opportunity

Ed. note: Looking for career guidance from a couple of Big 4 expats or our resident permanently ink-stained wench? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Hello,

I have become an avid reader of your website and need your help regarding an opportunity. I have an engineering background and 5 years of experience in the heavy construction industry specifically oil & gas. In hopes to moving on to something different and possibly working as a consultant I have got a chance to work at PWC and Deloitte in a senior associate advisory role. I do know that these companies are primarily in audit but the sales pitch they gave me was that they were trying to build the Capital Projects Advisory division. Do you all think it is good opportunity?

Sincerely,
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

Dear Chugs,

As a self-proclaimed avid reader, I hope you caught the post I did in June about the engineering consultant in a similar situation as yours. Check it out for feedback focused on what to do once you start at your new gig in a Big 4’s advisory practice.

That said, you’re asking if the chance to work at the #1 or #2 public accounting firms in the world are “good” opportunities. I follow up your question with one of my own:

If working for #1 or #2 is not a good opportunity, what more are you looking for?

So yes, they are great opportunities to jump start your career into the “consulting” slash advisory biz. Sure, they crank out audits and tax returns, but those are very different revenue generating streams than their advisory practices. To put things in more engineering terms – wary of working in the advisory group of PwC or DT because they perform assurance services is like turning down an aerospace engineering job at GE because they also make light bulbs.

Assuming the offer details are similar, look at each firm’s Capital Projects practices. Which group is more established? Have they made other external hires recently? What is each group’s current market share/focus, and what are long term plans?

Good luck with whichever role you pursue, and welcome to the Big 4 community.

Cheers,
DWB

Military Man Needs Help Transitioning into Public Accounting

Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualitiSCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).

My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.

Couple of things to consider:

Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.

Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.

Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.

Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.

Career Equation: CPA + MBA/CFA = Hooray?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and at the very least, we’ll keep you from getting involved with re-writing a Katy Perry song.

Hi Caleb,

I am a CPA with 5 years experience in a 2nd tier firm (i.e. BDO, Grant Thornton), with the first two years in the Financial Services audit group, and have spent the last three years in Financial Services tax group. All five years, I have pretty much been working on Hedge Funds, ��������������������, etc. Recently, I have come to the realization that I’m getting a little bored of accounting. I still have an interest in the financial markets, and would like to explore opportunities on the investment side, possibly as an analyst at either a fund or investment bank. I spoke to a buddy at one of the major investment banks who gave me some advice. He mentioned that my skills serving Financial Services clients as well as having an understanding of financial statements should translate well to an analyst type of role at a fund or investment bank. He also mentioned that to get my foot in the door, my choices are either to get an Ivy League MBA or take the CFA exam. With that said, I have the following questions: 1) Is it correct that a fund or investment bank would value my skills in terms of placing me in an analyst type of role? 2) What would be the better option, going for the MBA or studying for the CFA (keep in mind that I’d prefer studying for the CFA given the fact that tax season makes it difficult to attend class)? 3) Would I have to wait till I finish an MBA program or pass all 3 parts of the CFA exam or would I be able to make the change after say a couple of semesters into an MBA program or having passed one part of the CFA exam? I would appreciate your insight.

Sincerely,
Bored of Accounting

Dear BoA (no, not the flailing AIG target),


Before I take my red pen to your hopeful ambitions of being an analyst, let’s take a few minutes to quickly set two things straight:

#1 – You should not be going to work at a bankUBS. Credit Suisse. RBS. Goldman. Barclays. Morgan Stanley. No, not a list of places you’re qualified to work because you know how to read a cash flow and prep a K-1. Cuts. Firings. Shit bonuses (relative). SEC in your face. Why the hell would you want to work for a bank, regardless of your level of qualification? You haven’t been auditing banks. You’ve been working in asset management.

#2 I’m going to assume you’re referring to a real analyst position – Not a management company accountant job that the HR guru at RBS slapped a “financial analyst” title on to make the recruiting process easier (“oh, but you’ll have the chance to MOVE AROUND IN THE GROUP YAYYYY.”) That shit doesn’t happen. So, judging by your CFA and MBA speak, you’re referring to a real analyst position, right? Right. Good, now on to your questions.

Q: Is it correct that a fund or investment bank would value my skills in terms of placing me in an analyst type of role?

DWB: You can answer this yourself. Analyze your own experiences – what makes you qualified for such a position? With a little digging on LinkedIn and a basic understanding of your firm’s asset management clients, I can assume that most of your clients fall into the long/short strategy (maybe some bank debt, probably no high yield or event driven exposure). What are your “skills”? K-1 preparation? Washes? Auditing control testwork? Reviewing a waterfall calc? Accounting, accounting, accounting. “But I read the Journal every day.” – So do I, and I’m in HUMAN RESOURCES. I also read Bloomberg and comment regularly on ZeroHedge, but that doesn’t mean I should be calling the shots on a desk.

Q: What would be the better option, going for the MBA or studying for the CFA (keep in mind that I’d prefer studying for the CFA given the fact that tax season makes it difficult to attend class)?

DWB: If you’re going the MBA – and based on your current experience – you need a top 10 MBA program. Attending night school at CUNY Baruch for an MBA will not do the trick. With regards to the CFA – you need to get to level 2 at a minimum. Level 1 is pie.

Q: Would I have to wait till I finish an MBA program or pass all 3 parts of the CFA exam or would I be able to make the change after say a couple of semesters into an MBA program or having passed one part of the CFA exam?

DWB: You really want to make the move? Forget the CFA for now, get into a top 10 MBA program, drop out of work, and go fulltime. Seriously. This will give you the opportunity to network with your classmates, pursue summer internships and rotational programs, and get things done (meaning – move on from accounting) in an efficient manner.

Listen, I’m just trying to be honest. None of this is meant to pee in your Cheerios or diminish what you’ve done so far in your career (by all accounts, you’ve been very successful). But think about the greater picture – the banks are in the shitter, the economy is sloppy mess, and the market is flooded with Ivy grads coming off of fresh experience from the banks’ two year programs. Simply put – you’re not on the same playing level. If you know how to maximize the profitability in the futures market on tankers trekking through hurricane season while carrying retail goods from China to US ports, then maybe we should talk but until then…it will be easier to stick with what you’re good at. Try getting into a middle office role at a fund, or even a role working as the #2 to the CFO of a small fund. Sure, you’ll have to close the books at the end of the month, but you’ll also have exposure to investment meetings, investor relations duties, etc. over time.

Corporate Accountant With a Broken Shift Key Seeks New Career

(Only until Caleb stops hitting on hot Polish girls) Ed. note: if you have a career question for our team of accounting drop-outs plus the one loser who never took the CPA exam, get in touch.

I am a young professional, I have an undegrad [sic] degree in finance and am finishing a masters in accounting. I’ve worked for 2.5 years in corporate accounting and 3 years in accounting/finance for a university. I have no public accounting experience. I want to gain a role in transaction advisory or the like.

I was recently offered a job with a small/mid size public firm in a Senior Associate role for their transactions group. The offer is 60k. should i jump at this offer, am i lucky to get a senior role? Should i hold out for a public firm in an associate role?

Can i make the jump from the midsize firm as a senior to a big 4 as a senior in a few years?

Thanks!
[Name redacted for privacy reasons. Let’s call him Barnabus]

Barnabus,
I’m going to keep this short because the financial world might come to an end before I reach the fourth paragraph.

I suggest you heed the Blacksmith’s advice and strike while the iron is hot.

The transaction advisory groups across the public accounting spectrum are heating back up from their frigid days of ’08 and ’09, with hiring numbers up for both the experienced and entry-level channels. Although your degrees will serve you well in your career, your 5.5 years of experience don’t bring much relevant experience to the table. Would it be nice to wait and see if you can land a transaction advisory role at a Big4? Sure. But with the market down 200 300 400 OMFG 500 POINTS TODAY, unemployment spreading like viral Bieber videos, and the economy stuck in park with four blown out tires and an elephant sitting on its trunk, you take the open door and thank your lucky #*&@ing stars your particular iron is hot. You have an opportunity to make a move right now in your career that will put your career on the track you want.

Philosophy Major Considering a Big 4 Career Needs a Reality Check, Better Grades

(Acting) Ed. note: if you have a question for our team of highly knowledgeable monkeys, email advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll be happy to make fun of you in front of your peers, superiors and the Internet-at-large, unless it’s a good question, in which case we will do our best to give you awesome information.

Hello!

I found the advice column on your blog so I thought I would ask you this question:

I recently graduated from a state school in the California State University system as a Philosophy major. My original plan was to go to law school, but I am now thinking I may want to go into accounting instead (due to the terrible job market for lawyers and the 150k debt I’d be faced with). Parike to work at a Big 4 firm. Is this change possible? I found a “Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate” at Portland State University (I’d like to end up in Portland if possible). Does that program have any chance of helping me land a Big 4 job, or does it lack prestige? If you’d like to suggest the best post-bac/master’s program for me you should know that the only math I’ve taken is statistics 1, and I’ve taken micro econ and macro econ, but aside from that I’d be starting from scratch. My undergrad GPA is 3.13, which I believe is a little low for the Big 4. Could I make up for that with a good post-bac certificate GPA, or perhaps a good master’s GPA if that is the route I should go?

Thank you for your help!

Listen, Ambulance-Chaser-cum-Capital-Market-Hero, you need to slow down and do a little more research on the Big 4 before you even attempt this stunt. The Big 4 don’t want some 3.13er who originally picked a different profession and then just kind of stumbled upon accounting as a more “viable” option due to the long-term (or even short) career opportunities. Sorry the law school plan didn’t work out but no allegedly prestigious firm is going to want you with your “certificate” (unless it is one of these) and low GPA. So if I were you and actually attempting this, I would be sure to spin those particular details into as much gold as possible. Don’t lie but don’t be so upfront about it either.

You admit that you’re new here so I won’t rail on you too but hard I will highly recommend you catch up on some advice columns (and especially their comments) we’ve done before. If we can sniff out your “well looks like you’re the only viable option” attitude via email, I can only imagine which method recruiters will use to avoid your emails and talk about you behind your back.

You still have a chance here if (and that’s a huge if) you actually want to do this, get yourself into a real program and not some funky certificate program, you might as well get a degree from some adult college advertised during Maury Povich for as much good as that will do you. And for Christ’s sake, at least try to pull a 3.8.

Fast track the CPA exam if you can but I get the sneaking suspicion that you are one of the candidates who will end up having to take BEC 7 times based on the fact that accounting is not your background and you don’t seem all that excited about the prospect of ticking and tying your good years away for “The Man,” but are instead focused on making a few bucks in an industry that’s still actually hiring because your first choice is a really awful one. In my experience, those who do best on the CPA exam are those who actually want to do it (shocking, I know). The ones who are forcing themselves because of the economy, their parents, their boss, etc are the ones who fail miserably over and over, usually with infuriating 74s. If you managed 4 years of philosophy, you’re probably too right-brained for the CPA anyway.

Big 4 recruiters do hit Portland State but you’re going to have a hell of a time explaining to them what you did with the last four years of your life and convincing them that you’re in it for the long-term and not just to have a job ’til the economy looks better.

We’re not going to do your job for you and recommend “the best” program for you, but nice try. We recommend Google, it’s a pretty helpful career tool. That’s how you found us, right?

I’m not saying it can’t be done but you need to be realistic here. The industry has already reached its quota of useless, mediocre assholes who don’t know which side debits go on. If you’re OK with being an AP clerk or working at a smaller firm I say go for it but with your “credentials,” I wouldn’t count on having to beat off the Big 4 recruiters with a stick any time soon.

An Accounting Director, Who Really Needs a Drink, Needs Advice on His Next Career Move

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Advice gurus,

I’m a Accounting Director (upgraded staff accountant really) at a small non-profit. I’ve been with the org since getting out of college 2 years ago. My firm loves me but I’ve decided to switch, mainly because I’m not liking the AD position. First because come close of the year and January, I pretty much want to drown my life in as many Guinesses as I can find. 80+ hours per week just sucks after a while and my org doesn’t let me drink. 🙁 Second is personal – I’m wanting to be closer to family and friends.

