Career advice

How Should an Ex-Big 4 Manager Broach a Possible Return to the Firm with His Boss?

Welcome to the this-ashes-made-me-break-out edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a former Big 4 manager wants to pursue a chance to return to this old firm. How does he handle this with his current employer?

Got a question about your career? Do you have an interesting opportunity but not sure if you should pursue it? Need a new nickname for your special, super-secret team? Email us at and we’ll help you avoid anything lame (or possibly racist).

Back to the Big 4 Boomerang:

Hey Going Concern,

About a year ago, I left Big 4 as an audit manager and now work for a client of my former firm (though not one of mine, Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley made sure of that). Lately, I’ve been seriously considering a return to my old Big 4 stomping grounds.

My questions isn’t whether I’m crazy or not, it’s how to handle the issue with my current company. It’s not a slam dunk that I will return to my old firm, but I want to at least pursue it. On the plus side, I have a good relationship with my current boss (we’ve known each other for several years).

If I come clean to my boss but end up staying, that’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there. If I reach out to my firm on the sly and leave, I threaten to restart my audit career by angering a client.

Help me Going Concern, you’re my only hope…

The Once and (possibly) Future Auditor

Dear Oa(p)FA,

A Seinfeld and a Star Wars reference? Obviously this is keeping you up at night. I’m on this. Since you’ve made up your mind that you are pursuing a Big 4 boomerang situation, I won’t pass judgment there but knowing a little more about your situation might be helpful. I’ll be making some assumptions in order to help you with your ordeal.

Personally, I’m a “honesty is the best policy” type, so telling your boss about your ambitions is the way to go. It sounds like you’ve got a good relationship with him/her and if you do the march in, drop the news and are gone in two weeks, I feel like you’re torching that bridge. The best thing you can do is explain your reasons for pursuing a return to your Big 4 firm. If it’s because you really miss auditing, I think you need your head examined. If it’s because you think you want to make a run at partner, the odds are against you. If it’s because you think it will better prepare you for a return to an industry for a management position, then you can probably explain this to your boss (assuming he/she is level-headed person); your honesty will be appreciated and your integrity will remain intact.

And if you don’t get the job, what then? Well, that is a bit awkward but if you and your boss have a good relationship and are the only two people aware of the situation (which I recommend), you don’t have to worry about others getting all judgmental on your ass and you’ll eventually get back to business as usual. If your boss knows you well, he/she probably is aware of your long-term career ambitions and knows that a move (regardless of whether it’s a return to your old firm) is inevitable at some point and situations like this will come up occasionally. And if your boss isn’t aware of what you want out of your career, this is a perfect time to start talking about it. May The Force be with you.

What Exit Opportunities Exist for a Big 4 Transaction Services Professional?

Welcome to the maybe-we-should-start-pointing-out-who-really-isn’t-winning edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future advisory professional wants to know what kind of exit opportunities he’ll have when he’s had his fill of Big 4.

Need some career advice? Concerned that you’re being unfairly portrayed by someone? Have you recently found a mistake at work and aren’t handling it well? Email us at and we’ll, at very a tie score.


I will be starting at a Big 4 firm in TS this fall. I have seen posts and comments on GC primarily about KPMG’s TS group, and commenters mention a “mass exodus” from TS.

I was interested to know what the exit opps are for people in TS? I have been searching around banking blogs and it seems that TS is not held in high regard in I-banking, so what offers are they receiving?


Interested Viewer

Dear Interested Viewer,

The advisory space isn’t my strong suit but I’ll take a stab. You’re starting with a “Big 4” but then mention KPMG so I’m not exactly sure where you’re ending up so I’ll keep things fairly general. All of the Big 4 have various services within their TS practices including due diligence in various forms, restructuring, accounting advisory and valuation among others. A common exit opportunity for many in Big 4 TS people is to go to…wait for it…another Big 4 firm. None of these firms have a monopoly on the services offered so if you’ve heard good things about Deloitte as opposed to your living hell at PwC, you may jump at the opportunity to join a rival firm. And we know how the firms like to poach from each other, don’t we?

If that’s not of interest to you, the top consulting shops like McKinsey, Bain & Co., Boston Consulting et al. (check out Vault for their list of the top firms) are a possibility but in reality, not a very good one. These firms like their people with smarts – frightening smarts – and Ivy League degreed. If you’ve got both, you probably already work at one of the best firms. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those two, you might have a chance. If you’ve got neither, than you have virtually have no chance.

You mention I-Banking and again, the odds are against you here if you want to work at the top firms, for the same reasons as we mentioned above. Some more realistic options include due diligence, acquisitions or analysis work for a private equity or hedge fund shop or working in the finance group of a firm with M&A aspirations or that needs other complex transactional analysis.

The other option is that you work for awhile, get an MBA and then try to land the BSD job at McKinsey, Goldman or wherever. Of course hitting the big time after going to a prestigious B-school doesn’t mean your dreams of rainmaking are a lock, so it’s a big risk but obviously many have taken this road and made a decent run.

So, there you have it, Interested Viewer: some ideas, at the very least. Any Big 4 TS types out there with some first-hand accounts of the comings and goings are invited to weigh in at this time. I’ve got to get caught up on the #winning Twitter feed.

Do I Stay in Public Accounting Until Manager? Part XXXIII

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

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

Back to our SA:

Hey Going Concern,

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


Dear Maybe Manager,

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Another Future Big 4 Associate Wants Advice on How to Best Ruin Their Life Prior to Starting Work

Welcome to the cancel-your-holiday-in-Libya edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, another Fall 2011 Big 4 associate would like to nail down a certification in addition to the CPA before starting work. Can I keep my head from exploding long enough to formulate a coherent response?

Caught in a ethical jam at work? Need a shredding service-provider that also has a knack of taking care of “problems”? Want to challenge your firm’s dress code but need an objective opinion? Email us at and we’ll make like Anna Wintour.

Back to our overachiever du jour:


I am about to pass the CPA exam and have 8 months until I begin at one of the “Big Four” firms in Florida. I am excited to start at the firm as it was my first choice however, I am not certain I will be in public accounting for the long run (like most people). My question is, being uncertain about my career path, what other certification should I obtain before I start in 8 months?

I have considered the CISA, CFE, CMA, CFA, Six Sigma but, I am not sure as I am not certain of my long term path. I want something that will give me an edge if I leave the firm and/or switch careers.

What certification would you recommend?

Any suggestions are helpful.

Dear Overachiever Du Jour,

After murdering the remainder of Stranahan’s in the house, I’m better prepared to answer your query.

I appreciate your ambition and we definitely think that obtaining additional certifications is a good idea for those that move on from public accounting but I fail to see how this benefits you now before you have an inkling of what kind of career you want. HOWEVER, I’m here to help sort you out as best I can, so I’ve put aside my judgments for two.

Based on your “considerations” listed, you seem to have a case of accounting certification ADHD which is fine but there’s no clear pattern as to what your interests are. I’m not going to recommend you do something just because it may be a hot area (forensics) or in-demand (information systems) but I am going to recommend you rank these certifications based on your level interest. Want to eventually be a CFO? Then go for the CMA. Want to pile up the financial reporting bodies? Get the CFE. You get the point. The important thing is to pursue a certification you find interesting rather than one that will just puts a few letters behind your name that may (but probably not) impress someone.

But really, do you want to spend the summer prior to starting work studying for a test? Get the band back together, take a trip, something.

How Long Does It Take to Climb the Ladder at Ernst & Young?

Welcome to the where-the-hell-is-Bahrain? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future E&Y tax associate wants the lowdown on the black and yellow ladder. How high are these rungs, anyway?

Caught in a career conundrum? Have a co-worker that keeps swiping your red Swingline? Want to put the moves on a fellow auditor in the copy room? Email us at and we’ll help you avoid anything that involves in a knuckle.

Back to our girl on the partner track:


I will be starting in the tax dept of a Big Four soon.

How long would it take to move up the tax ladder? (Yes, yes I know your response will be to start first before I start thinking about promotions… But I am thinking ahead…)

What is the minimum number of years typically required at each level? Are exceptions ever made? What goes into promotion decisions? How long would it take to get to the partner/director level? Is the promotion criteria generally standard across all Big Four or is there some variation?

Ms. Thinking Ahead

Dear Ms TA,

You’re quite the eager….errr, go-getter aren’t you? That’s good, I like my accountants ambitious. We’re not intimately familiar with the ladder at E&Y but we’ll give it a go and let the bean gallery fill in the gaps.

Typically, you can expect to be an associate two to three years before being promoted to senior. Depending on the needs of your practice group and your performance, this could be shorter or longer. In order to get the bump to manager, you can expect another three years at a minimum, again, subject to the needs of your group and whether or not you’re impressing the pants off the brass. From there, you can expect at least two years at manager, another two to three as a senior manager and then, if you’re lucky and you have a good business case, TPTB might start looking at your for admittance to the partnership. Altogether, you’re looking at a bare minimum of nine years before you can even get a whiff of partner and twelve to fifteen is probably a more realistic time frame. There are exceptions of course but that’s more or less the timeline.

Because tax doesn’t have the same fee pressure as their audit counterparts the wait might not be as long but don’t forget, not just anyone gets into the partnership. You need to be a performer and be able to win new clients. The benefit of tax is that it has more diverse career paths available, so if you find discover that you’re a wizard at transfer pricing or M&A, you might see a quicker ascension.

This presupposes the fact that you obtain your CPA in a timely fashion as most tax practices will not promote you to manager without a CPA, a JD or EA. How about it black and yellow tax troops? Dispel with the gory details as necessary.

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

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

Have a question about your career? Need a post-Valentine’s Day/busy season break-up plan? Want ideas for cheering up your co-workers? Email us at advice@goingconcern.comDear Caleb,

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

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

-Confused New Hire

Dear Confused,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All right. Let’s do this, shall we?

Here’s a portion of email #1:

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

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

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

Sick of it yet? Here’s a bit from #3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should an Overachieving Auditor Ruin His Summer By Studying for the Certified Internal Auditor Exam?

Welcome to the I’ve-never-been-so-disappointed-with-commercials-in-my-life edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future Big 4 auditor is thisclose to finishing up the CPA and is worried that his summer won’t be sufficiently ruined without an exam to study for. Is hitting the books for a Certified Internal Auditor badge the answer?

Need career advice? Need a myth about your firm debunked? Is your job driving you mad to the point of considering a terrorist act? Email us at and we’ll keep your face off a most-wanted list.

Back to our glutton for punishment:

Dear Caleb,

I keep going back and forth on whether or not to go for another certification. This month I’m studying for, and taking, the last section of the CPA exam. I’m starting an auditing gig at a Big 4 firm this Fall. With no CPA exam to ruin my life this summer, I’ve considered ruining it by studying for a new exam, specifically the CIA.

I’ll have the required work experience for the certification as of June 2011, so my first set of biz cards would be able to read “Indentured Servant, CIA” right out of the gate, with it being updated to “Indentured Servant, CPA, CIA” in 2012, just in time for the world to end.

The CIA exam is cheaper than the CPA and probably easier at this point. Plus, everyone would think I worked for the CIA. Should I take the exams, or get a life that will be ripped away from me in a few months?

Indentured Servant

Dear Indentured Servant,

I think a more appropriate pseudonym for you might be “Auditing Overachiever” or “Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” OR “Prefers Books About Auditing as Opposed to Interacting with Humans, Even Those Who Might Want to Have Sex with Me.” NEVERTHELESS, I’m here to help.

Your letter is a little confusing but I’ll try to piece things together. Your job starts in the fall but you’ll have enough work experience (24 months) to obtain a CIA in June so that can only mean that you’ve been an auditor for awhile. It also means this new Big 4 gig is fresh start for you in some way, shape or form since you’ll effectively be a new hire. Making those assumptions, I’m not really sure what the CIA will do for you as a Big 4 auditor. Yes, having a extra credential is nice but it likely won’t mean squat to your co-workers, partners or clients and it won’t make you any extra money. Plus, as far as I can tell, the superficial motivation behind this endeavor – paraphrasing your words – is A) “I want to ruin my summer” B) “it’s cheaper than the CPA” C) “people will think I’m a spy.”

My response to these is A) What’s wrong with you? B) How is spending more money “cheaper”? C) No, they won’t.

See why I’m confused? The underlying motivation – if i can put you on the couch for a sec – is that you’re worried about being bored. Are you completely incapable of enjoying a summer if it doesn’t involve being indoors with your nose in a book? Take a vacation, take a staycation or do nothing but study for an exam that will get you an obscure certification? In my opinion, there’s extremely limited upside to the CIA at this point in your career so do yourself a favor, finish your CPA and give the certifications a rest for awhile. They’ll always be there for when the disappointment of the world NOT ending in 2012 gets you down.

In other words – get a life, dude.

Big 4 Aspirant Requests Some Myth Busting

Welcome to the first Friday in February edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition a future Big 4 soldier isn’t sure what to make of all the myths and rumors swirling around the quad about said four firms. He’s asked me to debunk.

Are you in desperate need for a regime career change? Have a gassy cube neighbor? Need some tips on how to turn that frown upside down during busy season? Email us at advice@goingconce serve you better than Dr. Phil (or his dopplegänger).

Back to our Big 4 mythbuster:

Hey GC,

I was wondering if there were any truth to the rumors/legends that seem to percolate through campuses about Big 4 accounting. Here’s a short list of stuff that I’ve heard while attending accounting job fairs, business frat/club meetings, and associates from Big 4 and regional firms that come back to campus for recruitment events.

1. During their respective busy seasons, new tax and audit associates at a Big 4 work so many hours that their monthly salaries break out into an hourly rate that is less than minimum wage.

2. It is nigh impossible to study for and pass any portion of the CPA exam while simultaneously working at a Big 4.

3. Internships are virtually the only way for new graduates to break into a Big 4.

4. Becker is better than Kaplan is better than Bisk.

5. Beginning a career at a Big 4 will open more doors down the road than starting at a mid-tier , regional or local firm.

6. At Big 4 firms, advisory associates make more money than audit associates make more money than tax associates.

7. The average Big 4 associate leaves/quits/defects before their 3rd year.

8. Evan after taking raises into account, Big 4 associates that were hired during the brunt of the recession will actually be paid less than new hires this year.

So is there any truth to these rumors? I’m guessing that there’s quite a bit of embellishment that come from associate ‘war stories’ so I’ve tried to take everything with a grain of salt.


Big 4 Mythbuster

Dear Mythbuster,

There’s a lyric in “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” that goes, “People say believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you hear,” which we find to be generally a good rule of thumb (with the exception of what you read at this fine publication…most of the time).

ANYWAY, we’ll tackle these one at a time:

1. During their respective busy seasons, new tax and audit associates at a Big 4 work so many hours that their monthly salaries break out into an hourly rate that is less than minimum wage. – Let’s keep this simple: if you calculate an average salary based on this year’s starting salaries and 2,000 chargeable hours, it’s pretty difficult to get down to the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25. Now, can you work far more than the 2,000 hours? Of course but even if you doubled the hours, you’re still above the minimum wage. MYTH.

2. It is nigh impossible to study for and pass any portion of the CPA exam while simultaneously working at a Big 4. – Is it difficult to balance a work schedule, studying, arranging to sit for a section, having a shred of a personal life, finding time to take out the dog AND still pass a portion? Yes, absolutely. “Nigh impossible”? No. People working at the Big 4 pass portions of the CPA every month. MYTH.

3. Internships are virtually the only way for new graduates to break into a Big 4. – When the Big 4 firms were hiring everyone and their dog back in the mid-Aughts, this would have been a myth. These days, with hiring budgets being a little tighter, the internship route is a must. Most interns end up taking the full-time offers which leaves just a few spots, so that doesn’t make for very good odds for any outsiders. TRUTH.

4. Becker is better than Kaplan is better than Bisk. – God, sorry to say but this is fruitless exercise. I don’t endorse any of the CPA review courses (FULL DISCLOSURE: I used Becker and passed and some companies happen to advertise with us.) out there. The companies will present stats that presents their pass success rate in the best light possible. That said, ranking the review courses in some arbitrary order like you’ve done above is meaningless. If you hear from someone on campus that Becker is the best because that’s what they used (Tim Gearty’s handsome wardrobe notwithstanding) or that Roger is the best because that’s what they used (and not because they have a thing for hipster chicks) that doesn’t mean you will necessarily have the same success. And if someone tells you that they’ve tried more than one review course, you should know that this person probably just sucks at taking tests. MYTH.

5. Beginning a career at a Big 4 will open more doors down the road than starting at a mid-tier, regional or local firm. – As a general rule this is true. Having the exposure to the most complex accounting systems, transactions and business models will allow you to work at these companies if you so choose. Working at Big 4 firm (and in some markets, mid-tier firms) will give you that exposure. Does that mean you’re doing yourself a disservice by accepting a position with a regional or local firm? Of course not. It all depends on what your career goals are. But does a Big 4 firm name on your résumé get more attention than a non-Big 4 firm. Yes. TRUTH.

6. At Big 4 firms, advisory associates make more money than audit associates make more money than tax associates. – In my experience, I’ve found that salaries for tax and audit associates are extremely close with a slight edge to the tax side, so you’ve got those two backwards. But yes, Advisory associates are paid the most. ONE-THIRD TRUTH.

7. The average Big 4 associate leaves/quits/defects before their 3rd year. – Again, the “average” number of years that an associate works at a Big 4 firm is a complete arbitrary statistic. I’m not sure when people started throwing numbers like this but it’s pretty useless information. Typically when people state an average number of years that an associate stays, it’s not backed up with any stats. I’d be surprised if the firms themselves even know what the average shelf-life of an associate is. I may be wrong about this and would love to see some stats if they’re out there but for now we’re going with: MYTH.

8. Evan after taking raises into account, Big 4 associates that were hired during the brunt of the recession will actually be paid less than new hires this year. – Pay freezes and meager increases certainly put a damper on salaries in ’08-’09 but this past year saw the Big 4 return to some reasonable increases across the board as well as bonuses in various forms. Starting salaries for new associates will always keep up with the market (as is popular to say) but with coverage of salaries being more transparent than it used to be, it will be impossible for firms to allow new hires to earn more than their superiors. MYTH.

Whew! There you have it; discuss as needed.

Can a Sole Practitioner CPA Jump to CFO?

Welcome to the two-outof-three-groundhogs-can’t-be-wrong edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a CPA with nine years experience as a sole practitioner has CFO aspirations but isn’t having any luck landing interviews. Does her near-decade of running her own shop hurt her desire to rejoin the corporate ranks?

Need advice on your career? Got a co-worker saying nasty things about you? Getting impatient while you wait for the perfect time to start your embezzlement scheme? Email us at and we’ll save you from yourself.

Back to the boss:

I am a female CPA in my mid-40s who has been a sole practitioner accountant for the past 9 years. I’m confident, aggressive and customer-focused. Prior to my accounting career, I worked 12 yrs in the Technology industry, for companies like AT&T and Motorola – in positions of increasing responsibility – my last 2 jobs were VP-level. I also have an M.S. and B.S. in Mathematics.

Here’s my dilemma, I would like to re-enter corporate America but this time on the finance side as CFO or Sr. Controller of a private company. I’ve just started talking to accounting/finance recruiters and I’m getting a luke-warm reception to my background. They return my calls, tell me I’m “unique”, but I’m not getting any interviews. I’m wondering if being a sole practitioner is holding me back?

My question for the guru is: what is the perception in the finance & accounting industry of a sole practitioner – are we considered to be a “lesser” form of CPA, unable to perform as a CFO? I’m also wondering how my “accounting as a second career” is perceived? It does appear that most accountants are kind of “born that way”, rather than deciding mid-life to become a CPA, like I have. But what can I say, I always had CFO-envy in my first career, so I decided to pursue my passions, start my own business, get my CPA, and go for what I wanted – one would think that would be looked at positively?

