Public Accounting

Is It Time To Start Fresh at a New Accounting Firm?

Ed. note: Need career advice or a last minute sweet potato recipe? career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll stuff you full of wisdom.

Hi GC,

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?

Please help!!

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.

Clean Slate.

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

Good luck.

Partner Criticizes Subordinate for Dressing Like Peasant, Eating Like a Wild Beast

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.

Memo to CPAs: Those Needy Clients Are Sick of You Not Giving Them Enough Attention

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.

Business Resurging for Accounting Firms [AT]

You’ve Been Denied by the Big 4. What Next?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

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 indy 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.

Sincerely,
Pablo


Pablo,

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.

Leaving Your Accounting Firm? Here’s Your To-Do List Before Your Last Day

Ed. note: Got a question from the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

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.

Thanks.

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.

Accounting Firm List Mania: Inside Public Accounting’s Top 100

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.

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.

How to Code Those Unbillable Hours: A Guide

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.

Code Description
5316 Useless Meeting
5317 Obstructing Communications at Meeting
5318 Trying to Sound Knowleting
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
5504 Sleeping
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
6206 Gossip
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)
6602 Complaining
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.

Drug Testing at Public Accounting Firms Redux

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?

Thanks,

Worried Man

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.

Military Man Needs Help Transitioning into Public Accounting

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 advice@goingconcern.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 qualitiSCI 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.

IRS Agent Wants to Know If There’s Life After Government Work

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 advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll come up with something to bring everyone closer together.

Back to the Shulman Soldier:

Dear Career Advice Brain Trust,

I am currently a freshly minted IRS revenue agent in the Northeast right out of school. I’m the guy that audits the tax returns of small business and the self-employed (Schedule C’s and 1120’s). I’ve been at the job for about 10 months, and lately I’ve been starting to wonder: if this whole IRS thing doesn’t pan out, what are my options? Do public accounting firms of any size see any value in the experience gained here? From what I’ve experienced, employment at the IRS is a one-way street, either attracting grads with the ink still wet from their degree, or mid-career public accountants who value personal and family time more than money. Since I’m a young grad with no family to speak of, I feel like a lot of the non-monetary benefits are lost on me.

This job has its pros and cons. It’s probably one of the safest jobs in the country for anyone with an accounting degree, and it’s borderline illegal to work more than 40 hours per week because we’re unionized. Supposedly once you’re in for a few years, you can do “anything you want” within the organization, but I find that hard to believe because due to our reduced FY 2012 budget, we’re the last class to be hired for a while, so who is going to keep doing my job when everyone goes to do “anything they want?” Also, after 3-4 years, the salaries plateau big time, and we definitely make less than our public accounting counterparts throughout our careers. Furthermore, it literally takes an act of Congress to get anything substantial changed.

So my bottom line question to you (and the readers) is this: if I wanted to jump ship and go somewhere that my title carries a little less universal hatred, as well as advance my career prospects, what could I expect for opportunities, particularly in the public accounting sector?

Sincerely,
Agent Curious

Dear Agent Curious,

I’m happy to say that you’re first IRS agent to come to us for advice. Whether that means you value what we have to say or you’re simply desperate isn’t clear but regardless, thanks for reaching out.

Now then. Your problem. Personally, I feel as though the stigma associated with working for the IRS is a little overblown. Just because some of your colleagues chase down loose change and politicians call you names, that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that aren’t valuable for private employers. The knowledge you are curating about small businesses and their compliance issues are extremely valuable and many CPA firms would gladly talk to you about your experience and how it will work for them and their clients.

Furthermore, with your inside knowledge about the Service and how is picks and chooses returns for audit, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by saying, “I assure you this will result in a Young Buck-esque raid of your business.” This knowledge of the inner workings might even be more valuable than what you actually learn on the job.

Right now, your best opportunities would be with public accounting firms that specialize in tax compliance for small businesses. Just like any other job, if you are able to jump around inside the Service and see various types of returns (partnerships, larger businesses), your skill set will be even more valuable. A few more years doing Doug Shulman’s dirty work could pay big dividends down the road.

Any former/current IRS agents out there with insight? Drop your knowledge in the comments.

Hypothetical: Is Passing on a Promotion to Manager Because It Requires Relocation a Career Limiting Move?

Ed. Note: Have a question for the Going Concern career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Dear GC,

I’ve been a reader of GC for a while. Thank you for the great advice you posted throughout the years!

Hypothetical situation: I’m a tax senior in a big public accounting firm. I’m doing well but I wasn’t promoted to manager this year because promotion requires that I relocate to another region and my family can’t move. In this situation, what can I do to help advance my career? Should I patiently toil for another few years until a spot opens up in my region? It seems like jumping into industry without a “manager” title will set me back significantly. Going to a competitor to get promoted also seems unlikely because I haven’t proven myself to the new employer. Would I literally be sacrificing my career for family in this case?

I am a young woman starting her career in tax in a public accounting firm. I saw others going through situation and I see myself running into this situation in a few years. Just want to ask this question so I know what to expect ahead of time.

Thanks for your advice!

Dear Hypothetical Tax Senior,

At the end of the day, this is a personal issue for you and your family to sort through. However, I hope the following points (and the GC community) can help you in your decision.

Things to consider:

1. Your professional network. How closely do you work with employees in this hypothetical office? Will you be able to move there before being promoted? Chances are, your network there is limited, so you will have to connect with and establish your credibility with an entire new office. Combine this with balancing the new responsibilities of being a manager and helping your family adjust to a new home, and you could be facing a steep learning curve, both professionally and personally.