I took the AD job because I thought it would put me well on my way to a CFO job down the road. So my question is this, are there other good ways to get to that end without going AD, Controller, CFO or something similar? Do I just need to suck it up and keep being an AD for a few more years before I can move to a controller position? Finally, if I take a staff accountant position how does that look? Thanks.

-Can’t wait to drink again

Good afternoon Guiness,
If being a CFO is your goal, you need to assess the qualities and skillsets that CFOs in your industry possess. Consider a few things when doing so:

1. Get Your CPA – There’s no denying the importance of getting the three letters next to your name. As you progress you in career, having a CPA will keep doors open for you. Read up on Adrienne’s great CPA coverage if you don’t know where to start.

2. Lose the title – You’re still very young in your career, so my advice to you is to worry less about titles and more about opportunities that open doors and expose you to a variety of accounting responsibilities. This is meant as no offense to you and your career thus far, but a staff accountant at a large corporation most likely sees more complicated accounting issues than say, a charity bookstore. Roll up your sleeves and challenge yourself.

3. Location – before you have a spouse, kids and a mortgage, get back to where you want to be. It will be easier to find a staff-level job than a specialized, more technical job that you’ll be qualified for five years from now. And call your mother, she misses you.

4. It’s not like Mad Men but… – The liquor store sells the little nip bottles for a reason. It’s a scientific fact that whiskey helps ease the frustration of 80+ hour work weeks.

May the drink-at-work Spirits be with you,
DWB

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 advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

IRS Agent Wants to Know If There’s Life After Government Work

Welcome to the when-do-the-blackouts-start edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an IRS revenue agent is thinking about the future and wonders if there is anything to look forward to after a stretch inside the House of Shulman. Will he be greeted with contempt or disdain by potential employers outside of the Treasury Department?

Trapped in your job? Not sure if you can bottle up your rage during your upcoming compensation discussion? Need ideas for your next advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll come up with something to bring everyone closer together.

Back to the Shulman Soldier:

Dear Career Advice Brain Trust,

I am currently a freshly minted IRS revenue agent in the Northeast right out of school. I’m the guy that audits the tax returns of small business and the self-employed (Schedule C’s and 1120’s). I’ve been at the job for about 10 months, and lately I’ve been starting to wonder: if this whole IRS thing doesn’t pan out, what are my options? Do public accounting firms of any size see any value in the experience gained here? From what I’ve experienced, employment at the IRS is a one-way street, either attracting grads with the ink still wet from their degree, or mid-career public accountants who value personal and family time more than money. Since I’m a young grad with no family to speak of, I feel like a lot of the non-monetary benefits are lost on me.

This job has its pros and cons. It’s probably one of the safest jobs in the country for anyone with an accounting degree, and it’s borderline illegal to work more than 40 hours per week because we’re unionized. Supposedly once you’re in for a few years, you can do “anything you want” within the organization, but I find that hard to believe because due to our reduced FY 2012 budget, we’re the last class to be hired for a while, so who is going to keep doing my job when everyone goes to do “anything they want?” Also, after 3-4 years, the salaries plateau big time, and we definitely make less than our public accounting counterparts throughout our careers. Furthermore, it literally takes an act of Congress to get anything substantial changed.

So my bottom line question to you (and the readers) is this: if I wanted to jump ship and go somewhere that my title carries a little less universal hatred, as well as advance my career prospects, what could I expect for opportunities, particularly in the public accounting sector?

Sincerely,
Agent Curious

Dear Agent Curious,

I’m happy to say that you’re first IRS agent to come to us for advice. Whether that means you value what we have to say or you’re simply desperate isn’t clear but regardless, thanks for reaching out.

Now then. Your problem. Personally, I feel as though the stigma associated with working for the IRS is a little overblown. Just because some of your colleagues chase down loose change and politicians call you names, that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that aren’t valuable for private employers. The knowledge you are curating about small businesses and their compliance issues are extremely valuable and many CPA firms would gladly talk to you about your experience and how it will work for them and their clients.

Furthermore, with your inside knowledge about the Service and how is picks and chooses returns for audit, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by saying, “I assure you this will result in a Young Buck-esque raid of your business.” This knowledge of the inner workings might even be more valuable than what you actually learn on the job.

Right now, your best opportunities would be with public accounting firms that specialize in tax compliance for small businesses. Just like any other job, if you are able to jump around inside the Service and see various types of returns (partnerships, larger businesses), your skill set will be even more valuable. A few more years doing Doug Shulman’s dirty work could pay big dividends down the road.

Any former/current IRS agents out there with insight? Drop your knowledge in the comments.

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 advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

Freaked Out Recruit Needs Fashion Tips for PwC Leaderhip Program

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Subject: Career Emergency

Well, not really. I’m just freaking out.

I have an office visit with PwC tomorrow. I’m doing a leadership program with them in two weeks. From what I’ve read online, office visits consist of interviews; however, the recruiter said dress for tomorrow is “business casual.” Can I really show up to an interview in khakis? I’m worried as small as wearing the wrong thing could ruin a potential internship offer. Gotta love the superficiality of public accounting. So do I rock a suit despite the recruiter saying busineisk underdressing for an interview?

Thanks in advance,
Freaked out junior

Dear Freaked Out,

No reason to panic, that’s what GC is here for. Since Caleb’s work attire is best suited for the pool these days (aka his “working office”) he asked that I respond to your message.

First off, congratulations on earning a spot in PwC’s two week leadership program. You are correct that there will be interviews at one point during the program, but you should also be viewing the entire two weeks as an interview. You will be evaluated throughout the period – how you interact with your peers; how you involve yourself in the group discussions; how you interview during the formal interview portion. The PwC recruiters will not only be making their own observations but they will also be soliciting feedback from the younger staff professionals who volunteer throughout the weeks. Be cognizant of the fact that every PwC professional you speak to could influence whether or not you receive an offer for the following summer.

Now – back to fashion. Unless you heard specifically from someone at the firm that interviews will be on the first day, you needn’t worry about suiting up tomorrow. They (the recruiters) want you to succeed, so they will tell you in advance about when the interviews will be. That said, it is always wise to make a positive impression on the first day. Below are a few tips on making sure you’re on spot for the first day:

Business casual: There is business casual and then there is public accounting business casual. The latter involves a wrinkled blue Oxford dress shirt and a pair of semi-pressed khakis. Sure, this counts as business casual, but…why? Do yourself a favor and avoid mimicking the Best Buy uniform on your first day.

My advice: If the recruiter said no suit, then don’t wear one (step 1 to receiving an offer is following directions). But it’s possible to have your business casual lean towards business professional without crossing the line. Go with either A) a suit (matching jacket and pants) or B) blue blazer with either grey or olive dress pants or khakis and then match with a pressed button down shirt. Avoid the plain white shirt if you can, as these are best paired with ties and you’re leaving yours at home for the day. The shirt you wear should work well with and without the jacket. These outfit options give you the ability to quickly “dress down” by leaving the jacket on the back of your chair during informal ice breakers but also allow you to quickly formalize yourself on the off-chance you’re meeting with a partner.

Additional tidbits:

• Brown/black – brown shoes and belts generally match with khaki better than black, but wear what you have and what you like. Also, make sure your shoes are polished.
• Suit/blazer jackets – double check to make sure the pockets and vents are open. Any string keeping a pocket closed is left over from production and is meant to be removed; it will come out rather easily. Also, remove the suit’s brand name tag from the sleeve if you haven’t already – only you should know your suit is Hugo Boss or JoS. A. Bank.
• Check the weather – if there’s a probability for rain, bring an umbrella. Don’t chance getting stuck in a summer storm.
• White socks: Just…don’t.

Any other advice from the peanut gallery? Share them in the comments.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

Deloitte Auditor Wants to Know if Joining KPMG’s IT Advisory Group Is a Good Idea

Editor’s Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Hello C,

So with the new found (and welcome) love for Advisory on goingconcern.com I feel comfortable posing my question:
I am currently a 2nd year at D&T audit in Dallas, I am contemplating a move to KPMG’s IT advisory, I currently make $54k and KPMG has offered me $60k. I have some IT in my background and enjoy IT related stuff but don’t want to be stuck in Audit support as an IT Advisory Associate. KPMG has promised me the ability to move within Advisory…so here is my list of questions:

1. Would that switch be the right move for my long term career growth?

DWB:I cannot speak clearly on what your long term career growth can or cannot be without knowing what your goals are. Being that you’re two years into your career, I’m not expecting you to fully know either. That said, I suggest that you look at this in two ways: 1) what are you long term career options if you stay at DT, and 2) what are your options if you leave and enter the advisory practice at KPMG? Weigh these options with your roughly outlined career goals and take it from there. In your favor is the fact that Dallas is a larger market for both firms, so options are not as limited as they would be elsewhere.

2. Should I take the opportunity to progress towards specializing in an ERP and get more technical with IT or eventually switch to M&A/Forensics (another interest of mine).

DWB: Listen – playing first base for the Yankees is an interest of mine but it simply isn’t going to happen. I’m not saying you can’t bounce over to M&A or Forensic (drop the “s” from the name and realize they’re two separate groups at KPMG), but I am hinting at the fact that it is going to be difficult. Advisory lines of business are BOOMING right now for the Big 4, which means they have the ability to go to market and hire individuals with relevant talent. Also, should you move out of IT, that’s just one more position KPMG would have to fill as well. I’m not doubting your talents, skillset, and drive, but I don’t plan on batting clean up anytime soon.

3. What do I do after a few years of KPMG IT Advisory experience? would I be considered for Controller type (because of my Acct degree and Audit exp) jobs or only CIO career path (due to the IT tag)?

DWB: If the market dips again, prepare to fight for your current job. Advisory lines at Big 4 are the first to get slashed when the going gets tough (more discretionary lines of business, too dependent on an active client base, etc.), and IT Advisory at KPMG was slaughtered back in 2008/2009. Also, your two years of audit experience hardly prepare you to compete with senior staff and manager public accountants interviewing for the same controller roles.

4. Am I getting paid a competitive salary at $60k?

Honestly, I have no idea. Can someone in the peanut gallery chime in? What are experienced associates in Dallas making in IT advisory these days? If my gut tells me correctly, you’re a steal for KPMG. One more thing I want to harp on, although I touched on it above in #2:
“KPMG has promised me the ability to move within advisory.” This line is out of the Recruiting for Dummies. The different business lines in Big 4 advisory – as close as they may work together – are very specialized in their skill sets. Being an expert on SAS 70 reviews does not automatically make you an expert with regards to historical due diligence analysis and breaking down a company’s EBIDTA numbers.

How to Reject an Accounting Firm’s Offer

Welcome to the de minimis edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young accountant wants to know how to reject a firm in the most professional way possible. Is it best to give them the Band-aid™ treatment or can you simply not call and hope they get the hint?

Are you surrounded by idiots? Worried your firm is morphing into something undesirable? Thinking of giving it all up for a shot a culinary immortality? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you become the next Ray Kroc.

Returning to the rejector:

Dear GC,

I have two FT offers from mid-size firms. I know which offer I want to accept but my question is what is the best/most professional way to “reject” the other firm? Is it better to call or email them and how should I word it?

These two firms are competitors and they both know I have interned with the other. My second question is should I try to leverage the firm I want to accept from and negotiate a higher starting salary? I’m not sure I even want to bother if there is a possibility of “burning any bridges” with either firm if I’d only get an extra grand or two. I just graduated and this is my first time in this situation. Any advice from you or the GC community would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Here’s the thing – rejecting a firm isn’t like rejecting a human being. They don’t have feelings so don’t be afraid to be honest. Sure the person you speak to may sound disappointed but trust me when I say that they’ve heard it all before. That said, sending them an email with an image of your photocopied ass attached is not advisable. Your message can be communicated by either phone call or email and can give as little or as much detail as you like. You can keep it vague, “I’ve decided to accept another offer,” decline any pressing by your rejectee or you can go into detail, “I chose Firm A because [insert reason],” as long as you don’t feel like this is your opportunity to share thoughts on everything that is wrong with their firm. The person listening to you will appreciate your honesty and you can feel good that you’ve kept a professional decorum throughout the process.

What you don’t do, is this:

I recently learned [a recruit] cancelled his second round interview with us- said he broke his ankle and went to the ER- but was seen out partying that same night by one of our former interns.

