After two years at a national mid-sized firm I’m seriously considering a lateral jump to either another mid-size or local firm. Through some bad luck and my own failure to balance work and my parental responsibilities (aka, put the spouse and kids completely on the backburner), I have gained a reputation among some of the higher-ups in my office for not being committed. While I believe this perception is unfair (I get all my work done on time and on budget), hat it is preventing my promotion to Senior. I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to, but would like to make the Senior level.
I’d like to stay with my current firm, but I’m concerned that I’m in too deep a hole now to climb out. Almost all the clients I was in line to inherit have been acquired, and I haven’t been picked up on as many engagements as I’ve lost. So even if I get good ratings on my jobs, I am pretty sure that my utilization figures are going to be ugly. A blank slate, full schedule, and even the chance at making Senior earlier are very appealing right now. But is a lateral jump worth the risk? Which is better (or worse) on a résumé: 2.5-3 years with one firm and not making Senior or 2 years with one firm as an associate and 1 year with a different firm as senior?
During my time in and around public accounting, I have found the promotion from Associate to Senior Associate to be a fairly automatic process. Come to work, do your work, make yourself available to go the extra mile (even if it’s not needed), don’t knock up the administrative assistant in the coat closet at the holiday party, and you’re handed the title (instead of a paycheck). Several top notch and newly minted seniors jump ship for private, further justifying the promotion of average Associates to Senior. For you not to be made Senior in the normal time period, I’m going to assume you screwed up somewhere.
From the leadership’s view, public accounting thrives on firm loyalty and employee trust. Whether it’s justified or not, you’ve been labeled as someone that management cannot trust. Somewhere along the line you must have done something to challenge these fundamental rules. The majority of partners and managers still to this day believe in the mantra that “I went through busy seasons of hell when I was young, so you can/should/deserve to, too.” Silly or not, it’s part of the code. So if I understand your statement above regarding family and work/life balance, you didn’t communicate fully with your managers/partners that you needed time with your young family. More likely is that you didn’t make your own “sacrifices” to make the work up: working from home in the evening after kids are in bed, bringing work home on weekends, etc. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t; what matters is that you need to accept the fact that your clients are being ripped from your ownership – this does not happen unless you’re dropping the ball.
You’re up against a challenge by staying at your current firm. Considering your attitude toward your career is, “I don’t want to be in public accounting any longer than I have to” you should work on your résumé this weekend and apply to other firms. The time between now and January is a hot hiring period for CPA firms of all sizes, but be sure to focus on the smaller, regional firms. You’ll have better luck finding the work/life balance you require. That said, do not think that you’ll automatically be handed the title of Senior this fall. A firm will want to see how you do as a experienced associate (how you work with management, the quality of your work, etc.) before trusting you to lead their associates.
Trust. There’s that pesky word again. Taking a busy season to prove yourself at a new firm will be a better use of your time than if you stayed where you are to fight the gossip mongers and labels that are undoubtedly floating around your office. Accept the challenge of proving yourself at a new firm – for the sake of your career and the benefit of your family.
While you’re sitting around the house this weekend, work on the following:
• Updating your résumé
• Updating your LinkedIn account (describing the industries you work on, add a nice – but not Sears photo studio nice – headshot, etc.)
• Researching the CPA firms in your area
• Digging up a recruiter’s contact information
For the most part, performance reviews are a fairly disappointing affair. You walk in, prepared to explain why you’re such a badass CPA only to be informed that you’re pretty average. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that your auditing/tax/advisory skills could use some improvement and there are many, many other people that deserve more money than you. For whatever reason, occasionally a performance counselor will take the opportunity in the review process to get a little personal. Feedback like, “Personal hygiene needs work,” or “Dresses like a slob,” or “Sucks as a human being,” is hardly constructive but has been known to happen. This morning we have yet another example of someone getting a little nasty.