2. Seek advice. Talk to your mentors about this. Is this a regular issue in your office? Have others before you made been in a similar situation, and if so, what did they decide to do? Is this a one year issue or is the possibility of being promoted to manager a distant possibility?

3. Look around you. Not in the job market sense but in the “how top heavy is my practice?” sense. Are managers currently doing the work of staff members because there is not enough to go around at the top? Is HR hiring into your group or have things been stagnant for awhile? Has your office lost a deal of client work to competition?

4. Look around again. Now I mean in the job market. All things considered, you need to do what’s best for your family. In that, you should be weighing ALL options. Jumping ship without the manager title is not necessarily a Scarlett Letter; it is something that can be explained in an interview at the very least.

Layoff Watch ’11: ‘The Bloodbath Is Definitely Over’ for Accounting Profession

Nationally, after three consecutive years of declines, CPA firms “finally” are projecting positive growth between 3% and 4%, said Allan D. Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group, a Chicago firm that specializes in the accounting profession. The industry had enjoyed enormous growth and enormous hiring between 2003 and 2007, Mr. Koltin said, but the recession year of 2008 ushered in a dark chapter.

Many firms instituted hiring freezes and made cuts. Most of the 100 largest firms let go of anywhere from 10% to as many as 20% of their accountants, he said. “It probably was the worst bloodbath of layoffs that the accounting profession has had in well over a couple decades,” Mr. Koltin said. “The bloodbath is definitely over. Firms all over the country, Cleveland and everywhere, for the first time are doing serious hiring after a serious drought.” [Crain’s]

Public Accounting Exodus Watch 2011 (Poll)

Earlier I attempted to give a BDO senior manager some perspective on the how to deliver the news that he was jumping ship. Oddly enough, a friend of GC also sent us this message yesterday:

Since this ‘Tis the Season’ for attrition, it would be interesting to see a survey on who is looking for employment beyond their current employ.

So since we like to get a feel for such things, we’re putting on a little poll to see how many people are grabbing life preservers. Vote in the poll after the jump and discuss the particulars in the comments.

BDO Senior Manager Wants to Know How Best to Say ‘I Quit’

Welcome to the High Holiday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a senior manager at BDO is ready to give notice but can’t decide if it’s best to keep things professional or to go out with a verbal assault the likes of which George Costanza has never seen.

Are you working in the Twilight Zone? Need some good ideas for celebrating the end of busy season? Feeling jealous about the sexy success<l us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll get you over your accountants-in-love envy.

Back to kicking off The Public Accounting Attrition Tour of 2011:

Going Concern,

I am still knee deep in busy season, with many engagements still open and pushing their April 30th deadlines. There is no real end in sight, since May and June look equally as busy with Q’s, EBP’s, 9/30 year ends and other projects the Partners engage us for that further contribute to my maxed out PTO accrual. So naturally, as most people do this time of year, I have been looking for open positions searching for that golden opportunity to finally break free of the social, physical and health suppression known as public accounting. That being said, is it wrong to lay down at night and dream of what you would say when giving your notice?

I have played out hundreds of scenarios in my head saying everything from the absolute extreme to the overly conservative. That makes me think – what is the best way to “leave” a public accounting firm? During my 11 year career, I have seen all kinds of people leave in a ball of fire, rather than just fade away. Those people think that the firm will collapse without them, or their leaving will cause a mass exodus or significant change to the firm. No way. It never happens. So really, what is the point of telling the Partners (and HR in the exit conference), what you really feel in your heart?

Dear Dreaming of Quitting,

There’s nothing at all wrong with dreaming of the most epic march in ever. I assume you’re referring to something similar to this:

As you mention, people who go out with a furious speech that features wild hand gestures and name-calling are typically those who think they are indispensable or are somehow the catalyst to the collapse of their firm. You’re right to say that this is NEVER the case. A team or an office may go through a rough patch (mileage of rough patch may vary) but eventually things calm down and return to relative normalcy.

So to answer your second question – the best way to leave your firm is: quietly. That doesn’t mean you don’t tell your colleagues, friends or others that you’re leaving (most probably know that you’re looking to leave anyway) but it should be a drama-free encounter. You meet with the appropriate people, tell them that your last day will be X and that should be it. If they pry about why you’re leaving or attempt to convince you otherwise, you can respectfully decline or entertain their queries and/or begging. That’s up to you. Even if you’ve been used and abused throughout the time at your firm, would it really make you feel better to tell that a partner that the experience of working with them was akin to a circle of Dante’s Inferno that he dared not scribe?

As for the motive behind these overtly dramatic “I quit!” speeches, I get the feeling that those who feel compelled to give them think they will get some satisfaction out of telling someone exactly how they feel; that giving everyone who deserves a piece of their mind will somehow make everything negative that happened in the past worth it. If you feel like expressing some honesty about your experience, that’s perfectly okay but for crissakes, have some tact. If you simply feel justified to spew verbal excrement, that only makes you look like a lunatic. A very unprofessional lunatic.

Why Is Utilization Such a Big Deal at Public Accounting Firms?

As it’s only been a few days since we learned about the death of Pan Jie, the PwC auditor who died in Shanghai, many people are questioning everything, from high pressure culture within the Big 4 to this most recent contribution from the mail bag wanting to know why utilization is such a BFD:

Hey Caleb,

Been reading all the comments on the Shanghai PDub girl perhaps overworking to death, and everyone seem to have the same opinion on the same thing: overworking, but undercharging. And, this topic of utilization has really been troubling me since the first day I joined public accounting. So can someone care to explain why utilization is such big deal at the Big 4s??

