Decisions

Are Accounting Firms Accruing Management Debt Off-Balance Sheet?

Once again I found myself at a bit of a loss as to what to write this month. So to get some inspiration (read: procrastinate) I spent Sunday morning reading the latest on Going Concern. I read Caleb’s article, Bob Moritz Has Your Back, Millennials, but was most interested in the comments. I saw this […]

What Should Lynne Doughtie Do First as KPMG’s CEO?

As you know, KPMG has elected Lynne Doughtie as its next Chairman CEO, the first woman to lead the firm.  She is only the second woman to lead a Big 4 accounting firm, the first being Cathy Engelbert, who took the helm at Deloitte just last month. SO! This is all very exciting. LD will […]

What Accounting Program Would Jesus Do?

Are you the parent of a future accounting student looking for guidance as you sort through hundreds of brochures in the search for the perfect accounting program for your future CPA? You probably shouldn't email us, we're a bad influence. But if you still want to, go ahead and get in touch and we'll try […]

Recruiting Season: When an Accounting Firm Has Multiple Openings, Be a Decider

Is your career stuck in neutral? Looking for a way to convince your boss that Fantasy Football strategizing is legitimate billable hours? Need ideas for accounting-themed names for your two Pomeranian puppies? Email us your questions. Hi Colin,   I'm going through campus recruiting as we speak and was curious what your opinion was on applying […]

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

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

Accounting Student with Internship in Hand Is Having Second Thoughts

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

Hey GC,

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

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

Love the site, keep up the good work.

My first drafted response:

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

My second:


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

What you have going for your career:

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

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

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

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

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

Entry-Level Auditor Just Can’t Admit He Wants To Work For a Mid-Size Firm

Ed. note: Find yourself caught at a crossroads unsure which path to take? Feeling lost and hopeless? Just want to know your lucky lotto numbers for next week? Hit us up and the career advice brain trust will take your hand, restore your faith, guide you down the path of greatness and even pick out what you should wear tomorrow.

Hi,

By the end of the week, I am going to need to make a decision on which offer to accept. I am applying for entry-level auditing positions, and received my first offer last Friday. I also anticipate receiving two more by Thursday. The one I recently received is from a mid-size regional firm that specializes in an industry that I find to be very interesting. I alsoith their staff and think I would really enjoy myself there. One of the offers I anticipate receiving on Thursday is from a Big 4 firm.

The biggest issue for me it seems is which job will put me in the best position 3-5 years from now. There is a greater than 50% chance that I will need to move in the next few years, and I keep going back to the fact that working for a Big 4 will give me the most options. The mid-size firm does some work nationally, and may connect me with other public accounting firms around the country, but that is about the extent of it. Is working at a Big 4 that big of a deal to future employers? If I plan to make a career in public accounting, is it easy to switch from one mid-size firm to another – or am I more likely to get recognized by a mid-size if I’m coming from a Big 4?

I have been a regular reader of Going Concern over the past few months, and appreciate the depth of knowledge you and the readers have, so I’m hoping you can help.

#1) Thanks for the kind words but maybe you need to spend a few more months on this website if you actually do not possess the knowledge to answer your own questions for yourself, namely the ones that question just how big of a deal Big 4 is on your resume. We at least hope when you say “mid-size” you mean a truly mid-size and not a small, regional firm that just so happens to have a national client or two. At least you’ve got hope for flexibility in that case.

#2) Now that you’ve thought about it for a moment, slapped yourself upside the head and come to the realization that yes, Big 4 on your resume really is that big of a deal (how we feel about that is irrelevant for this discussion, we are not talking about the Kool-Aid itself but simply the effects of said Kool-Aid), the question is what you want to do in the next several years. You should also realize from your short time on this site that few public accounting grunts actually dedicate 3 – 5 years of their life to the firm. 2 years in Big 4 is sufficient to get your CPA, get some good connections and earn a solid item on your resume.

However, you note part of the mid-size appeal to you is the opportunity to work close to an industry that interests you. It’s awesome that you are aware enough of what you like to think in these terms but what happens if you turn down Big 4 for this mid-size option only to find out this specialization is not at all interesting to you? Are you 100% positive that the Big 4 opportunity wouldn’t allow you the same close quarters with an industry you find appealing?

When you say you hit it off with the mid-size staff, do you mean their actual staff or just the hot recruiting bubbleheads hired to lure you into their trap? If you mean actual staff, then I think your decision here is clear. You seem to have a good feeling about the mid-size opportunity and are simply confused because you have bought into the idea that there is nothing like Big 4. That isn’t a myth, but it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a career of mediocrity if you forgo the Big 4 route for something that you feel fits you better.

You probably already know all of these things and didn’t really need to email us to ask. If your heart is telling you go mid-size, do it. It isn’t going to make you a public accounting pariah, though it may limit your opportunities later on slightly. Note I said slightly. You will not be relegated to some public leper colony for being branded with the curse of anything but Big 4. On the other hand, Big 4 might steal your soul and you could find yourself suicidal before you are anywhere near to the two year mark just for the sake of a few extra opportunities and a nice resume item later on down the road.