This was sent to Adrienne by an HR professional at a firm regarding a potential recruit. Granted, this person may not have gotten an offer to begin with but considering the tact involved with this rejection, the firm is better without this loser.

As for trying to use one firm against the other to leverage a higher salary, this is hardly the time in your career to play hardball over your salary.

Bottom line is that you can reject a firm in a direct. professional manner and who knows, the contact may serve you in the future when/if your current situation doesn’t pan out. Or you can be ‘fraidy cat and tell them your mother is sick and you’re re-examining your life choices. That will your professionalism somewhere in between toddler and pre-pubescence. Choose wisely.

Can a Tax Senior from a Local Firm Make the Jump to Big 4?

Welcome to the I-still-don’t-know-who-Casey-Anthony-is edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a tax senior was just laid off from his local firm because of a “lack of work.” Can he jump to a regional or a Big 4 firm without any trouble?

Is your latest raise an insult? Need some rumors debunked? Thinking of giving it all up for your dream of creating the world’s best burrito? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll give you the best average advice you’ve ever gotten.

Back to ranks of the funemployed:

Dear Going Concern,

I’m a tax senior and was just laid off from a local accounting firm with about 50 employees due to a “lack of work.” The firm has been losing clients and a lot of the staff has been sitting around lately with nothing to do.

How difficult would it be to move from a small, local firm to a larger, regional one or the Big 4? Thoughts?

Sincerely,

A Loyal Reader

Dear Loyal Reader,

Sorry to hear that you got the axe. That’s never a good feeling. If lots of other staff are sitting around twiddling, they’ll probably be joining you before you know it. But forget about them; you’re thinking about your options which is good, so let’s try and sort this out.

You’re a senior associate, so that’s a plus. Most firms, regardless of size, are hurting for seniors so that puts you in a good spot. You’re also in tax which requires a more specialized knowledge base than audit, so that’s a benefit too. Depending on what kind of clients you have served (I’m guessing individuals and small businesses), your best bet is start with the regional firms in your area. Odds are your experience will match up better with a regional firm, so they’re more likely to take an interest in you.

As for making the jump Big 4, this is a little trickier. I’m not saying it can’t be done, as I made the jump myself but it’s really dependent on your experience. If you’ve mostly prepared run-of-the-mill 1040s, chances are they won’t give you much of a look. On the other hand, if you have a lot of work in a specialized area (e.g. transfer pricing or M&A) on your résumé that will catch their eye.

Bottom line is that if you can find a firm that offers services and has clients that match up your experience, you’ll be a good fit. Good luck.

Hypothetical: Is Passing on a Promotion to Manager Because It Requires Relocation a Career Limiting Move?

Ed. Note: Have a question for the Going Concern career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Dear GC,

I’ve been a reader of GC for a while. Thank you for the great advice you posted throughout the years!

Hypothetical situation: I’m a tax senior in a big public accounting firm. I’m doing well but I wasn’t promoted to manager this year because promotion requires that I relocate to another region and my family can’t move. In this situation, what can I do to help advance my career? Should I patiently toil for another few years until a spot opens up in my region? It seems like jumping into industry without a “manager” title will set me back significantly. Going to a competitor to get promoted also seems unlikely because I haven’t proven myself to the new employer. Would I literally be sacrificing my career for family in this case?

I am a young woman starting her career in tax in a public accounting firm. I saw others going through situation and I see myself running into this situation in a few years. Just want to ask this question so I know what to expect ahead of time.

Thanks for your advice!

Dear Hypothetical Tax Senior,

At the end of the day, this is a personal issue for you and your family to sort through. However, I hope the following points (and the GC community) can help you in your decision.

Things to consider:

1. Your professional network. How closely do you work with employees in this hypothetical office? Will you be able to move there before being promoted? Chances are, your network there is limited, so you will have to connect with and establish your credibility with an entire new office. Combine this with balancing the new responsibilities of being a manager and helping your family adjust to a new home, and you could be facing a steep learning curve, both professionally and personally.

2. Seek advice. Talk to your mentors about this. Is this a regular issue in your office? Have others before you made been in a similar situation, and if so, what did they decide to do? Is this a one year issue or is the possibility of being promoted to manager a distant possibility?

3. Look around you. Not in the job market sense but in the “how top heavy is my practice?” sense. Are managers currently doing the work of staff members because there is not enough to go around at the top? Is HR hiring into your group or have things been stagnant for awhile? Has your office lost a deal of client work to competition?

4. Look around again. Now I mean in the job market. All things considered, you need to do what’s best for your family. In that, you should be weighing ALL options. Jumping ship without the manager title is not necessarily a Scarlett Letter; it is something that can be explained in an interview at the very least.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

How to Request Recommendations on LinkedIn Without Giving the Impression That You’re Jumping Ship

Ed. note: Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Good afternoon, GCers. No time for small talk. Let’s get to it.

Hi Caleb,

With regards to LinkedIn, do you have any advice on how to request recommendations from superiors, other coworkers, and clients, without giving the impression to my own superiors that I want out? For some background, I am a Senior 3 in EY’s TAS group and have been here since I graduated college.

I like what I do and I work hard to get the job done right, but the double-edged sword of being a “high performer” is that you are continuously staffed on the complex engagements withhat are constantly go-go-go. Needless to say, my social life has become essentially non-existent during the week. I am not actively looking to move to another company given I am up for promotion to Manager this year, but I am starting to think that it would be beneficial from an upward mobility standpoint to make a move elsewhere, and I think getting recommendations on LinkedIn would be a solid start.

Thank you,
J.

J.

Great question. Now, there is no fool-proof way to prevent against raising suspicions, however, you can ask certain colleagues in such a way that will both minimize suspicions and even gain a bit of their respect.

No one knows how LinkedIn will evolve in the coming years. It quickly went from a “why are you on LinkedIn?” website to the year’s biggest tech IPO (for better or worse, but that’s a different story altogether). There’s no denying that recruiters – both headhunters and in-house specialists – use the website as a search tool, so I can understand your desire to beef up your profile. My suggestion is to have recommendations from a peer, a superior, and depending on the relationship, a client. My suggestions for targeting potential rec’s:

1. Superior – The trick here is to pick a superior that is active on LinkedIn. I bet if you searched LinkedIn for the leaders of your group that you’ve worked with, their profiles will fall into one of two categories: a) active or b) dormant. The dormant LinkedIn profile might not show the recent promotion, give little to no description about their practice line or specialties, and they’ll be lucky to have more than 25 connections. The active user (and the person you want to target for a recommendation) will have a very active profile: details about industry knowledge, present title within the firm, probably 100+ connections, and – if you’re lucky – a few recommendations from peers. This is your target.

How to target? Simple. Be honest and straightforward with them in the sense that you are taking your public image within the firm very seriously. You can also mention that LinkedIn is a professional website and you’re hoping to have your hard work properly recognized amongst profiles online; after all, it is a very competitive market within your practice. You can also offer to leave a respectful recommendation on their profile from the perspective of a direct report.

There are two reasons you want to target an active LinkedIn user. First, they know how to use the site, unlike the partner with seven connections who probably doesn’t remember his/her login password. Also, an active user understands the value in having a complete profile. They will likely respect you for taking your public image (and the image of the firm) seriously.

2. Peer – did you and a coworker spear-head a project, push through challenges, and deliver an exceptional product to your clients? There’s nothing wrong with recommending each other’s work. It will demonstrate that you are a team player and work well with those on your level.

3. Client – if you are close with one of your clients, this is a no brainer. Have him/her slap a few nice words on your profile regarding a project or engagement. This will look great on your profile – to both recruiters and your superiors.

The safe, fall back reasoning for pursuing all of these recommendations is that you are hoping to polish up your profile and public image as it is seen within your firm and by your clients. If a recruiter happens to be impressed, so be it. Added bonus.

Has anyone else reached out to one of the groups above? What are your experiences? Share in the comments.

Engineering Consultant Lands a Big 4 Gig, Now What?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

Should a Big 4 Associate Leave the Cush Life in Bermuda for an Opportunity in a New City?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com

Dear Caleb,

I really need some advice with a career decision I have to make. I currently work for one of the Big 4 offices at the staff level in Bermuda and have been offered the opportunity to move to a bigger office in a major city in America. While I am excited at the opportunity to move to a new city and experience everything there is to do there, I am hesitant about the increased workload that would entail. Here in Bermuda we work about 60 hr weeks for two months during busy season and then work around 40 hr weeks for the rest if the year. In addition, because of the no income tax in Bermuda, this new job would actually mean a pay cut. So is the prospect of a new city and new experiences worth being overworked and underpaid?

– Undecided

Dear Undecided,

Ahh, Bermuda – beautiful place.

Your situation is not unique by any means. I have spoken with a number of people within Big 4 audit groups that are stationed in Bermuda and are being “encouraged” to return to the States via internal transfers. This has been due mainly to the loss of offshore work on the asset management industry. Seeing how the firms are all on hiring sprees, it’s not surprising that leadership is looking to capitalize on your generous work/life balance for the sake of the Greater Good.

The main difference that I sense in your case is that you refer to the transfer to “a new city” and not “home.” Either you are originally from one area in the US and were offered a transfer to a new city, or you are native to Bermuda and this would in fact move you away from your established roots. If it’s the former, consider asking to move to closer to “home”? Would you even want that? If you’re from Bermuda, then you have more to details to weigh.

You also raise two red flags that damn near every commenter on this site will tell you ARE major concerns: more hours for less money. If we polled the audience for their responses to your question of “is the prospect of a new city and new experiences worth being overworked and underpaid” – the response would be a resounding “no.” After all, you’re listing the two main reasons people leave public accounting. But you’re still young in your career. Think about your long term plans – where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years? Not firm-wise, but geographically. What is the long term career potential if you stay in Bermuda? Do you want a career in public? What city does your firm want to ship you to?

Let’s open it up to the Peanut Gallery: has anyone been in this situation before?

PS – If you do transfer to the States, please sneak me a bottle of cologne from your local perfumery. Amazing stuff!

(UPDATE) Future Big 4 Advisory Associate Wants to Negotiate a Better Salary

Ed. note: Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Caleb –

“Long-time/first-time, love the show.” I was hoping you and the gang could help; I have received an offer from Big 4 Advisory as a Senior, and considering the current market, and that firms are expanding advisory quickly and trying to capture market share and increase revenues, I am wondering if I would be able to negotiate my salary north. I did not receive a signing bonus, but I know the Big 4 can be touchy about your salary, so maybe I should look into getting a signing bonus? I wanted to get your expert panel’s opinion, as well as your millions of readers. Thanks for your help.

Signed –
Sleeping well in San Diego

San Diego Napper,

Welcome to the show. It’s great to see that Caleb is getting more advisory professionals reaching out. We’re all one underpaid, overworked professional services family so keep the emails coming.

Regarding your question, the timing is probably too late for you to maximize your bargaining power, both with your firm and in the greater job market. Being that you’re a senior (now a newly minted graduate) the window of opportunity has probably passed. You most likely received your fulltime offer either after completing a summer internship in 2010 or during the fall semester of your senior year. Then would have been the ideal time to “shop around” to the other Big 4 to see if you could earn yourself a competing offer. By this point in time, both the Big 4 and the major players in the consulting market have met their entry level hiring needs.

Similarly, without a competing offer in your back pocket, asking for a sign-on bonus now is the equivalent of looking for a free hand out. From browsing this website you know that’s generally not the way things work. Not to mention the fact that your firm wants its new hire class starting at the same monetary level; should you receive a sign-on, they’d be inclined to throw something to everyone. Why? Because all it takes is a team happy hour and you drunkenly blurting out, “I called up HR, spoke my mind and landed five grand, suck on that,” to stir up all kinds of angst within your practice.

Unless new hires are reneging on their acceptances and jumping ship for much lucrative (and last minute) offers, they will not be shelling out additional cash prior to your start date. The best thing you can do is work your tail off during your first year, positioning yourself well for the first year-end reviews in order to scoop up the heftier of the raises.

UPDATE: Blame the sun.
Apologies for missing the mark on this one, ladies and gents. As I sat in my corner office parents’ basement enjoying a nice Cuban Phillies Blunt cigar, I debated which way to take this piece. Let’s look at the experienced hire route – like many of you have commented, there is definitely wiggle room for SWiSD to negotiate.