I really don’t get it. Because ultimately, in my opinion it is purely a [key performance indicator] that is on paper, and is not a real depicting of a company’s financial performance. From when I last checked, the concept of OT pay is no longer applicable. So it’s not like by charging more hours, the firms are not paying me more and thus impacting their bottom line. Of course, if I need to bring on more people to the team to complete the audit, it may impact the bottom line for that engagement. And, also maybe there are the out-of-pocket expenses that you need to consider for employees beyond 8 hours. But I am sure [out-of-pocket expenses] during busy season will not break for audit budget. But besides that, everything is pretty much fixed, from the audit fee, staff’s salaries, expenses, etc. So I really don’t get this utilization game that management is playing.

Is my mind too simple, or can someone explain it to me?

Here’s my take on utilization – it partially factors into how firms determine if they’re getting their money’s worth out of employees. Say you’ve got two employees that are effectively the same (hours, performance, etc.) except one takes all five weeks of their PTO while the other doesn’t take any PTO. The difference of two hundred hours – on paper – shows that one employee is one creating 200 additional hours of value for the firm versus their co-worker who does not. If both of these individuals met their utilization goals for the year, then there’s really no issue. But if the five weeks of PTO taken by the first employee causes them to fall short, a friendly HR professional or performance counselor will have an easy decision as who should be crowned a top performer at evaluation time. Regardless of firms saying “we want you to take vacation” they want you to meet utilization goals first.

As for budgeting, depending on the engagement you may have wiggle room and you may not. If you’re serving a small client, regular late-night dinners could easily blow the budget and zap the realization, especially if you’re billing all the hours you’re working. So if you’re trying to make utilization goals but have a tight budget, you may have to cave on either charging all the hours or starving to death. Not an easy choice and is one reason why serving small clients can be a double-edged sword.

So essentially I agree with you, utilization is primarily a performance indicator and not much else. It simplifies the ability to determine someone’s value on paper. Low utilization indicates that you suck at your job or no one likes you. High utilization means you’re a workhorse and a team player. When it comes to cutting the weakest link, the decision is pretty easy. I admit that I’m far removed from the latest trends in determine valuable employees so veterans of the utilization game and people in the know are invited to chime in with theories on utilization and its usefulness (or lack thereof).

‘Satisfied,’ Possibly Deranged PwC Employee Describes Unfamiliar Work Environment

From the mailbag:

Hi Caleb,

I’ve been perusing your website for about 5 months now and I cannot believe the amount of complaining people do and still stick it out in public accounting. If it is that awful, why are you trading away your life for this job? I’m in assurance in New York Metro with PwC and everyone that I work with is pretty pleased with their jobs.

Yeah we work a lot and probably could get paid more working in industry, but for whatever reason public accounting is the career we choose. All my teams have a pretty good time even during busy season. I have yet to work for a manager or partner that I didn’t like, and interestingly enough I’ve had multiple interactions with managers where eriods of time out of their day to chat with me about things unrelated to our current work. I’ve referred a number of college prospective auditors to your website and their response as always been to the effect of, “the articles are interesting, but the comments people leave make this sound like a horrible career choice.” Just wondering if we could get some positive articles and comments going about the good things that come out of working in public accounting!

Sincerely,

A satisfied PwC employee

Okay, so it sounds like a few people are happy with their careers – thankyouverymuch – and are a little put off by the loud bellyaching and articles that aren’t “positive.” I’ll address the latter concern first by simply pointing everyone to a post from February where I presented my answers on the “Career Value of the Big 4 Experience” and wrote the following:

I’m very grateful for my Big 4 experience. It was unimaginably valuable, I met a lot of great people and have no regrets (except for a few brutal hangovers at national training). So, I’ll give it a 5 [that means super-duper satisfied!].

Not to the mention the two to three posts that we dish out a week (despite complaints from some that they’re all the same) giving career advice, that often highlight the benefits of the public accounting path, frequently featuring Big 4 firms. If you find these articles to be “negative” or displeasurable in tone, I can’t help you. Adrienne and I both believe in presenting a straight, no-bullshit style. If you want something that resembles a town hall meeting, then I suggest you go read the latest list from Fortune, Forbes or just look around your office for all the benefits to working at your firm. The marketing people certainly aren’t shy about plastering them everywhere.

As for “getting […] positive comments,” you’ll have to call on your equally satisfied Big 4 brethren to speak a little louder in the comments section. If you and others find the comments on a particular post offensive or misleading, TRY RESPONDING. It’s not our responsibility to convince the happy people to speak up and we’re not going to tell haters to calm down. Everyone has a voice here and if some are louder than others, so be it. There are plenty of constructive discussions happening all over the site so go find those and ignore the noise if it bothers you. If snark and bad words offend you, then perhaps you should avoid the comments altogether. We’re not going to create a “Family Section” of GC just because some people’s ears are burning.

I think it’s great that you enjoy your career at PwC (“deranged” is simply a joke, in case you need briefed). It’s a great firm with plenty of great people and kudos to you for doing what you enjoy. You’re lucky to have figured out what’s important and write, “I cannot believe the amount of complaining people do and still stick it out in public accounting. If it is that awful, why are you trading away your life for this job?” which is the same question I ask of people on a regular basis. Regardless of where people fall on the satisfied scale (I’m a “5,” don’t forget) we’re going to continue covering the industry and the firms like we always have. When a firm does something worthwhile, we will call attention to it, Tweet it or link to it. When something gossipy or juicy comes our way, we’ll do the same. If you don’t like it, you’re free to express your opinion as much and as loudly as you like.