Here’s our recipient/tipster:
I have gotten some interesting evaluations by the Partner in my office over the last couple of years. I would be curious to know if other public accountants get the same amount of candid feedback that my partner is willing to provide. Here is a sample of what I received on a recent evaluation:
“I have also commented to ___ on his professional dress. It appears he was compliant with firm policy regarding attire without collars, but I must admit that the overall choice was on the very low scale of professional dress. I believe ___ has taken action to correct this matter and I encourage him to “dress for success.” I also encourage ___ to place greater emphasis on proper table manners. In particular, not eating french fries with your hands while with a client at a nice restaurant.
Our tipster explains that his dress “was a nice, crew neck sweater with brown slacks, [the partner] was pissed off that there was no collar. I sent him an email with the firm dress policy to prove that it was within the guidelines.”
But really, our reader admits, “the french fry comment is the best. The restaurant was middle-tier at best.”
As our reader said, he’s looking for similar stories, so if you’ve been admonished for rocking a turtleneck or ignoring your knife and fork, share your stories below. And then you should feel shame. SHAME.
Do you have needy clients? You know the type – they want to talk to you when every little thing goes wrong. They call to chit-chat for no reason in particular. They need your opinion on EV-ER-Y-THING. How are you responding to these people? Are you not returning their calls? Are you showing up late to your meetings with them? Do you just listen passively on the phone while repeating, “Uh, huh. Yes. I understand,” as you struggle with level 6-13 on Angry Birds? THOUGHT SO.
Well, they’re on to you. They sense your lack of interest. Your lack of giving a rat’s ass. And you know what? They are FED UP. There are plenty of CPAs out there that would love a client like them and MAYBE they’ll just go out and find one:
“Business is out there, but you have to market yourself differently,” [Allan Koltin, chief executive of Koltin Consulting Group] said, noting that one out of seven accounting firm clients are not happy with their accounting firm and are open to switching firms.
He urged attendees to spend time learning the personal goals of their clients. Among the factors affecting a client’s decision to leave an accounting firm, fees were ninth on the list, he indicated. “The number one factor was that the firm didn’t spend enough time with the client.”
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said.
Got the message? They aren’t going to put up with your shit forever.
Hello Going Concern,
I’m currently finishing my last semester at the University of Kentucky, I’m a fifth year student that will be graduating in December with a dual degree in accounting and economics. The recruitment period for the big 4, regional and local firms are all over and done. I applied to basically all of the positions/internships and was not asked to interview for any of them. At first, I naively thought they just weren’t hiring from my school, but the voice of reason deep inside my head finally convinced me that it was ind y own doing. My GPA was simply too low (about a 3.1).
Granted, accounting is a challenging course of study, also majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting that very good GPA. My problem now, is where to go from here. I can’t change the past and must move forward, from all indications I will graduate in December with no job prospects. Should I continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms, or should I just try and get a position somewhere….anywhere, accounting related to develop some valuable experience? I didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books. I’m not a social pariah by any means, however I know that this shyness of mine will not cut it and has hindered me tremendously at this point. I feel overwhelmed and a little disheartened at the makings of the future. If I don’t land a firm job will I be stuck in a perpetual rut in a dead end job? Is it important to avoid the private industry right out of college to get a taste of what you like in the public industry? How would you go about networking out of college, cold calling? I know I’ve asked a bunch of questions here, and maybe have not provided enough background information. To be outstanding you must stand out, now I’m at the crossroads of trying to do just that, but am a little unsure of how to start.
Playing the “I’m holding out for a job in public” doesn’t pay the rent or student loan bills. Not only are you up against stiff competition due to your lower-than-most-interns GPA, and self-decribed “shyness”, you’re fighting the timelines of every firm’s recruiting schedule. Meaning, the firms are done with their hiring needs by this point in time, especially if you are in a smaller market. You ask in your email to GC if you should “continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms” only to admit in the next sentence that you “didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books.” What the hell happened? Your email leaves me wondering if you simply dropped the ball on putting any effort into your job search, leaning too heavily on the notion that all you need is an accounting degree to receive free job handouts.
If going into public accounting was always the goal, your economics degree was not necessary. As “majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting a very good GPA,” why didn’t you cut your losses after a few classes and drop the major? If your answer is “because I was interested in the subject,” I’m going to call bullshit. If you were so interested in the topic, one would safely assume you would, you know, do well in those classes.
