Moving on

RSM Moving Its U.S. Headquarters Just Down the Road

Kinda big news this morning from RSM US: RSM’s new digs won’t be that far away from its current digs. The firm will be moving its headquarters from 1 S. Wacker Drive in Chicago to the 30 S. Wacker tower of the CME Center in late 2020 or early 2021. CME Center currently houses such […]

In Other Name Change News, We Will Not Speak of SAC Capital Again

Well, I guess Point72 could be worse. Like New SAC Capital or Point72&. They’ve changed the sign. They’ve changed the email address. And presumably they will soon be giving out new fleece jackets at Point72 Asset Management, the new family office that will trade billions of dollars of Steven A. Cohen’s money and is the […]

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?

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

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

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

Back to ranks of the funemployed:

Dear Going Concern,

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

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

Sincerely,

A Loyal Reader

Dear Loyal Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile back at the Mom & Pop shop:

Howdy!

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

What is an estimated learning curve?

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

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

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

Thanks!

Newbie

Dear Newbie,

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

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

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

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

Three Things to Consider if You Move Out of State Midway Through Your CPA Exams

It’s actually not too uncommon these days; you get your accounting degree, start out with the CPA exam, and realize a few months into it that your job prospects aren’t that rosy. So what do you do? Can you move midway through your exams? And if so, how do you keep the passing scores you’ve already gotten?


It’s much easier to transfer a license than it is CPA exam scores – Lucky for you, the exam is uniform meaning every candidate in every state gets questions from the same testing bank. So as long as you meet the requirements in your new state, you can continue taking exams in the state you originally applied in without actually flying back to take them. Prometric lets you schedule for any other state’s exam as long as you are approved so you can start in California, finish in New York and hey, maybe even squeeze in a vacation exam from Puerto Rico! OK, maybe that’s pushing it.

Know both your old and new state’s requirements – If you are in one of the two states (California or Virginia) that allow you to sit for the exam with 120 semester units, you will definitely have to wait until you have passed all exam parts and gotten licensed in your home state before transferring your license to your new one. NASBA has a pretty useful tool to look through exam requirements if you’re not sure but keep in mind it’ll run you $10 for a full day of scoping through the information.

Be conscious of the fact that exam fees vary from state to state – If you do plan on transferring your exam scores by applying in your new state, make sure you get the more expensive parts (FAR and AUD) out of the way first. It shouldn’t be too large of a difference but $50 can be huge when you’re pinching pennies and out of work.

If you do decide to transfer scores, all you have to do is apply in the new state as if you are a new candidate and request that the board recognize your passing scores. Again, why bother?

So our humble advice is to: A) put off studying until you are set up in your new place if you can and B) keep taking the exams just as if you were at home and worry about transferring your license later.

Keep in mind that you will have to meet your home state’s requirements first and then those of whichever state you have moved to so check with each state board if you are unsure whether you will meet both.

When in doubt, contact your state board for clarification and advice. If they’re not much help, try your state society of CPAs. And if that doesn’t work, get in touch with us and we’ll see what we can do to push you in the right direction.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Accounting News Roundup: Grant Thornton Moves DC Office; CPAs Are Less Clueless on IFRS; The IRS Wins Twice | 05.25.10

Grant Thornton moves D.C. office [Washington Business Journal]
GT DC is moving from its cushy confines of 19,450-square-feet at 1900 M St. NW to 15,190-square-feet at 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Mary Moore Hamrick, the company’s national managing principal of public policy thinks this move is crucial saying, “Grant Thornton’s public policy group is taking a more proactive role in shaping the dialogue on accounting issues. This move will support the public policy group’s expansion as we seek to do our part in restoring confidence in the capital markets.” Better feng shui probably.