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.

Do I Stay in Public Accounting Until Manager? Part XXXIII

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

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

Back to our SA:

Hey Going Concern,

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

Thanks.


Dear Maybe Manager,

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

PROS

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

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

CONS

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

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

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

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

Intern Concerned About the Quasi-Exodus at His Firm

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

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

Back to intern 2.0:

Hi Caleb,

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

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

Thanks,
Concerned intern

Dear Concerned Intern,

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

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

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

Here’s The Only Guide to Your Accounting Career You’ll Ever Need

As many of you already know, when an accountant walks into a room of non-accountants and tells everyone what he does for a living, the first question is usually “can you do my taxes?” That stereotype was exactly what industry veteran Stan Ross hoped to blow to bits when he worked with the AICPA to create the new book The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting.

“The bell rang when the grandkids kept asking ‘what is an accountant and what do you do?'” he told us. Wanting to answer that question without simply printing out a picture of a guy hunched over a 10-key in a green eyeshade, Ross put together a guide to various career paths inorate, government and non-profit accounting. It includes interviews with industry rockstars like Ernst & Young’s Jim Turley and former AICPA chairman Ernie Almonte. Hundreds of industry experts and professionals were interviewed in the development process, with the best of those included in the book and accompanying CD-ROM.

Covering everything from education to licensure, compensation to careers, Ross cut no corners to put together an all-in-one resource for those considering accounting as a career or even accountants looking to switch career paths and take on a new specialty.

The Big 4, et al.

Those interested in a career dedicated to public accounting will find tips on getting hired, moving up the corporate ladder, interning and even dealing with awkward intergenerational exchanges. One excellent piece of advice: “From the moment you start with the firm, try to learn as much as you can in your current position, and learn from your supervisors, the people you work with and others in the firm. Ask questions not just about your current position or work assignments, but about the larger firm, its organization, its services and its people.”

Who needs public?

If corporate accounting is more your style, you can follow the corporate ladder from staff accountant to CFO, working in management accounting (sorry, that means cost accounting too), payroll, A/P, internal auditing, financial reporting, tax or IT. Corporate accountants can also work in forecasting, working closely with department managers, the CFO and/or top executives within the organization to weigh in on the company’s plans and budget forecasts. As of 2007, there are 31 million businesses in the United States and they made a combined $26 trillion in revenue – don’t you think those businesses need sharp talent to crunch their numbers?

Are you good enough for government work?

Let’s not forget about government accounting. Ross told us that he initially did not even plan on putting in a separate chapter for government but in his research for this book, he discovered that there are unlimited possibilities in government and it just made sense to put them in. “When we talked to government people and regulators, we found out how many different career paths were there; city, state, county, all the agencies, the Federal Reserve… it was unlimited!” he said. Those interested in a government accounting career could find themselves working for the State Department, NASA, the FAA, the DOD, the GAO, the FBI, the IRS and many other agencies. You can find more information on opportunities in government (a booming industry when everyone else is hurting, you know) via the AICPA’s website here.

Forget profits

Last but not least, Ross highlights opportunities in non-profit accounting. Non-profit includes public charities as well as universities, private foundations, HMOs, labor unions and business/professional organizations. According to the book, The Conference Board said in a 2007 report that “widespread executive-level and leadership skill shortages currently affecting many nonprofits are predicted to get much worse as the sector expands and experience executives retire.” That means the sector needs qualified accountants who, unfortunately, can expect to earn less than for-profit positions but get reimbursed through warm fuzzy feelings and real world experience with non-profit accounting.

Ross reminds all of us that the best bet is always to seek out a mentor (or several) and use their knowledge to your advantage. Want to switch career paths? Track someone down who already has and ask questions. Want to find out the quickest way to climb the public accounting ladder? Listen to someone who’s done it already and learn from their mistakes and experience. Ross himself mentors hundreds of USC students and you better believe mentored students have a better chance to be promoted as they’ve gotten a broader picture of their future industry outside of the traditional black and white of their accounting school textbooks.

So whether you’re miserable in your current position or just starting out in your accounting career and trying to figure out which path to take, The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting will give you plenty of food for thought and useful information on what lies ahead, regardless of which fork in the road you head down. Accounting is no longer just doing taxes (as if it ever was) and, as Ross says, it is the best foundation for any career path, be that CFO, COO, investment officer or just about any corporate world gig dealing even indirectly with budgeting, finance and economics.

Ya get it? We hope so.

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

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

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

Back to the multiple choice exercise:

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

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

Dear Partner Hopeful,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Have Public Accounting Burnout?

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

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

Back to the burnout at hand:

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

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

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

Thanks for your help,

Big-Time Burnout

Dear BTB,

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

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

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

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

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

What’s With All the Hating on Rothstein Kass?

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

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

Back to our potential Kass Kounter:

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

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

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

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

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

In the layoffs post, our tipster mentioned the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to our ex-Del

Caleb,

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

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

Considering Going Back

Dear Considering,

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to our passionate public accountant:

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

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

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

Any thoughts from your readers here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

-OneFootOutTheDoor


Dear OneFoot,

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

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

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

Five Major Differences Between Small Accounting Firms and the Big 4

Ed. note: The following was submitted by a reader of Going Concern who wished to remain nameless.

