September 17, 2019

“mid-tier” firms

big 4 international

Midsize Firms Are Stepping Up Their International Game to Compete with the Big 4

Globalization has reached a saturation point. For small and midsize accounting firms, the question of expanding internationally is not one of if, but when. Many firms have responded to the challenge, creating international capabilities that in some ways equal or even surpass that of the Big 4. A world of opportunity A 2016 survey by […]

Sometimes It’s Not Hard to Know When to Leave Public Accounting

With busy season over, many of you are thinking about your next career move. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll share various career-focused posts to see where your heads are. Some will wait to see what compensation and bonus season holds for them, while others are ready to take action PRONTO. If you're at […]

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?

Big 4 Summer Intern Open Thread

Let me just say first off that this will not be an exclusive thread to the Big 4, I simply have to appease my SEO fanatic co-workers. That means if you’re interning at Grant Thornton, BDO, McGladrey, Moss Adams, Rothstein Kass, it doesn’t matter, don’t be afraid to jump in with questions or comments or respond to any of the regular commenters out there (“GT Partner” is a treat).

Anyway, it’s not technically summer but DWB encouraged me to drop an open thread on you all so that A) interns can share their skyrocketing anxiety and B) the veterans can bestow some of their wisdom upon these coffee gophers so that they don’t get in the way too much. Since I saw my fair share of interns pass through my time inside the House of Klynveld, I’ll jump in first.

For starters new interns, you need dress nice. If you show up in baggy Dockers without a belt and a Nike golf shirt and scuffed-up shoes – I hate you already. And unless you can do back flips (as it relates to your work) and buy me coffee once a week, my mind is made up about you already. For the ladies, since the dress code is a little more subjective for you, all I ask is you not show up in your pajamas. That said, your female superiors will be eyeing your attire much closer and they will be judging the shit out of you. And if they’re really offended by your fashion forwardness, they aren’t above tattling on you. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen.

As for work – find it. Sometimes you may have to act busy by reading god-awful training manuals or diversity literature or something else that makes you want to bathe with a toaster but FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR MEDIOCRE BIG 4 CAREER, I suggest you don’t look bored. I don’t care if you have to grovel to the lowliest A1 on your team, if you’re not working (or at least appear to be working), someone will notice and that doesn’t bode well for your chances at fulltime offer.

Finally, make some friends. Can you carry on a conversation that doesn’t revolve around your Beta Alpha Psi chapter or the bitch of an Intermediate mid-term you had? Excellent, you’ll be fine. Someone will like you. If you like talking about those things, I strongly suggest you find a hobby fast. The Mets are driving you crazy? Great, talk about that. You just saw the Arctic Monkeys in concert? Wonderful, music is rad. Outdoorsy type? Talk about some camping trips. You’re into Brazilian Jujitsu? Okay but don’t show off your injuries. That’s just gross.

Bottom line: be yourself. Unless yourself sucks. In which case, email the career advice brain trust and we’ll turn this around. Now if you’ll excuse me, some of us don’t have interns and I have to fetch my own coffee.

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

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

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

ANYWAY:

Hi GC,

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

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

Dear Two-timer,

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

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

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

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

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 advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll steer you in the right direction.

Back to our greener grass hunter du jour:

Caleb,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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