There are number of intangibles in play here: where SWiSD is now; what practice line they are in; if the firm they are moving to is an “upgrade” in market position for their practice line. Generally speaking, SWiSD should be receiving a bump in base from their current salary; a conservative estimate would be 4% – 10%. When negotiating for more $$$, SWiSD would be better off asking for a sign-on bonus. HR would prefer to position compensation as a one-time lump rather than have a new hire be significantly above their established staff in salary.

Great feedback everyone. Has anyone recently made the jump from one Big 4’s Advisory line to another firm’s? Tell us below.

How Should an Associate Handle the ‘Sink or Swim’ Nature of His Small Firm?

Welcome to the can-we-trade-twisters-for-raptures? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a small firm associate works in a sink or swim environment and he feels like sandbags are tied to his feet. Is there anything he can do to sink less?

Have a career question? Need some help outfoxing your competition? Is a client giving you trouble? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll breakator skills.

Back to accountant who needs a life preserver:

Howdy!

How do I deal with not having much support at my office? I just started around 4 months ago as a staff accountant and anytime I have a question, my boss tells me to figure it out, to bring him the financials so he “can do (my) job for (me)” or to just move on to the next audit.

There are seven full time employees here and my boss and I are the only ones working through audits. I really want to learn the entire process of performing audits, but I can’t get anyone to help me. I’ve asked around, Googled and even asked him to guide me through the process. There has not been any training as to their methodology for auditing. Is this typical for very small local firms? I’ve heard the first year is the hardest and you dont really know anything. I feel like I’m trying to drink out of a firehose! Help!

– Doing My Best

Dear Doing My Best,

To quote a Scotsman from some terrible over-budgeted spoon-fed cinema: losers whine about their best and winners go home and fuck the prom queen. Since you work at an accounting firm (where no one really wins) and haven’t been in sniffing distance of a prom dress in ages, that advice doesn’t really do you much good. Lucky for you, I’m familiar with your plight.

Small firms are enormously diverse and you’re at an extremely small firm. I started my career in a similar situation, at firm with less than 20 people. In that scenario, it was difficult to get anyone to explain anything to me, “methodology” wasn’t really thrown around much (literally or figuratively) and training was virtually non-existent. So to answer your question: your experience is common at a small firm and the first year is extremely tough.

Now, as for what you can do about it – my advice would be to really think about your questions before you ask them. If you’re running to your “boss” every five minutes with a question, it’s not surprising that they might lose patience with you. Really try to work through problems until you’re absolutely stuck on something. Small firms are fond of “look at last year’s file” as standard operating procedure and you should do just that. Most of these clients won’t have much for changes and their business shouldn’t be complicated, so using last year’s files as reference will be helpful.

If you find yourself having done as much work as possible and are at a dead end, then go to your boss and explain exactly what you’ve tried to do and why you’re stuck in neutral. If you explain to them all the roads you’ve tried to take, then they might be more willing to point you in the right direction. If he/she is still unwilling to help, then you might consider calling them out for it or request to work on something other than audits. If you don’t feel like you’re learning anything because no one has taken the time to teach you anything, that reflects poorly on them not you. If they act like they’re above giving you any guidance, then it’s pretty clear that they suck at their job.

If you manage to make some headway, you’ll start to notice that things eventually begin to make sense and year two (granted you survive) will be much easier than the first. Good luck.

Should a Content Big 4 Associate Jump Ship for a Controller Role?

Welcome to the Rapture fire sale edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a perfectly happy Big 4 associate has the opportunity to land a controller position with a small company. Should he leave the friendly confines of Big 4 and take a pay cut for the growth potential?

Looking for semi-sound career advice? Need to deflect some blame? Dealing with crazies in your office? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll make sure you’re ready for whatever might (but 100% sure won’t) happen.

Meanwhile, back to opportunity knocking:

I’m in a great spot with a Big 4 firm on a large client in a growing market. I’ve “exceeded expectations” on all my performance reviews the last two years and am up for promotion in July to Sr. Associate. Pay is good, I’m not actively searching to leave, but I don’t feel I’m on the partner track (I’d like to see my family and raise children while staying involved in their lives). At some point I’d love to have my own business – CPA firm or other small business partner.

That said, I’ve also been offered a job with a former small business employer which I interned and worked at for 2 years. They’d like me to come back in a Controller role, with ongoing career development in the position. The position also comes with a potential grooming track to CFO.

What are the pluses and minuses of leaving now for the opportunity? There is a salary sacrifice and I have job security where I’m at with my firm. There’s great growth potential at the small firm and it allows for a great (proverbial) work/life balance.

Thoughts?

Sincerely,
Tough Spot

Dear Tough Spot,

You wanna tough spot? Try finding a couch on the Upper East Side when you’re accused of rape. You’ve simply got simply have to make a choice about where you want your career to go. And in your case, the decision is easy: take the controller gig.

Here’s the thing – opportunities like this don’t come around every day. You have the good fortune to already be familiar with the company that is making you the offer. If you had little or no idea what this company was about, I’d say this would be a riskier move, especially since you’re being offered a controller position. But because you know the ins, the outs, the whathaveyous, that makes this an easier decision, in my opinion.

I will warn you, however – you will not have a “work-life balance.” You will work. A lot. If the “controller role” is a true controller role, you’re going to quickly find out what that means. You’re going to be in charge of the accounting department; you’re going to have people working for you; you’re going to be answering the C-level execs of the company. That’s not typically conducive to work-life balance. I’ve known people that have taken controller roles at your experience level and there is, without fail, a big learning curve that involves putting in tons of hours. Even people that have triple the experience that you have, realize that running the show involves way more work than they anticipated when they left Big 4. And you’re going to a company with “great growth potential.” Since when does “growth potential” equate “really don’t work that much”?

But from the sounds of it, you’re up for, and capable of, handling this type of challenge. Go for it like there’s no tomorrow.

Will One Bad Performance Review Doom a PwC Intern’s Chances at a Fulltime Offer?

Editor’s Note: Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

I need some advice. I am doing an internship and all my performance evaluations have been good except one. I got one that said did not meet expectations. All the others were met or exceeded expectations. will the on bad pff prevent me from getting a job offer?

PwC Intern

Dear PwC intern,

Forget about your work ethic; your grammar and spelling should be enough for HR to deny you an offer.

Quick side note: I’m sure Caleb has touched on this before (if he hasn’t, he should), but emails are a representation of your professional image. Spelling/grammar mistakes are excusable when it’s an email to a fellow intern about the evening’s happy hour, but not when you are trying to represent yourself to the client, a partner, a manager, or in this case the GC community. My first piece of advice – proofread your $#!%.

Now, back to your original question. Considering the job market and how strapped for staff the firms will be in the next few years, you should be fine. Modern day internship programs at the Big 4 are a testing ground for both the firms and you, the student. Were you able to fumble through workpapers, create some binders, and generally not piss anyone off? Seems like you did, for the most part. For whatever reason (and considering that you didn’t provide one, I’ll assume the poor ranking was justified) you received a less than satisfactory review on one engagement. The positive reviews will counter this. Also, if you have a positive relationship with your recruiter, he/she will fight for you to receive an offer (after all, HR has their own goals to fulfill).

However, if you rubbed an important partner, manager, or recruiter the wrong way at any time, consider your goose cooked. All it takes is a short “I don’t want this person receiving an offer” email from a person of authority to erase your chances of receiving an offer.
Good luck. Cross your fingers and dot your i’s that you can rise above the poor review.

Can a McGladrey Associate Let Their Former Classmate Know That They Don’t Have What It Takes?

Welcome to the botched-BJ edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a first year at McGladrey doesn’t feel comfortable recommending his former college classmate for any openings at his firm. How does one handle breaking the news to the interested party that they don’t have what it takes?

Ever have trouble controlling yourself in an appropriate manner? Are you getting the sense that you’re being set up to fail? Ever feel like you’ve got enemies all around you? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll try to get you out of a bad situation.

Meanwhile, back in the land of punch and cake:

Hi there,

I’m a first-year at McGladrey. For the second time in the past month a former college classmate of mine has requested that I recommend him to the powers that be at our firm for any openings we may have.

I don’t think that either of these people would fit into a major public accounting firm either socially or in terms of talent. What is the appropriate etiquitte for this situation? I doubt I’m the only one.

Thanks

Dear Natalie Fanboy,

I’d be really interested to hear why you think your former classmate wouldn’t fit in “socially or in terms of talent.” Do they still have trouble getting through Goodnight Moon? Does he/she have terrible body odor? Do their social skills border somewhere between “Did you look in the mirror before you left the house?” and “We can’t take you anywhere!”? These details would prove helpful.

I’ll move on. Most firms have an automated method of submitting referrals and I’d be shocked if McGladrey didn’t have something similar. If Mickey G’s does have a such a process, just throw your classmate’s résumé into the machine and it will get sorted out one way or another. If your suspicions are correct (i.e. your friend has no chance) then it’s likely nothing will happen.

If McGladrey doesn’t have such protocols in place and it is based on the ol’ résumé handoff, then A) Tell McG HR to get their shit together and B) simply explain to your friend what it’s like to work there before they start claiming this is their dream job. Is a career at McGladrey really what this person wants or did they recently come to the conclusion that clocking hours on PS3 won’t get them too far in life and they’ve go to do something?

The other thing you can do is impress upon your friend that you’re a first year associate and they barely let you have lunch, let alone recommend former classmates to TPTB at the firm. That is, the odds of anything happening are slim. If your he/she persists, explain what the expectations are (i.e. hours for the pay, other things that make it less-than desirable) and that people fail left and right. Basically, let this Mickey G wannabe know what kind of situation they’d be getting themselves into. This will allow you to indirectly present the reasons you don’t think this person might not fit in without explicitly pointing out their shortcomings.

Now, if they still are begging you to take their résumé, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just pass it along and see what happens. Hell, if they were to get hired, you might even get a bonus out of it. You got something against money?

The Delicate Balance Between Looking for a Job and Studying for the CPA Exam

This particular question is a bit beyond my expertise in this uncertain economic environment, so let’s try to plot out the various ways this decision could go after the question from the mailbag:

Hello Adrienne,

I chose to study abroad for my last semester of university. As a result of this, an unfortunate set of hiring/interview timing differences (and I’ll admit, a temporary lack of motivation) I am essentially unemployed when I return to the US this weekend. I’ve had phone interviews with a couple of companies, but they never progressed because I was out of the country. My double majors (Accounting & Economics) have allowed me to accumulate more than enough credits to be eligible for the CPtting in July for BEC, August for AUD, October for REG, and November for FAR. Mainly because I currently don’t have job offer to look forward to and because I want to finish the exam as soon as possible. I already have the financing for my exam materials and the entire exam and plan on starting my studies next week.

My question to you is how much time should I dedicate to studying versus looking for a job that fits my intended career path? I know there is no magic number of hours for studying, but I don’t want to burnout/distract myself being too focused on one area. I’d like to start in public accounting in advisory or auditing in most major cities, but don’t care where. My main concern is getting preoccupied with a job that doesn’t fit my interests/skill set. Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse with my plans, but I’d appreciate your advice.

An April 2008 CNN article (we know their track record for rock solid, completely realistic reporting on how kick ass the accounting profession is) cited the following good news for new finance and accounting grads:

Offer amounts are up 1.9 percent for finance and accounting graduates, to $48,795 and $47,413, respectively. Salary offers for business administration and management graduates rose by less than 1 percent to $43,823

If accounting didn’t offer you any desirable opportunities in 2008 (I expect you’ll get better, more specific feedback on that in the comments), you might expect a starting salary of $52,926 to show off your econ degree. Sounds decent right?

Fast-forward to 2011, which we assume is more relevant to you than ancient fluff pieces. In some markets, you will find no shortage of jobs given the correct useful skills (in some jurisdictions, useful skills are defined as SOX 404 experience or desire to screw LLP partners for bonuses), but you’re definitely missing the point here by worrying about whether or not you will get obsessed with whatever career path you take. I doubt you’re beating recruiters off with a stick, mostly because it sounds like someone missed recruiting season.