As a casual fan of Going Concern, and a senior auditor of a small to mid size local firm, I feel the site is quite comical and a vast insight into the world of “bigger and better” feelings. I read the site for humor, comparison, and overall knowledge on the country’s accounting bureaucracy. I would like to dive into some of the obvious�������������������� the big boys and us local mid-market droids.

Busy season – For most, January 5th is the start date and lets up by April 1st. Busy season is usually the hours of eight-thirty to seven-thirty. The midnight coffee runs are infrequent and somewhat discouraged. (That might be just our firm, so if yours is different, chime in). Busy season does not end with a celebration, spot bonus, or dinner; we get an e-mail saying thank you for making us (the Partners) rich.


The Rank and File – The caliber of employees is different. We get a few people that could of have gone Big 4 but primarily our employees are the ones who worked through college, made mostly B’s drizzled with some C’s, or they went to Big 4 and then realized it wasn’t a good fit. A fair amount of the staff obtain the CPA license but hardly ever do they walk in with it. With that, some might think the staff is seen as not equivalent. I differ from that viewpoint. This leads me to the next difference.

Responsibilites – The degree of responsibility of a Big 4 staff auditor and a mid-size staff auditor are drastically different. It appears the people we hire from the Big 4 know a specific section of the audit to a tee but when it comes to another section they are a lost puppy. For example, the small time auditor has to draft the engagement, complete ninety five percent of the fieldwork and finish with all the management representation letters, disclosure checklist, etc. It’s a complete engagement overview, not just the cash section. This might be because of the size of the engagements but regardless, when it comes to closing the deal, the small time auditor seems to perform like Jeter in October. You might argue this is because our niche is smaller but on the SEC engagements we tackle, the same criteria takes effect. Staff do the work, manager reviews, and partner signs. No middle ground to speak of.

Money – I constantly look at GC to see what the salaries in the rest of the country appear to be and honestly, we don’t come close. It’s very much a disappointment. We probably all start off close to the same (50k plus or minus 5k), but in all actuality, the bigger accounting firms bump people up a lot faster than us local guys. Again, this might parallel to the caliber of employees we hire, or it might not. I tend to think we follow a very specific old fashion business model. We pay our staff just enough so they are complacent, and the partners bring the money home to afford the private schools, three plus luxury cars, the farms, and the multi million dollars home. If someone doesn’t want to put in the fifteen to twenty plus years it takes to get there, then tough, we will find someone else. The door is a constant revolving machine. No emotion goes into it what so ever.

Pick up a tax return! – The last item is the close ties between audit and tax. It is very common for someone in my shoes to finish all my audit responsibilities by mid-March, and then pick up the married couple with two kids tax return. It’s merely done for enjoyment and to help out the overall firm. This also helps with keeping on your toes when talking to clients about what your firm can offer. We get an incentive for bringing in clients and since our niches are smaller, it’s easier than bringing in a 100k plus job.

Bottom line is that it’s a different culture. I guess it’s always up to the staff if they like the eleven o’clock coffee run, sleep deprivation, 65k salary, or if they like the 58k salary, have a life, and come home at seven-thirty careers. It really just depends on the person. Some people strive either way but nothing should be taken away or discouraged because of the decision. I would just know what you’re getting into when you walk in the door. If you go to a smaller firm out of college, don’t expect the huge pay increases, or the spot bonuses, just expect to work and not get much for it.

FERF Survey: Audit Fees Down, Big 4 Still Dominate Public Company Filers

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

It looks like audit fees are stabilizing.

The 150 publicly-held companies responding to a recent survey paid an average of $4.8 million in audit fees in 2009, down 2.4 percent from the total shelled out by these respondents the prior fiscal year.

The 197 privately-held companies responding to the survey paid an average of $291,200, roughly even with the prior year.

Drilling further down, the survey found that total audit fees for 83 large accelerated filers-those with market capitalizations over $700 million–averaged $7.8 million, 3.6 percent less than what they paid the prior year. What’s more, this average of $7.8 million was possibly skewed to the high side this year due to the total audit fees reported by the 19 respondents from companies with more than $25 billion in annual revenues.


On the other hand, the average audit fees paid by the 22 non-accelerated filers were $579,900, 3.3 percent more than what they paid in the prior year.

These are some of the highlights of a newly-released annual report from Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), the research affiliate of Financial Executives International. It stresses that the averages reported in this year’s Audit Fee Survey are not comparable to those reported in the 2009 survey because this year’s respondents are not necessarily the same as last year’s respondents. In fact, FEI stresses that this year’s average was skewed slightly higher due to representation from more companies with revenues of $25 billion or more.

The survey also found that the total number of audit hours averaged 21,458 for all public companies, and-not surprisingly–was directly proportional to both the size of the company and to the number of legal entities comprising the company. Of the 19 respondents from companies with more than $25 billion in annual revenues, the total hours averaged 108,571.

The average hourly audit rate was $218 for all public companies–$186 for nonaccelerated filers and $220 for the large accelerated filers. Surprisingly, the survey found that the lowest hourly rate ($110) and the highest hourly rate ($400) were both reported by large accelerated filers. It said the $110 rate was reported by a large multi-national consumer goods distributor and the $400 rate was reported by a large multi-national financial services firm.

Other interesting findings:

• 88 percent of public company respondents used Big 4 audit firms compared to 36 percent of private companies.

• After the Big 4, Grant Thornton was mentioned by four respondents and BDO and McGladrey were both mentioned once.

• 21 of the 197 private companies plan to switch auditors, compared to only 7 of the 150 public company respondents. Service issues and fees were key reasons for both groups.