But enough about the past – given that you are about six weeks from graduating, you need to be aggressive with your job search.
Contact Career Services – Your school’s career services should have resources available to help you overcome some of the interview/social anxiety you might have that has held you back in your efforts to network with employers up to this point. They can set you up with meetings, discussions groups, mock interviews, etc. Take advantage of these free resources now; in six weeks it’ll cost you.
Stop being so damn picky – Your questions above gave me the impression that you’re being too picky (dead end jobs worries, hesitation about entering private industry instead of seeking public accounting experience, etc.). The economy – if you haven’t noticed – sucks. You’re entering a job market that is sputtering around nine percent unemployment and approximately 103 percent underemployment. Your competition is more experienced and potentially has better grades and soft skills than you.
The job market – even for accountants – is a simple numbers game – You apply to 30 jobs. You receive interviews at five. You receive second rounds at three. You hope for one offer. You should be applying to accounting roles in every industry in every sized firm. If they’re seeking an accounting degree, your résumé should be there. Search Indeed, LinkedIn, and the Monsters of the world on your own. Look into your college’s resources for alumni. Get in touch with recruiters in your area to see if they have any entry level or temp to perm positions. Play the numbers and see what hits. Good luck, and keep your head up.
Ed. note: Got a question from the career advice brain trust? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Friday, folks. Even though Summer Fridays are a thing of the past, we have much to be thankful for. College football on the tube. Ya’ll are getting laid, apparently. And we have some great questions coming into GC.com, like this one here:
I’m ready to leave the Big 4 for industry but want to make sure I don’t m��������������������make the jump. Is there a GC cheat sheet on things to take care of (and take with you) during the 2 week lame duck period after I give my notice? (e.g. contact info, CPE profile, etc.)
I’d love to hear GC readers’ thoughts.
Caleb and I scratched our brains on this one and realized that no – we’ve never really covered this topic. I know some if not all offices allow employees to take care of loose ends during the two week downtime but wouldn’t you rather be prepared to turn everything over on the same day? What I want to do here is cover the basics from the angle that you want to be able to put in your notice and walk out the door the same way. You fill in the details in the comments section below, as I’m sure I’ve missed some of the finer points. Share your horror stories and little victories alike.
1. A. Back up your personal computer files – Technically your work computer is reserved solely for work files and functions but for many of you it is a secondary (even primary) personal computer. I’ve seen laptops turned in with the likes of iTunes libraries, photo albums, tax returns and personal financial tracking files just hanging around in plain sight. You don’t know when HR or your partner will demand to seize your computer (I’ve even seen partners’ commuters seized with no access granted to the files for weeks), so make sure you back everything up onto your own USB drive.
1. B. Delete your personal computer files – Once everything is backed up (make sure the files open on another computer), delete everything personal that’s on the computer. Don’t forget to empty the trash can, too.
2. Get a new wireless plan – If you’re wielding a firm-purchased phone, you’ll be needing to turn that over as well. Take the initiative to get a new phone and have the contacts from your current (firm) phone transferred to your new (personal) device. Every carrier is different, but some will let you buy the new phone without having to activate it immediately, thus giving you the option to walk in there later (presumably, after you’ve dropped the bomb on leadership) and transfer the number over. If you prefer a clean slate and want a new number, so be it.
Also, remember to delete your recent call log, Blackberry Messenger conversations, texting history, sensitive contacts (*cough* your recruiter *cough*), etc. Granted if they really want go through an archive they will, but that really only happens if suspicious/illegal activity is suspected.
3. Organize your client work – This can be a very mundane and verbose task however necessary it may be. The goal here is to make things as easy as possible for your colleagues. Use separate USB drives for different managers and partners. Give everyone an update “open items” list for your active engagements. Make it so organized that a new person to the team would able to seamlessly come on board, read your notes, and pick up where you left off.
Chances are good that you like your co-workers, as one of the most common hesitations staff members have when leaving public accounting is, “I would feel bad leaving my co-workers swamped with my work.” Here’s the deal: they survive. I mean, think about it – how many times has a coworker left before you? Sure, the first few days can be a slow go, but they’re out-of-sight-and-mind within a week. Work is divvied up and completed.