This is why people intern. You either fall in love with it (unlikely), hate it (somewhat likely) or don’t not like it enough not to do it for the next few years while you finish the CPA exam (note: finish is not the same as perpetually sit for) and get the hell out. Unless you are overachieving, drinking the Kool-aid or end up becoming one of those guys defending PwC on the Internet, chances are you’ll be lucky to find something you mildly enjoy early on.

The likeliest scenario is that you will end up like this guy, who is itching to make his break from public for something but hoping it won’t be mind-numbing. Does that sound like the career you’re looking for?

Have you fantasized about burning out in public accounting altogether? It isn’t pretty. You’ll have to ask yourself “if you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall” or a “middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type” before you take that route. You probably don’t want to be the latter, so you’d be wise to get the CPA exam over with when you have the chance.

You admit to “lack of motivation,” code to me for “fuck, I didn’t think I’d actually have to plan any of this” so get on figuring out what’s going to make you want to get out of bed in the morning. The usual suggestion applies here: 3 hours of studying at a time for as many weeks or months as you feel you need to feel somewhat prepared (you’ll never feel completely prepared so don’t expect that). If you need 400 hours per section, you may want to consider using your econ degree instead.

If it is required in your jurisdiction, check with the state board of accountancy you’ll be sitting in to see if interning counts as experience toward your CPA license (or try your state society or association of CPAs, they usually have all this information specifically for graduates and exam candidates). It’s an option.

The short answer is: neither delude nor pigeonhole yourself into a situation you’ll struggle to get out of later. The best way to avoid this is to a) get your CPA out of the way as early as you can and b) keep your expectations very, very low.

In the best case scenario, you end up partner and have lots of free time to extort your ex-mistress with an alleged sex tape while the minions do the paperwork for you. Actually, I’m not sure that’s the best case scenario.

How Does an Overachiever Stand Out From Other Overachievers During Big 4 Recruiting Season?

Ed. note: Got a question for Dan Braddock or anyone else on the GC advice team? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll get to your query in due time.

Dear Going Concern,

I am currently a sophomore in college and am interested in a Big 4 internship (Chicago) for the summer of 2012. This means that I will be
involved in the heavy recruiting season this coming fall. I have a 4.0 GPA, am on my way to becoming Executive VP of Beta Alpha Psi, am a member of the Accounting Club, and have done some volunteer work. Any tips on how to stand out from the sea of other students just like me? Should I do anything else before recruiting season besides networking? Any advice would be appreciatedver

Big 4 Lover,

Glad to see that GC has some young people in the audience. Take what you read here with a grain of salt and shot of tequila – adulthood makes people cranky, not just public accounting.

Be cognizant of the fact that there are two versions of you that every recruiter sees: the version of you on paper and the version of you in real life. Either version can make or break your candidacy. Let’s break it down:

You on paper: At first read, the “résumé” you describe seems just fine – you’re maintaining strong grades while being involved in extracurricular activities outside of the classroom, even holding a leadership position. I wonder if your “volunteer experience” was only due to the Beta Alpha Psi volunteer requirement or if you do it on your own; either way, this is minor and I’m nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. Any Big 4 recruiter will have your résumé sitting in their “yes” pile going into the fall recruiting season.

However, your résumé is strong on the “I am just trying to land an internship at a Big 4 firm.” What are your interests outside the realm of debits and credits? Unless you are a living, breathing calculator, I’d like to think that you have hobbies other than what is described above (this is assuming you did not leave any experiences out when describing your background above). I encourage you to diversify your experiences in college – not just for the sake of your résumé but for the sanity as well. VP of the Wiffle Ball Club? Great. Part of the campus sewing circle? Fantastic. Genuine, non-accounting extracurriculars will not only enrich your life but they’ll be great conversation starters when you begin meeting with recruiters and Big 4 professionals on campus.

You in real life: As you mentioned, you’ll be in the thick of the recruiting process this fall. Being that you’re only a sophomore (and probably on the 5 year track due to Illinois requiring 150 credits for the CPA), you’ll be interviewing for the “leadership” programs at the Big 4. These lead to internships which lead to job offers which lead to high-fives and back slaps for everyone. Here’s what you need to do when you meet the firms:

Do not regurgitate your resume – let your strong résumé speak for itself. No one likes a bragger, not even your mother.

Do not be too transparent – 99.99997% of Beta Alpha Psi members join the society because it looks good on a résumé. DO NOT TELL THE RECRUITER THAT. Unless you want to come across as an internship-chasing fool, then by all means go ahead and say so.

Do not suck up – There is a subtle difference between saying, “I’m only a sophomore, but I have heard positive things about your firm from my professors and older classmates and I’m hoping to learn more,” and “OMFG your company is so cool!!!”

Be yourself – you are more than accounting. The best people you’ll ever work with in the industry will also be much, much more than debits and credits.

How Should a Ex-Big 4 Intern Explain That He Snubbed a Full Time Offer?

Welcome to the Animal-Kingdom-to-Win-in-the-Preakness-edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a former Big 4 intern who turned down a full time offer wants to know how best to explain this snub to his new prospective employers without dragging his old firm through the mud.

Need help with a busy season break-up? Dealing with some crazies at your job? Do you feel ignored for your effohref=”mailto:advice@goingconcern.com”>advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you get some attention (or, at the very least, create a diversion).

Back to the Big 4 snub:

Hello,

I interned at a Big 4 tax recently and got a full time offer. My internship experience consisted of little work aside from fighting boredom and trying to find work. I was very disappointed with my experience, and to an extent, felt cheated. I was not expecting much as an intern, but I was expecting to learn at least a few things. Long story short, against the advice of people who say they have my best interest in mind, I turned down the offer.

I have a bad habit of not using my rear view mirrors when I drive, so I am not seeking advice as to whether I should beg for my offer back. My question relates to how I should approach recruiting in the future. Rule #1 is not to speak poorly of a past employer. Not sure how to get around that. Advice? Also, would saying that I was not happy with my internship hurt future opportunities due to the fact that it seems that few people full time seem to be happy (proven flight risk)? Should I leave this experience off my resume? My mother always told me honesty is the best answer, but then again she has been telling me I am special for the last 22 years of my life. Depends how one defines special perhaps.

Anyhoo, I am confident that I will land interviews in the coming season and I have connections with many firms who had extended me internship offers. I am just unsure how to go about explaining this little snag in a beneficial and professional way.

Thanks for any help.

Dear Momma’s Boy,

This is the first instance that I can recall hearing about an intern turning down a full time offer without another one in place. Your confidence in your decision is impressive but we can’t help but think that you had a slightly itchy trigger finger. But as you said, we’re not looking back. Onward!

You are correct that you should not speak poorly of your previous employer. Slamming your former firm for asking you to spend all day at the copy machine will make you sound petty, unprofessional and any prospects will immediately wonder how you’re talking trash about them once you’re out of their presence. Rather than get all mysterio about the experience, you should listen to your mother and be honest about it. But don’t focus entirely on the negative aspects of the internship; there has to be something you took away from it. Once you’ve described something positive (no matter how petty), you can explain why you turned the internship down. Just be careful to not make the situation personal. “It wasn’t a good fit” or “It wasn’t what I expected” is a far better than saying, “I was bored” or “I was smarter than everyone else” OR “I should be running that firm.” Keep it constructive and thought-provoking in when discussing it. Also, I would not leave the experience off your résumé simply because that misrepresents you. Best to go with honesty all the way.

So just keep your ego in check; did you turn a prestigious firm? Yes. Why? It was a decision made based a variety of factors and it wasn’t an easy one to make (even though it might have been). You’ll come off as contemplative and your integrity will be intact. Those aren’t bad qualities to have.

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 advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

Small Firm Associate Concerned Her Employer Is Turning into a Mini-PwC

Welcome to the let’s-dig-up-the-waterboarding-debate edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young associate’s small firm is being overrun with PwC alumni. The firm now has a P. Dubs feel sans the P. Dubs prestige and our associate wants out.

Need some career advice? Do you (or a co-worker) need a business casual/professional makeover? Having a disagreement with a client? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll send SEALs over to take care of it.

Back to our PwC-adverse associate:

Caleb,

I have been an ongoing reader of Going Concern for a while now. I need some advice and to know my options. I had an excellent internship with PWC alumni which landed me a job in audit at a small local firm the last year of school. I have since graduated college and enjoyed working at the small firm occasionally talking to recruiters but not really giving it much thought on leaving. Why leave 40 -45 hour work weeks non busy season and a 10% contribution to salary? Then my small local firm started hiring a group of PWC alumni to where it is now 75% ex-PWC.

They are taking over and making it feel like big four without the big four caliber of at least getting to list big four on your resume. So now I find myself wanting out of my small local firm and going else where. I still have 2 sections left to pass on my exam and I am not sure 2 busy seasons of experience but not even a year out of school really counts as an experienced candidate. Do you have any suggestions or career advice?

– Desperately wanting out

Dear Desperately,

Your concern feels a little reactionary. Surprisingly, not all PwC people send around misogynist emails, are workaholics or work their staff to death (debatable!). However, you do have a unique problem so I’ll see what I can do.

You are in a bit a jam since you don’t have your CPA and very little experience so I advise you to stay put at least until you get your CPA and you should really stay for at least one more busy season. If you leave, most likely, it will be a lateral move and you’ll be back to cubicle one. Not an ideal situation. Having said that, here’s why I think you should stay:

1. With all this PwC talent around, some of their expertise is bound to rub off on you. Lots of small firms don’t have Big 4 caliber talent at manager or staff levels so you can learn a lot from these people while you’re working with them. If you can’t stand them after one more busy season, at least you’ll have a little bit of their wisdom to take with you.

2. If you ever decide that you want to make a jump to a Big 4 firm (it could happen), these PwC alum are your ticket. They’ll still have friends and former colleagues at PwC and probably elsewhere and they’ll be able to get you in touch with the right people. Don’t forget that, whether you like it or not, these people are part of your network and you need to use that network when you can. If you bail out now, you’ll simply be a blip on their radar.

So get your CPA and stick it out one more busy season. Who knows, you may end up being completed satisfied working for mini-PwC. Good luck.

Hypothetical: Mid-tier Intern Concerned About Breaking News to Her Firm About Big 4 Internship

Welcome to the Justin-Bieber-is-trending-on-Twitter-again edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young collegian has an internship with a mid-tier firm next busy season but still dreams of the Big 4. Currently, she’s in talks with one B4 for a shot at a coveted summer internship. If she lands it, how does she break the news to her firm?

Does your partner get bent out of shape over weddings and other fun things? Are you single, fat and a hypocrite? Looking for a big change in your career? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we do know of a terrorist organization that’s probably taking applications.

ANYWAY:

Hi GC,

I signed to do an internship with a mid-tier firm next busy season, and I’m pretty grateful for it. That being said, I still want to go the Big 4 route if possible. I have one recruiting season left before graduation, and I’ve been in some talks with one firm in particular that suggests I might have a chance at interviewing for a summer internship.

Should they make an offer, and I accept, how do I go about sharing (or not sharing) this with the other firm come next January? Should the mid-tier make a full time offer, how long can I wait before telling them yay or nay, just in case the summer one falls through? Am I shooting myself in the foot on this one?

Dear Two-timer,

We should all be so lucky to have a shot at two internships. Although your chances with the Big 4 firm aren’t a lock, this situation could prove tricky so I’ll go on the assumption (per your request) that you get the offer.

Now, then. My inclination is to advise you to not tell the mid-tier firm that you have a summer internship coming up, as it does not really your ability to perform work for them. Plenty of people have done two internships, so your case is not unusual and in my opinion, not necessary to tell them that you’re doing another internship in the upcoming summer.

That said, if you do decide to tell your mid-tier suitor about your Big 4 summer internship (I’m sure my advice has been ignored in the past) it could go one of two ways: 1) The firm likes you and they try hard to convince you choose them over those smug Big 4 bastards; 2) They’re on the fence and they reason “she’s got another opportunity coming up” and you’ll get cut right away.

So assuming you’re a likable, hard-working and don’t look like an absolute troll (you’ve got the internship, so this is unlikely), you’ll be in the enviable position of being able to choose exactly what you want. If the mid-tier firm makes you the offer, you won’t have a lot of time to decide (e.g. 30 days), certainly not before your summer internship is over. So if your experience at your mid-tier firm wasn’t so great, then your decision is easy. If you – gasp – really enjoyed it, then you’ll probably write us another email. And I’ll tell you to read this post.