Is that a risk you are willing to take? Only you can decide that. I’m pretty sure we have at least one or two mid-size staff lurking around here to offer you some more specialized advice based on their experiences beyond what I’ve just suggested to you (just ignore GT Partner, who is an obvious troll). Good luck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Your Motivation for Leaving a Mid-tier Accounting Firm for a Job with Big 4?

Contributor note: if you have a question for the Going Concern audience at large (including the useless dbags) or our team of accounting drop outs and degenerates, please get in touch.

Here’s a tip if you guys are thinking about submitting a question: it helps to know your motivation if you are asking for our advice. It’s difficult to tell you what you should do without knowing why you’re trying to do it, unless you’re asking us an obvious question like “should I take X position to make way more money?” because in that situation we obviously assume you’re in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with that.

That said, this indentured servSo let’s commence to helping.

I’m currently working for a large mid-size firm as a Staff II and will become a Senior I next year on a relatively large public client. However, I’ve been debating whether or not I should follow up on opportunities to work at a Big 4 firm if it means I have to wait an additional 2 years to become a Senior I?

I know from my friends currently working in the Big 4 firm that new hires work for 3 years at the staff level before being promoted to Senior I. In addition, I may also slip one level from Staff II back to Staff I when I change firms. I’d essentially be 2 years behind my peers as a result of going to the Big 4 so I don’t know if making this switch would help or hurt my career. Is it really worth losing that much time in order to get the Big 4 name on my resume? Should I wait until next year in hopes that I could be recruited as a Staff III instead?

Surely I’m not the only one struggling with this decision, does anyone else have experience with this problem?

Thanks and Best Regards,
-Staff II(?) Auditor

Well, Would-Be Staff II, as you are probably already aware, the Big 4 item on your résumé is going to blow any of that mid-tier nonsense you’ve got going now out of the water (don’t get butthurt, mid-tier-ers. It’s not personal). The actual practical application of what you’re learning at a mid-tier firm versus what you might learn at the Big 4 is irrelevant here; it’s all about marketing yourself, and you’re better equipped to do that with bragging rights slapped all over your work experience. You’re pretty much only going to get those rights from the Big 4.

That isn’t to say you can’t gain valuable experience from your current employer, so it comes down to what you want to do career-wise and in what time frame you would like to accomplish it. Have you passed the CPA exam already? Are you itching to get out of public altogether? It’s pretty hard to try and push you in the right direction without knowing what that direction is. What do you want out of your career? Money? Prestige? Experience?

Why did you start mid-tier in the first place? Are you happy where you are? Do you enjoy the work and feel fulfilled? What is it you think Big 4 can offer that you aren’t getting at your current firm?

If I were you, I would wait it out, gain additional experience, keep those Big 4 contacts and try to make the jump when you have a little more leverage. The more secure you get in your skill set, the better equipped you’ll be to leverage that experience into a more ideal gig with a Big 4 instead of starting at bottom a level above the clueless interns.

I would also have a candid conversation with whomever you’ve been speaking to at the Big 4 about your concerns. Don’t come off as a money-grubbing, work-averse dick but definitely express an interest in being involved with work on par with what you’ve been doing with your firm, not taking a step back. Feel free to embellish whatever paperwork you’ve been assembling up until this point into a full-blown PCAOB-compliant masterpiece.

I’m sure any number of mid-tier grunts who read this site religiously can talk you out of making the jump, and for good reason, while others will tell you to jump now and worry about how quick you ascend the Big 4 ladder later. A smaller firm allows you a better chance at truly learning your trade instead of simply going through the motions and checking boxes; think of mid-tier as stripping at the pole as opposed to mopping up the floors. You probably won’t put stripping at the pole on your resume but you’ll be gaining practical experience you can segue into a better opportunity.

I’m not clear on the opportunity you’re after here. Can you clarify?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poli Sci Major Needs Help Picking a CPA Exam Starting Point

We swear we don’t mind answering the same question over and over and over, so if you have a question for us, please don’t hesitate to pound it out and get it to us.

Here’s our latest CPA exam quandary from the mailbag:

Hi Adrienne

I am just beginning to study for the CPA exams. I am in an MBA program and I will graduate in December. I was not an accounting major (poli sci) so I have also been taking the necessary required accounting classes in order to sit for the CPA exams, hopefully in January. I am taking an MBA-level auditing class in the Fall. I just finished a corporate income tax class this Spring, so I am a little confused as to which exam I should focus on now and take first, in January: REG as a lot of tax info is still fresh in my head or Auditing, as it will be most fresh by January?

Let’s all keep in mind that the CPA exam is not a test of your ability to be a good accountant, nor is it at all representative of the depth of your knowledge but the breadth. In other words, it’s a huge inch-tall puddle as opposed to a small, 9-ft deep pool. Your job is to jump across the puddle without getting your ankles wet, ya with me?