• Just 16 of the 150 public companies indicated that their auditors broke out the cost of the Section 404 attestation.

Big 4 Rotations: Great Career Opportunity or Recruiting Gimmick?

We touched on international rotations yesterday, albeit one that probably would be provide more risk than most accountants are comfortable taking.

That being said, rotations – either to another practice, office or international – can be a way to re-energize your career if you’re feeling stagnant or a simple distraction from the distinct possibility that you don’t like your job. We’ll discuss all three of these possibilities and then open it up for discussion:

International Rotations – Offering international rotations is an excellent recruiting tools for the firms that offer them (primarily Big 4) and most people that work in firms that offer them would state that they are “an extremely rewarding experience,” whether or not they’ve actually experienced one. It’s one of the cliché message that firms put out without mentioning the fact that the politics of negotiating one can be tricky. All that being said, those lucky few that do experience them rave about their experiences (for the most part, there are some that just can’t be pleased) on both a personal and professional level.


Domestic Rotations – Again, firms market these as opportunities for those that are interested in them. There are less politics involved in the domestic versions although a particular office may have to demonstrate a need before it would be approved. A slight twist on these the domestic “rotation” is an unsolicited one, where one office has a desperate need for warm bodies and your firm offers you up to spend a significant length of time (e.g. two to three months up to a year or more) working in a different office.

Practice Rotations – You’re sick of auditing/tax/advisory. One day the idea of a rotation to a new service line or to a support department (e.g. HR) comes along and you jump at it because, well, you’re bored out of your mind. This can be a great opportunity to do something completely different which could be the start of a new career path. Or it could be your firm filling its need for grunts in a practice that is short-handed.

From a recent thread on staying or leaving public accounting, commenter Guest had this to say regarding internal rotations.

Internal rotations are also BS. They are generally looking for cheap labor to bridge them in times of need. Most people don’t get asked to stay on, in which case your peers that stayed in audit may have a leg up. If you do get asked to stay, you will be behind your advisory/tax peers since you didn’t start with them.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag out there. On the one hand, landing one of these rotations is the first step and then you have to consider the repercussions of leaving an office/practice for a length of time. If you’ve got personal experience with any of these, discuss below for the wishers and dreamers out there mulling rotations.

Dog Days: How Are Accounting Firms Helping You Enjoy Summer?

A fellow Big 4 expat once told us that Tuesday was the worst day of the week. The logic was essentially that Tuesday was no man’s land – you weren’t catching up on your weekend with your co-workers like on a Monday, Friday is an eternity away and plus Tuesday has no feel.

And since the summer months tend to be slower, the days can drag.

With that in mind, a current Big 4 soldier wanted to find out what firms were doing to help pass some of the hours either through internal initiatives or on individual teams. She was kind enough to share with us her team’s Friday ritual:

Every Friday we head out early to get manicures. Just wanted to know how/if other teams or firms were letting people blow off some steam this summer.

For the gents that aren’t so in touch with their delicate sensibilities, this probably sounds awful. Regardless, it beats the hell out of being the office, yeah? And spending over half of your day on Deloitte’s Fantasy Football doesn’t qualify as a substitute.

You may remember that KPMG is letting the troops don their best denim – baggy, skinny, nut huggers – whatever and they also shipped out some sweet flesh that Klynveldians may have burned on over Memorial Day.

So whether your summer consists of extra-casual dress, afternoons at the $5.99 buffet strip club or double-duty on your office’s landscaping, discuss how your firm is helping you enjoy (or not) months 6 through 8.

Big 4 Refugees: Where Are They Now? Are They Still Miserable?

Unless you’re completely illiterate, you’re aware that we cover lots of news on layoffs and exoduses here at GC. Layoffs seem to be more of ’08-’09 trend while this year the exodus seems to be en vogue.

That being the case, some of the people that you knew while they were in public accounting have completely disappeared never to heard from again. Those of you still at the mercy of the billable hour might assume that these refugees are loving life in their new jobs – working 40 hours a week, making far more money and seeing more than an hour or two of sunlight on a regular basis.

But do these ex-Big 4 and public accountants really have it better? One reader wonders aloud:

Something came to mind recently when talking to my ex-Big 4 friends, who were laid off in the mass curling about a year ago. Being someone who was laid off by a Big 4, I somewhat have to agree and feel the same way. That is, I have heard from so many of these friends who hate their current jobs, and considering quitting. Even more are thinking about going back to school. So I wasn’t sure if this only applied to my friends, or is a general trend among those laid-off from Big 4s.

So I thought it would be interesting in the thought of other people who were laid off by the Big 4s. Where are they now? Do they like their jobs? Or do they feel the same way? If they don’t like their current jobs, what are their intentions? And maybe even the question of whether they would consider going back to a Big 4?

Lots of questions in there, so it’s really a grab bag. Jump in on whatever applies to you – headed back a life or Ramen and frozen pizza to get at Masters or PhD? Still glad you escaped public accounting with your sanity intact? Thinking of – gasp – going back?

Firms are definitely looking for help as evidenced by the pleas by PwC and Ernst & Young to their current employees to refer everyone and their dog for possible employment, so hey, it’s an option for those that feel that the non-Big 4 grass is faux-green. Discuss.

Three Things Public Accounting Can Learn From the World Cup

World Cup fever is sweeping the world, if not your office. Sure it’s not March Madness and a much needed relief from busy season but it is the world’s biggest athletic event. And regardless of whether you are wearing your country’s colors to the office or still confused as to what FIFA even stands for, your friendly employer should be paying attention; there’s plenty to learn from these games.