Tax Intern Wants the Lowdown on Opportunities After a Stint in Big 4

Welcome to everyone-whip-out-those-birth-certificates edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Big 4 tax intern is thinking about life after public accounting, just in case, you know, he hates it. Are there real options out there or will it be a choice between being a Big 4 partner and opening a H&R Block in a strip mall?

Looking for career advice from a complete stranger who may mock you in the process? Is a co-worker questioning your intelligence? Thinking about taking your talents to an archrival? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you with your Benedict Arnold impression.

Back in tax:

I’ve accepted an offer for an internship in tax this summer with a Big 4 firm, because I’ve always preferred tax to audit as far as a career within the firm. However, I am starting to have concerns over my potential career outside the firm should I decide that I hate public accounting. Unless I were to make partner, it is likely that I will have to look elsewhere to continue my career.

What are the career options outside the firm for someone working in tax at the manager/senior manager level? What can I do to make myself a more attractive candidate? Should I try to get into a specialty tax group? Would my career in tax give me the skills to open my own CPA firm down the road?

I apologize if these questions have been answered, I’ve spent the better part of two days trying to get answers to some of these questions. Feel free to direct me to the answer if this is the case.

Dear Tax Intern who seems to be getting ahead of themselves,

You’re having career concerns and you haven’t even been shown your cubicle? That makes me think that you might also be stressing over the Mayan calendar but since you mention making partner, I suspect you’re not that crazy (or this crazy).

Anyhoo, I’ve got good news – there are plenty of opportunities for you both inside and outside your Big 4 firm. Hopefully you’ll get exposure to various groups within your tax practice during your internship and that will get you thinking about what aspects of tax you enjoy best. If you like compliance – wow, are you in for a treat. You’ll probably start out there but at some point you may be able to jump into state and local (aka SALT), an international tax group or M&A. There are lots of options, which is why tax is such a great career path. Personally, I feel a speciality group can be great experience but you may limit yourself for opportunities outside the firm. That said, there is something to be said for being considered an “expert.”

As far as opportunities after your career in Big 4, you’ll be able to take any expertise you’ve obtained to clients in their own tax department. Remember GE’s department is the best tax law firm known to man and other corporations strive for similar tax savvy; you could fit in nicely. Similarly, if you’re confident you can go out on your own and start a tax boutique firm, you might be able to provide specialized services for a fraction of the cost of other firms. You’ll probably need a couple of colleagues to take the risk with you and some capital wouldn’t hurt but it could pay off in spades in the long-term.

Any tax mavens with some years behind them are invited to share their experiences. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to mocking birthers.

Auditor Made Nauseous By Computer Screens Needs Some Options

Welcome to the Trump-backlash-has-begun edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young associate has been humming a long except is have a strange physical reaction to staring at a computer screen (no, seriously) and needs some options. Luckily I can stare at a MacBook screen for about as long as I can gaze at pictures of Minka Kelly. Along with your help, I’m sure we’ll come up with something.

Annoyed with a know-it-all in your office? Looking to step up your competitive poaching? Concerned about disappearing act going on all around you? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll explain how this thing called “life as accountant” works.

Back to our patient:

Hi Caleb,

I’ve been lurking on Going Concern for almost a year now. I must say thanks for keeping me entertained during stretches of unassigned time.

About me: I’m a first year auditor at a quickly growing mid-size firm. I’ve passed two parts of the exam, and life would be great if it weren’t for one thing – I’ve become unable to work in front of a computer monitor for long stretches of time. For the past 5 months or so I’ve dealt with daily nausea, dizziness, sweatiness, etc. in front of the screen. It typically begins around lunch time. In the past I’ve had no trouble with long days in front of a monitor, but now even scrolling through a PDF or toggling between excel sheets is too much.

I’ve tried everything I can think of to solve this problem and my doctor is stumped as well. I exercise, eat right (no, really), and have seen two optometrists who both came to the same conclusion – “your eyes are fine, take more breaks.” I don’t believe it’s stress induced, as I get the same effect browsing at home for fun. A weekend away from screens doesn’t help a bit. An MRI of the head/neck turned up nothing.

But I’m not here for medical advice (unless other heavy computer users have experienced this). My question is what the hell to do with my life. Dealing with this daily isn’t possible much longer, and it pretty much guarantees I won’t make it as a senior anyway.

I see lots of career advice on this site, but it’s always people looking for similar work. Do I have any hope of finding a new situation that won’t put me in the poor house? Has anyone made a drastic jump from accounting and landed on their feet?

I know it’s strange to ask about non-accounting careers, but perhaps people with accounting-type personalities have found other niches.

-Nauseous Staff

Dear Nauseous Staff,

This has to be the strangest reaction caused by a spreadsheet allergy that I’ve ever heard. I understand that you’e got a bit of problem though, however, so I’ll cease with the jokes (but no promises).

You say you don’t want to end up in the “poor house” and you’re certainly not doomed but this may take some creative thinking. The first possibility that came to mind is to get a job on your firm’s recruiting team or a professional recruiting job. You know the accounting business, the people and what it takes to be in it, so why not apply that knowledge to those trying to get into or change gears within it? You’d get a lot of human interaction (in person and on the phone) rather than staring at Excel all day and you’d spend a little more time on your feet (especially if you’re in campus recruiting). Obviously as a professional recruiter you’d earn much, if not all, of your comp based on commissions so you have to be cognizant of that change but you already know tons of accountants and so why not use your network to your advantage? You know they’re going to leave public accounting eventually.

The other possibility that came to mind is that of a sales job with a software company that offers accounting/auditing/tax/etc. software. This could range from the enterprise stuff (e.g. Oracle) to the basic (e.g. Intuit). You’ve probably had exposure to a few different applications and again, what you want out of software is probably similar to what other accountants want. Plus you speak their language so there would be very little disconnect when you’re discussing specific needs. Accountants hate amateurs. Because of your work experience, you’re anything but.

Obviously the problem is that these jobs will involve some time in front of a computer but it should significantly reduce the number of staring contests with your computer. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, just go back to school and get liberal arts degree. You’ll meet cooler people and getting high will pretty much be mandatory. You’ll have to get over the money thing but you may end up happy just the same (no, it’s not impossible).

Anyone got experience with a similar malady? How did you deal with it? Are you now a street performance artist or do you simply take 30 minute breaks every 30 minutes which results in 16 hour days? Help this kid out.

BDO Senior Manager Wants to Know How Best to Say ‘I Quit’

Welcome to the High Holiday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a senior manager at BDO is ready to give notice but can’t decide if it’s best to keep things professional or to go out with a verbal assault the likes of which George Costanza has never seen.

Are you working in the Twilight Zone? Need some good ideas for celebrating the end of busy season? Feeling jealous about the sexy success<l us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll get you over your accountants-in-love envy.

Back to kicking off The Public Accounting Attrition Tour of 2011:

Going Concern,

I am still knee deep in busy season, with many engagements still open and pushing their April 30th deadlines. There is no real end in sight, since May and June look equally as busy with Q’s, EBP’s, 9/30 year ends and other projects the Partners engage us for that further contribute to my maxed out PTO accrual. So naturally, as most people do this time of year, I have been looking for open positions searching for that golden opportunity to finally break free of the social, physical and health suppression known as public accounting. That being said, is it wrong to lay down at night and dream of what you would say when giving your notice?

I have played out hundreds of scenarios in my head saying everything from the absolute extreme to the overly conservative. That makes me think – what is the best way to “leave” a public accounting firm? During my 11 year career, I have seen all kinds of people leave in a ball of fire, rather than just fade away. Those people think that the firm will collapse without them, or their leaving will cause a mass exodus or significant change to the firm. No way. It never happens. So really, what is the point of telling the Partners (and HR in the exit conference), what you really feel in your heart?

Dear Dreaming of Quitting,

There’s nothing at all wrong with dreaming of the most epic march in ever. I assume you’re referring to something similar to this:

As you mention, people who go out with a furious speech that features wild hand gestures and name-calling are typically those who think they are indispensable or are somehow the catalyst to the collapse of their firm. You’re right to say that this is NEVER the case. A team or an office may go through a rough patch (mileage of rough patch may vary) but eventually things calm down and return to relative normalcy.

So to answer your second question – the best way to leave your firm is: quietly. That doesn’t mean you don’t tell your colleagues, friends or others that you’re leaving (most probably know that you’re looking to leave anyway) but it should be a drama-free encounter. You meet with the appropriate people, tell them that your last day will be X and that should be it. If they pry about why you’re leaving or attempt to convince you otherwise, you can respectfully decline or entertain their queries and/or begging. That’s up to you. Even if you’ve been used and abused throughout the time at your firm, would it really make you feel better to tell that a partner that the experience of working with them was akin to a circle of Dante’s Inferno that he dared not scribe?

As for the motive behind these overtly dramatic “I quit!” speeches, I get the feeling that those who feel compelled to give them think they will get some satisfaction out of telling someone exactly how they feel; that giving everyone who deserves a piece of their mind will somehow make everything negative that happened in the past worth it. If you feel like expressing some honesty about your experience, that’s perfectly okay but for crissakes, have some tact. If you simply feel justified to spew verbal excrement, that only makes you look like a lunatic. A very unprofessional lunatic.

Can a KPMG Audit Intern Pull the Switch to Advisory?

Welcome to the tax-day-tease edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young Brit has an audit internship with KPMG but would wants to pull The Switch and work in the advisory practice. Proposing a ménage à trois probably isn’t going to work so what’s the alternative?

Are you tired of being tired? Trying to build a celebrity client practice? Need some gift idea for your new overlords? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and can recommend something other than a fondue set.

Back across the pond:

Dear GoingConcern Team,

Firstly I have really enjoyed reading your articles and as a budding/ aspiring accountant I was hoping you could help me. I got a internship offer for KPMG in audit which is great, but I think its likely I would feel more comfortable going into Advisory, probably Transactions and Restructuring branch of the Firm. Obviously I have to stick it out in audit for the internship, but is it possible to switch between service lines after, and probably location too?

I know that in the KPMG selection process I still need to go through the Partner Interview, so would you say I am potentially blowing my chances if I switch from Audit to Advisory, or should I play it safe, stick it out with Audit, and the ACA, and then transfer, assuming I passed and survived?

Thank you!

Dear Flip the Switch,

In the words of another, “Well, if I hear you correctly–and I think that I do–my advice to you is to finish your meal, pay your check, leave here, and never mention this to anyone again.”

Now maybe things are a little different in the UK but what you’re proposing is almost impossible to pull off and I’m not sure how you got in this situation in the first place. If the revelation that you’re more interested in advisory just came to you recently, that’s one thing. Your desire to pull a switch may be understandable but that doesn’t make it any more feasible. If, on the other hand, you accepted an audit internship with the knowledge that in reality you wanted an advisory internship, why didn’t you apply for an advisory internship?

On top of that you are also wanting to inquire about a moving to another office before you start full time? Let me see if I understand this correctly: you took an internship in a service area where you have no interest, in a location where you don’t want to live. Do you see why I’m confused? I’m not suggesting that you can’t ask but expect some side-eyed looks after you broach the subject. In other words, you could be “blowing your chances” because you sound like a person who doesn’t know what they want. These firms want people who are ready to hit the ground running, not someone who can’t seem to choose a path. If you can sit still for a year or three, then maybe you can start to inquire about a transfer of service line or location but as an intern-about-to-become-first-year, you’ll just sound like a lost puppy.

A Young Analyst Wants to Know How to Become a Spreadsheet Rockstar

Welcome to the final-humpless-hump-day before the end of tax season. In today’s edition, an analyst and prospective CMA wants to know how to best improve his spreadsheet skills to the point where they’ll jump out of the screen a do a little jig. Aside from reading the Excel manual, how does one go about this?

Is your career in neutral (or reverse)? Do you need advice on how to cope with a hellish travel schedule? Are you frustrated with a co-worker to the point that eating them seems like a decent option? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll recommend a nice wine.