I’m really hoping you can provide some insights. I don’t have any CPAs to talk to, since my main interaction with my peers has been when I take business away from them. And I tried to get career advice from a female mentor program sponsored by my state CPA society – but all they wanted to talk about is flex-time and work/life balance!

In need of a reality check,

Dear In need,

So it sounds like you’re tired of being the boss without having anyone to boss? Or maybe you miss the friendly confines of corporate America? Whatever your motivation, we have a simple question for you: are you nuts? What do you hate most about having your own business? The flexibility? The money? Not having to deal with stupid co-workers? Sigh. Forget our questions, we’re here to help.

Nine years is quite a stretch to have your own practice and from the sounds of it, you’ve been successful and you had a decent run in the corporate world prior to that. Regarding the tepid reaction from recruiters, we’re curious if you’ve pressed them for reasons for the lack of interviews. These people are working for you, don’t forget, and any failure on their part doesn’t reflect very well on their abilities. Get some straight answers out them.

Now, then. The perception that the F&A industry has of sole practitioners is, well…they don’t pay much mind. We’re guessing you’re preparing plenty of tax returns, maybe a few small audits and providing financial advice to your clients. Anyone looking for a CFO wants someone that can lead and run the finance and accounting departments. Despite the twelve years of experience you have in the corporate world, your most recent experience has been working for yourself and serving clients. Not much management experience (from an f&a function or employee perspective) there. It’s not that you’re “unable to perform” but your track record doesn’t really demonstrate that you’ve been working towards that goal. Furthermore, small company CFOs these days are taking on more responsibilities including IT and HR decisions. Chances are most companies will hold out for someone with the total package. Or at least a package more complete than yours. We’re not trying to discourage you but we do see a disconnect between your experience and the position you desire.

That said, there is no shortage of small companies that need CFOs and controllers. Be sure you’re using an executive recruiting firm to assist you in your search and ask them honestly if your background is problematic.

One other thing to consider: maybe shop around to the CPA firms in your area that wouldn’t mind having your book of business. Perhaps they’d be interested in admitting you as a partner in their firm. It’s not exactly in line with your goals but it could pave the way if your CFO search runs into a dead end. Good luck.

What’s a Mom Over 40 to Do When She’s Ignored by the Big 4?

Welcome to the is-anyone-sick-of-snow edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Mom of two is getting her career started after going back to school and has found the Big 4 to be less than interested in what she has to offer. She’s looking for some feedback and advice but we’re guessing it has nothing to do with this Tiger thingee.

Got the busy season blues? Need help making your next career move? Concerned that your boss is channeling Lucifer?”> and we’ll say a prayer for you.

More from Mom:

Please help! I came back to college for an accounting degree at 40 after earning my first degree in a non-business field long ago. I have a 4.0 major GPA, and am at the very top of my class. I will have an undergraduate accounting degree soon and be done with the CPA exam a few months later. I have 2 kids who are 10 and 12.

My plan was to start with at least a couple years in public accounting, and go from there. It seems like you need to do that so that you don’t limit your options for later. I’ve been to one career fair and didn’t get a single interview. I intend to be committed when I go full time (45-50 hours a week) but don’t desire to work from 9 am until 10 pm 5 days a week all year, at least until my kids are out of the house. Working crazy hours for a 3 month season would be fine, but not all year. I lean toward tax but enjoy everything I’ve done in accounting. Despite all their talk about diversity, I haven’t seen any Big 4 firms remotely interested in anyone over 40 and I’m not sure that I would fit with the Big 4 culture anyhow. So the question is – what is your best advice for a smart mom over 40 who desires a job in accounting – regional/local public accounting, straight to industry, governmental? Would also love to hear some HONEST feedback about the work hours at regional and local public accounting firms. Thank you!

Smart mom over 40

Dear Smart Mom,

We’re not surprised to hear about you being stonewalled by the Big 4. You’re way past the impressionable stage and the large firms like their newbies young and clueless. Furthermore, when it comes to diversity, we don’t think age is really at the forefront of their ambitions. Your instincts are serving you well and a regional or local firm will be a better fit for you. We would advise against going into an in-house or government job at this point, as some time in public will help you determine what your interests are. We suggest finding a public accounting firm where you could engage directly with managers and partners that are closer to your age, as there will opportunities to bond over kids and other things you have in common, plus it will be a natural fit for a mentor/mentee relationship. You’ll learn more quickly and be given more responsibility sooner, which is probably of interest to you.

As far as hours are concerned, you’ll work plenty but it won’t be the epic busy seasons of Big 4 lore. You’ll likely work between 50-60 hours a week during the busiest time of year but obviously, this will vary from firm to firm. Also, small firms tend to be more creative when it comes to flexibility in order to accommodate their employees specific needs, so this will probably serve you better than a Big 4 or mid-tier experience. If all else fails, land a recruiter who can take your personal situation and set you up with a firm or company who will appreciate your situation but will also be a good cultural fit for you. Good luck.

Is Turning Down a Big 4 Internship a Mistake?

Welcome to the Cairo-is-burning edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a midtier intern-to-be is having second thoughts about their decision to turn down an offer from a Big 4 firm. Was the move a mistake? Can they go back, begging, crawling on hands and knees for a second chance?

Need solid, yet snarky career advice? Concerned that your advances on a co-worker might be rejected with footwear? Suddenly in need of a talent agent? Email us at and we’ll help you find your very own Ari Gold.

Meanwhile, back on campus:

I accepted an audit internship offer awhile back with a midtier firm for next winter. In doing so, I turned down an offer from one of the Big 4 for the same period. Now, I’m wondering if I’ve really given enough thought to the Big 4 route.

I am aware that my life will be non-existent outside of work no matter where I go, but the exit ops with the Big 4 seem worth it. I’m wondering if it would be advisable to contact the recruiter I previously worked with and see if I could interview again, this time for a summer internship. Would this make me seem too indecisive, or should I at least try for it? If not, could I still ask him to keep me in mind for full time positions?


Confused and soon to be abused

Dear Confused and soon to be Abused,

You didn’t really give me a lot to go on (we do however, appreciate the brevity) but we’ll make something out of this.

In general, I think your first instinct is always best and it sounds like you might be second-guessing your decision. You chose the firm you chose for a reason, didn’t you? You probably had reasons for not choosing the Big 4 firm, right? Did the “exit ops” occur to you only after the decision had been made and all your previous considerations were deemed inconsequential? I’m doubtful.

As for contacting the Big 4 recruiter, I don’t see any problem but take the angle that the decision you made was extremely difficult, you want to have various experiences to make the best choice for your long-term career and you’d be interested to know if summer internships will be offered. If you play the “I made a mistake, please, please, please give me a second chance” angle, you’ll come off desperate and wishy-washy. As for the full-time possibility, most of those positions will be offered to their interns, so it will be tough to sneak in once you’re ready to go full-time and you haven’t interned with that firm.

Keep in mind – just because you’re interning with a particular firm, that doesn’t mean you’ll be with the firm your entire public accounting career. Many people bounce around to various firms for one reason or another and your experience will be valuable no matter where you work. So, feel free inquire about the Big 4 firm’s summer internship but don’t give up on your mid-tier possibility. Good luck.

Should a Big 4 Loverboy Request a Transfer to Avoid a LDR?

Welcome to the Bachmann 2012 edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Big 4 acceptee’s beloved is moving across the country while he’s stuck with his job in New York. Does he request a transfer, stick it out or simply choose love over money?

Does your career need a wake-up call? Got the busy season blues? Jealous because you’re not in Davos hobnobbing with great minds like yours? Email us at and we’ll remind you why you’re stuck in a broom closet somewhere in Iowa.

Back to our ockquote>Hi Caleb,

I graduated from a west coast college and moved to the New York after graduation with a few friends. I ended up going back to school out here (NY) and am getting my Masters in Accounting in June. I went through the accounting hiring process this past Fall and did much better than I expected, receiving offers from a few mid-tier firms and two from the Big 4. I ended up accepting an entry level audit position in a New York Big 4 office and am starting in the Fall (2011).

However, my girlfriend, who I am serious with, is getting transferred for work to the city I was born and raised in on the West Coast. I had always planned on working in New York for a few years and transferring/moving back closer to my family. Now I wish I had gone through the interview process for the specific west coast office where my family lives but I have already accepted my offer for the east coast office.

I know there are a lot of politics in the Big 4 and I don’t want to be viewed as a problem child/uncommitted by asking if I could transfer to the west coast before even working a day at the firm. And if I start in the New York office and want to transfer: first, I have no idea how long I would need to work there for for a transfer to be appropriate (both to ask for one as well as how long it would possibly take), and second, a long distance relationship would be stressful and not ideal (duh).

So, my two options seem to be:
a) Ask my HR contact at my firm or my manager I interviewed with about my situation and see what they can do.
b) Suck it up and work (a while? how long?) at the New York office until it’s an appropriate time to transfer.

Thanks in advance,
Lost but in Love

Dear LbiL,

I never thought I’d actually delve into relationship-cumBig 4 career advice but luckily for you I have a similar experience so here goes nothing.

I know the LDR situation all too well, so we feel your pain. It can be good if you like space but it can be bad, well…obviously. What’s missing from your story is your better half’s side. Is her company requiring her to move to the west coast or is this her choice? If it’s the latter, did you discuss the potential ramifications of such a move? You say, “I wish I had gone through the interview process for the specific west coast office where my family lives but I have already accepted my offer for the east coast office,” but this is meaningless since we get the impression that you accepted your Big 4 dream job (with the intention to work in New York for “a few years”) prior to your girlfriend’s transfer.

Assuming you’ve talked this over with your g/f, she certainly has an opinion on the matter. If she can’t live with you being so far away, that sounds a bit needy (but maybe you like that). If she’s indifferent (i.e. she says, “do what you want” or “I don’t want you moving because of me”), perhaps she’s passive-aggressive, incapable of emotional intimacy or a little freaked out about the seriousness of the situation and doesn’t want to held responsible if things go wrong. If the two of you have actually sat down, talked it over and she says, “I’ll support you in your choice, whatever that may be,” you have a winner. But remember, ultimately it is your decision.

Now, then. Your firm. Odds are, they won’t be impressed with your request for a transfer straight out of the gate but situations similar to yours have surely come up in the past, so hopefully they’ll be sympathetic. Problem is – as you mentioned – transfers do involve the intricacies of the Big 4 bureaucracy so you’re looking at a slow process and they could just say, “no” or “right now we need you here but we’ll continue to work on it.” That being said, if moving back to to the left coast is really what you want to do, then you’ll never know unless you ask. Sooooo, ask the question (being prepared for “no”) and then go from there. If your firm isn’t accommodating you and you’re still head over heels in love, you can always quit and hitch it west. I hear they have accounting jobs out there. It may not come to that but we’d be remiss if we mention it as an option. Good luck.

Future Family Man Is Going Back and Forth Between BDO and Big 4 Offers

Welcome to the Calebs-are-a-loyal-sort edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a non-tradish student is getting all wishy-washy about choosing between BDO and a Big 4 firm. There are lots of variables involved so we’ll get right to it. But first…

Is your busy season belt already busting? Need help choosing classes to reach the 150 credit hours required in your state? Worried your lack of WASPyness will hurt your career ambitions? Email us at and we can recommend an exercise regimen or a nice fine arts class. Skin color and religion, on the other hand, are above our pay grade.

Back to our decider du jour:

I work in industry accounting now as a college student and I dread the monotonous work of industry accounting. This has brought me to the conclusion that I may just enjoy public accounting more in regards to a long term career. I see my CFO, controller, and director all working crazy hours which leads me to believe that my decision between public and industry would not change my work hours enough to really affect my work/life balance.

Unlike the majority of college students in their 20s I have significant financial obligations including a mortgage, car payments, and everything else that comes with those expenses. I am also married (no kids) and my wife is a low paid professional in her industry (marginal income, just enough to get by, but not enough to carry the house hold alone).

As for my offers – I have received a full-time offer with BDO to begin in the last quarter of this year, and I have also received an internship offer with a Big 4 to begin in January 2012 (hopefully beginning full time towards the end of 2012/beginning of 2013). If I take the internship for the sake of going Big 4, I will have to take out extra student loans through my masters to subsidize my ramen noodle living in the period between the internship and full-time start date. I will also have to put off starting my family, which is a big deal for me and my wife since we would like to start that before she gets into her 30s (which would be next year).

I must say that I originally chose the Big 4 and called BDO to decline my offer and let them know what my choice was. They seemed disappointed to hear it and the partner told me he doesn’t usually take part in recruitment and would really like me on his team. This is when he pushed my original offer from Jan 2013 to begin a few months earlier if I would have liked.

Also, when I inquired about the benefits offered at the Big 4 I was perceived “pushy” and I was told that I should be grateful for being extended an opportunity with them that many students would do anything for. When I presented this issue to professionals at other firms as well as professors I was always reassured that my question and my choice of approach regarding benefits was completely valid and the firm overreacted.

I am not sure if going Big 4 will be worth the financial and family delay sacrifice, or if going BDO and foregoing the Big 4 prestige would be a better idea since I have a partner already favoring me there from the get go, and instead of incurring more financial liabilities (through the extra student loans I would need if I took the Big 4 internship) I would be able to start paying some off. Some advice to help me make my decision would be greatly appreciated!

Hopeful Future Partner

Dear Hopeful,

Since we received your note prior to our pithy warning on Friday, I’ll ignore your verbosity. AS FOR THE REST OF YOU, there’s something to be said for brevity – keep that in mind.

All right, then. You’ve got Big 4 vs second tier decision to make, the typical American debt load and a biological clock to consider. Christ, man. We won’t touch the latter two but will say: aside from drinking heavily, you really need to sit down with the Mrs. to figure a lot of this out.

As for your career problem, we’re a little confused. It seems like you’ve already turned down BDO and accepted the Big 4 offer but there must be get out of accounting firm jail free card that we’re not aware of. Put that aside and it sounds like BDO is bending over backwards for you and your Big 4 friends are a tad touchy about a pretty standard inquiry (but maybe you’ve got people skills like Dunstan Pedropillai). So if you’re back to making a decision between the two, going with BDO seems like your best move just based on the people you’ve encountered.

To address this situation a more general sense, do you honestly think “Big 4 prestige” is going to help your situation? Anyone – recruiter, partner, manager, staff – that tries to guilt trip you with “[you] should be grateful for being extended an opportunity with [us] that many students would do anything for” doesn’t give a damn about you and is more concerned about the power they hold over you with this “opportunity.” Tell them to stick it and get your career started. Your wife will appreciate it.

HELP! I Hate My Big 4 Job Part XLVIII

Welcome to the National Hugging Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, someone is miserable at a Big 4 firm. AGAIN. Perhaps it’s been awhile since we’ve covered this, so we’ll make another run at it.

Need some advice on a busy season take-out routine? Worried that a client’s strange penchant for ginormous vehicles could be a Ponz? Having trouble coming up with a superhero name? Email”> and we’ll help you avoid something that involves a flying mammal.

Back to our accountant who really needs a hug:

I started with a Big Four firm a little over a year ago. When I accepted the offer pay was a HUGE concern for me. I took an over $20k/year pay cut to accept a “campus hire” position with a firm when I had six years of accounting experience under my belt (I worked my way up from clerk to manager in the years before joining the firm). At that time they weren’t even considering people with non-public accounting experience for experienced hire positions. I was wrapping up my 150 units (even though I am in a 120 unit state) and figured the experience would be worth it so I could get certified and bounce to somewhere that would pay me appropriately.

Unfortunately, I’m now a second year staffer who is expected to work more than my peers- because “I can handle it.” I haven’t had time to study or sit for a single CPA exam and no one seems to care aside from telling me I won’t get promoted until they’re all done. I requested a lighter workload during the summer so I could study but was turned down, sent on an extended out of town engagement with very long hours and then scheduled on another out of town engagement for the one week my boyfriend was supposed to be in town for work. I feel like I am giving up my entire life for a job that doesn’t even care about me.

I’ve tried multiple times to tell the firm about my concerns and am always shut down. It’s not like I hate the job- I actually like it- I just can’t stand feeling overlooked at best and mistreated at worst. I am burnt out and just wish that this job was more in line with my goals. I’m probably not going to quit during busy season because I cannot imagine doing that to the people I’ve come to care about- those whom I actually work with- but I probably won’t be there in the summer if something doesn’t dramatically change.

I feel lost, like I don’t know what else I can do and like I will go apeshit and quit the day the external binder for my client is turned in. I wish it weren’t the case and don’t know if you have any other suggestions for me at this point. Can you think of anything I can do to save my career and my sanity?

Dear I need a hug,

Your email was ridiculously long, so you’ll note we edited some things out that we found to be less important. We’ll channel a certain Irish talking head to any would-be advice seekers – keep it pithy. If not, expect your message to ignored or edited until it’s a manageable length. You want a full session? Get a therapist.

Now, then. You took a risk. A good risk in our opinion but a risk nonetheless and now it sounds like things haven’t panned out the way you hoped. It sounds like you’ve taken many different approaches to address the problem but ultimately it’s falling on deaf ears and now you feel like it’s affecting your life in an extremely negative way. We would suggest leaving ASAP for your own mental health but since quitting right this second (even though others are doing it) doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in doing, we suggest that you at the very least get the ball rolling. Call up some reputable recruiters in your city and explain your situation. They’ll take a look at your experience and will hopefully be able to give you an opinion on your experience to date and some good options for employment post busy season.

Honestly, you sounds miserable, so we encourage you to get out fast but be mindful to find a job that will meet your work-life needs and is “more in line with [your] goals,” to use your own words. It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind that you’ll quit after busy season but there are some things you can do now so that you’ll have something to look forward to rather than going apeshit. Hang in there and good luck.

Intern Concerned About the Quasi-Exodus at His Firm

Welcome to the first (maybe second, depending on your CPA overlord) busy season hump day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an intern 2.0 is concerned that everyone he knew from year one has disappeared. Has the exodus reached Old Testament levels? Were they abducted by aliens? Or can we chalk this up to a serial killer of CPAs?

Need survival tips for your first busy season? Are you an auditor getting a flood of requests for tax advice? Are you a tax pro suffering from nightmares of killer tax forms chasing you around a maze of cubicles? Email us at and we’ll provide some snappy comebacks or a good therapist.

Back to intern 2.0:

Hi Caleb,

I started my 2nd internship recently, with a national firm, and I quickly noticed that everyone I worked with last year has left the firm.

By everyone, I mean all 5 of my seniors and another staff member. Is this common? At this rate I shouldn’t even bother learning people’s names, as I’ll work with them once and never see them again.

Concerned intern

Dear Concerned Intern,

Truth be told, this mass disappearance of your superiors can only mean one thing – they found out you were coming back for your second tour and concluded that they would rather take their chances with the job market than spend another waking minute with your amateur ass.

Okay that’s probably not true at all but depending on the size of your office, six people could be a lot or a little. Offices like New York, Chicago, L.A., San Fran, Silicon Valley can lose six people in one day and no one bats a green eyeshade. If you’re in Kansas City or Memphis, six people could be the staff from an entire line of business and that can cause some managers and partners to have a nervous breakdown. So generally, there should be a inverse correlation between your concern about colleagues disappearing and the size of your office. But to put into an even broader context, you shouldn’t worry about people leaving PERIOD. Why, you ask? Cries of “It’s going to mean more work for me!” or “Busy season will suck even worse!” are common but people need to realize – this is the nature of the beast. People get burned out or laid off OR find a great job in-house somewhere OR suffer death by bindering (akin to stoning).

In other words, this is the business, kid. People leave. You’ll meet them, you’ll work with them, you may hate or love them but eventually most people jet. It’s just a matter of when and how.