4. Link in with people – I covered this back in June.
5. Mentally prepare yourself – Accounting firms are hit the hardest with employee turnover around this time of year so you need to expect your employer to put up a bit of a fight. Better clients, better work life balance, rotation to another group, verbal praise and affection. (Where was that love when you were working 7:30a to 11:30p during busy season?) You need to prepare for the pressure to be there to turn down your other offer on the spot. There’s nothing wrong with hearing out what your firm can put on the table, but you are under no obligation to turn around and be back on Team PwC or Kamp KPMG during the same meeting you put in your resignation.
Also, remember: you can always go back. Not sometimes. Not usually. ALWAYS. The only thing more valuable to a public accounting firm than its employees are employees that return with private experience.
6. Copy down contact information – There are people you will want to stay in contact with as your careers progress. This should be a no-brainer.
7. One last thing – There’s that colleague with whom you have some tension. Maybe they’re seeing someone, maybe they’re not. Screw the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and say something before you leave. Be bold.
Big news this year boys and girls! PwC jumped E&Y this year in IPA’s list. Other notable moves are the result of mergers including Dixon Hughes Goodman and EisnerAmper. Previous year’s ranking is in parenthesis.
1. (1) Deloitte
2. (3) PwC
3. (2) Ernst & Young
4. (4) KPMG
5. (5) McGladrey
6. (6) Grant Thornton
7. (7) CBIZ/Mayer Hoffman McCann
8. (8) BDO
9. (9) Crowe Horwath
10. (10) BKD
11. (11) Moss Adams
12. (12) Plante & Moran
13. (20/33) Dixon Hughes Goodman
14. (13) Clifton Gunderson
15. (24/27) EisnerAmper
16. (15) Marcum
17. (14) Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
18. (16) J.H. Cohn
19. (18) LarsonAllen
20. (19) Reznick Group
21. (17) UHY Advisors
22. (21) ParenteBeard
23. (22) Rothstein Kass
24. (23) Eide Bailly
25. (25) WeiserMazars
If you want to peruse the rest of the list, check it out here.
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.
With a lot of new blood coming in soon, there will inevitably be some questions about what to do with that unbillable time. Despite the temptation to tell your newbies to simply dump those wasted hours into “Administrative Time” (aka thumb twiddling, staring into space) your managers and partners will no doubt demand a more thorough explanation. And since none of you are immune to periods of boredom and/or general screwing around, you’re likely in need of something that will help you track things more accurately.
Fortunately, a friend of GC has forwarded us a useful list of charge codes that may just be the thing you need.