Back to our wannabe spreadsheet sage:

Hi Going Concern,

I read your small firm accountant blog post with interest and just had to write in. The post states, “…and if you work at a firm where three years are required for promotion, you’ll really become a junior spreadsheet rockstar.”

In short, how do you recommend becoming a spreadsheet rockstar? My Excel skills are satisfactory but I certainly see room for improvement when it comes to analyzing data faster and presenting it better. What do you recommend in terms of specific exercises, resources, books etc?

About me: I’m an analyst (on the slow path to becoming a certified management accountant) at a large bank with around 40,000 staff in total and I’ve been here just over six months. It is my first full time role out of university.

Cheers,
Aspiring Spreadsheet Rockstar

Dear ASR,

So you want to be a David Lee Roth of Microsoft Excel? As a young number cruncher this is a worthy goal. This question will not make for good happy hour convos so you’ve come to the right place; we’ll get you going in the right direction.

The first resource you have at your disposal are the Excel wizards at your workplace. You’ve probably noticed who the savvy spreadsheet users are, so ask them if they wouldn’t mind walking you through pivot tables, vlookups, whatever. The trick is to figure out who actually takes pride (yes, they’re out there) in their spreadsheet skills and to ask them for a little bit of their time to show you the ropes…er, cells. More than likely they’ll be thrilled to show off their skills and bestow wisdom on a newbie. If they balk, just start rumors around the office about how they smell like mens locker room.

If asking a fellow working stiff isn’t an option, then it might be worth your time to see if your internal training curriculum offers advanced Excel courses. An employer of your size may have some decent options but if they don’t, look around for some external classes and submit the cost for reimbursement. I’d be surprised if an employer such as yours wouldn’t be willing to spring for a little self-spreadsheet improvement.

If you’re more of a self-study type, jump over to our British sister from another mister site, AccountingWEB UK, and check out all the tips they have to offer. That’ll keep you busy for awhile.

One other thing you can practice and learn on your own is using key shortcuts. This will allow you to cruise around Excel quicker and it will make you more productive. Lifehacker has a few that will get you started but if you’re stumped it’s a simple as asking Google. Rock on.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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 Regional CPA Give Up Work-Life Balance for a Shot with a Big 4 Firm?

Welcome to the that’s-the-last-time-I’m-getting-up-at-5-am edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a perfectly happy CPA at a regional firm wants to know if giving up his work-life balance and other intangibles for a Big 4 gig is a smart move prior to hitting the dirty thirties. Should he stay or should he go?

Trying to make sense of your career? Want to know your firm’s cool quotient? Worried that the axe will fall right after April 15th? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll give you a either an ego boost or a reality check.

Back to our friend who’s considering trading work-life for work-for-life:

I am currently debating on whether I should make the move from a regional firm to a Big 4, for assurance. Pros about my firm: it’s local and has minimal travel; there isn’t much intensity/pressure; I only have overtime from February until April, and other than that I work about 40-45 hours a week. However, the variety of clients is lacking and salary increases are pathetic. Granted the current economic climate, I think that I can get a 10K increase if I make the switch.

My biggest question is: “Is it worth it to give up the intangible benefits of the easy audit life for the higher salary and pressure of a Big 4 firm?”

I’ve got a masters degree and have my license. I’m also in my late twenty’s and figure that if I want to try the big leagues, now is the time.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks,

An indecisive CPA

Dear Indecisive CPA,

Your biggest question shouldn’t be “Is it worth it to give up the intangible benefits of the easy audit life for the higher salary and pressure of a Big 4 firm?” rather something to the effect of “Does a crazy person know they’re crazy? And am I that crazy person?” But forget self-reflection for a second, I’ll attempt to make sense of this for you.

I was in a similar situation myself at one time, although it was earlier in my career. I was working at a smaller firm, had a decent work-life balance but felt bored and the money wasn’t great. At the time I wanted to experience life in the Big 4 and found the opportunity to do so. You sound as though you have an itch to figure out what life inside the Big 4 is like but also know that you’re giving up the intangibles that you mention.

The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you’ll regret not trying to land that coveted Big 4 gig. If you read the comments here regularly or talk to your friends who do work for one of firms, you know what to expect. If your reaction to these anecdotes is somewhere in the range of “That sounds like pure hell,” to “I’d rather scrub the floor at Penn Station with my bare hands” then your decision has already been made. If, on the other hand, the curiosity is still too much to bear, I say it’s worth exploring the opportunity. If you don’t pursue it, you’ll likely never fully get over the fact that you didn’t at least go for it and find out for yourself what life at Big 4 is really like. Plus, you’ll get a nice little bump salary and you’ll meet some new people. Could be worse. And if all of the Big 4 cast you out like a leper you’ll be better off. Good luck.

Before You Quit Your Job, You Should Do a Little Tech Housekeeping

Since apparently accounting is still booming and jobs are everywhere according to CNN, chances are you might be considering walking away from your awesome 70-hour-a-week grudge work for the sweet life of private industry or maybe the lucrative pastures of healthcare. Either way, if you’re going to quit your job, you will probably want to keep your former employer as a reference. The best way to do that is to erase your digital footprint as neatly as possible, just in case a team of nerds will be scoping out your computer and any embarrassing data contained therein post-employment.

Let’s be real, just about everyone uses company PP&E for non-company things; email, Facebook and, if you’re at the SEC, porn. We won’t judge your daytime browsing habits, let’s just get into how to make them go away before your last day.

First, it’s best to start scrubbing your history before you actually let on that you are about to leave. Granted, if you’ve gotten fed up to the point of quitting, it’s likely that no one in your office even realizes how miserable you are and won’t notice when your cube is suddenly devoid of personal items. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to take some of these steps before management is aware you’re running away.

So, you’ve got your final resignation notice saved on your desktop and are ready to send it to your boss. What next?


Erase your web history In Firefox, go to Tools, then Options, and then choose “clear your recent history.” While you’re in there, hit the Security tab and uncheck “remember passwords for sites” which, really, you shouldn’t have turned on at work anyway. Not using Firefox? Here are instructions for deleting your history and cookies in Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Unsubscribe from any newsletters or subscriptions you’ve been getting at work Maybe your firm doesn’t care if you get the Going Concern newsletter but just to be safe, spend some time combing through your work email and unsubscribing from any non-work-related newsletters. This way you can transfer everything to your personal account if you still want to receive it and save yourself some embarrassment when the person your emails are forwarded to after you leave gets your daily Bestiality Hotties email.

Delete any personal files you have on your desktop This could be that annoying photo of you and your boyfriend on vacation, your resignation letter (including the ultra-vulgar first and second drafts) and/or any third-party programs you’ve added to your computer (either with or without management’s permission). You never know how thoroughly IT is going to check out your laptop, so assume they’ll be combing through it and don’t leave anything of yours carelessly lying around. This includes your music collection, no reason to give them free mp3s.

Avoid deleting too much It would be awfully suspicious if you tried to clear out most of your emails and let’s face it, there’s a copy stored on the server anyway if management cares that much. This is about cleaning up after yourself, not looking like a paranoid weirdo. Be diligent but not psychotic.

Empty the recycle bin All of the above are useless if you forget to clean the recycle bin when you’re done.

Can a Small Firm Accountant Make It in the Big Leagues?

Welcome to the sometimes-we-blow-off-Monday’s-column edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a small firm accountant is cutting his teeth and is curious about prospects for the future. What’s in store for a young 10-key jockey? I guess we’ll try to find out.

Caught in a career conundrum? Think you’re about to lose it on one of your co-workers and need an outlet? Curious as to where lamé falls on the dress code? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll tell you what not to wear.

Meanwhile back at the Mom & Pop shop:

Howdy!

I just started as a staff accountant and I’m gradually getting the hang of what I’m doing. I work for a small firm and I am pretty much doing the audits start to finish from preparing the financial statements to sending letters to management as well as going through all the programs. So far it’s been 2.5 months and I’m going to take the classes needed to sit for the CPA. I’m definitely thankful to be here but knowing future options are nice as well. Here are my questions:

What is an estimated learning curve?

What are my possibilities as far as moving to a larger firms or going to the private sector?

Should I stay until I am qualified to sit for the CPA or does one or two years of experience hold any weight with the private sector or other firms?

I have gained a general idea from your other articles but wanted some specific feed back for me.

Thanks!

Newbie

Dear Newbie,

As is typical of the emails we receive, you’re thinking about the future. That’s all fine and dandy but at 2.5 months of work you can barely open a three-ring binder without injuring yourself or endangering those around you. That said, I’ll answer your questions because I’m solid like that.

First the learning curve. – This varies as some new accountants are genuine whiz kids while others have trouble turning on their laptops. In general, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing after 12 months or so. Your second year as an associate will be a breeze compared to your first and if you work at a firm where three years are required for promotion, you’ll really become a junior spreadsheet rockstar. When you reach senior associate level, your life will change significantly and you’ll starting learning all over again. It will occur again as you ascend to manager and partner. That’s your life in public accounting in a beanshell.

Secondly, your prospects for moving to a larger firm or to an in-house position are good, as long as you’ve demonstrated that you’re a performer and a team player. At 2.5 months on the job you haven’t really had the chance to put your abilities on display so you have to be patient. Get a year or two of experience under your belt and take a look back on your accomplishments so you can best explain to prospective employers why you’ll be a worthy addition to their team.

Thirdly, it’s my personal opinion that you should finish your CPA before moving to another firm or company. Having a CPA will demonstrate your commitment to finishing something valuable for your career and will do wonders for your salary prospects when you’re ready to make a move. The choice between a CPA and a non-CPA is an easy one for HR managers.

Should a Big 4 Audit Associate Ditch His Firm for a Client?

Welcome to the I’m-just-sick-about-the-Mad-Men-situation edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Big 4 associate wants to apply for an analyst position at his client and wants to know if there will be backlash or independence issues that would accompany such a move. What’s in store for our turncoat? Let’s find out!

Have an interesting career dilemma? Need some ideas to cheer up the troops? Looking for some ways to offer some constructive criticism without resorting to veiled insults? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you squash any temptation for name-calling.

Meanwhile back at traitor island:

Dear Going Concern,

I’m an Associate at a Big4 looking to do something more exciting. After checking out at my clients website, they seem to have a lot of entry-level analysts positions that interest me.

I was curious as to what your thoughts were about applying to one of your clients, and how my team might react if I get the job before busy season. Also, do I have to worry about independence issues if I’m only an Associate?

Thank you,
Extremely Bored Associate

Dear Extremely Bored Associate,

You think an entry-level analyst position sounds more exciting than Big 4? Your bar for thrills is awfully low, my friend. Never mind that you lack an inner Indiana Jones, I’m here to help you.

For starters, I’m not really sure what you mean by “just before busy season” since it’s March and busy season is all but over. However if you do ditch your team prior to busy season, some will sneer at your timing and then forget about you. And then there are the people that will hate you just on principle. You simply have to accept that as a cost of doing business. As far as independence is concerned, I don’t see any issues since you’re pretty low on pecking order but your firm may have a cooling off period or some other policy that forbids you from taking a position for a certain amount of time, so consider that your homework assignment.

Have said all that, I should tell you that it’s possible that your client may not be interested in offering you a job simply because you worked for the audit team. The argument being that maintaining a good relationship with their audit provider trumps any cog in the wheel so poaching you from their professional services firm is something they simply won’t do. Now are there exceptions? Probably. So the only the way to know is find out; run it up and see what happens. Good luck.

Corporate Tax Jockey Wants Some Details on Life in Public Accounting

Welcome to the Rock-Chalk-Deadhawk edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young tax accountant working for a Fortune 100 company wants to jump over to public accounting and wants to know what expect (other than the long hours, of course).

Looking for some average to above-average career advice that doesn’t come from your breathlessly judgmental friends? Wondering if a co-worker or client is annoyed with you but can’t seem to pick up any hints? Short on family time and need some solutions? =”mailto:advice@goingconcern.com”>advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll make you “Parent of the Year” in no time.

Turning back to tax trouble du jour:

Dear Going Concern,

I am interested in hearing your thoughts about how to make the move from the private tax world and into a public accounting firm. I just completed a Macc degree and have spent nearly one year working in the tax department of a Fortune 100 company. During the college recruiting frenzy I had an opportunity with a regional firm but opted for the large company instead because I felt it would provide more opportunity. After working on the private side for awhile I have realized that I want to pursue an opportunity in public accounting.