Despite the “Horror Stories,” an Eight-year Tax Vet Wants to Know How to Jump to the Big 4

Welcome to a special Thursday the Thirteenth edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a tax veteran who has spent their career working in smaller firms is looking to make a move to a Big 4 firm since they “can be even more flexible with schedules.” The problem is, our aspirant is having trouble getting any of the firms’ attention.

Want to know if you’re stuck in a dead-end job? Looking for some good press? Need help writing a farewell email? Email us at and we’ll help you keep your valediction out of these pages.

Returning to the Big 4 wannabe:

Dear Caleb,

I am a tax senior who has eight busy season and a CPA license under their belt. I have always worked for the smaller firms because of all of the horror stories I have heard regarding the Big 4. Lately, I have realized that I really don’t work that much less than they do and sometimes the Big 4 can be even more flexible with schedules because of the size of the workforce. (If you are one of several, there is not a lot of room to move stuff around.)

The problem is I have never been through the recruiting process with the Big 4 and don’t know where to begin to try and move into an experienced position. I have applied on the website but have not had any responses. Any thoughts?

Lost in Transition

Dear LiT,

So the Times convinced you, eh? It’s a good paper (is that still the correct terminology?), we’ll admit but even the Gray Lady can find itself wandering into uncharted waters. ANYWAY, this problem you have – no communicado so far from the Four Horsemen; we can help.

Our first suggestion is to work with a professional recruiter that has placed others with the Big 4. A good one will be able to take one look at your résumé and flat out tell you if you’ve got what it takes to get in the door. Then it’s up to you nail the interview(s). Done and done.

The other thing you can do – if you prefer to avoid the recruiter – is to use LinkedIn to find who the experienced-hire Big 4 recruiters are in your market and contact them directly. You could get started by looking at some recent posts that have emails from recruiters that are floating around this here site but we realize that may be a longshot.

So off you go, Big 4 hopeful. We hope you hit the work-life balance jackpot.

Should a Tax Rockstar Transfer to a New Consulting Gig Prior to Busy Season?

Welcome to another MOANday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a tax vet is looking to move into consulting with their current firm but in a new office. The current office wants this “star performer” to stick around for busy season but ultimately the decision lies with our hero, who is concerned about burning bridges if they jump before busy season starts. What’s a tax rockstar to do?

Recently had your heart broken? Are you a miserable auditor with no one to turn to? Or an overachiever who needs help convincing their colleagues that you’re not just some know-it-all? Email us at and we’ll be your shoulder to cry on (and then slap some sense into you).

Back to the David Lee Roth of taxes:

Hi. I am currently with the tax department and thinking about doing a switch to consulting with my same firm, but a different office. The new position will offer better opportunities and as a bonus, better pay. I have already told my department leaders about this switch.

I think this will be a good switch for me, but am afraid there might be some burned bridges on the way since busy season is about to start and I am one of their star performers. They insist that I stay until busy season is over to make the switch because of the extra work load they will have. The final decision will be up to me, but I don’t want to burn any bridges.

Dear DLR,

First off, let us just congratulate you on the new consulting gig. It’s easier said then done to leave a successful run in one area to try something relatively different (without more DETAILS it’s difficult to know how different your new gig is).

Fortunately for you, your humble editor has some experience with a similar situation. Back in the mid-Aughts, I was granted a transfer from Denver to New York. My transfer was approved in the fall, however the leadership in Denver put forth the condition that I spend one more busy season in the MHC. Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out that way because I was able to spend one more year working on a client I enjoyed and it better prepared me for my engagements in New York.

In your case, you are switching practices so perhaps you could care less about grinding out another busy season with your tax comrades. Similarly, if you’re the rockstar you claim to be, it probably isn’t too motivating to know that you’re going to bust your ass for 3-ish months but then not have your performance considered for your year-end review.

But you’re obviously torn between your giddiness of a new career opportunity and the possibility of rubbing some people the wrong way if you decide to leave them behind. Honestly, I’m a big believer in doing what you want to do, especially when given the option. So, you shouldn’t be surprised when I say move on to the consulting gig now. I understand that you don’t want to cause any friction but if they are “insisting” that you stay for busy season why did they allow you to make the decision? If they need you so bad, they would “require” you to stay. That’s what Denver did to me but again, their need was probably far greater than New York’s.

But here’s a NEWSFLASH: The team will make it through busy season with or without you. If your colleagues have integrity and support your ambitions, this is a non-issue. Chances are, some of them are completely comfortable no matter what decision you make. Others won’t be. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone because you’ll ultimately fail in that endeavor. If you want to join the consulting team now, then do it. Your tax colleagues will survive and if some of them hold it against you, then you’re better off getting the hell away from them. Good luck.

Another Fed Up Auditor Needs Help Making a Move

Welcome to the Friday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies (aka: why doesn’t anyone want to poach me?). In today’s edition, an E&Y audit staff has HAD IT with her trade. Problem is, she’s concerned that she might be doomed for “long hours and boring work.” Plus, she’s already has passed the CPA exam and needs to meet the hours requirement. Is her career doomed to boredom and lack of certification?

Need career advice? Recently been tempted by a sexy corporate suitor but don’t want to disappoint the boss? Thinking about turning to extreme measures to get revenge on a co-worker? Email us at and we’ll run down a cauldron.

Back to fed-up-auditor du jour:

I am currently working at EY in auditing at the staff 2 level. I am miserable in audit and have been trying to stick out my time here until at least senior status, but I’ve come to realize that I just cannot take 9 more months of this work. As such, I am currently exploring my options as to what else is available out there for me.

I have already passed the CPA exams and the only thing holding me back from obtaining my CPA is the CPA hours requirement. Can you recommend a transition job that will get me AWAY from audit but still allow me to put the work hours towards my CPA? I understand that financial advisory is one option and I am considering looking into such positions at Deloitte (because of their large FAS practice). However, the problem is that I’m not sure how different the nature of the work will be in financial advisory. Will I be met with long hours and boring work, similar to audit?

Can you PLEASE help a sista out?

– Concerned About My Own Going Concern

Dear Concerned Sista,

Will you “be met with long hours and boring work?” If by, “boring work” you mean “Microsoft Excel” and by “long hours” you mean, “more than 9 to 5” our response is “possibly” and “HELL YES.” We will not address the question about “long hours.” That is a matter of record all over this site. As far as the work, if it’s the nature of auditing you find dull, you’ll be glad to know that advisory services has many interesting practice areas but think about it, you have an accounting degree (presumably), for crissakes. There will be numbers and spreadsheets involved (if that’s what you find boring). What, exactly, were you expecting? Flip cup tournaments broken up by 2 hour lunches?

The good news is, the season is ripe for people looking to move to another Big 4 firm. However, you might be a little short on experience to jump over to Deloitte FAS. These practice areas are very specific and with only a couple years under your belt, it will be a tough sell. Obviously, this shouldn’t dissuade you but you’re officially on notice that it’s an uphill battle.

As far as your CPA is concerned, many states allow work experience in areas outside public accounting so unless your state has very specific requirements for licensure, you’ll be fine. This means you should take a hard luck about what you do like about accounting and make a decision from there. Keeping in mind that this could mean getting out of the Big 4 altogether. Good luck.

One Ernst & Young Tax Associate’s Resolution Is to Find Out If She’s Underpaid

Welcome to the good-riddance-2010-hello-busy-season edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an E&Y tax associate is considering a move to another Big 4 firm but wants to know if she’s pulling down fair scratch after “an irrevocable slip up.”

Need ideas for 2011 resolutions? Wondering how to best present strange and morbid experience on your LinkedIn profile? Looking for ideas on how to handle a client who will be less than grateful for all the hours you’ll be putting in this year? Email us at and we’ll have everyone kissing your feet in no time.

Back to our New Year job hunter:

Hi, I’m currently working at EY FSO NY in Tax and considering going to one of the other big 4 firms but am wondering how much the going rate is these days for hires with the MST in my market. When I initially signed on here I was offered 70k with the MST but due to a huge irrevocable slip up I’m not being paid that. Understandably if I’m going to be slaving away through a 9 month busy season with these financial clients I want to at least get paid the going-rate hence the reason I’m exploring my options. Btw, I’m a staff 2 now.

Naturally, we had to ask about this “irrevocable slip up” because we pictured something along the lines of DUI, an inappropriate email or something even more serious but unfortunately it was just a college credits issue.

ANYWAY, this problem you have – ordinarily, we’d think that you’re shopping the job scene simply because you think you’re underpaid but since your situation is special, we’ll make an exception. We asked around and 70k is right in the wheelhouse of where you should be so at the very least, it wouldn’t hurt to ask some recruiters what openings the other firms have. On the other hand, if you like working at E&Y, it wouldn’t be presumptuous to explain your situation to a performance counselor or partner, the idea being that you’re happy but because of mix-up, you’re down the pay scale compared to your peers. Do this after speaking to recruiters so you can substantiate your claim.

Keep in mind that the downside is that tax associates with a MST and FS experience are a dime a dozen in New York, so we advise moving sooner (i.e. now) rather than later (i.e. April) when all your burned out colleagues are calling recruiters. If you wait a couple of weeks, before you know it, you’re swamped with work and missing for a couple of hours in the middle of the day will look pret-tay, pret-tay suspicious. Good luck.

Should an “Acting Senior Manager” Take a Job with Grant Thornton That Promises a Transfer?

Welcome to the Holly Jolly Hump Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an “acting” senior manager is being recruited for a gig with GT in a Mid-Atlantic office with the promise to transfer to another office after the upcoming tax seasons. Can he trust GT to make the deal happen?

Worried that your career (or bonus) is in jeopardy because your firm is in a bit of a jam? Not sure how to approach a potential dance partner? Caught in an awkward situation that involves hookers and cash but it’s really just one big misunderstanding? Email us at and we’ll do our best to right these wrongs (or at least make you feel better about them).

Back to the actor:

I have 8 years experience in tax compliance as an acting senior manager on a large client. A former co-worker is recruiting me for a [Mid-Atlantic] GT tax position as a senior since I have no CPA. They are willing to have me work in [Mid-Atlantic] until 09/11 and then allow me to transfer to another office after 9/11.

My interview will be next week and will be with [Mid-Atlantic] partner and the partner from the office I want to transfer to. My questions for the group are the following. Does anyone know what the staffing is like in the tax group in [Mid-Atlantic]? (i.e. all new staff or good experienced people) Does GT pay well? My current salary is $98,000. Can I trust them to honor their word about transfering me after 9/11?

-Acting Senior Manager

Dear ASM,

We have to say, this is a very odd situation you’ve got so we’ll do our best to help you out. For starters, why don’t you have a CPA license? We’re sure there’s an explanation but an 8 year vet of the business with no CPA strikes us as odd. Written exam too scary? You’ve got a JD and figured the CPA wasn’t necessary? Perpetual BEC failure? Whatevs. Secondly, we’re get the impression that you want this job mostly for the transfer, so we’ll skip the “climbing down the corporate ladder” lecture.

Now, then. We can’t speak to the staffing situation in the office you speak of but it would be shocking if all the staff at GT south of Philadelphia and north of Raleigh were completely incapable of doing their jobs (if we’re off base, please share). The pay at GT will be fine but your work experience is a big bargaining chip. Use it wisely and be ready to lay out why your extensive experience should result in more money for you.

As for taking the word of GT partners, it’s a pretty good sign that a partner from your desired office will be there for your interview. Also, what motivation would anyone have by going back on this deal? Would they really give you the job only to betray you less than a year later? This strikes us as unlikely. Staffing needs are always up in the air so for them to give you this opportunity seems us as a pretty exceptional deal. Regardless, we’d ask to get something in writing. Chances are this has already happened, as we assume some of these discussions occurred over email but something official would be ideal. If they balk, then you’ve got cause to question their sincerity. Good luck.

Oh, and get your CPA for crissakes.

Is There a Polite Way to Quit During Busy Season?

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

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

Back to fed up in Big 4:


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

Thanks for the advice,

Dear HatingMyJob,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to our nervous Nellie:

Hey guys,

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

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

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

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

Booker T. Nervousman

Dear Booker T.,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can a Future Big 4 Associate Expect a Salary Adjustment When He Starts Work?

Welcome to the aren’t-you-glad-healthcare-reform-is-back-in-the-news? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, should an incoming associate expect a salary adjustment on day one or they doomed to a pittance?

Find yourself in a jam at work? Do you have eight hours to spare and aren’t sure how to best spend this rare free time? Wondering what you should get Sharon Allen for a retirement gift? Email us at and we’ll make sure you stay away from vacuum cleaners.

Returning to our Big 4 in waiting:

Can I expect to have my salary adjusted to market when I start employment? I will be starting in 2011. Reading through some of the articles and comments on here, it seems that new hires easily start with a salary above $50K. I received three offers from three Big 4 firms but all offered salaries were relatively far from $50K.

Each firm was within 1K-1.5K range from each other though. I know that starting salaries have even decreased in my area overall. I am not enjoying the thought of making less than what these firms have proven to have the potential to offer, or even making less than what another firm had to offer (although I knew that was the outcome by choosing this firm). I personally do not think it is worth asking for a raise or a salary adjustment since I feel that would only hurt my future annual raises. Should I just wait it out and see?

[Doubled over, catching breath, holding up hand with ‘I need a minute’]

Oh, dear. We had to take a break for a second, in fact our face hurts from laughing uncontrollably. Sorry about that.

Look friend, we don’t mean to make light of your question but a reality check is necessary here. There is virtually no chance that your firm will adjust to your salary when you start. You write, “I am not enjoying the thought of making less than what these firms have proven to have the potential to offer, or even making less than what another firm had to offer (although I knew that was the outcome by choosing this firm).”

We find this confusing for a couple of reasons – 1) obviously the Big 4 have “proven to have the potential” to pay more than $50k. It just happens this is occurring in a place where you don’t currently reside. If you did reside in one these places, your starting salary would eclipse the magical $50k. Were you expecting a big city salary for your mid-sized city lifestyle? 2) if you don’t like the idea of earning less money, why did you go with the firm that offered you less money? This simply doesn’t compute.

If making $50,000 is such a sticking point for you, move to a city with a higher cost of living so that you can eclipse the magic number you so desperately desire. If that’s not reasonable, then the best you can hope for is a pleasant surprise like PwC gave its recently hired peeps ($500 bonus for those hired post-June 30, 2010).

This may sound crazy but don’t get too caught up in what your salary is at the beginning of your career. So, to answer your question – sit tight and start your career. It’s a little early to be bitching about being underpaid when you haven’t billed a single hour.

Should Grad Students Crash Another School’s ‘Meet the Firms’ Event?

Welcome to the your-life-would-be-easier-if-you-just-embraced-Monday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a graduate student wants to know if crashing another school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ event is a good idea or if it will land him on the Big 4 blacklist.

Looking for some career advice? Need help filling out your Holiday Gift list? Bored with your life after Big 4 and need some ideas on how to fill the hours? Email us at and we’ll and we’ll find you a hobby in no time.

Back to the Big 4 crasher:

I am attending a master’s of tax program in a small city that only has two Big 4 firms, only one of which does tax. As a result of this, the other firms don’t recruit at our school and won’t let us apply for associate positions because they don’t recruit at our campus.

A couple of classmates and I were wondering if it would be wrong to travel to a larger city and attend that school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ night next year to hand our résumés to the recruiters and get face time with them. Would doing this do more harm that good to us with the firms or would it show how much we want to work for them?

Thanks for the advice,
Small town accountant

Dear Small Town,

We like your enthusiasm for a road trip. This particular journey has a mission, however, so it has a little more significance than your average cruise through the desert with a trunk full of narcotics but we understand you’ve got your future career to consider. Anyway, we’re all for this idea for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a relatively low-risk proposition that could pay big dividends and 2) If you’ve got some self-control, the trunk full of narcotics could still happen.

That said, the most important thing to keep in mind while on your recruiting journey is that you are wandering into enemy territory (so to speak). This means you’ll have no choice but to be completely honest about your non-affiliation with the school. Your résumés will easily show this but any kind of misrepresentation will eventually torpedo your plans one way or another. Clearly explaining your situation to the firm recruiters will demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile (or 50 to 100) and assuming you’ve got a stellar résumé, it will likely impress them even more.

As for the risks – your rival school could just up and throw you out once they find out that you’re not affiliated with the school. For starters, you’re jockeying for face time with the firms at the expense of their students. As long as you don’t make a spectacle of yourself, we feel there’s only a small risk of you getting the heave. Likewise, one of the firm’s recruiters may frown on your little crashing escapade but frankly, if you don’t make it seem like a big deal, they won’t either.

So we say go for it – show up, shake hands, chat ’em up and who knows what will happen. You’ve got very little to lose except maybe a job.

Anyone out there who has crashed a recruiting event is invited to share the highlights or if you agree/disagree with the advice, chime in below.

A Future McGladrey Associate Is Having Second Thoughts About Their Decision

Welcome to the your-day-can’t-be-worse-than-Julian-Assange’s edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a college student who accepted a fulltime gig with McGladrey is spooked after reading some kvetching about the firm on this here site. Did he make a bad choice?

Caught in a jam at work? Thinking about blowing the whistle? Concerned that the washrooms at your office aren’t sanitary? Email us at for lawyer recommendations or hand-washing tips.

Back to the morose McG soon-to-be:

I am a college student in the Southeast region of the United States. I am a graduate student and have accepted an offer to work full time at McGladrey (audit) in this region.

I have seen so many negative remarks on your website from comments and articles about the company, that I am somewhat concerned with my choice of firm. I seemed to fit in really well with the people at the office, and I enjoyed the office visit. I received offers from the other middle market companies (GT, BDO), but I felt best at McGladrey.

Seeing comments that compare McGladrey to McDonald’s is a bit disconcerting considering the fact that I have spent so much time and effort in college trying to gain a good job with security.

My ultimate question is, did I make a bad decision? Is McGladrey really THAT bad, or is it comparable to the other mid-tiers? To me, it seemed to meet the standard of the mid-tiers.

Please help me figure out if I need to try and make a move before I start.

Dear Unhappy Meal,

In case you haven’t noticed, the peanut gallery here at Going Concern is a cheeky bunch (love!) and your concern about the comments that you’ve read on various posts is a little overblown, in our opinion.

For starters, trust your instincts. You made the best decision based on your experience with the three firms you mentioned. Now, all of a sudden, you’re spooked because you read a few comments comparing McGladrey to McDonald’s? Have you read the comments on the Grant Thornton threads? They are, at the very least, on par with the spouting on the Mickey G posts.

Secondly, our most recent post about McGladrey was news of extra paid time off, concierge services, bonuses and babysitters. Babysitters! Does that sound like such a bad place to work? Yes, it’s the McG brass giving you the “we appreciate your hard work and this is our show of thanks” line and that always invites skeptical reactions but you show us one firm that doesn’t experience some backlash and we’ll show you firm that doesn’t exist.

So to answer more directly – you didn’t make a bad decision because you went with your gut. You made the best choice for you and not based on what you heard some anonymous commenter say. Go forth with confidence, grasshopper.

A Partner Hopeful Can’t Decide Between KPMG and a Mid-Tier Firm

Welcome to the light-the-menorah edition of Accounting Career Emergency. In today’s edition, a lucky co-ed who is convinced she wants a career in public accounting has internship offers from KPMG and GT and maybe another from BDO. Multiple choice study skills won’t really help her so she turned us for our sage advice.

Is your career on life support? Worried that the long hours during the upcoming busy season might finally cause you to crack? Does your family remind you of Arrested Development? Email us at and we’ll have no problem crushing your brother-in-law’s dreams of playing with the Blue Man Group.

Back to the multiple choice exercise:

I recently received an internship offer from both Grant Thornton and KPMG in Chicago. I more than likely will be getting an offer from BDO as well. Unlike many who go Big 4 then jump ship to industry, I want to make a long term career out of public accounting (i.e., hopefully make partner some day).