AICPA Survey Shows US CPAs Gaining in Awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards [AICPA Press Release]
CPAs are less clueless on IFRS, sayeth the AICPA:

The latest AICPA tracking survey shows a sustained shift toward greater awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) among U.S. accountants. Nearly half, 47 percent, of CPAs in the survey conducted April 20 to May 7 said that they already have basic knowledge of IFRS, an advancement from 39 percent who had basic knowledge in October 2008. At the same time, there has been a continuing decline in the number of CPAs who say they have no knowledge of IFRS; 16 percent in the latest survey, down from 30 percent in October 2008.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds IRS power in tax case [Reuters]
Those super secret corporate legal documents that discuss contingent liabilities? The IRS may be able to request them whenever they like, as the Supreme Court upheld a First Circuit ruling by denying certiorarit in the case.

In U.S. v. Textron, Inc., the company claimed that such documentation was privileged. The First Circuit disagreed:

[I]n its ruling against Textron, set a new test, under which every party in commercial litigation whose opponents file financial statements with contingent liabilities for litigation will be able to obtain documents detailing such exposure, according to Douglas Stransky, an attorney at Sullivan and Worchester in Boston who represents corporate clients.

“The First Circuit’s decision has eviscerated the work product protection that exists to protect exactly the type of attorney analysis that was present in this case,” he said. “It’s surprising that the Supreme Court did not recognize this.”

Florida Keys inmate pleads guilty in IRS scam [Miami Herald]
Shawn Clarke, an inmate at a Florida prison, pleaded guilty to conspiracy yesterday as the ringleader to a tax fraud scam in which he requested bogus refunds from the IRS in the amount of $115,000. It wasn’t exactly a complicated scam, as the inmates and their family members submitted 1040EZ forms along with Form 4852 to request the refunds, all for around $5,000.

Clarke was convinced that this was the best idea ever, allegedly saying, “I’m through with the street crime. I’m strictly white collar from now on. I love the IRS.” He’s looking at an additional 10 years.

What To Do When You’re Ready to Quit Public Accounting

What to do, what to do.

As summer promo’s and raises (or lack thereof) loom on the horizon, you may or may not be on the hunt for a new job. If you are, great, keep reading. If you’re not that’s swell too but I encourage you to use this as a reference when the time comes. What I do want to talk about is how to resign from a job. Because if I’ve seen anything on my side of the HR table, it’s that you accountants can be rough around the edges come Hugh Grant time.


Listen, I don’t know what your recruiters tell you, but here’s what you need to know:

Respect your colleagues and boss – So you get the call you’ve been working towards – XYZ Company wants to hire you. Offer is for better money, hours, and potential. You’re on board. Great – now what?

When you’re done with your victory dance in the parking lot, the people you should break the news to is your engagement team. After all, they are the ones that will be forced to immediately absorb your departure. You shared long hours and an infinite number of other unfortunate circumstances and the whole “in the trenches” camaraderie is flushed away with your decision to leave. The best way to explain this situation to them is to be honest – you’re moving on to a better situation and you’re sorry that this puts more work on their plate but it’s not personal.

Spread the word to your mentor and mentees. It is vital to protect these professionally personal relationships. Chances are your mentors know why you’re leaving; hell, they might have even encouraged you to look outside the firm. Include them on your final “farewell” email, but be sure to contact them on a personal level as well. Thank them for their help in shaping your career.

Your resignation letter should be short and sweet. Keep the feelings, personal jabs, and wisecracks out of the email. Here’s an example:

Dear Caleb Newquist,

As of today, (May 12, 2010) I am officially notifying you of my resignation. I am prepared to work for two weeks from this date, ending on (May 26, 2010). I will do whatever it takes from today until that date to make my departure as smooth as possible.

I sincerely hope to continue the professional, and more importantly personal, relationships I have developed in my time at ABC. I hope that this parting can be accomplished without hurting said relationships.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Sincerely,

Daniel Braddock

Short and sweet. Should you have the need to express personal messages to TPTB, do so in a separate email. Your resignation letter is nothing more than a means to an end.

Whatever you do, don’t burn the bridges – The accounting world is smaller than you might think. Chances are when you leave your current firm you will consider a number of your former colleagues to be current friends. Keep your farewell email short and genuine, but also professional. Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges now. You have no idea when the next happy hour will turn into a professional opportunity.