As I research firms to determine what they are looking for in an experienced hire I frequently see “1-2 years public accounting experience”, “MST and/or JD/LLM”, and “CPA or enrolled agent”. These qualifications have prompted me to contact you in order to receive your uncensored comments and answers to the following questions:

• Are a lot of Tax Senior positions filled by law school graduates?

• What is the difference between 1-2 years in public tax compared to 1-2 years at a Fortune 100 corporate tax department?

Dear Tax MAcc,

You kept it simple, so much so that we can barely find an angle to mock anything that you wrote. With that, I’m guessing you’re not working at GE (aka “best tax law firm“) otherwise you wouldn’t have tapped out your inquiry.

As a general rule, I’d say that the answer is no. It may depend on your definition of “a lot” and also what tax group you’re referring to but most of the SAs in tax practices are accountants with law school grads sprinkled in here and there. A public accounting firm is a choice of last resort for most (if not all) law school grads but in these desperate times they may be more common than in years past. Public accounting firms advertising for a JD/LLM simply don’t want to narrow their candidates to the MSTs/CPAs/EAs out there as anyone with a JD/LLM is clearly qualified to perform several aspects of the job.

Secondly, the main difference between 1-2 years working in public accounting versus 1-2 years at F100 tax department will be the diversity of tax issues as it relates to various clients and transactions. The tax department of a Fortune 100 company works for one client and should be well staffed with competent professionals that know the tax issues inside and out with very few surprises (unless you run your tax department like WFT). During the first two years in a public accounting firm your superiors will throw everything they can at you, including new clients and all the work they don’t want to do. This smorgasbord of clients will pose different issues and transactions that wouldn’t necessarily see at your Fortune 100 company.

Anyone made the jump from private to public? Give our hero some of your thoughts. I’m going to try and get my ears to quit bleeding.

Choosing Between a Big 4 and Mid-tier Firm Part XXIII

Welcome to the upset-special edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future public accounting foot soldier has to make a decision between a Big 4 firm and “GT/BDO type firm” but is stumped on what to do and can’t find a two-sided coin anywhere. The next best solution was, obviously, emailing us.

Want to know if you’re in a dead-end job? Trying to deal with stress in the waning days of busy season? Anxious about changes in your job? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll help you pull through.

Back to the indecider:

Hi Going Concern,

I have an offer from a Big 4 and a GT/BDO type firm and am having a tough time deciding. I wanted to ask which option will be better in the long-run if I want to start in public accounting, but then might want to move to a large publicly traded tech company? I guess my question is which route would give me better exit opportunities and long-term benefits should I decide not to stay in public accounting? (If I leave, I have a good idea of where I’d like to work on the corporate side.)

1. Mid-Tier Firm experience — having taken lead on small projects by my second year, more interaction with clients etc. Having experience with mid-sized (not public) tech companies, and experience with large, public companies that are not tech companies.

2. Big 4 — staying a little more than 2 years (enough to move up to Sr. Associate level but not staying too long beyond that) – and having worked on large, public tech companies. Having the Big 4 brand name on my résumé.

Also, there’s a chance that I might enjoy staying at the Mid-Tier in the long-term, but without being sure, I want to keep my options as open as possible.

Thanks. Any advice is appreciated.

Stuck in Indecision

Dear Stuck in Indecision,

I’m impressed that you’ve managed to cover all the angles here. You could possibly like each scenario without considering what it is actually want with your career other than “might want to move to a large publicly traded tech company” or “might enjoy staying at the Mid-Tier in the long-term.” You’re basically saying that you’re up for anything – hence, ” I want to keep my options as open as possible.” Your options are open all right since you’ve committed to exactly nothing. However I’m here to help, so here goes.

To keep it brief: all things being equal, go with the Big 4 firm. Here are some details – it’s likely that you will have the opportunity to work on smaller clients at a Big 4 firm, thus giving you the chance to “take the lead.” If you also have experience working for larger, publicly-traded companies (not as likely at a mid-tier), your experience will be more vast and allow you decide what it is you actually want to do (because, at this point in time, you don’t seem to have a clue). GT, BDO, McGladrey et al. are fine firms but you have a Big 4 offer – take it. You didn’t mention the people (a big selling point at most firms) so I’ll assume you’re indifferent or that they were all equal on this front. The network you build in a Big 4 firm will benefit you the long run and the experience will as well. Just don’t expect your firm to do well in “cool” contests. Good luck.

Regional CPA Firm Associate Concerned About Being Pigeonholed in Healthcare Industry

Welcome to the my-bracket-is-decimated edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an associate at a regional CPA firm enjoys her valuation work but is concerned about getting pigeonholed into the healthcare industry. Is it possible for her to wiggle her way into another industry? What kind of careers can she find if she can’t get out?

Need career advice? Feeling betrayed by someone on your team? Trying to get some credit for past work that was previously unrecognized? Email us atice@goingconcern.com”>advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll be sure you get everything you have coming to you.

Back to the problem du jour:

Dear GC,

I am a recent graduate working at a regional CPA firm doing business valuation / healthcare consulting. I really like my job so far but I have some questions about my future potential. The office that I work for is mainly, if not 100%, involved in healthcare, and as such, with the current trend in healthcare laws, we do mostly physician practice acquisitions and fmv comp agreements. I have sat and passed all four parts of the CPA exam (now I just have to wait for the 2 years experience) and will soon be training to get a CVA/AVA certification (AVA until I am a licensed CPA).

I guess my question is what kind of job will I be able to get after this? The problem I have is that I love the concept of what I’m doing but I’m not entirely in love with healthcare. Also, because I value mostly physician practices, the majority of my valuations are adjusted net book value (which is the easiest of all methods for valuing) which means I might not ever get valuation experience on a level that would make me attractive to other valuation companies. If I stay here am I doomed to either try and beome a hospital CFO or if I’m lucky, try and become a partner? This being such a niche specialty, I guess I’m wondering if I’m just pigeonholing myself.

Regards,

SA

Dear SA,

Before I address your question specifically, you are aware that the Baby Boomers will slowly be populating hospitals, retirement communities, rehab centers and the such in the coming years, thus making healthcare one of the most lucrative industries in our fair land, aren’t you? Landing a CFO/Director of Finance gig at a hospital or being a partner with expertise in healthcare wouldn’t be that bad. Of course you can always jump to a bigger/smaller competitor that has a healthcare valuations practice as well.

But you’re “not entirely in love with healthcare,” so I’ll address your pigeonhole problem. Many people find themselves in similar situations and it usually happens when you haven’t made the vision of your career path explicitly known to a superior, mentor or performance counselor. It sounds like you’re a still a fairly new associate so you might be a bit anxious but I’ll go with it. If you’ve been working for less than a year, then you simply make it known that you’re interested in jumping into similar work but on different clients (e.g. financial services). If you’re between the one and two-year mark, hope isn’t lost but by now your managers have come to trust your work and they probably have plans for you. If you’re at two years-plus, then you best speak up now (why haven’t you asked already?). Your firm should be receptive to your wishes and you’ll be able to get some experience with new valuation methods and clients.

If your firm isn’t crazy about your idea, then it may be time to explore your options. It’s important to get some exposure to various industries and technical issues but do keep in mind it’s in your best interest to choose an industry at some point in your career (and the earlier the better) and you could do a lot worse than healthcare. If you choose the jack-of-all-trades route, your peers with more expertise will be favored by managers and partners in specific areas as opposed to someone with little or no exposure to their industry. So speak up in order to find new opportunities but keep in mind that healthcare may harken you back (for one reason or another) but you’ll have plenty of career options in a field that will be blowing up for years to come.

Can I Temp for a Local CPA Firm Prior to Starting My Full-time Job?

Welcome to the massive-hangover-creeping-up-on-you-yet? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future “Big 6” associate wants to know if temping for local CPA firms is kosher prior to starting at her full-time employer or if this sort of thing is frowned upon.

Trying to get a handle on Twitter? Need help writing an intriguingly vague farewell letter? Annoyed by a co-worker? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and if I manage to sober up, I’ll respond in due time.

Back to our problem du jour:

Hi GC!

So here is the situation: I graduated in December with a Masters and I have a job at a “Big 6” firm that doesn’t start until next October. And while I would love to do what the recruiter suggested and go on a trip or hang out with my friends and do nothing for the next 6+ months, I need to pay rent/student loans/eat.

HR at the Firm told me I could do whatever I wanted except work in public accounting so I have been temping. Fine. Except that the only jobs that are currently available in my area are helping out a local CPA firm with tax returns. I explained to the temp agency recruiter that I can’t work in public but then we both came to the conclusion that since my timecards, paychecks, etc. all come from the temp agency, not the CPA that I am technically not working in public accounting.

Does this sound kosher? Or like my friend who calls herself a vegetarian but still eats bacon?

Thanks a bunch!
Signed,
Need to pay rent! (Rent’s too damn high) (‘Cause everything is RENT!)

Dear Need to pay rent! (Rent’s too damn high) (‘Cause everything is RENT!),

First off, in what year are you living? There hasn’t been a “Big 6” since BJs got a President impeached (I know, I still can’t believe it either). I’ll forgive your dated terminology and get to your problem at hand.

This is an interesting little loophole you’ve found and personally I feel as though you have a legitimate argument that you are complying with your future firm’s policy. The likely intention of said policy was to prevent you from landing a gig with a competitor and thus poaching you before you even start with them. As a temp, you’re simply bounding around to whomever needs the help. There’s very little risk of you joining one of these firms you’re temping for because you have a job waiting for you. Everyone involved – you, the temp firm, the temp placement agency – is aware of this. Getting your future firm involved will only cause headaches for you.

However, if you’re the anxious type that will start having nightmares about a mean ol’ partner breaking into your apartment to rifle through your records looking for any sign of your betrayal, you will run this past your future firm just to be sure but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. Temp it up!

Anyone else been in this pickle? Chime in.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

Will a Couple of Past Arrests Jeopardize Your Big 4 Job Offer?

Welcome to the bracketastic edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future tax associate is losing sleep over his offer with a Big 4 firm that could be at risk because of two past convictions. Will his past indiscretions torpedo his job prospects before things get rolling?

Need some semi-reasonable career advice? Do you avoid confrontation as a general rule? Looking for some ideas on how to carry on an imaginary conversation? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll get you prepared for an elevator ride.

Back to our tax troublemaker:

To whom it may (going) concern,

I recently accepted an offer to join the Tax Department at a local Big 4 office. Although quite ecstatic to receive an offer from my top choice, I am worried that a past arrest may jeopardize my prospects with the firm. The case consisted of two convictions, unlawful open container and trespassing. I am in the process of getting the convictions expunged, however, I don’t know if they will be off my record by the time background checks are performed.

What will the firm make of this? They seem pretty minor on the continuum of things to be arrested for, but I didn’t know if any arrest is seen as a warning signal. If it’s something I should worry about, when and who should I contact with this information.

Any help is welcomed, because after pre first-round interview dreams and pre-second round interview dreams, the last thing I want is to have dreams regarding my background check for the next seven months.

Thank you

Dear Open Trespasser,

Lucky for you, I have experience in this regard, as I had my share of minor offenses prior to starting my career. The details of which are inconsequential but let’s just say I had a run of bad luck prior to reaching the age of 21. In your case, I’m pretty confident that you have little to worry with regard to your two convictions, mostly because they are minor, non-violent offenses. If you had taken the open container, cracked it over someone’s skull (the trespassee, let’s say), which then resulted in a circus of a trial that tarnished your entire school’s/fraternity’s/family’s reputation, then you might have a valid concern.

Having said that, it’s not impossible that a firm wouldn’t, all of sudden, decide to make an example out of someone but it seems pretty unlikely. Everybody makes mistakes and if your tax group really was excited about bring ing you on board, a couple of slip-ups like this aren’t going to change their mind about you.

You’re doing the right thing by requesting the convictions to be expunged and I believe they would do so after a number of years, even if you chose not to do so. Good luck with the new gig and try to keep your nose clean. But, breaking the law while an employee of a Big 4 firm is definitely not a great way to keep a job.