I liked the supposed “culture” and the people at all of the firms, but now I can’t decide which one I want to go with. I don’t know if going midsized will mean quicker promotions, and somewhat better hours (relatively speaking), or if the Big 4 prestige is even relevant long term within the public accounting field. Please help me make sense of this…

Dear Partner Hopeful,

Pardon us but we’ll briefly delve into semantics for a second – “midsized” isn’t really representative of GT or BDO (we’re not crazy about mid-tier either but we’re open to suggestions) as they both have vast international networks. It is also true that the Big 4 dwarf GT and BDO combined so a moniker for the non-Big 4 firms (because that also sucks) could be the most important debate to come out of your question. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, then. We’re impressed that you have your mind made up that you want a long-term career in public accounting. That was our initial aspirations as well and look how that turned out. All we’re saying is, don’t get ahead of yourself and the culture will wane, trust us.

As for the Big 4 vs. GT/BDO question – for starters, the promotion pace will be similar no matter where you go. Besides, do you really want to get to senior manager in 5-6 years just to sit there for 10 more before you make partner? Our guess is, nofuckingway.

Secondly, don’t ask about hours. They will be long no matter where you go. Get over it.

The most provocative part of your question is related to prestige. GT and BDO rank #5 and #6 in Vault’s latest ranking, so it’s not like you’re working for complete schlubs. Plus, Chicago, as you’re well aware, is where Grant Thornton and BDO are headquartered. Conventional wisdom may tell you that KPMG is a more prestigious firm regardless of location and that very well may be true. But if you’re working in the HQ city of GT or BDO, you’re likely to hobnob with some of the most high-ranking professionals within those two firms. Not taking anything away from KPMG Chicago, but you simply won’t get the same exposure to the firm’s national leadership as you would at Grant Thornton or BDO.

Bottom line is that all the firms are solid and if you’re sold on the people and culture, you’ll have no problem fitting in at any of them. But if you’re concerned with prestige and building your network, it’s worth considering the opportunity of getting exposure to the bigwigs at GT and BDO.

Big 4 Manager Needs Help Determining If He Is Underpaid

Welcome to the squelch-the-tryptophan-withdrawals-with-cyber-Monday edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4 manager is pret-tay sure he is underpaid. How can he broach the subject with a partner without causing major blowback?

Need career advice? Want gift ideas that will score some points with a boss in your life? Wondering where you can find an old PwC backpack? Email us at and we’ll sniff out a deal or a homeless person.

Back to our short-changed manager:

I was wondering if you could provide advice in how to determine if I am being underpaid and if I am how to go about asking for an increase? I am a 1st year Manager for a Big 4 firm in Kansas City. I have been with the same firm/office my entire career sans a 2 year secondment I completed in Dublin just in August. In addition, to having my CPA license I also hold the CFE certification and the CFA charter.

My feelings for asking for a raise are based on the additional certifications and knowing that my salary as a 1st year Manager is less than what 3rd year Sr. Associates were making in my office 2 plus years ago. I know the economy has changed during the subsequent 2 years but still feel like I am not fairly compensated. What advice do you propose? I am nervous about sharing my thoughts with my Partner as I am afraid of a potential backlash. Thanks in advance.

Dear Alphabet Soup,

Think you’re underpaid, huh? Seems to be theme around here. However, your situation is more unique than most so we’ll make a run at this.

First thing we noticed about your situation is that you’re a M1 which means you were recently promoted, which also mean you should have just received a better-than average raise. And we’re more than a little skeptical about your assertion that a SA3 is making more than you. That would have to mean that SAs are getting insanely good raises while you – the newly promoted manager – got an abysmal one; it seems unlikely. If this in fact the case, then you’ve had a serious string of bad luck.

As for determining whether or not you are underpaid, we suggest you speak to a professional recruiter in KC to find out whether or not your credentials and international experience or currently undervalued. If the recruiter takes a look at your résumé and starts drooling, you’ll know that he/she can earn a fat commission placing you somewhere else. If they shrug and say, “Look friend, you’re doing pretty well. But let me tell you about this great opportunity…” then your salary is probably fair.

When it comes to talking to a partner about this, be sure you’re speaking to someone you trust and just be honest. Make your case with facts. Don’t go speculating about what a SA3 is making because that turns the conversation to something that is out of your control. Highlight your credentials, international experience and why they bring value to the firm and your partner.

They’ve heard the “I’m underpaid” sob story a million times. You’ve got to prove to them that your case is an exception to the run-of-the-mill bellyaching.

Decision Time: A Promotion with Deloitte or a New Opportunity with Ernst & Young?

Welcome to the why-do-we-bother-on-days-like-today edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a young consultant has a pretty sweet gig with Deloitte in DC but has a very interesting offer with E&Y in NYC. What’s a boy to do?

Does your career need a change? Need cheering up? Looking for some last minute advice on the dysfunctional hell that you’re about to walk into tomorrow? Email us at and we’ll make it all better.

Returning to the Decider:


I am currently a second year consultant in the federal practice in Deloitte in Washington DC. I recently interviewed with EY and got an offer for staff advisor role in New York City. Though my pay raise is not significant (in fact the same, since cost of living is higher in NYC), the position is something that really interests me as it deals in financial consulting and is not audit oriented.

The flip side is that i have been a strong performer at D and am most likely to get promoted at year end. Do you think it makes sense to leave D at this juncture and jump to EY even though I am not being offered a senior position, I am not getting a significant pay raise but the job description is something I have always wanted to do.

Please help me out as I need to make a decision by week-end.


Dear Confused,

You simply couldn’t let us cruise into a four day food and drink bender, could you? Very well, then. We are here to help after all.

This is a clear-cut situation of figuring out what your priorities are. You make a decent case for each position, so it’s time to line up what’s most important and make a decision based on that.

It really boils down to this: love or money? Your gig at Deloitte sounds pretty good. You’re in an high-profile group at the firm, looking at promotion, probably more money and – as far as we can tell – you don’t hate the work. All good things.

But the opportunity with E&Y has obviously piqued your interest. Different city. Different firm. Different opportunity. Sure the money won’t go as far and you’ll probably live in a broom closet but there may be more than a sliver of a chance that you will love it.

Some people will say, “You’re doing a disservice to yourself and your career,” if you were to take the E&Y gig. “You’re giving up a promotion and the years of experience earned at Deloitte for a longshot,” they might also say.

Personally, we like longshots. All kinds of people in Big 4 and top ten firms continue to choose to stay on the path they’re on because it’s easy and things like higher salaries and more prestigious titles are hard to turn down.

If you’re genuinely interested in the work that comes with the E&Y position, we say go for it. You’ll never look back and wonder what would have happened if you didn’t take that risk and this may be the rare opportunity that you’ve been waiting for.

Chew on that (along with your poultry of choice tomorrow) and then go make it happen.

Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The first person you have to manage every day is you. You want to be in a strong position at work. You want to take charge of your role in every relationship with every boss. It’s just that there are so many factors beyond your control at work.

I’ve done hundreds of focus groups with thousands of people around one very simple question: What gets in the way of your success at work? Like clockwork, nine out of 10 responses are factors that are totally beyond the control of the individual.

What gets in the way of your success?

• Company policies, rules, regulations, corporate culture, standard operating procedures
• The way things have always been done around here.
• There is too much work and not enough time.
• There are too many low-priority activities that take me away from my most important tasks and responsibilities.
• There is a lot of conflict between and among employees, which creates a stressful, negative mood.
• Resources are limited and sometimes I don’t have the people, materials, and tools that I need to do the job.
• There is no clear chain of command in this organization.
• I answer to too many different people.
• My various bosses each have different standards of performance and conduct.
• My various bosses each tell me conflicting things about what should take priority.
• My various bosses each tell me conflicting things about rules and policies.
• Some bosses yell and scream and make things difficult.
• Sometimes bosses don’t make time for me one-on-one, some bosses don’t make expectations clear, and some don’t keep track of performance.

Sound familiar? There are so many factors beyond your control.

But you control you. You control your own thoughts, words, and actions. You control your attitude, commitment, time, effort, and your ideas. You are responsible for playing your role to the best of your ability every day at work. So be powerful. Focus on what you can control: You.

First, make sure that the first person you are managing every day is you. Make sure you are taking good care of you outside of work so that you are bringing your very best to work every day. Arrive a little early. Stay a little late.

And while you are at work, you need to be all about the work. Your work, that is. Focus on playing the role assigned to you before you ever try to reach beyond that role. Focus on your tasks, your responsibilities, your projects. Focus on doing them very well, very fast, all day long.

Big 4-Bound Associate Needs Rainmaking Tips

Welcome to the we’ve-already-checked-out-for-the-week edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4-bound associate is looking for some rainmaking opportunities as a young up-and-comer. Is this typical young grasshopper idealism or can this young man be helped?

Need some career advice? Recently been let go and want some ideas on how to go out on top? Looking for an interpretation of the latest message from your firm’s CEO? Email us at and we’ll translate thrning to the rain dancer:

I start with a Big 4 firm in January. I have no public accounting experience (not really counting 2 internships I had 3 years ago). I have gotten lots of advice/tips from people in the last few weeks concering advancement. “You have to be a rainmaker” to move up.

I’ve read articles (some on Going Concern) about making sure you can show your value to your employer when negotiating raises/advancement. My questions are: how can a first year staff member begin to take steps to developing their value in a firm? What can a first year do to begin to develop “rainmaking” qualities? Is it even possible to be a rainmaker so early in a career?

I imagine networking, volunteering, and getting involved are all things that I’d normally hear regarding this topic. But I’m wondering if you have any more tangible, practical advice.

Dear Rain Dancer,

Not sure why you assume “networking, volunteering and getting involved” aren’t “tangible” but those all seem like a good places to start. As for “practical,” your firm will probably give you plenty of opportunities for all of these, so again, not sure why those options strike you as inconvenient or unrealistic.

That being said, we’ll elaborate a little bit. For starters, this “rainmaker” talk is bullshit for someone in your position. Whoever is telling you this is giving you clichéd buzztalk that is frankly, useless. Advancement, at this point in your career is more about making the most of opportunities that are presented to you (networking, community involvement are good examples).

Furthermore, you’re correct to assume that it’s pretty difficult for a new associate to walk in and bring in a slew of new business. It’s a partner’s job to find new business, not yours. You can’t become the next Piet Klynveld without knowing what a tickmark legend is, now can you?

However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from looking for opportunities to build relationships with the professionals around you. Keep your eyes and ears open and build your network. You never know who will become a decision-maker and if you happen to have a good relationship with said decision-maker, you could land your firm some new business down the road.

Same goes for volunteering. If you’re helping in the community, you’re likely to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, so this is another opportunity build your network that will allow you to shower your firm in cash in the future.

Do you honestly think you’ll can cold-call every business in town and charm them over the phone into accepting your business? Even if you did have them doing back flips on the other line, they’ll strike the deal with a partner at the firm, not you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a nice little bonus for making the introduction and while that shows initiative that hardly makes you a “rainmaker.”

At this stage in your career, being involved in social activities at your firm, building relationships with clients and co-workers and having a good attitude will help you advance. Oh, and it helps if you know something about your given line of business (audit, tax, advisory).

Building those relationships (and being of capable intelligence) will give you the chance to bring some business to your firm. Then you can get all Pacman Jones on everybody.

Former Business Journalist Needs Help Becoming the Next Great Forensic Accountant

Welcome to the christ-is-it-next-Wednesday-yet edition of Accounting Career Couch. In today’s edition, a former business journalist is looking to get into forensic accounting. How on Earth can you do that?

Need help with your next career move? Want some advice on an awkward confrontation? Looking for a loophole in your firm’s dress code so you can show off your fantastic gams/guns? Email us at and we’ll recommend what to say/wear.

Back to Mikael Blomkvist:

I’m in my earr worked in accounting. I have a B.A. in liberal arts and am currently enrolled in a Masters in Accountancy program. I formerly worked 10+ years as a business journalist, during which I learned a fair amount of basic accounting and financial statement analysis. I especially enjoyed investigative business journalism, which led me to get a PI license and a CFE designation and work as a freelance fraud investigator for several years. But I quickly saw that I needed a CPA license and real-world accounting experience to command decent fees.

Once I get my M.Acc., I’d like to get a job in forensics at a public accounting or consulting firm and starting working toward the CPA. I know exactly what I want to do: forensics, and even more specifically, fraud investigations. I’d rather not toil in entry-level audit and try to worm my way into forensics if I can avoid it.

My questions are myriad. For starters, am I too old to do this? (Yes, I’m a married parent, have paid dues before, don’t mind paying them again as a career-changer.) Where should I apply? Would the Big 4 even be interested, or should I concentrate only on specialized/regional firms? Would I have more luck going the entrepreneurial/sole proprietor route than trying to get a firm to hire me? Will investigate for food. Anything helps, even a smile.

Dear Blomkvist,

Let us just start by saying two things as it relates to the age question: 1) it doesn’t mean shit and 2) it’s irrelevant at this point. Judging by your actions you’ve already made up your mind and you’re just looking for a little confirmation.

Now, then. As far as where you should apply – Big 4 is an option but not a great one. They have forensics practices obviously but getting your foot in the door can be tough as the groups are small and positions are hard to come by. That being said, it won’t hurt to get in touch with the experienced-hire recruiters at the major firms in your area to see if there are openings. You’re certainly a better candidate than someone internal that has no investigative experience and wants to get into forensics for the hell of it. A little pavement pounding could turn up a great opportunity.

That being said, it seems to make more sense to seek out opportunities at boutique or small firms in your city. You will likely get the opportunity to meet the owner(s)/partners of the practice who will probably value your experience as an investigative journalist. Someone like Tracy Coenen would be a good example of an expert that could take you under their wing and show you the ropes (assuming they need someone).

As far as starting hanging your own shingle, it’s an option but you’ll eat what you kill. Are you prepared to live that way? Is your family prepared to live that way? Conversations need to be had. You may be able to lend a hand to other forensics specialists to get your feet wet but it will be a tough sell to land your own clients for quite awhile.

You’ve got the investigator’s instinct and presumably the iron-clad balls that Sam Antar insists are a must and that cannot be taught. These intangibles are extremely valuable and should be a major selling point no matter what path you choose. Skål!

Do I Have Public Accounting Burnout?

Good morning and welcome back as we return with another accounting career quagmire. In today’s edition, an experienced associate at a California regional has a bad case of burnout and is weighing some options – including the IRS.

Caught in a dicey situation at work? Want to incorporate your love for your firm on your vanity plates but need some suggestions? Have some extra money to throw around and need help with ideas on how to best use it to your advantage? Email us at advice@goingconcl make sure you spend it wisely.

Back to the burnout at hand:

I am a second-year associate at a regional firm in California and I am considering getting out to go somewhere else, but I’m not sure where. I’ll start by saying that I have some big issues with the way the firm is run and I don’t trust anyone except for people in my office and maybe two people in the main office. Multiple people in my office have recently notified the firm that they will be leaving including multiple staff, a manager, senior manager, and a partner. Most of them are leaving due to the frustration related to the way things run around here. The partner and managers were basically rendered powerless by the CEO and main office for the entire time they were here and I think the growth of our office has suffered because of it.

I don’t have my CPA license and I’m not sure I care about it anymore, but then again, I’m not sure if working here has just beat me down to the point where I am pessimistic about the rest of my life spent in accounting. I do somewhat enjoy auditing, but I feel I would be better suited for forensics or consulting, a path that I inquired about at my current firm to which I received a reply similar to “not if you want to keep your job”. Could the grass be greener at another accounting firm? I had a good amount of personal interaction with the partner, but I am not sure it’s enough where I could ask him if he wants to bring me along when he jumps ship and swims to his new firm. Or should I be looking for a larger, more well-established firm with more interesting clients?

That being said, I’m pretty burnt-out and not even sure if I want to stay in public accounting. I don’t want to go private at this point, but might instead want to go work for the IRS. My brother is a revenue agent, enjoys it, and said he’d keep his ears open for job opportunities. It seems like it is less frustrating, fairly interesting work that fits into my more investigative mind-set. So could the better hours, more centrally located audit locations, great benefits, and lot’s o’ federal holidays be worth making the switch?

Thanks for your help,

Big-Time Burnout

Dear BTB,

Autocratic management? A quasi-exodus? Your professional interests are meaningless? How you’ve managed to last two years in this joint is nothing short of miraculous. How the firm convinced you to take the job in the first place is also a mystery but let’s focus on the future shall we?

From the sounds of it, you are suffering from a severe case of burnout but we’re not convinced that it’s because of public accounting. You ask, “Could the grass be greener at another accounting firm?” and considering the fact that grass you’re currently grazing is brown and the dog shit hasn’t been picked up for weeks, it wouldn’t be hard to find a better firm. The risk is that if you do have public accounting burnout then you’re doing yourself a disservice by making another run at it when your heart isn’t in it. Plus, your “meh” attitude about the CPA doesn’t do much for your prospects at another firm.

If you’re interested in forensics and consulting, the IRS may be a good route for you. Follow up on your lead and make it known that you are very interested in any opportunities. But since the IRS gig doesn’t sound like a guarantee, you should find a recruiter to help you get out of your current gig. Don’t make yourself look like you’re desperate but definitely communicate why you are looking. A good recruiter will help you find a cultural fit as well possibilities to satisfy your intellectual curiosities.

So while you’re showing severe symptoms of public accounting burnout, it’s not a clear-cut case. Your career aspirations would be best served if you could find another firm more willing to cater to your interests in forensics and consulting. If an opportunity at the IRS comes up and you’re still interested, go for it. In the meantime, take some vacation (if your firm will let you, yeesh).

Insight from the peanut gallery? Help the poor guy out.

Future Big 4 Associate Needs Help Choosing Between Commuting Hell and a Happy Marriage

Ed. Note: DWB was sober long enough today to pen this post for the Friday edition of Accounting Career Couch. If you’ve got a question for us email us at We’ll dispense with further pleasantries and get right to it.

I just received three offers from two Big 4 firms in San Francisco (Deloitte and KPMG) for audit and one Big 4 firm for advisory internal audit in San Jose. I really like the idea of going into advisory but the problem is that I live in San Francisco and the advisory clients for this firm are all located around San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This would likely mean at least a one hour and 15 minute commute every day each way from SF to SJ and back againlients I would likely be working on from SF are all located within 20 minutes of my apartment in the city. Moving to San Jose is out of the question for me because my wife works in SF and I’m not ready for a divorce just yet. My question to you and Going Concern readers is should I take the advisory job despite the crazy commute or should I take one of the audit positions?

I’d still be very happy taking one of the audit positions but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the more consistent working hours of advisory internal audit didn’t appeal to me much more than audit (no insane busy season in advisory). Much of this benefit would be negated by my much longer commute though. Also, if I choose advisory I would be likely getting reimbursed $0 for my commute since the job is based out of the SJ office and I am based in SF. Although $0.50 a mile doesn’t sound like a lot, it really does add up to several thousand dollars in missed reimbursement expenses for such a long commute (assuming 80 miles a day in reimbursable driving). Also, the advisory position pay is slightly less to begin with (approximately $1,500 less) than my audit offers. Other considerations that I am thinking about are that many people from the Deloitte office (mostly associates) have said that the Deloitte SF office is understaffed. To me this means more opportunity for advancement but also more hours of work. Also, I feel that if I started in audit I could do two years of audit and if I didn’t like it then could jump ship to advisory in SF rather than having to start at advisory in SJ and beg to get a transfer to the SF advisory practice in a year or two. So what should I do? Should the lengthy and costly commute for advisory versus audit be a deal breaker? Will I struggle to break into advisory after two years in audit if I decide to make the switch?