If it’s going to help your confidence, you can start with the section that will be easiest for you – in your case, that may be whatever you studied last. Keep in mind, however, that what you study in college and what you see on the CPA exam may not necessarily align. The CPA exam changes twice a year and with CBT-e changes, the AICPA Board of Examiners is now testing material that you are expected to know as a new CPA but may not have covered in school. Professors tend to favor the same material year after year, so unless your school is incredibly progressive and you’ve been learning IFRS (unlikely), it may not matter what you studied most recently.

That being said, I always tell candidates to start with the part that will be hardest for them simply because your 18 month timeframe starts from the time you sit for and pass your first part.

Here’s the deal: any review course will give you what you need to fill in the blanks in your education, even if you go the self-study route and pick up a set of CPA review textbooks from Amazon. In my professional experience, those who don’t have as rigorous an accounting background actually do better on the CPA exam as they come into it fresh instead of relying on what they were just taught in their accounting program that is no longer relevant for CPA exam purposes.

You’ll be fine either way, just pick one, study, and pass. It really is that simple. Or so I hear.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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.

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 advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll make it all better.

Returning to the Decider:

Hi,

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.

Confused,

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.

Will Keith Fimian Request a Recount for Virginia’s 11th Congressional Seat?

The final Congressional race featuring an accountant is in Virginia’s 11th District where KPMG alum Keith Fimian trails incumbent Gerry Connolly by less than half a point:

Challenger Keith Fimian was able to pick up votes on incumbent Gerry Connolly as a result, but not enough to make a significant dent in Connolly’s lead. There are still approximately 250 provisional ballots to be counted.

As of 1:30 p.m., the vote in the 11th District as a whole is:

Connolly: 111,630 (49.21%)
Fimian: 110, 700 (48.80%)

Fimian has to request the recount and has until November 22nd when the election becomes official. Because the margin is less half a percentage point, the recount would be paid for by Virginia (i.e. the taxpayers). No pressure, Keith. You best sleep on it for a day or two.

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 advice@goingconcern.com 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?

Thanks,

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Apple’s Accounting Encourage Others to Drop Non-GAAP Measures?

A tipster pointed us to Apple’s transcript from last night’s earnings call, noting that the company has indicated that they will no longer be providing non-GAAP measures. This is a result of the solid that the FASB did for Apple back in September:

We are very pleased by the FASB’s ratification of the new accounting principles as we believe they will better enable us to reflect the underlying economics and performance of our business and therefore we will no longer be providing non-GAAP financial measures.


Our tipster noted that since using non-GAAP measures are a commonly used by companies and analysts, Apple’s declaration that they would not be “providing non-GAAP financial measures,” could potentially change things. It’s one thing if say, Koss were to say they’re not going to provide non-GAAP numbers, but this is Apple.
The company enjoys a top of the mind position, so other companies may embrace this method of engaging with analysts and other users. And since Apple isn’t shy about controlling the information they provide (e.g. Steve Jobs’ pancreas) this seems to be another way for them to dictate the information they are providing.
It’s not a stretch to say that many companies try to emulate Apple; whether or not they will emulate Apple’s financial reporting methods remains to be seen. Strange, because we figured they were just innovative on the gadget front.

For Those of You Not Already Walking on Water

resolutions.jpgMany of you have promised promised promised to stick with your resolutions this year and we think that’s admirable. Personally, we think you’re all fine the way you are but we understand that lots of you are perfectionists.
Whether it’s more appropriate use of work email or actually billing the hours you work, you’ve probably got some resolutions in mind. If we’ve nailed yours below, pull the lever or if you’ve got other ideas on how you’re going to be more kick-ass in 2010, share in the comments.

GC Weekend: How Did You Choose Your Firm?

Thumbnail image for BelushiCollege.jpgRecruitment is still going on in many parts of the country and soon little grasshopper accountants will have to make a decision on where their career will start. Their decisions will be based on many factors, including but not exclusive to:
The obvious
• Benefits
• The people they meet
• Perceived prestige of the firm (or lack thereof)
• Work/life balance
Web CPA has a piece from last week written by an HR service professional that makes the point the better benefits will yield better employees for a firm.


Okay, maybe. As important as benefits packages are, most firms offer competitive packages that won’t serve as a deal-breaker. That still doesn’t stop some partners from boasting about standard options that most companies already have, however.
While we’re not crazy about the idea that benefits serve as the major selling point for employers, it does bring up the interesting question of how you were originally sold on your current (or former) firm?
Regardless of how you feel about your employer now, you were probably excited to start working for said company at some point. If you’ve hated your employer since day one then you seriously need to consider talking to someone. No one put a gun to your head to take the job so what was it that convinced you?
Maybe it was the firm with the coolest schwag? Maybe you were getting the extra-special hustle from a partner. Or maybe you just took what you could get.
Whatever your reasons for jumping on board, discuss them in the comments in order to give the recruits out there some guidance with some non-firm responses. Recruits if you’ve already made a choice, discuss who and why. For the rest of you, if you knew then what you know now, would you make the same choice? Some recruits are still getting the pitch now so let’s give them the straight shit. They’re going to be working for you, after all.