Loud noise is a powerful distraction – It’s rumored that Human Resources departments around the country are placing obscene orders for vuvuzelas, the long plastic horns that are causing a stir at the opening round games (and being banned at practically all future sporting events). Their hopes are for all Big 4 partners to use them when year 2010 bonuses and raises are announced. The news is expected to be rather bleak and disappointing, but the hope is that the horns make everything seem so much more FUN!

Seriously though – those horns sound like a swarm of drunk, football loving bees.

Timing is everything – The worst part about the World Cup games for football fans in America has been the timing of games. The first round games have been beginning at 7:30 am on the east coast and a bright 4:30 am in sunny California. Satyam hopes no one is watching their recent restatement troubles, much like West Coasters likely snoozed through Argentina/South Korea this morning.

Moral victories are still acceptable – In fact – if you spin things well enough – a moral victory is a real victory. (See Example A here) So what moral victories have we had recently?

E&Y is hiring…sorta. We still don’t know what that’s all about.

KPMG is making the suburbia-to-city commute just a thing of the past. How nice of them!

PwC raises might be decent after all. Or at least less awful than EY’s.

Deloitte made impacting the community a requirement.

McGladrey is on fire. Everybody out!

Hmm. Suddenly that 1-1 tie with the Brits doesn’t seem so mediocre, does it?

So Your Firm Is Going to Pay For You to Take the CPA Exam: Four Things To Remember

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

Not only do you have a job (congrats!) but you have a job that is willing to pay for you to take the CPA exam. Awesome! But before you load up on review materials, be sure you know what your employer expects and understand that there are situations where you can be held liable for materials if you don’t live up to your employer’s expectations.


This is Business – First of all, though you can’t claim a deduction, reimbursement of your CPA exam expenses (education, exam fees, etc) is treated as a business expense, just like any other training. If you’re desperate to get someone to help out with review course or exam fees, try selling this point to your employer.

Make the Most of Time You Have Now – If you’re in the Big 4 or anywhere down to the middle, chances are your review course fees are covered and your performance on the exam might be rewarded with a bonus. Don’t blow this! It’s easier for you to study and pass exams before you are loaded down with responsibilities and managers are much more lenient with first years looking for time off than they are if you’re in your 4th consecutive year of failing FAR. Take this seriously and realize that your firm will probably only pay once; blow it and you’re going to have to come up with retake fees on your own.

This Isn’t 2006 – Several years ago, firms would happily pay $3,000 and up for overpriced review courses with all the bells and whistles but since belts have been tightened, some are reluctant to cough up a chunk of cash without a guaranteed return on their investment. Look at this subsidy not as a gift but as additional income. Would you blow $3,000 of your own income on something and then never use it?

Ask Your Firms Lots of Questions – If your firm does not already have an agreement with a review course but is willing to pay your fees, ask lots of questions upfront and find out if you can invoice for repeats or supplemental products if you need them. One of the larger firms has a “we’ll pay for anything once” rule meaning they will only cut one check, regardless of whether it’s for $2 or $2,000. Other firms have strict rules about what you can order and when you can start (think government agencies). Regardless of how your firm works, ask about what is covered and what is expected in return.

In this economy, you can’t afford to blow a free review course and discounted or all-expense-paid trips to Prometric.

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.

Staying or Going: What’s the Best Work Experience for Accountants?

Happy MOANday, everyone. If you missed Friday’s post because you were enjoying summer hours, be sure to get caught up on things before anything else.

I left of Friday’s post leaving up to you, the readers, to discuss which person would be better qualified for the situation. I did my best in laying out assumptions for the hypothetical, and many of you responded with wonderful feedback.

Here’s a taste:


From SouthernCPA:

Just for fun, let’s tweak the assumptions a smidge. Same 4 years of public experience, except the job offer has a 30% bump in total comp. Also, the person in the position before you was essentially like you (i.e. 4 years of experience, even came from the same firm as you) and they got promoted within 2 years with a 15% increase in pay. The hours are better (average 45-50 hours a week rather than 60 or so with more consistency), but the new job is less flexible (i.e. less vacation). Would you jump ship?

DWB: SouthernCPA brought up an important aspect that I overlooked – non-financial perks like benefits and – in this case – vacation days. Public accounting firms are generous with vacation days because they know many of you will have stretches of non-chargeability. Private industry average two to four weeks. But like in Southern’s case, a 30% bump in salary more than offset the vacation day situation. And remember what I mentioned above – benefits. Find me a hedge fund that doesn’t completely pay for or greatly subsidize health benefits and I’ll take you to lunch (no, really). This is savings that offers both more money in your wallet and peace of mind.

From Guest:

I would also agree with Southern CPA to the extent that it depends on the experience gained in industry vs public accounting as well as the bump experienced by leaving at a senior vs a manager level. However, there are also other factors that should be considered as well such as the ability to find a job at different levels (senior vs manager). While few talk about it within the big 4, I have personally watched over-specialization as well as too much public experience become an issue when searching for jobs, particularly for individuals at a manager/senior manager level.

DWB: This is the precise situation I wanted to hit home. Sorry, Jeff. Tanya is by far the more qualified candidate. And here’s why:

• Tanya has an ideal mix of public and private experience – assuming the private role is not a demotion – she can hit the ground running at the next level. She understands her respective industry from both the public and private side. She can come on board at the next role (most likely a promotion) with an easier transition than Jeff.