Hopefully I’ve given enough info about my choices so that DWBraddock will stop complaining about us not saying enough in our requests for advice.

Kudos to you and your detailed email. Peons of the accounting world – take note [Ed. note: but there is something to be said for brevity. Yeesh.].

First off, my advice is from the “this is usually how it works” camp. Are there exceptions? Of course, and I’m sure that commenters will point them out.

Are you sure you will be reimbursed for every single mile that you travel? The HR policy is typically the net difference between your home to the office and your home to the client site. For example if you live 50 miles from the office and the client site is 53 miles from your home, you are reimbursed for the three mile difference. I strongly encourage you to consult HR before you go re-adjusting the all-in value of the advisory offer with thousands of dollars of mileage.

Now that I crushed your dream of banking $1,000’s, let’s discuss the audit vs. internal audit battle. You make a lot of assumptions in your email, but I think these bullets cover everything you discussed:

• Internal audit should not be looked at as a green-lighted pass to jump around the advisory practice. Many advisory roles are target recruited and are very specialized from a work capacity point of view. The name “advisory” doesn’t mean the roles are similar; it’s simply a nicer way of saying “everything that’s not audit and tax.”

• You will not be fast-tracked at Deloitte just because they’re short staffed. You will work your ass off.

• It’s easier to go from internal audit to external audit, not the other way around (the way you mentioned).

• Don’t think a transfer is a simple process. There has to be a need in the office you want to transfer to, and considering you’re contemplating and office and practice switch-a-roo in one swift motion…really? This is not a game – this is business and not everyone gets what they want.

• PS – I forwarded this to your wife. She said you’re sleeping on the couch for the next week.

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

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

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

Back to our greener grass hunter du jour:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s With All the Hating on Rothstein Kass?

Welcome to the post-marathon Monday edition of Accounting Career Couch. Today, an experienced industry accountant is looking to go jump into public and has an interview with Rothstein Kass’s Family Office group. Unfortunately, he has heard horror stories about R to the K’s financial services division and wants to know if it’s contagious to the rest of the firm.

Having problems at work and need a sage’s advice? Curious if using a sick day for your missing toenails is ethical? In a bit of trouble with the law and need an excuse that makes your better half look like a lunatic? ””> and we’ll put your mind (or feet) at ease.

Back to our potential Kass Kounter:

My question is if you’ve received any recent news about Rothstein Kass lately. I’m up for an interview in their Family Office group as an entry level tax staff, but let’s face it – they haven’t had the best things said about them over their other divisions. Fortunately I’ve heard nothing about the FO group; everything sad/horrible/depressing has been about their FS division, for the most part.

I want to make sure I do my due diligence of this firm, first. A few years ago I was offered to start my career in accounting there under a summer internship in their audit group, but I turned it down for corporate opportunities instead. Now as I want to make the jump into public for the first time, I’m naturally looking back at RKCO…

Any idea as to why everyone seems to have only negative things to say about them? Whiners are always the loudest, I’m aware, but it does concern me a little that there’s so much taint over this firm’s internal reputation on the interwebs…

To directly answer the question, the most recent news we’ve received about Rothstein Kass was related to their ubiquity on the Vault rankings including landing at the #3 spot on their featured ranking.

Prior to the rankings, we reported on a few pre-Labor Day layoffs that occurred at the firm and the admission of new partners to the firm for 2010.

In the layoffs post, our tipster mentioned the following:

FS practice is getting demolished in NY and NJ appears to be getting more antsy with every move that management makes.

Not many details on “demolished,” as you can see but someone thought enough havoc was going down to contact us. However, another source told us that the context of the tip was not accurate and that things within the firm were fine. What other Kass Kounters actually think is unknown because the post had a grand total of zero comments and RK declined to comment for our article.

So, the long/short of it is – RK has a very good reputation by virtue of their lofty perch among the Vault Rankings but it appears the reputation in some corners of “the interwebs” might be “tainted” as you say. We haven’t seen any of this tainting first-hand so we don’t know why RK is getting a bad rap.

To help you with your particular dilemma – if you were interviewing with Deloitte or PwC (the only two firms that ranked above RK on Vault’s list) would you be concerned about what was said about them on the web? If your answer is no, then you should have the same attitude about Rothstein. If you answer is yes, then you’ll never get a job anywhere, ever.

People in the know are invited to enlighten everyone below. If you’d rather communicate with us directly, email us at

Garden Stater Needs Help Choosing Between Ernst & Young and Deloitte

Welcome to the “Thank Tim Flynn It’s Friday” edition of Accounting Career Couch. In today’s post, we have soon-to-be Big 4 employee wringing her hands over which firm to choose in New Jersey – Ernst & Young or Deloitte. Will the wrong decision put her career on the path to ruin? [effect]

Looking for career advice? Is your integrity being challenged? Need ideas on how to woo an unresponsive accountant addicted to love? Email us at and we’ll help you chase down the love of your life (or recommend a good lawyer).

Back to our Garden State go-getter:

I have received an offer for a full time position at both Ernst & Young and Deloitte, NJ offices. I am coming right out of college and would like to get input on which one to choose. Both of them are really great and I like the people at both places- although I can say that I felt better taken care of with Ernst & Young (they had partners calling to extend the offers and made many follow up calls to make sure they get all your questions answered.

I have been going through some company reviews for both, and it seems to be that the major complaint for EY is the salary raises and the limited opportunities for career advancement (I would like to know if this is accurate information). As per Deloitte, the main complaint seem to be the long hours- which is expected for a Big 4, however career advancement seems to be very good. – once again I would like to know if this is accurate and if it is true that career advancement is better at Deloitte than it is at EY.

I would really appreciate your help as I need to get back to these companies within a month and it is a very large decision to make.

Dear Jersey Girl,

Our knowledge about the Garden State amounts to a just a few things:

1. Medford and Byram Township seem like nice places to be from.

2. The Nets suck.

3. Pretty much anything from The Sopranos.

4. No matter how convenient it is in reality, we don’t like taking the PATH.

None of these points help you. What we can tell you is that effort made by the E&Y partners may be the tie-breaker. If everything between the two firms seem the same and the E&Y partners won big points with you, that’s who you should choose.

Now. Your concerns in the other two areas are a little unfounded. First – Ernst & Young’s most recent salary increases were better than Deloitte’s until the recent mea culpa by the Green Dot Gang so if nothing else, they’re staying competitive.

Secondly – we’re not sure what you mean by “limited opportunities for advancement” but E&Y is a huge firm with plenty of opportunities. Plus, if you want something to happen, you’ll make it happen. Doors don’t slam shut just because you choose one firm over another. Plus, the path to partner is long with a big parking lot right in front of it.

As far a long hours are concerned – this has been covered ad nauseam. You’re working lots of hours no matter what. This should not be a decision point.

As far as the specifics about the offices across the Hudson, we’ll leave that up to the peanut gallery. Help the girl out.

How Do I Prioritize Taking the CPA Exam, Finishing a Masters in Accounting and Getting a Job?

If you have a career related question that also involves the CPA exam (like “should I take it before I try to get this awesome job at x firm?” or “Will I still get hired if I have a CPA and therefore scare the crap out of recruiters who want me to be as moldable to their whims as possible?”), please email me directly. Emailing will just mean you getting trapped in Caleb’s inbox for weeks.

Now then, today’s reader question comes from a finance world immigrant looking to elbow his way into public accounting:

I graduated in 2005 with a Finance degree, I spent one year as a Staff Accountant then moved onto to become a Corporate Financial Analyst for the past 4 years. I am interested in making the change to public accounting and began the MSA program last year to get the requisite hours, I’ll be eligible for the CPA at the end of the Spring Semester but won’t quite be finished with the MSA program. There is the background…

…now my question is would I be better off staying in my current position and finishing the master’s program before I take the CPA and find a new job? Or would it be more beneficial for me to attempt to find a lower level job at a firm during the spring semester to start getting some experience, then attempting to take the CPA next fall? I’m eager for a change, but I would like to know what the best course of action might be and if it’s realistic to think I could find a CPA firm job before I have finished the master’s program or taken the CPA exam. Thanks for your help.

Here’s the obvious disclaimer: I am heavily biased towards the CPA designation for many reasons.

Firstly, having one obviously makes you more employable because it shows a level of dedication that employers salivate over. Forget all that junk about a CPA showing that you know your stuff, getting one shows that you have the ability to grind through months or even years of studying your ass off, which employers are into because it means that you might just show the same sort of dedication to ticking and tying.

Secondly, having a CPA allows access to a professional network that cannot quite be accessed from the fringes (read: unlicensed fringes) and puts you in a different caliber. For someone trying to break into public accounting, having a CPA (or being darn close minus the work experience) right off the bat can put you on the fast track to career advancement that might otherwise be out of reach were you to both come from another industry and lack a CPA. Just my 2¢.

All that being said (possibly in more words than were necessary), yes you can find a job with a CPA firm before you have passed the exam but the best avenue to take is always to tackle the exam as early as you can before you get involved in life, work, family… you know, all that stuff that will turn into excuses for not having time to study later. Even your best-laid plans don’t always turn out as well as they appeared on paper, so that low level gig at a firm (if you can get one) might turn into a longer-term position that you can’t or won’t walk away from. Ask anyone who has studied for the CPA exam while grinding out their first year in public accounting if you need more clarification on just how large a pain in the ass that plan can be. You know, if you’re planning on having a life.

My suggestion: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and put your feelers out in the job market. Don’t bank on a CPA firm position landing in your lap but if you find one, it will be best to have as much of the exam done as you can get before you actually start. Good luck!

PwC Reject Wants to Know If Making Another Run at the Firm Is a Good Idea

Welcome to the Hump Day edition of Accounting Career Couch (or as Adrienne puts it, “advice from a bunch of asshole accountants”). Today we have a PwC reject who is going back for round two. Does previous rejection mean that P. Dubs has its mind up about how big of a loser you are? Maybe!

Feeling rejected and looking job soon? Unhappy at your current firm who doesn’t provide any training to turn the frown upside down? Need some advice on to get your co-workers to loosen up? Email us at and we’ll make everyone happy.

Returning to our glutton for punishment:

Dear Going Concern:

I interviewed earlier this year for a full time tax position with PwC. I made it to the final round and was given an office tour, lunch, 3 interviews and all that good stuff. Unfortunately, I did not receive an offer.

It is now the fall on campus recruiting season and again I am applying for a full time tax position with PwC. The lead recruiter already knows me from the recruiting process earlier this year. I’ve managed to speak with him once already at an on campus event and will see him at a career fair again next week. My question is can the fact that I’ve been rejected earlier this year hurt me in my attempt to get another interview and hopefully a full time offer. I plan on asking the recruiter this question next week but I get the feeling he will tell me that it’s okay and it won’t hurt me in anyway. However, being the cynical and skeptical person that I am, I need some perspective.

Dear Cynical and Skeptical,

Dealing with rejection, eh? Lots of that going around today. Unlike the Democrats, you have done nothing wrong. You made it to the very end and you simply didn’t make the cut. That happens. However, you are taking it in stride (not cursing PwC, blamestorming, etc.) although you are carrying the standard neurosis that comes with said rejection.

Your previous rejection by PwC should not dissuade you from your chances at a job with the firm. For whatever reason unbeknownst to you, the firm passed you over. It’s likely that it was a difficult decision on their part and your interest in the firm will be seen as a positive.

We understand that somewhere in your head, you’re thinking that the firm was just toying with you. Stringing you along, only to crush your Big 4 dreams at the last minute. The only scenario we can foresee where this would be a reality is if a recruiter/partner had the hots for you and eventually their belief in your “talents” were overruled. Fortunately, the odds of this being reality are slim.

So make another run at P. Dubs, reiterating your interest in the firm, reminding them why you’ll be a kick-ass associate and what you’ve done in the last few months that will get them hot for you all over again. Taking the “You made a biggest mistake of your life” is probably not the way to go, but a subtle hint at why you are everything they want and more may get them to see the error of their ways.

Big 4 Tax Associate Feels Pigeonholed; Is an Ultimatum Necessary?

Welcome to the All Saints/Election Day Eve edition of Accounting Career Couch. Today a Big 4 tax associate is concerned that their career experience has been too narrow and has been begging TPTB to rotate to a different group. Will a fist-pounding ultimatum finally get the point across?

Have a question about your next career move? Wondering if you should wear your Benjamin Bankes costume all week in order to get your money’s worth? Is your unpatriotic boss refusing to let you leave work tomorrow to vote and you’re thinking of emailing Glenn Beck? Stop! Email us at and we’ll give you a sane solution.

Back to our trapped tax guru:

I’m currently a 1st year senior at a Big 4 company and I have specialized in the R&D Tax Credit since I started here. Ever since passing my CPA I have been requesting a rotation in other parts of tax such as provision work and FAS109. I keep on getting the ring around from both my Partner and HR who say a rotation is coming but that I just need to be patient.

Since the R&D Tax Credit is such a specialized area I understand that they don’t want to just give me up because they have invested 3 years in me to learn the Credit but it is not fair to my career development to be stuck in one of the many areas of tax. From talking to recruiters and searching the Internet it does not seem like there is really a secondary market for R&D Tax Credit Specialist such as myself and I believe not being able to earn experience in other areas of tax with negatively effect me when I start looking for a private job in the next year or so. What do you recommend that I do? Should I put my foot down and let my partner and HR know I am going to start looking for another job if I don’t get a rotation in the near future or should I start interviewing with other Big 4 firms to find the kind of experience I am looking for? Please help!

Dear R&DTC Associate,

It’s true that some partners/managers will hold on to some SAs or associates like grim death the moment they express interest in doing something different. The concern is typically they don’t want to lose a talented staff person to a more provocative practice or they’re simply too lazy to train someone new. So your concern is valid and it sounds as though you’ve been proactive but you’ve still have some options before going the “take this job” route.

First, go back to both HR and your partner and ask if the rotation is a realistic possibility and requestthe specifics behind the delay. It sounds as though you’ve taken the Job approach and it has gotten you nowhere. Reiterate your patience and express your concerns about your narrow experience.

If that stalls, try reaching out to some partners and managers in the division where you would like to work. Maybe you were recruited by one of them or you have a friend in that group. Explain the situation and perhaps they can broker a solution for you. Going behind your partner and HR probably won’t feel so great but seeing as though you’ve exhausted every other possibility, you have little choice.

If that fails, then it’s time to have the Come to Jesus meeting to get things moving. You don’t sound like you’ve got issues with your firm other than the snail’s pace of the rotation process. Explain your position (again) and this time state that you have little choice but to go somewhere else to get the work experience you desire. Keep it cordial but definitely make your frustration known. Hysterics rarely work. This should get you some answers one way or another. But we don’t think it should have to come to this.

Good luck.

Should You Forgo Job Security for a KPMG Advisory Gig?

Welcome to the Friday edition of “Accounting Career Couch” (aka “I’d like some advice from a Big 4 expat turned blogger and a bunch of bitter bean counters”). Today we hear from a prospective KPMG advisory associate who has a secure job but is also looking for a little payoff after going back to grad school. Is joining the House of Klynveld a smart move or the stupidest idea ever? [effect]

Unsatisfied with your career choices to date? Are you an old school type not sure what to make of the Millenials? Having second thoughts about thr this weekend? Email us at and we’ll get you on the path to peace with subordinates or just getting a piece.

Returning to the career conundrum du jour:

Hi! I’ve started reading your blog because I’d accepted an entry level offer with KPMG that got deferred for a few years as I finished a graduate degree. I have an engineering background and went to work for Accenture after graduation. Left after a year and a half to get a graduate degree (in NO way related to technical consulting or accounting. Yes, the folly of youth and following a passion), during which time I began doing Business Analyst/SAP functional work for a state government agency (Child Support). I applied to KPMG because I felt like I tanked my career, and needed to get back into consulting to open my career options.This decision was driven mostly by the salary increase and not the work. I’m also risk averse, and don’t want to leave a secure job (in a rather boring city) to possibly get laid off in nine months.

So, my question is, do you think it is wise to take an IT advisory with KPMG? Do you think the economic climate would be productive? Am I taking a step back by starting again at entry level?


Between A Rock and KPMG

Dear Between,

Motivated by money, eh? Wow, you’re a rare case.

Look, like most people that write in, you list out everything that you want without prioritizing. “I want a good salary, work with smart, attractive people, job security and enjoy my work. Oh! And it would be really great if I could keep to 50 hours a week max. What do I do?” and that’s the first thing you need to do here. Somewhere in the back of your gray matter you’ve got to know that you’ll have to sacrifice something. Remember in the old days when winners on Wheel of Fortune had to spend all their cash winnings on the various material garbage? Did you ever see someone buy that ugly-ass Dalmatian first? Of course not. Figure out what you covet the most and let that lead your decision.

That being said, good money (relative term) and job security don’t usually correlate within a Big 4 firm. That is, if you want the big bucks, you work in Advisory Services. If you want job security, you work in audit or tax (although not even that is guaranteed).

In your case, you’re looking at a job in IT Advisory services. Will it pay well compared to what you’re doing? Yes. Will it open more doors for you down the road? You bet. If the demand in your market dries up in the next 9 to 12 months are your chances of getting let go good? Maybe. What you accomplish in that 9 to 12 months makes the difference. You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it.

Here’s our advice friend – take the risk and go with KPMG. You went back to school to give yourself more options didn’t you? This is a pretty good one. You’ll get great experience, expand your professional network and if there’s plenty of work you may just have a decent career on your hands. Unless, of course, that doesn’t interest you.

The Role of a CPA in an IPO: Open Thread

Back with another edition of “Accounting Career Couch” a undergrad senior wants to hear about some experiences the working stiffs of accounting world have had with initial public offerings.

Need advice on your next career move? Want to educate some rubes without coming off like a total jerk? Looking for a way to broach your co-workers body odor problem while not making it too personal? Email us at and we’ll help you let everyone done gently.

Meanwhile, back on campus:

Hello Caleb,

I am an undergraduate senior, and I have a presenta Special Financial Reporting Topics course. My group chose “The Role of a CPA in an IPO”, and I was wondering if this topic has been discussed on your site before, if not, could you make a post so I can gather related information, issues, success/failure stories, and personal experiences in order to complement my research? It seems this topic does not get a lot of coverage, and I believe it would be interesting and beneficial to all your readers.

To our recollection, this is a topic that has not been discussed on GC, so our reader’s inquiry makes for a good jumping off point.

If you’re not familiar with initial public offerings, then you can get the wiki cliff notes here and the SEC’s own fast answers under “I.”

Form S-1 outlines (check out the gory details below) everything a company needs to submit in order to register its securities and there are plenty of ways a CPA can assist a smooth and pleasant experience. If you’re client has less than $25 million in revenues and isn’t registering more than $10 million in securities, Form SB-1 can be used in lieu of the big boy.

Generally, when a company files its S-1, the SEC usually has lots of questions about the financial statements and the accompanying information. The back and forth can be grueling and if your client isn’t organized or financially savvy the temptation to strangle someone and everyone can be high. But hey, if you manage to stick it out with them to the filing date, there’s usually a pretty good party and your client should be grateful for your service.

So at our reader’s request, anyone with recent (or not so recent) experience working on IPOs is invited to share their war stories – the good, the bad, etc.


How To Explain Why Fantasy Football Is Always on Your Computer

Back with another edition of “Accountants’ Questions: ANSWERED!” – a reader needs advice on the age-old question (for about a decade or so) of explaining why fantasy football is always on your laptop.

Caught in an accounting career conundrum? Looking for some atypical icebreakers for your next firm event? Want advice on how break free from the unwelcome massage that creepy co-worker always tries to give you? Email us at and we’ll dish it out.

Back to our gridiron geek:

How do I explain why fantasy football is always up on my laptop?