5316 Useless Meeting
5317 Obstructing Communications at Meeting
5318 Trying to Sound Knowl eting
5319 Waiting for Break
5320 Waiting for Lunch
5321 Waiting for End of Day
5322 Vicious Verbal Attacks Directed at Coworker
5323 Vicious Verbal Attacks Directed at Coworker While Coworker is Not Present
5393 Covering for Incompetence of Coworker Friend
5400 Trying to Explain Concept to Coworker Who is Not Interested in Learning
5401 Trying to Explain Concept to Coworker Who is Stupid
5402 Trying to Explain Concept to Coworker Who Hates You
5481 Buying Snack
5482 Eating Snack
5500 Filling Out Timesheet
5501 Inventing Timesheet Entries
5502 Waiting for Something to Happen
5503 Scratching Yourself
5510 Feeling Bored
5511 Feeling Horny
5600 Complaining About Lousy Job
5601 Complaining About Low Pay
5602 Complaining About Long Hours
5603 Complaining About Coworker (See Codes #5322 & #5323)
5604 Complaining About Boss
5605 Complaining About Personal Problems
5640 Miscellaneous Unproductive Complaining
5701 Not Actually Present At Job
5702 Suffering from Eight-Hour Flu
6102 Ordering Out
6103 Waiting for Food Delivery to Arrive
6104 Taking It Easy While Digesting Food
6200 Using Company Resources for Personal Profit
6201 Stealing Company Goods
6202 Making Excuses After Accidentally Destroying Company Goods
6203 Using Company Phone to Make Long-Distance Personal Calls
6204 Using Company Phone to Make Long-Distance Personal Calls to Sell Stolen Company Goods
6205 Hiding from Boss
6207 Planning a Social Event (e.g. vacation, wedding, etc.)
6210 Feeling Sorry For Yourself
6211 Updating Resume
6212 Faxing Resume to Another Employer/Headhunter
6213 Out of Office on Interview
6221 Pretending to Work While Boss Is Watching
6222 Pretending to Enjoy Your Job
6223 Pretending You Like Coworker
6224 Pretending You Like Important People When in Reality They are Jerks
6238 Miscellaneous Unproductive Fantasizing
6350 Playing Pranks on the New Guy/Girl
6601 Running your own Business on Company Time (See Code #6603)
6603 Writing a Book on Company Time
6611 Staring Into Space
6612 Staring At Computer Screen
6615 Transcendental Meditation
6969 Beating off in Broom Closet
7281 Extended Visit to the Bathroom (at least 10 minutes)
7400 Talking With Divorce Lawyer on Phone
7401 Talking With Plumber on Phone
7402 Talking With Dentist on Phone
7403 Talking With Doctor on Phone
7404 Talking With Masseuse on Phone
7405 Talking With House Painter on Phone
7406 Talking With Personal Therapist on Phone
7419 Talking With Miscellaneous Paid Professional on Phone
7425 Talking With Mistress/Boy-Toy on Phone
7931 Asking Coworker to Aid You in an Illicit Activity
8000 Recreational Drug Use
8001 Non-recreational Drug Use
8002 Liquid Lunch
8100 Reading e-mail
8102 Laughing while reading e-mail
As you can see, this a fairly extensive list with exception of the glaring omission of “Reading Going Concern.” However, you can simply drop that on the end as code 8103. If there are other important activities missing, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Since being precise as possible with your non-billable time is important, please resist the urge to dump all your unbillable time into 5601 and 5602. And if this format doesn’t conform to your firm’s own, kindly forward the list to whomever is in charge of assigning new charge codes so they can be implemented ASAP.
From the mailbag:
Hi Caleb, I have a question about accounting firms in the Mid-West and whether or not drug testing is done pre-employment or on a random basis. I have searched the internet as well as Going Concern and have come up with a 50/50 mix of yes and no. It’s a tough question to find an answer to, and I can’t exactly ask around if you know what I mean. Seems like an appropriate question for Going Concern right?
It is an appropriate question, my fretful friend. Unfortunately, it is one that doesn’t have a definitive answer. Back in my House of Klynveld days in New York I worked on-site at a large investment bank that perilously close an amazing ‘shroom burger. This particular client required a drug test for all on-site contractors. KPMG did not require a drug test and I do not recall if employees were subjected to random testing.
As the headline suggests, we’ve covered this topic before, around this time last year. To my knowledge, no other Big 4 firms require a drug test as a condition of employment but clients are on a case-by-case basis. My suspicion would be that the second tier (i.e. GT, BDO, McG) would not require a test for condition of employment but anything’s possible.
Regionals are probably more of a crapshoot. Generally, it seems rare that a service-oriented business would subject anyone to drug testing since there isn’t any heavy machinery or children (aside from man-babies) around. In fact, we’ve all been privy to those co-workers who seem to be capital market servant rockstars when they’re unusually FOCUSED. Similarly, those that choose to fire up AK-47 after a rough day rather than pop Adderrall in the loo aren’t causing any harm.
My opinion is this – drug testing isn’t necessary for anyone until it starts affecting other people. Of course the policies of these firms are seemingly fluid, so if you’ve been subjected to a test randomly or just to walk in the door, let us know in the comments.
Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualiti SCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).
My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.
Couple of things to consider:
Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.
Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.
Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.
Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.
Welcome to the when-do-the-blackouts-start edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an IRS revenue agent is thinking about the future and wonders if there is anything to look forward to after a stretch inside the House of Shulman. Will he be greeted with contempt or disdain by potential employers outside of the Treasury Department?
Trapped in your job? Not sure if you can bottle up your rage during your upcoming compensation discussion? Need ideas for your next