Three Social Networking Tips for Accountants

Depending on where you’re working these days, you might already be or soon to be under snow. Why not put that much-needed day “working” from home to benefit your next career move? Here are three steps that you can take now to better your social networking profile to prepare for post-busy season.

Update your LinkedIn account – When was the last time you refreshed your LinkedIn account? Dig up the password, log in, and revamp your profile. Those 23 requests sitting dormant in your inbox? Accept them. Update your work experience. Include details about both the industries you work in and the responsibilities you’ve accrued. Remember, recruiters are constantly filtering through LinkedIn profiles looking for potential matches.

Also, make sure you upload a respectable picture. If it is something you wouldn’t want your client seeing, pass on it. But whatever you do, do not leave the picture option blank. Recruiters are much more inclined to review a potential match if the profile includes a picture. Worst case scenario – have your roommate, significant other, or spouse snap a photo one morning before you head to work (the post-work look of disgust should be avoided).


Be socially responsible – No, I’m not talking about going out and saving the whales. For those of you who are active on social networking sites, you need to be cognizant of the fact that you’re constantly creating an online footprint.

Facebook – Double check the settings in your Facebook account. Facebook is continuously altering these; oftentimes the new defaults leave your information wide open for the general public to see. Your Facebook profile — including status updates, wall posts, and photo albums — should be off limits to viewers who are not your Facebook friends. Speaking of photos, lose the keg stand picture from senior year. You wear a button-down shirt to work now.

Twitter – The email address on your resumé is most likely connected to your Twitter account. Block your tweets from the general public if you are discussing things you’d rather not share with a potential interviewer.

Dig up those old recruiter emails – You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re cold, robotic emails that tease you on random weekday afternoons. Typically they’re titled, “New Opportunities in hedge funds” but the more apt title is, “How to get the $*@! off your current engagement and home in time for dinner.”

Dig through your old emails and find some of these. Read through them. See what sparks your interest. At the very least, try to figure out what you want to do next, what qualifications you already have, and what you can do to prepare yourself for the next step. Your current engagement might be providing you an opportunity to expand your skill set; jump at that possibility.

Five Year Outlook: Will You Be an Accountant?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for accountant.jpgStupid question you say? Okay but a recent survey done by E-conomic says a nearly half of our friends across the pond want to be doing something else in five years because the tax and financial reporting regulation will continue to be a nightmare.
The difference between wanting to do something else and actually doing something else is well, sorta big.
Accountancy Age:

Anders Bjornsbo, E-conomic’s operational director, said: “It’s alarming that half the accountants we spoke to said they were thinking of leaving the profession. While that’s unlikely to happen, it is perhaps illustrative of the dissatisfaction and disillusionment felt by accountants today.”

Dissatisfaction and disillusionment is something that has been discussed here in spades on our exodus post. But people getting out of the numbers game altogether? Bah. That just doesn’t strike us as a trend we’ll see soon. The survey indicates that most of you will seek advisory gigs as more compliance work moves offshore, “[T]hree quarters seeing themselves moving away from their traditional role to a more profitable consultant and business adviser position.”
That sounds about right. Despite the widespread misery, there are too many jobs out there that pay well. And let’s face it, you guys like money. You’re not going to leave it all behind to join the clergy or become philosophers.
Discuss your outlook and if you’re leaving the traditional accountant life behind for the advisory world or if you’re a lifer as tax/audit/financial reporting. And if you’re leaving all the glamor for the Peace Corps, let us know about that too.

Life After Big 4: Open Thread

One way or another most people move on from their Big 4 experience, regardless of practice or firm. Whether you left on on your own accord or by other means, you all have experiences of what life is like now.

Starting a career with a Big 4 firm is definitely a good way to go (yes, we said it) but shit happens and things change right?

So whatever you want to discuss: Money. Work/life. Does the Big 4 firm on the resume really impress? Did you leave and go back? If you’re still living the glamorous life in the B4, discuss your thoughts on your firm and why leaving is unthinkable. We realize that the Stockholm Syndrome is a bitch.