Many cube dwellers have had the unenviable experience of explaining why an imaginary roster of players is constantly on their laptop screens. The temptation to always have it available at a moment’s notice is completely understandable since at the drop of a hat someone’s penis (allegedly!) can end up on the web and his backup is instantly becomes a hot commodity.

For many of you vets out there, years of experience has afforded you to develop your own techniques, so please share your best methods. As for some general advice, there are some key things to remember/consider:

1. Include a manager/partner in your league – That will allow you invoke “team building” and “rapport.”

2. Key Shortcuts are your friend – Two words: Alt-tab. You don’t have to explain anything if you’re fast enough.

3. Cite research – Studies show that time on the web boosts productivity. Explain to your taskmaster that you’re simply saving time by keeping the Fantasy screen available at all times. Further explain that the amount of time that you actually spend looking at it is miniscule compared to the spreadsheet for that analytic.

4. You’re human – If you find yourself schelping for a fantasy-hating superior, simply point to everything you’ve accomplished in the past hour/day/week and you’re simply taking a break. What are you, a robot?

The most important thing to remember is to have other tabs in your browser with things that are, at the very least semi-related to work. This way, you don’t have to explain yourself every time someone pops in. Keep a relevant section of the tax code open. Or a SFAS that is currently giving you fits (even if it isn’t). Or a substantive article from this fine publication.

Just because you have an imaginary football roster available at all times, doesn’t mean that you also aren’t struggling through a mind bending financial reporting issue or keeping abreast of the haps in the industry.

Oh, and for the love of God, keep your cool and play like it’s NBD. “Oh, that? Yeah. I’ve been sitting on this trade and this stupid person in my league was bothering me about it. Just trying to get them off my back.” There’s nothing worse than someone stammering for an awkward answer to an awkward question.

Again, we’re sure there are many advanced techniques out there, so we invite you to share yours below.

Jim Turley Explains Why You Should Work at Ernst & Young Rather Than Facebook

JT spoke to NYU students earlier this week and of course during the Q&A, Diane Brady, a senior editor at Bloomberg threw him a softie, asking if the firm was hiring, to which Diego responded, “we’re always hiring.” This, of course brought the house down (laughs, raucous applause).

Anyway, Brady decided to throw Jim a curve and asked why a young recruit would pick E&Y over Zuckerland.

“Should students ever consider starting at a big firm of yours?” Brady said. “Why not just go out there and make the billions with Facebook? What is the attraction at Ernst & Young?”

Turley responded by saying that most entrepreneurs, despite common misconceptions, are not just out to make money.

“[Entrepreneurs] go out there to find a need,” he said. “At Ernst & Young, you have opportunities to be extraordinarily mobile and move around the world.”

His advice? “First, find something that you love doing,” Turley said. “Second, align with an organization that actually thinks about where the world is going. And lastly, find an organization that wants you to change them as opposed to them to change you.”

See, if you can’t find a need then you need care about being “extraordinarly mobile.” Seems like a fair trade-off, especially since billionaires don’t travel much.

And just curious, how would the members of Ernie’s army like the firm to change? We’re assuming JT goes with the “whatever is good for the goose” mantra. Leave your suggestions below.

Ernst & Young CEO speaks at Stern [WSN]

Big 4 Recruit Needs Advice on Table Manners, Office Visits

Today in “I need advice from strange accountants and Going Concern trolls,” a Big 4 recruit needs some insight into the office visit and how to behave when breaking bread with Big 4 professionals.

Need to know what to expect for your first busy season? Looking for pointers on how to subtly attract your rival’s employees? Want ideas that aren’t über-lame for your team’s next happy hour? Email us at and we’ll put our heads together like the Stooges.

Back to our aspiring Big 4 rube (KIDDING, we know some of you are sensitive):

What should I expect at an office visit for the Big 4? Also, how do I behave at a dinner or lunch?

Simple enough. The Big 4 office visit is standard operating procedure in the recruiting process and we asked our resident Kool-Aid™ mixer, DWB to give his take on these show and tell excursions:

I apologize in advance if my answer comes off as salty; someone must have spit in my Cheerios this morning. But really – what kind of question is this? I’ll remind everyone about my rant the other day about providing Caleb with greater details when submitting questions. So with that, I have some questions for you – are you a college recruit? What practice? What office? Is this a one-off tour or is it part of an official recruiting program?

Because your submitted question was useless, I will make the assumption that you’re going on an official visit. Expect a tour, an interview (I hope – why else would you be going?), and the normal HR run-around of work-life balance, salary growth, etc. I advise you to talk to as many individuals as possible – on the record, off the record, etc. Get business cards, and follow up with questions you might have later. NETWORK your ass off. The people you meet in the “casual” settings have just as much of an influence on whether you receive an offer as your interviewer does.

Well, the bad accountant angle is obviously out, so regarding your behavior at chowtime, some good rules of thumb:

1) No booze. We realize this sucks but you don’t get bonus points for being able to hold your liquor.


3) Don’t be too chatty or too quiet. Nobody likes someone who talks without breathing throughout the entire meal but you will be noticed if you say nothing.

4) Topics of conversation to avoid: recent campus ragers; office visits that you’ve gone to at other firms; negative news about the firm you’re currently visiting; the hot server’s physical attributes.

These are just a few but in general, if you have to ask yourself, “could this make things awkward?” then avoid the behavior. If that doesn’t clear things up then ask Emily Post.

If we’re way off base here or anything crucial is missing, let us know in the comments.

Memo to the Boss: We Need to Talk

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Don’t fall for the myth that some bosses are just too busy to meet with you. The truth is your boss does not have time not to meet with you on a regular basis no matter how busy your boss might be.

Don’t get me wrong. You should be very careful about wasting one minute of your boss’s time – or anybody’s time for that matter. After all, there are only 168 hours in a week and everyone has zillions of demands on his or her time. Your boss has his own tasks and responsibilities and projects besides his management obligations to you. Your boss is busy. You are busy. Nobody has a minute to waste.

That’s exactly why neither you, nor your boss has time to not meet with you on a regular basis to talk about your work. When you have a boss who won’t spend time talking through your work with you, misunderstandings occur, you don’t always know what resources are necessary, you might find yourself in a real pickle and, even if you succeed against all odds, then you probably won’t get the credit you deserve.

But how often can you succeed against all odds? Without clear expectations, adequate resources, monitoring, and measuring of performance, here’s what happens:

• Unnecessary problems occur.
• Problems that could have been solved easily get out of control.
• The resources you do have get squandered.

As a result, the boss who tried so hard to avoid spending time managing you ends up spending lots of time managing you, anyway. Only it’s after the fact because you were set up to fail, instead of being set up to succeed. When the boss avoids spending time in advance to make sure things go right, things usually go wrong. Small problems pile up. Often, small problems fester unattended until they become so big that they cannot be ignored. By that point, the boss has no choice but to chase down the problems and help you solve them.

In crisis, the boss is virtually guaranteed to be less effective – a further waste of time. What’s more, these bosses run around solving problems that never had to happen, getting big problems under control that should have been solved easily, recouping squandered resources, dealing with long-standing issues, and then feeling even more pressed for time.

As a result, these are the bosses who go right back to avoiding spending time managing you, and the next time they’ll make time for management is the next time there is another big problem to resolve.

So don’t waste any boss’s time. Make your one-on-one time with every boss brief, straightforward, efficient, and all about the work. But make sure you get that regular one-on-one time with every boss you answer to directly at any given time. How often? That depends on the nature of the work you are doing for that boss. Once a day? Once a week? Every other week?

If you push every boss to put the management time where it belongs, up front before anything goes right, wrong, or average, on a regular basis, and you make sure you get the basic elements you need to succeed, then the time every boss does spend managing you will be so much more effective.

If you make sure the time every boss spends with you is high-leverage time, bosses are going to want to give you that time. You will gain a reputation for not wasting anyone’s time. You will gain a reputation for making good use of management time. Bosses will know that it is worth spending time with you, that there will be a return on investment for every minute a boss spends with you.

In-Demand Accountant Wants to Know If He Can Ask His Prospective Big 4 Firm for More Money

In today’s edition of “I’d like advice from a bunch of strange accountants,” an experienced accounting associate is interviewing with the Big 4 and wonders if makes sense to waltz in, slam their fist on the table and demand more money.

Need some advice on your next career move? Want some pointers on how to win that coveted item at your local IRS auction? Having trouble with the law and wonder if you should share it with someone your firm? Email us at and we’ll get you on the road to sobriety in no time.

Back to our prospective Big 4 associate with dollar signs in their eyes:

I will be going on a job interview with one of the Big 4 firms (currently employed with a large national firm), and they are interviewing for experienced associate/senior associate position. I have experience in an industry their office has a large need for, but not all the candidates to fill it. Even though I am a senior associate at a smaller firm, and may come in as a experienced associate, does it make sense to ask for a pay increase from what I am currently making? I will be relocating to another market, but I would assume the markets are comparable. Just wondering if anyone may have some thoughts on the salary I should be requesting.

Always about the money, isn’t it? Very well, then.

You’re with a large national firm which means you’re near the high end of the accounting salary range already. This doesn’t exactly help your negotiation for a higher salary with a Big 4 firm. To take that a step further, the Big 4 aren’t exactly the negotiating type. The range of salary at the Associate/Senior Associate level isn’t a huge and if you come in at a higher salary than your peers, you’re likely to be on the short-end of merit increases come merit increase time (as this is SOP). Plus, it’s unlikely that your work experience to date will impress the firm you’re interviewing to the extent that they’re A) begging you to join the firm and B) they’ll throw thousands of extra dollars your way (not that it makes that much of a difference).

All right, now that we’ve mercilessly shot you down, you’re ready to hear some good things – if the firm you’re interviewing with really has a need for your experience, it is likely that they are willing to pay you more. If you can demonstrate in your interviews with the partners and managers your knowledge and accomplishments, they will let HR know that want your hot auditing (or whatever) ass ASAP. And that’s the key – what do you offer that the clowns that started with the firm don’t? Run-of-the-mill statements like, “good work ethic, do what it takes” blah blah blah won’t do anything for you. Have you already reviewed other’s work, supervised staff, etc, etc? Differentiate yourself in substantive ways. Make that firm want you for what you bring to the table.

Bottom line: you probably won’t get to “request” your salary, you’ll simply be made an offer. But if you can present your coveted experience in a way that will make your interviewers crave you like Kardashians crave cameras in their faces, coupled with a jump to the higher pay scale of the Big 4, you’re likely to be happy with the salary they offer you.

Former Deloitte Employee Wants to Know If Returning to Public Accounting Is a Good Idea

Back with more from the accounting career mailbag: a former Deloitte employee left the firm recently only to discover that life outside public accounting isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Should they return to the Greed Dot???

Have a question about your career? Looking for guidance on how to give your firm some honest feedback? Need some pointers on Twitter etiquette? Email us at and will whip something up for you.

Back to our ex-Del


I am writing to you in the hopes that you can provide some insight. Here is my situation, I worked at Deloitte for about four years now in the Pacific Southwest region of the US. I recently quit and took a job at one of the big public Companies in my city. After being there for a couple of months I’ve realized that I am kind of bored and am considering going back to public accounting.

The partner I worked for at DT told me to call him anytime. Before I make that call I wanted to get some input. If I go back I’ll be a manager within a year, does the job function change that much like they are telling me? I’m single and in the long term I’m not sure what I want, for now I just want to work get some more experience and then figure it out.

Considering Going Back

Dear Considering,

Your problem is not an uncommon one. Many people have spent their entire careers bitching about life inside public accounting only once they leave, they come to the conclusion that they never had it so good. There are a couple of ways to interpret this:

1. You really do love public accounting and you truly believe it is your calling in life.


Of course every situation is different and in your case, you’re looking at a promotion to manager in a year. Let’s give the partner the benefit of the doubt here and consider your question about life as a manager. Personally, we didn’t have the pleasure of reaching the rank but know plenty of friends and colleagues who did and many, many, many of them said it was their toughest year of their career to date.

What happens is that your auditing skills become less important and your time management and people skills begin to take center stage. Can you handle staffing issues? Prepare a presentation for a RFP? Convince a partner that a client really isn’t that pissed and you’re not getting fired (when, in fact, the opposite is true)? This is just a taste of your responsibilities. OH! And do you like reviewing other people’s work? Because you’ll have to squeeze that in as well.

Now that we’ve scared the living daylights out of you – it sounds like you’re more concerned with enjoying your job and getting good experience rather than money. That’s rare around these parts, so good for you.

Bottom line is this – if you’re not happy at your current job and think that career bliss awaits you back at the Green Dot with Sharon and the Costanza Twins, you should go back.

Peanut gallery – what do we think here? Back into the belly of the beast or is it a huge mistake? Fire away.

Aspiring CPA Wants to Know if Grad School GPA, CFE Will Overshadow Lackluster Undergrad GPA

Back with another edition of “I need advice from a bunch of strange accountants,” a soon-to-be MSA grad is concerned about their low undergrad GPA. Will the Big 4 crush him out like a stale Parliament?

Have a question about your winding career road? Concerned about a recent pest problem and not sure how to handle it? Watching other companies bail on their new logos and wondering if you should do the same? Email us at and we’ll give you some better options than Helvetica.

Meanwhile, Back on cI graduated from college with a BA in business and have a 3.1 undergrad gpa. After working in a supply chain department for three years I left a low-level management position for a one year full-time MSA program. I will graduate next summer and I currently have a 3.9 gpa. Also, I recently passed the CFE exam, I will be CPA eligible in December, and I’m hoping to join BAP.

What advice can you give me for when talking to recruiters or attending job fairs this fall? Will firms look past my unimpressive undergrad gpa if I keep my grad gpa high? How do recruiters typically view candidates that are a few years out of undergrad and have little accounting work experience? Is there anything I can do to positively differentiate myself from students who are following the traditional 5-year accounting path? Will I have a shot with the Big 4? I really want to work in public accounting, but if I don’t get competitive offers from large firms I may stay in school and pursue an MBA.

Have we talked about grades in the past? Sigh. We’ll go over this again.

In this day and age, the Big 4 is being more choosey with their entry-level hires. They simply aren’t pulling hobos off the street, asking them to pick up a calculator and start solving client’s financial reporting and tax issues. That said, your low undergrad will likely put you at a disadvantage versus your fellow recruits, especially in the eyes of set-in-their-ways partners who look at grades as a measure of potential success within their firm (which only takes the best and brightest!).

Is it bullshit? In the opinion of the editor – yes. But that’s the dealio, so let’s move on.

Judging by your pending CFE credential, it sounds as though you could possibly be interested in forensics. If that is the case, this interest and your CFE – that your tradish 5-year grad won’t have – differentiates you from the pack. You know exactly what you want to do and you have tangible proof. USE THAT to stand out from the crowd. There may be a 23 year-old 4.0 wunderkind that has the firms drooling but they have not one iota about that person’s ambitions. You know exactly what you want. Make them understand why that will be an asset to them.

And what about your previous work experience combined with your graduate GPA? DWB says that can help you too:

Sounds like you had a successful stint in the corporate world once you graduated. One could also assume you found your legs; you have a good head on your shoulders moving up to a management role. Your recent work history and grades during the MSA program are more indicative of your abilities than what you did when you were 20.

The odds are still against you but you’ve got a shot. And if you really want to work in public accounting, don’t forget that the Big 4 is not the end all to be all. Grant Thornton just picked up Huron Consulting’s investigations practice which could be a good fit for you. Many of the other top ten firms (choose your list: Vault or IPA) out there will have forensics shops, so your public accounting aspirations can easily be realized. Get out there and make it happen.

Passionate Public Accountant Wants to Know If He Has What It Takes to Join PwC or Deloitte

Today’s edition of “Accounting Career Couch” brings us an experienced and passionate auditor who has been out out public accounting for spell, getting ready to back in the game. He’s looking at PwC or Deloitte but is worried that his non-Big 4 background will hold him back.

Have a question about your career? Concerned that your CEO may be making debatable statements and want to disavow yourself from the comments? Are you a CFO that’s going through auditors like Don Draper goes through dames and n? Shoot us an email at and we’ll dispense some wisdom.

Back to our passionate public accountant:

I worked for 6 years at a national top ten firm (Non Big 4, Non Grant Thornton, Non Mcgladrey, Non BDO). I have a lot of passion for public accounting, and really loved the work. Last April I feel victim to the downsizing present at our firm and was let go. I just made manager the year before, and reviews were very solid, I transferred to the Mergers and Acquisitions group from Audit and we all know what happened to that group. 80% of our group was terminated and we were not allowed the option to transfer back to audit.

I have been working contract work for the past year and a half, and am looking re-enter public accounting. I am looking at PWC and Deloitte as they are hiring for audit positions but am concerned that I might not fit in and my skill set won’t be advanced enough to adapt to their methodology.

I have managed audits of companies which range from 10 million to a 1 billion, both public and private. I am also concerned that the culture might be too cut throat and a new person would be thrown to the wolves. My firm was sophisticated in terms of our documentation but not as technical as I imagine the big four would be given a lot of our clients were private.

Any thoughts from your readers here?

“Passion” and “public accounting” are not words that often collide in the same sentence, so we obviously have a special breed on our hands here. Let’s do our best, shall we?

Your experience sounds pretty solid. A top ten firm will provide good experience and while methodologies at the Big 4 firms are more rigorous, your background should be good enough that you’ll be able to adjust accordingly. Also, your M&A experience is something that many Big 4 auditors won’t have, so that’s also an advantage.

You’re shooting for PwC and Deloitte, which many will argue are the top dogs. Personally, we think you’re capable of making in there but not with your current attitude. You sound like you’re selling your experience short just because it wasn’t with a Big 4 firm. If you have managed audits of the size you claim and have the M&A experience both of these firms will give you a serious look. Big 4 firms have plenty of private clients that your experience would be perfect for.

As for your concern about the cutthroat environment, we feel it’s a little overboard. Will it be competitive? Yes. Will there be unscrupulous people that will step over their own grandmother to get ahead? Of course. But do you know of any company that doesn’t have people like this? It really depends on the market you’re in; if you’re in NYC, Chicago, L.A. San Fran, etc. things will drastically more cutthroat than if you’re in Oklahoma City or Portland. If you’ve navigated politics and assholes before, you can do it again.

Regardless, when you meet with the firms talk up your experience, passion and your accomplishments without being self-deprecating. Learning a new methodology and culture isn’t like learning Mandarin. New jobs always mean adjustments and if you’re determined and ambitious, there’s no reason you can’t kick ass inside either PwC or Deloitte.

Decision Time for One Recruit: Deloitte or KPMG?

Returning again with another edition of accounting career therapy, a recruit has two offers – one from Deloitte, one from KPMG. Rather than speak to their friends, family or flip a coin, they emailed us.

Need help making your next career move? Been taking a beating at work and need inspired? Need help deciding if you’re too hot for accounting? Send us your query (and pictures) to and we’ll be happy to help/judge.

I have an offer from Deloitte and KPMG. Where I reside, the local Deloitte is almost twice as large than the local KPMG, but is also known to work longer hours. Of course, rankings will say that Deloitte is better than KPMG and seemingly pays more according to my research done on this very site. I don’t want to seem shallow, but I am at the moment. Should I go for the money/prestigious name or the shorter hours?

On a side note, I’m honestly only looking to a 5- to 6-year plan in public accounting (hopefully to make manager). With that in mind, what route would you take between Deloitte and KPMG?

Ahhh, the firm versus firm debate. One of the oldest and stupidest to be had. But it’s fun, so let’s indulge, shall we?

Regardless of the back and forth you might read in the comments, judging the firms collectively is a waste of time. There are “good offices” and “bad offices” at each firm. How you choose to define “good” and “bad” is up to you but it sounds like you’ve painted yourself into a corner, saying “Big prestigious firm = good,” “Money = good” and “Long working hours = bad.” Choosing a firm based on this perception is futile exercise. The difference in money won’t be life changing and “shorter hours” probably won’t feel shorter. Trust us.

And you know who agrees with us? DWB.

Clearly in this situation, the KPMG recruiters did a better job managing (i.e. bullshitting) the “long hours” argument. Long hours are a simple fact of life. Unless you want to work at the Post Office, you’ll be hard pressed to find 9a-6p. Also, remember that regardless of where you start your career you will find yourself at the bottom of the food chain. Welcome to the Big 4, kid.

Try this on for size – forget money, prestige and long hours. What about – gasp – choosing the firm that seems like the best fit for you? Did you like the Deloitte people or were they snooty two-shoes? Did the KPMG people seem like a fun bunch or were they all work and no play, thus a bunch of dull mofos? You’re going to have to work with these people EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And many nights. And weekends. Do you want to be around people that you think you’ll enjoy working with or that you’ll consider suffocating with pillow or poisoning their late-night food?

With that in mind, make your choice. Hell, maybe it won’t be either firm but forget about money, perception and hours. If that’s your measuring stick for choosing a firm, then you may have bigger issues on your hands.

Tax Associate Who ‘Can’t Handle’ Public Accounting Searching for Options

Back with another edition of “I’m an accountant and my career is in the crapper,” a tax associate just finished their first year with a mid-tier firm and has discovered that public accounting isn’t exactly the glitz and glamor they were expecting. NOW WHAT?!?

Have a question about your career? Determined to keep a promise to yourself but are surrounded by Big 4 hotties and don’t know what to do? Someone digging at your career choice and need a devious plot to get back at them? Email us at and we’ll help you make a solid decision.

I’m a first year tax associate at a mid-tier firm and after running through my first spring and fall busy season of working 70-80 hours a week, I’ve basically come to the conclusion that this lifestyle is “not my cup of tea”. The reasons are pretty typical, no life, managers hate me, don’t like the people, the culture is toxic, if you leave at 8:00 pm you feel like the world is watching you leave, etc. etc. For those who want to say “well you just couldn’t handle it”, you’re absolutely right, I couldn’t. I [also] know a number of associates in numerous service lines at the end of their respective first year just find that their job is not for them. My question is, what kind of outs do people in this situation have? I know that the option to transfer to another service line and the standard “just grind it for another year” are typical responses, but what other options are there? And how do recruiters view those who have only one year of experience at a public accounting firm?



Dear OneFoot,

At the beginning of your letter you sound as though you were engaging in a little self-loathing. Sort of like, “Nobody likes me. I’m a pathetic human being because I can’t find it in my heart to LOVE public accounting. What do I do?” Then you admit that there are others around you that hate it as much as you. This surprises no one. Accounting firms see this happen every year: a first year associate realizes quickly that this isn’t their ‘cup of tea’ as you put it. If you’re truly as miserable as you sound, the fact that you made it through both the spring and fall tax seasons is impressive. We’ve seen associates turn in their papers less than six months on the job.

Does this make you a terrible person doomed to a lackluster career that would make Milton Waddams look like an employee of the month? Of course not. You mention the popular options “transfer to another service line” or “grind it out another year” and we agree that they don’t make a damn bit of sense if you’re simply over public accounting.

Realistic options for you are to start talking to professional recruiters and be honest with them about your situation. No recruiter worth their salt is going to say, “Can’t help you kid, move back in with your parents.” They’ve seen others like you – public accounting wasn’t a good fit and you want out stat. The reality is that because your experience is so brief, you might end up in another entry-level position; the sooner you accept that as a possibility, the better. That being said, what you must, must, must, must do OneFoot is give the recruiter a good idea of what you want to do. We know that doesn’t include public accounting but what kind of job would you really like? Knowing that will go a long way helping them get you the job you want. Until you can answer that questions honestly, you’re not going to be happy in any job – public accounting or otherwise.

Indecisive Econ/Accounting Major Needs Help Plotting the Next Move

Ed. note: I’ve been called to an emergency meeting in an undisclosed location, so here’s a guest post from your friendly human resources professional, DWB.

Caleb interrupted my weekly Wednesday tradition with the following reader submitted question:

I am an undergraduate at a pretty big school and recently decided I want a job when I graduate so I switched my major from History to Economics with the intent on minoring in Accounting (it is too late for me to officially major in Business Economics but I plan on taking all the relevant classes anyway).

I am entering my junior year this fall but right now, my accounting academic career puts me with about a freshman level of re my belt.

Normally, next summer would be the internship phase of a student’s life but I’m wondering if I should put off graduation by a quarter and/or go to grad school so that I might also push off my internship applying to a different summer when I have more than GC-provided gossip to offer a firm.

If I do this, are there Big 4 or mid-tier firms who would look at me for summer leadership programs (and other sophomore-oriented recruiting) or have I missed the boat on that?

I’d appreciate anything you have to say on the matter — snarky or otherwise.

Dear History Buff,

You wanted a job, so you decided to major in Economics. That statement is so conflicting I can’t tell whether it induced my headache or I simply need a third cup of coffee. The reason I say this is because I see my fair share of 3.95 GPA Econ majors from “pretty big” schools every day, and they’re desperate for work. Your accounting minor is a start but like you pointed out, it’s lacking in worthy experience. Your consideration of internships/grad school demonstrates that you’re looking beyond the remaining cup on the beer pong table and thinking about your future. Kudos.

I’m going to assume you’re considering a career in public accounting, because why else would you be on GC in the first place? You’re certainly not here for the chicks (“Chicks, man.”). If I am wrong on this assumption, follow up with me and we’ll discuss.

So, assuming the above, I suggest a few things:

1) Start talking to recruiters: They should be all over campus by this point in the semester. Make it known to them that you are pursuing a Masters in Accounting following your undergraduate degree. Ask questions about leadership programs and internships. Remember, the general timeline for Big 4 programs is leadership program two summers before graduation (for you – summer ’11); internship the summer before graduation (summer ’12).

2) Make it easy for the recruiters: Want to make a recruiter’s day easier and better position yourself in their pool of candidates? List all of your ongoing and anticipated education on your résumé, like this:

“Pretty Big School” – Anywhere, USA
• Masters in Accounting – XYZ School of Business Anticipated Graduation: May 2013

• Will be CPA eligible upon graduation

• Bachelor of Science – ABC School of Economics Anticipated Graduation: May 2012

• Economics major, Accounting minor Overall GPA: X.Y | Major GPA X.Y

Formatting your résumé in this fashion provides the reader with answers to key questions – what is this candidate majoring in; when are they done with their education and ready to work; what is their CPA eligibility.

3) Follow up: Your educational path is not the road heavily traveled by most students with dreams of Big 4. Keep yourself in the conversation with recruiters by occasionally updating them through your process. Tell them when your GPA improves after a strong semester, when you get into grad school, etc. Don’t expect a response right away but rest easy knowing that they’re updating their records. Sharing this information can be done formally over email or informally during a conversation with a recruiter while they’re on campus.

4) Talk to Career Services: Be sure you’re taking the right classes to become CPA eligible in the state where you want to be licensed. Nothing worse than taking a counselor’s word on Ballroom Dance 201 counting toward the 150 credit requirement.

Go forth…and one more piece of advice if you’re following college football: Stanford over Oregon this weekend. Do it.

Grad Student Wants to Know if Previous non-Accounting Chops Will Help Him Land Big 4 Gig

Back with another edition of “Help! My career is in shambles,” an MSA student has a background in “project management” and wants to know what their options are upon graduation. Will the professional experience make a difference?

Have a question about your career? Need ideas on how to improve the prestige of your firm? Thinking about running for office on the lawyers suck platform? Email us at and we’ll get you the prestige or public office you so desire.

As for our seasoned soonockquote>I’m currently in a one year MSA program. I am in my late 20s, so not exactly a professional spring chicken. I went to a liberal arts college for undergrad, and I got really good grades there. Prior to enrolling in the MSA program, I worked for 5 years doing Project Management. I (finally) realized that line of work wasn’t for me and didn’t see where I could go with it that would make it for me, and so decided to go back to school in something more practical than my undergrad. Right now, I’m beginning to explore my options for after I get out of the MSA program. Ideally, I want to try to get to a place where my previous experience is appreciated and valued right away, but am wondering if that is possible if I go Big 4. On the other hand, I keep seeing on job boards that previous Big 4 experience is a crucial requirement for many experienced accounting openings.

My questions are: will the Big 4 look favorably or unfavorably on my previous experience? Are they more likely to fill their entry level positions with younger graduates as opposed to those that have many years of professional experience behind them? If I’m a more attractive candidate, can I leverage that into better starting salary/benefits? Finally, is it worth it to do Big 4 for a couple years knowing that in the long run it will probably help with job prospects, even though in the short term I might be giving up potentially more lucrative possibilities because of my past experience? How can I use my past professional experiences to my advantage as a “non-experienced” hire – Big 4 or otherwise?

Interesting dilemma. We’ll do our best here and invite our readers to share their thoughts on this particular situation. We’ll address the questions one at a time.

Is your experience viewed as favorable or unfavorable? – In the opinion of this blogger your experience is valuable, no matter what it is. Dealing with stupid people, managing various resources and being familiar with a professional routine puts you light years ahead of any grasshopper that just did half a dozen keg stands over the weekend. That being said, a Big 4 firm (via a recruiting professional) might not share our perspective. Depending on what your “project management” experience entails, it could be viewed favorably or unfavorably. Have you managed groups of people? Do you have any client-facing experience? Any leadership roles? These are all good (and partly addresses your last question) and can be perceived as key strengths. If the answer is no, no, and HELL NO, then your experience is less meaningful.

Are they more likely to fill their entry level positions with younger graduates? – Yes. YES. YES. It isn’t unheard of for the Big 4 to hire someone with your background (i.e. older) at the entry-level and in fact, we’ve seen instances where non-traditional types skip ahead of others in their class but as a general rule, you’re at a big disadvantage here.

Can I leverage previous experience into better starting salary/benefits? – The Big 4 firms have plenty of options for benefits packages. The “super-secret project management experience benefits package” does not exist. As far as salary is concerned, you can leverage your experience by applying for jobs that require previous experience. If you go after an entry-level position you will end up with an entry-level salary.

Is it worth it to do Big 4 for a couple years even though in the short term I might be giving up potentially more lucrative possibilities because of my past experience? – Look friend, we hate to be the one to break this to you but in the short-term, your life at a Big 4 firm could quite very well be hell. The Big 4 provides professional services; is that the kind of job are you looking for? Do you really want to be an auditor? God, I hope not. Tax? Again, you’re looking at quite a bit of pain here and your experience could be marginalized. A position in the advisory practice would be ideal for you but without more details on your experience, it’s hard for us to gauge if that’s a realistic possibility.

How can I use my past professional experiences to my advantage as a “non-experienced” hire – Big 4 or otherwise? – Like we mentioned above, push any leadership, management and client-facing experience. These are crucial for an aspiring Big 4 rock star.

Bottom-line here is, what is it that you’re trying to achieve with this MSA? Is a Big 4 firm the ideal place for you to land out of school? Maybe. Maybe not. Finding the right fit of your past professional experience combined with your brand-spanking new advanced accounting knowledge will take some work on your part. While a Big 4 firm on your résumé will open a few doors down the road, a job in-house may make more sense with your PM experience. Choose wisely.

Experienced Associate Concerned About New Hires’ Salary; Is Having a Sit-down with a Partner a Good Idea?

Today in accountant avarice, a youth took a cut prior to their start date last year and now wonders if this year’s crop will be raking in more. Will bringing injustice to a partner’s attention help?

Have a question about your career? Need help crafting the perfect prose in an email to your firm’s CEO/Managing Partner? Are you a firm thinking about getting a makeover but don’t know where to start? Send us an email to and we’ll give the best free advice you can possibly find.

Back to our accountant in the poor house:

I work at a regional firm for about one year now. Prior to my start date my offer was reduced due to the economy. After recent discussions with the partner, I was told that I will be getting a “raise” but even after the bump, my new salary is below my original offer amount. Is there any chance, new hires coming in can make more than I, because my revised offer seems below market and I think my firm will be offering higher salaries to the new hires to remain competitive? Also, should I bring this up to the partner’s attention because I don’t think that they know my salary has been reduced and how would I go about doing this?

First, before we answer your question more directly, we should point out that worrying about what other people are making at your firm will drive you crazy. But because of the world we live in, knowing whether a co-worker is making more or less than us is a God-given right, we understand your desire for this knowledge.

As to whether the new grasshoppers at your firm are making more than you, we suggest checking out our salary thread from late last year, our map that shows salary by region and this year’s Big 4 starting salary thread to give you an idea where you fall on the scale.

But the short answer is, yes, it is possible that your first year associate is making more than you.

Now, what to do about that exactly? Well, before you scream at the cruel and unusual universe for being completely unfair to you, do your research and get a really good idea of what you think you should be making. Nothing will get you thrown out of a partner’s office faster than, “I need a raise because I said so.”

But market research may not be enough. You’ll need to demonstrate to the partner getting your pitch why you’re a valuable resource for the firm and point to specific accomplishments that support your argument. As a second-year associate, that can be a pretty tough sell.

What have you accomplished in the past year? Are you making it rain? Are you a trusted go-to on anything and everything for your clients? Are you involved advancing the firm’s brand and culture and mentoring other colleagues to do the same?

Partners like to hear about all that stuff because A) it gets their blood boiling in the nether regions and B) it means that you care about making them (i.e. the firm) more money and advancing its reputation.

So yes, you can bring your concerns to a partner but be prepared to sell yourself all over again because it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” situation.

How Do I Get into a Big 4 Tax Specialty Group Without a ‘Preferred’ Degree?

Today in “fish my career out of the crapper,” a recent grad has started a masters program hoping to get into a speciality tax practice with a Big 4 firm. However, the reader is concerned that their program won’t be attractive the speciality groups. HELP!!

Have a question about your career? Worried that your porn star spouse might derail your path to partner? Need advice on broaching the subject of the shitty coffee in your office? Email us at and we’ll be sure that you get the help you need.

Back to our accountant-to-be in jeopardy:

I graduated from undergrad with a degree in accounting in April of this year and immediately began a masters of accountancy program in the Boston area. I did not have an internship since I chose to study abroad instead. I am fluent in Korean, and am interested in tax issues encountered by expatriates and multinational corporations. I am also interested in valuations for M&A. I have wanted to work in a Big 4 or other large accounting firm in the business advisory or tax divisions. However, looking at the job requirements for the positions in these two divisions, the firms prefer students with degrees in economics, finance, taxation, and even JDs and LLMs. My program, on the other hand, is more of a general accounting program geared towards auditing and preparing students for the CPA exam. So, my question is, “how can I get a job in tax or advisory–preferably dealing with tax issues–without experience or a ‘preferred’ degree?” The simple answer would be to just apply and point out the interests that I have, but would this accomplish anything more than alienating myself from potential employers and positions in assurance that could get me in the door and eventually onto the career path that I desire?

While your advanced degree will help your chances with the Big 4, we are wondering why you didn’t go with a program that would have allowed you to pursue a tax concentration, since that is your primary interest.

But never mind that, the issue at hand is how you get into these specialty groups without experience or a preferred degree. The answer is: it will be tough. You do have the advantage of being bilingual which will be extremely attractive, especially for any international speciality groups. If you can land a tax position, leverage this strength and communicate your interest in areas of expats and multinational issues. If you’re feeling really ambitious and learning a new language is easy for you, consider picking up a little Mandarin or Japanese to give you an even bigger advantage over your peers.

That may sound crazy but it will make you stand out from other people competing for these sexier jobs in specialty tax and advisory and like you said, if you just have a plain-Jane Masters and not the ideal background, you’ll need to make yourself stand out somehow. These groups are small and they don’t take on many new hires and yes, they do prefer people with the degrees you mentioned.

You also ask, “would this accomplish anything more than alienating myself from potential employers and positions in assurance that could get me in the door[?]” Again, if you’re interested in tax, why are you thinking about interviewing for audit positions? It will make your path to the speciality groups longer and even more difficult. Only pursue this if it’s the last resort.

Get into the tax practice if you can and go from there; your interest in international groups will seem less self-serving. You’ll probably have to do some time in compliance but that will serve as a good foundation for your career goals.

Will Defecting from E&Y to PwC Change Anything?

Today in makeshift accounting therapy, a fed up E&Y vet is contemplating a move to arch-rival PwC and wants to know if this is a suicide move.

Have a question about your career? Need advice on how to explain why your Fantasy Football league is always up on your laptop? Looking for advice on how to best flirt with recruits without being creepy? Send us an email with your query to and will give you the best free advice you’ll ever get.

As for our potential E&Y Benedict Arnold:

I’m at EY, looking at a position one-level above where I am at PWC. Is this a frying-pan/fire situation?

EY as “more people friendly” is a concern, because EY is horrifically NOT people friendly.

I’ve know the guy I would be working for at PWC very well and I think I’m maxed out at EY.

Okay, so not a lot to go on here but we’ll take a stab at this. First off, if you’re maxed out at E&Y then looking for a new gig is the right move. The timing isn’t bad (assuming you’re not in the tax practice) and it sounds like you’ve got a decent lead at PwC. That said…

What makes you think PwC will be better than E&Y? Has the guy that you would be working for told you explicitly that he’s having the time of his life over there? That, besides the PwC Experience, you’ll be getting 40-50 hour weeks, happy hours devoid of assaults and access to professional oral sex providers on a regular basis?

More questions to consider: Does “the guy” stand to get a referral bonus for poaching you? Can you see yourself working for him? This could turn out to one hell of an epic mistake if he gets a few thousand bucks and you end up working for a whip-wielding taskmaster.

Now that we’ve planted the skepticism seed, if “a position one level above” is a legit promotion (title and salary bump), that might be worth considering. If it’s more of a lateral move, then we’d suggest passing unless there were perks like we described above.

Other important things to consider: 1) You will be torching many bridges at E&Y. Are you okay with that? 2) Is your potential new job really what you want to do. We’re making the assumption that you like your work but you’re over life at E&Y. If you don’t like your work then you’ve got a whole other problem. 3) Do you really, really, really, really want to stay in Big 4? Have you seriously asked yourself that question?

Ultimately, the opportunity may be a great one but you’re still taking a big risk assuming your life will be infinitely better working at PwC over E&Y. Proceed with caution.

Do The Big 4 Use Intermediate Accounting as a ‘Weed-Out’ Course?

Back from the meat sweat-infused Labor(less?) Day Weekend with the latest edition of “help me get my career out of the crapper,” a young accounting student is concerned that their “C” in Intermediate Accounting will derail their Big 4 dreams of fame and fortune.

Have a question about your career? Need advice on how to handle the client contact who just happens to be a complete lunatic? Undecided on whether or not you should eat the frozen pizza that isn’t yours when you’re working at 1 am? Email us at and we’ll get you back on the crooked and wide.

Back to our latest gradeobsessed recruit:

I’m currently a Senior at ASU, graduating in May 2011 and plan on enrolling in the MTAX program at ASU that Fall. I currently have a 3.52 G.P.A., but ended up with a C in Intermediate Financial Accounting (For the record, I took an accelerated 5-week course and was also working full-time). I have heard that many firms (mostly Big 4) use this course as a “weed out” of candidates. I have maintained all A’s in my other accounting courses but am worried that this C will turn off recruiters. If I plan on going into Tax, will this pose a problem? Any recommendations to counter potential problems?

Here’s the deal with grades people – they shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. There are tons of fine candidates out there who weren’t as naturally talented in the academic sense of double-entry accounting but have a lot more intangibles to offer.

Unfortunately, the current reality is that most Big 4 partners and those in recruiting are of the mindset that looking at a candidate’s grades is most efficient way to identify the best candidates. Is that bullshit? In the editor’s opinion, yes. Do you have to deal with it, anyway? Yes. Is impossible to have a low-ish GPA (between 3.0 – 3.5) and still land a gig with Big 4? No, but be prepared to sell hard why your lower GPA isn’t an issue.

In this case, while the “C” in Intermediate Accounting may rise an eyebrow or a brief mention from someone on the recruiting team, it is not the ‘weed out’ course that you are picturing in your head. Your 3.52 GPA is good enough that the Big 4 will give you a serious look and if you received “A” grades in your other classes, the “C” will look like an outlier that a partner may ask you about briefly, “What happened there?” in an attempt to be funny. You’ll give him/her the story and that will likely be the end of it.

Plus, since it sounds like you’re most interested in joining a Tax Practice, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. They’ll look at your Grad School grades and the classes you took in the program to decide where you’ll best fit into their practice. They likely won’t give your “C” in Intermediate a second look.

My GPA Sucks! Is My Accounting Career Over?

Today in “My life is falling apart and I’m an accountant” we have another poor sap that is plagued by a low GPA. Are they doomed for mediocrity? We’ll get to that, right after…

Are you wondering what your next career move is? Are you an auditor trying to put the moves on someone in tax and have no idea what to say? Wondering whether you should put the kibosh on your vegan lifestyle at your next partner lunch/dinner since you think it’ll make you look like a complete weirdo? Email us your inquiry to and we’ll put you at ease.

Back to our slacker du jour:

My undergrad GPA was a 2.99 cumulative and that’s been a killer in my application and job process. I’m currently with a very small CPA firm. Is there a point on continuing even if I pass my CPA? It seems no one really cares about any accounting experience for public unless it’s big 4 or mid-tier. My 2.99 has been a killer since the majority of firms are looking for a 3.00+. I’m looking at options at grad school, but I’m not sure if it would help if I wanted to go Big 4 still. I also believe I should pass my CPA first if I’m looking to go for a one year MBT or MACC (Masters of Accounting) program, but honestly I don’t know that I would get in considering my GPA unless I got stellar GMAT scores.

First of all, we’re not quite sure why you’re looking for a job when you already have a job. Do you intensely dislike this “very small CPA firm”? Our guess is yes since you’re writing us but take a serious look at your current situation and consider the experience that you are getting at your current firm. It may not be exactly what you’re looking for but the work experience you obtain will be valuable.

That being said, you then moving on to “Is there a point on continuing even if I pass my CPA?” Do we need to call the suicide hotline for you? Get your CPA. That will go a long ways to bolstering your career prospects, 2.99 GPA or not.

We definitely take exception with your “no one really cares about any accounting experience for public unless it’s big 4 or mid-tier.” There are plenty of Big 4 whores around these parts that might say that but don’t forget that small firms differ from the Big 4/second tier in some positive ways, so don’t dismiss the opportunity you have right now.

As far as Grad School goes, wait until you’ve got some work experience and CPA. Do you really want to rush right back to school? If you get some good work experience and you have some decent professional accomplishments, the graduate schools will take that into account. Yes, killing your GMAT will help your chances but you’re not doomed, friend; you’ve just got an uphill climb.

Can You Get a Big 4 Job If You Didn’t Go to a “Brand Name” College?

Today we hear from a Big 4 dreamer and their frustration with the firms’ penchant for “brand name schools,” and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Have a question about your career? An inter-office love triangle? How to interpret the partner’s passive-aggressiveness attitude? Email us your query to and we’ll level with you.

Back to our reader:

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to go onto the Deloitte Job Board and see positions with schools next to them, indicating the spot is only for a graduate of Notre Dame or some other brand name school. I turned down Notre Dame to go to a small liberal arts school in Chicago and now I have no idea how to get into the recruiting cycle for the Big 4 or regional public accounting firms. There were no accounting firms at the job fairs or on-campus interviews held at my school.

I graduated cum laude last December (a semester early and with my 150 credit hours). Desperate not to move back home, I took a private accounting job, but it didn’t work out and for personal reasons I moved up to Wisconsin. Now I am studying for the CPA and searching for a job. My question: how can I get in on this recruiting season? Is there even a way?

Unfortunately, this is just the way it is for public accounting firms. Unless an influential partner has a personal connection to a small school (Alma Mater, children are students there, etc), they are typically overlooked. The factory-like recruiting machines that are public accounting firms look for the same attribute in their target schools; where can they get the most bang (candidates) for their buck. If you think about it, it makes sense:

Recruit at Notre Dame – meet 100 qualified accounting students
Recruit at small liberal arts school – meet 15 qualified accounting students

Of the 1-2 students a firm would hire out of the small school, those numbers can be made up at the larger universities. This saves on expenses (travel, lodging, premiums, etc). Dollars and sense.

All that said, the issue is not that you’re from a small school, it’s that you’re now graduated and part of the workforce. Being a recent gradutate is more difficult; you’re not part of the campus recruiting scope and you’re too green to fit the typical experienced hire mold.

The best thing you can do is reach out to the firms directly. Use your network to find out who the HR contact is in the city where you live or want to live and call or email them. The most crucial thing with recruiters is getting them to know your name and face.

You’re cum laude so they’ll like that and if you are legitimately interested in the firm, they will take an interest in you. It will take some footwork on your part but it can be done.

Will the Big 4 Take a “Late Bloomer” with a Low Undergrad GPA?

Today from the mailbag we have a Big 4 hopeful that – like many of you – enjoyed the splendors of undergrad life to the detriment of their GPA and want to know if this will dash their Big 4 hopes and dreams.

If you’ve got questions about your career, a problem at work (romantic, political or otherwise) or what you should have for lunch, shoot us an email at We will ignore pension accounting questions with extreme prejudice.

Back to our friend:

I just started an MSA program this summer after graduating with a BA in Economics. My cumulative undergrad GPA was 2.78, which is certainly not helping me attain my goal of Big 4 employment. I’ve been told that talking to recruiters now would be certain career death and I’m hoping on using the “late bloomer” story whenever I do begin the recruiting process. I can honestly say my attitude towards academics has improved tremendously over the past year or so. In the two graduate summer classes I’ve taken so far, I’m pulling a 3.85 GPA.

My question is, how long will it take for my improved academic performance to become substantial evidence of my matured academic attitude? Should I hold off on fall recruiting? Go for an internship instead of FT? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

While a 2.78 isn’t the end of the world, you are correct in your thinking that most Big 4 recruiters will turn their nose up at you. That being said, talking to recruiters is not “certain career death.” Quite the opposite, in fact. The more face time you get with these Big 4 types, the more they will remember you. Your “late bloomer” story certainly holds water now but you admit that you’ve only taken two classes. If you can maintain the GPA, then great, you’ll be in good shape. And yes, recruiters will see this is as a positive direction. If you revert to your keg standing ways (some people never get over it) then hopefully your guessing skills on exams have gotten better.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things you can do to hopefully marginalize that 2.78:

List your summer course GPA on your resume – leave the undergrad GPA off, but be honest if and when you’re asked about it.
Major GPA vs. Cumulative GPA – We’re assuming the 2.78 is your overall, or cumulative, GPA. Calculate your major-specific GPA (the classes that differentiate you from another business degree) – if it is above a 3.0, list it on your resume.

The problem with your situation, Late Bloomer, is that you don’t know what the thought process of the Big 4 recruiters, employees and partners that you meet are. Some of them may love you and others will take one look at your undergrad GPA and will respond not with “no” but “hell no.” Typically when a recruiting team is split on a candidate, the hierarchy trumps and if you didn’t impress the pants off that partner, you’ll be out.

Considering all that, you should absolutely attend the fall recruiting events and meet as many different firms and make as many contacts as possible. Also, be realistic with them – it’s okay to admit that you faltered a bit during your undergrad – just know that you’re going to have to prove it to them in the long run that you can keep things on the up and up.

Whether or not you should go for an internship or FT is your call. Will you be graduating in spring or summer of ’11? Then going for full time is probably the best move, regardless of the not-so-stellar undergrad GPA. If your MSA program can be stretched out, go for the internship. Even if you don’t get it, you’ll make plenty of contacts in the Big 4 so that when recruiting comes around for next year, you’ll be a familiar face and the recruiters will get a sense that you’re committed to academics and that you are a solid candidate for their firm.

Five Interview Questions You Should Be Ready For If You’re Looking to Switch Jobs

I received the following question last week from a GC reader:


I don’t know if this is up your professional line of expertise, but could you touch up questions that auditors should expect to get in an interview?
Happy Moanday,

Expert I am not, but I’ll do my best to help you all out.

Interview questions you should be ready for:

1. Why are you looking to leave your current situation?

DWB: Whatever you say, never speak poorly about your current situation. Many people make the transition from public to private; harp on the positives (great people/ great client exposure) but explain that you’re looking to transition into a good private situation.

2. Tell Me About Yourself

DWB: This is not an opportunity to rant and rave; no one cares that you were on the club water polo team in college. Provide a short, organized statement of your education; professional achievements and goals- describe your qualifications for the job and contributions you could make to the organization.

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

DWB: With questions like this, you need to be careful not to threaten your interviewer, as it is likely that they will be your immediate superior and the natural promotion for you in a few years. It’s in your best interest to speak about long term growth with the company. i.e. – “I’d like to position myself in a firm like (Name) where I can learn, grow and be challenged – If I work hard and do my part, then I’ll grow with the firm and my future will take care of itself.”

Your goal should be to make it clear you’re thinking about the company in a long term sense, but not so much that you’re a threat to your soon-to-be boss.

4. What are your strengths?

DWB: Similar to the previous question, this is an opportunity to self yourself to the company. No one wants to hires someone that plans to come in and shake things up (unless it’s part of the job description). Focus on your natural, daily tasks – Team Player, Quick Learner, Efficient, Organized. Convince your interviewer by providing a real world example.

5. What are your weaknesses?

DWB: Do you sleep in on Fridays? Do you smoke 14 times a day? Whatever your real weaknesses are, avoid sharing them at all costs. Focus on the more HR-friendly ones – Trouble Delegating Work- Take too much on for yourself, etc. I suggest providing an example of how you recognize the weakness and what youre currently doing to make the best of the situation.

Big 4 Careers: Can I Get into the Tax Practice?

From the mailbag, we have a young lad who is about to go through his first recruiting season looking to land a Big 4 position. He requested that he got some advice from those of you in the biz and that have been through the process.

If you have questions about your career, recruiting, choosing a firm a problem/challenge at work (wonky technical questions will be ignored) or whathaveyou, send us an email at In the meantime, let’s oblige this young man.

The details:

I need help (advice from professionals) deciding whether I should apply for tax jobs, or audit/assurance jobs. I want to work for one of the Big 4 firms, but I know that may be lofty since I didn’t necessaril path to a career in accounting. Below is a brief narrative so that you may better understand my experience and qualifications

I am a senior at the University of Memphis (Memphis, TN) and will be graduating with a BBA in Accountancy in December 2010. I work full-time during the day to provide for my family and I attend classes at night. I work for a small bank opening new accounts, but accounting is the field I would like to have a career in. I am 24, so not much older than many of my accounting peers, and this is my first degree. I currently have an overall GPA of 3.35 and a major GPA of 3.89. I am the VP of Development for my Beta Alpha Psi chapter, and I have attended BDO’s 2009 Pathway to Success Program. Due to a change of major from Biology to Accountancy several years ago, I will have 156 credit hours when I graduate in December. I have enrolled in a Becker course beginning later this month, and plan to complete three parts of the CPA exam in the final window of 2010 and the fourth in the first window of 2011. Firms are now posting staff positions and internships on the career and employment website at my university. The time has come for me to go through my first recruiting season, and I am experiencing some anxiety.

As I mentioned earlier I am really interested in the tax specialty, but I am most interested in working for a public accounting firm. I have been told by several people in academia that a masters is necessary for tax staff, and about 90% of the entry level tax staff positions are filled with individuals who have had at least one internship. I must delay my advanced degree for a few years since I am out of cash and do not want to incur debt via student loans. I have hopes, though, that having at least some portion of the CPA exam passed will give me a leg up in the battle for staff positions at accounting firms. Also, an internship is not really an option at the current time, unless it is absolutely necessary.

I would like to know if someone with my education and experience would even be considered for a full-time tax staff position at a Big4 firm. Should I apply and hopefully interview for tax staff positions? Should I focus my attention on landing an audit/assurance staff position? Big time public accounting is where I want to be, and I know I have what it takes to make it there.

I hope you can publish my question, and ask for feedback/comments from professionals that work at big 4, regional, and local firms.

Okay, so lots of “interests” to wade through here. Let’s break these down. You say, “I am really interested in the tax specialty, but I am most interested in working for a public accounting firm,” but then you also say that you want to work for a Big 4 firm.

Depending on how you rank the importance of these three goals, that should give you the answer to your dilemma.

Let’s say working at a Big 4 firm is the end all to be all for you. You might have an easier time getting in by taking a job in the audit practice. A market like Memphis won’t be hiring too many tax professionals and it is likely that they will have advanced degrees. If there are tax positions available, by all means apply and interview for them. To answer your question, a Big 4 firm interviewing for tax positions will probably listen to what your interests and career goals are but you might not fit their ideal candidate criteria.

To address a couple other of your issues – having portions of the CPA may help you but is by no means is it a huge advantage. Also, if putting off an internship is what works best for you, then understand that will put you at disadvantage to those that have had them, especially since the Big 4 is making full-time offers primarily to their interns.

However, your GPA, work experience and BAP involvement are all good things so chances are, a Big 4 audit practice will give you a serious look as long as you interview well.

If you land the gig, you could do some time in audit and then explore some rotational opportunities a couple of years down the road, although again, those are probably extremely limited in a small market like Memphis.

On the other hand, if you are truly interested in working in a tax practice, it might easier to go with a regional or local firm to get the work experience you want. Since it sounds like you’re a good candidate, you can be selective about who you ultimately choose and what areas of tax you want to work in. Once you have a few years of experience and you still want to work for a Big 4 firm, it might be easier to get into their tax practice.

For the rest of you out there, dispense with your experiences and advice. Does he have a chance at tax? With Big 4? Should he just give it all up and join the Peace Corps? Help him out.

Three Things to Remember Come Goal Setting Season

Final reviews are a thing of the past and – at least for some of you – so are the days of terrible raises. Things seem on the up and up at most firms. That said, focusing on FY2011 is crucial for your career. Hopefully the potential for raises will be consistent if not better than this year’s, and but you need to be thinking about everything now.

The typical HR mantra is, “your goals need to be realistic and attainable but should also stretch you to push yourself.”

Yes, finding the middle ground between cruisin’ down Easy Street and setting yourself up for failure is crucial. So, what are you supposed to do?

1. Firm recommended goals: Every firm supplies their employees with suggested goals, and I’ve always recommended that people should use these at a starting point. Why? Two reasons:

a. Your managers and partners know them. While going through performance management training, partners and managers receive the outline of sample goals as part of their training materials. HR says, “Look, these are the goals your staff members should be shooting for” and the room goes “Ahhhhhhhhh.” Using these goals will be familiar to your superiors as you begin the review process. However, it’s important to…

b. Customize the goals to be you As valuable as the sample goals can be as a template for you, it is important that you adjust them to focus on your unique ambitions. This is your opportunity to voice your needs, i.e. – involvement in planning the audit, volunteering at firm events, or getting involved with recruiting. Showing your commitment to the firm away from the day-to-day engagements is just as important as being committed to busy season.

And for the sake of everything holy – PROOFREAD. Passed your CPA this year? Remove all of the passing-the-CPA related questions. Missing details like this will make your superiors question the effort you put into the process; don’t give them that option.

2. Review last year’s goals: Roll-forward successful goals. Re-evaluate goals you didn’t reach or didn’t surpass to your satisfaction. Demonstrating and documenting continual improvement is key.

3. Speak with your mentor: If you were promoted this year, congratulations! Newsflash – you’re in for an incredibly difficult year. New senior staff members and managers are put through the wringer, and rightfully so. Senior management doesn’t like being wrong and weeding out misguided promotions early is important to their long-term planning. Seek out the guidance of at least one person who was in your situation the previous year. What would they have done differently? Did they overshoot on a particular area in their goals? What’s one thing they recommend including in your goal setting?

Still unsure of what you should do? Talk to your peers, flip a coin, or Google it. Whatever you do, don’t miss the submission deadline.

Unless – of course – you actually want to be blacklisted.

Show Me the Money: Six Tips to Getting the Raise You Deserve

Ed. note: The following post was submitted to Going Concern by a reader who wished to remain nameless. The author works at a “local” CPA firm somewhere in this great land of ours.

The topic is actually very amusing and can cause several different angles over the almighty dollar. As an American culture, we seem to be quick to talk about the personal financial well being enclosed in our own homes. The items that separate the big dogs from the goldfish are numerous. Below are the reasons why I am a big dog and why you need to show me the money.

Know who you’re trying to convince – People often equate success to dollar figures, and I personally think salary or raises don’t always speak of high ethics or quality of a peords of caution are: know how your boss judges success. My boss judges it on money. The buck stops at that point. Therefore, when I spoke of my personal salary to him, I adjusted my strategy accordingly. He always talks with me about how he is doing personally, and how he is doing better than people at his level. This is due to the amount of responsibility and client base he possesses. Therefore, I changed the pace of my conversation so my point of view mirrored his. I brought up the point that the work I do helps him with his client base, and that my level of responsibility is more than a vast amount of my peers. As such, my salary should be adjusted accordingly.

Have the math to prove your position – Being in public accounting, we deal with numbers every day. Therefore, I made a spreadsheet that listed out changeability and realization (for those who don’t know, we bill by the hour). My numbers are then compared against my peers and when they are, statistics don’t lie. I am a big dog swimming with mostly fish. Point is again related to your audience in a way they can understand you. Accountants love numbers.

Tout your level of responsibility – I manage a large client base so the partner I report to doesn’t have to get involved as often as most. The reason for this is because I have set up and maintained client relationships so the client calls me instead of the partner. The clients understand that this is cheaper for them and also job security for me. When you do this, you make yourself more marketable and the partners see me as someone that his clients trust. With those client relationships come higher dollars. You have to separate yourself from your peers by going above and beyond. If you want to do the average and be a run of the mill employee, then expect the run of the mill pay.

I am involved in the community – By coaching little league football at a well known church, I interact with parents that might need a CPA firm to help them with tax issues or own a business that might need accounting services. Also by doing this, it shows the firm that I have no problems interacting with successful business people and can help them in various situations. I can grow the firm by doing this. Again, my peers don’t involve in the community as much as I do. This should be financially rewarded. I have an interest to bring in business, and should be compensated because of it.

I can leave this at any time – If my boss did not give me a descent raise, I was going to quit. I saw the storm coming, and therefore did all that I could prior to my salary evaluation. Quitting a job without another one lined up is a dumb move and would put my wife and me in jeopardy. I had (have) a job currently lined up and I could take it in a heartbeat. Therefore, I had my ducks in a row when I started to see the storm brewing three months ago. Always have a current résumé.

Be ready for the rebuttal – I know my weaknesses and had to be ready to discuss what I was lacking. I have not passed the CPA exam yet and that’s a huge drawback in my profession. So when I went in there, I had to tell him where I was in the process. Him knowing that I am taking care of it and not blowing it off, gives him a piece of mind that I am not average.

Case in point, just saying you want a raise and basing it off “because your deserve it” would make the employee look uneducated and should be embarrassed. You need to have a firm understanding of the reasons to justify your pay. In a pinch, always look at numbers. There is a reason 2+2=4 and will never equal 5. In a tough economy, you better have everything straight prior to walking into the boss’s office. When the economy settles, I’ll be expecting another sizable increase. If not, I will be very upset and will repeat the mentioned steps.