• Jeff spent two years managing – budgets, staff, expectations. Very little of this matters. One could argue that senior staff members are the real managers of engagement teams anyway, as they are forced to handle the demands of staff, partners, and managers. The longer you’re a manager, the longer you’re away from the nitty gritty hands-on work.

• Audit is reviewing other people’s work. Tanya has two years of doing.

• Tanya will require a slightly higher salary, but oftentimes the private/public mix of experience is worth the cost. The more technical the role, the more private experience that will be required.

Please, leave your comments below. Let’s hug talk it out.

Is Staying in Public Accounting Until Making Manager Worth It?

You should stay until you at least make manager.

How many times have you heard those words? Whether in a partner’s office or at the bottom of a happy hour drink, it also seems as though your best interests are being put first. But really, is that the case?

Before the comments state “every market is different, how dare you make a generalization,” guess what? I’m going to generalize. Sorry, but unless a 2nd year senior in St. Louis emails me with market data, I have no data to base an opinion on. I write about what I know, and what I know is financial services. Kapeesh?


(Send me info…please).

Let’s compare the career paths of two auditors, Jeff and Tanya. Both started at the same time and are now 2nd year senior associates, entering into that dark year before potential promotion to manager (notwithstanding personal performance or economic indicators, of course).

Both had “the talk” with leadership about their respective careers and receive the you should stay to make manager conversation. Jeff decides to stay and put in at least another year to receive the promotion, but Tanya decides to enter into the private industry. Fast forward a few years:

Tanya, 2006 college graduate, CPA

Fall 2010: Four years of public accounting experience

Fall 2010: Lands job in private industry

Fall 2011: In private industry

Fall 2012: Still in private industry, wants a new job

Jeff, 2006 college graduate, CPA

Fall 2010: Four years of public accounting experience

Fall 2010: Stays in public accounting

Fall 2011: Stays in public accounting, promoted to manager

Fall 2012: Still in public accounting, wants a new job

Make the following assumptions:

• Tanya received a market-rate bump in pay when she left public (10-15%).
• Tanya stayed in the “typical” career path with someone with her experience (i.e. she didn’t leave financial services audit to work for Teach for America).
• Tanya did not receive a promotion while in private (although possible).
• Jeff stayed for a year after making be promoted because he bought into the “you need to stay one year after making manager” mantra.

Now, who do you think is the more attractive candidate for a job in private for someone with six years of financial services experience? Discuss below. My opinion and follow up will kick off Monday’s blog post.

If you’re reading this from the (un)comfort of your desk, please let me know why in the world you’re not doing one of the following:

a. Drinking with interns
b. Drinking with strangers at a crowded World Cup bar
c. Instituting your own summer hours and – yup, you guessed it – drinking

Cheers to your weekend and the World Cup team of your choice.

Public Accounting Casting Call – Summer Intern Edition!

Summer interns are en route to an office near you; either already on board or on their way this week, sporting their early summer tans. Just in time for the work load to shrivel up to next to nothing and summer hours to be instituted – gotta love the timing! But nonetheless summer intern season is a wonderful time of year, and I want to make sure GC helps celebrate the summer.

Today’s post is a cry for help on two different levels (has my job really come to the point of groveling?). Here’s the scoop:


Summer Interns

What’s the concept?: The main drive behind this blog is to provide insider information on the public accounting industry to those who work in the trenches every day. What better way to do that than by listening to you, the summer intern? Your senior manager might ignore you all summer, but we won’t.

What we’re looking for: Summer interns at public accounting firms (Big 4, mid-size, anyone is welcome) to contribute short, bi-weekly write-ups about your summer experiences. We’re not looking for firm bashing information or juicy details about co-ed hookups but hey, if you have dirt, we’re always here to listen. Write-ups should touch on your experiences, both firm related on your respective engagement teams.

How to get involved: Email me here and include the following information:
Name:
Firm and Location:
Dates of internship:
Best email to contact you on:
*See my note below about confidentiality

Advice for Summer Interns

What’s the concept?: I’m in the process of putting together a “guide” for summer interns. What do they need to know before starting at your firm? What industries should they avoid or gravitate towards? How should they handle being snagged into a drunken conversation with a partner about his three kids and pending soccer tournament? Most of you here have not only worked with/ hated on interns before, but you were one at one point in your career as well.

What we’re looking for: Share your advice or your stories of interns past. The dirt. Everything. From serious career advice to informal tongue-in-cheek statements, nothing is off limits.

How to get involved: Email me feedback and include your firm’s name and office location. Feel free to leave stories below in the comments.

*Please note: As a member of the public accounting industry myself I understand the importance of confidentiality when it comes to something like this project, and I understand the concern that I might release names either publicly or to the respective firms. Simply put, I will never do such a thing. The success of this website rises and falls with the trust of our readers. No one would ever take action to hurt our relationship with you, the readers. Please have faith in us as I ask for your participation. Any feedback or comments are assumed to be private.

That said, I look forward to your feedback. Cheers and Happy Moanday.

The Big 4 vs. Private Sector – Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda?

Happy MoanDay Tuesday, everyone.

Last week’s post about Big 4 firms lowering the bar on starting salaries in order to project artificial pay raises was well discussed in the comments section. Thank you to everyone who commented, as that’s what makes this online community vocally vibrant and a joy to be a part of.

Part of the conversation included a debate about whether it is better to begin a career in accounting with a Big 4 firm or in the private sector; two very different career paths. The question is a legitimate case of shoulda coulda woulda. The following are a few comments from the peanut gallery:


Guest said, “Even though I was offered $55k + $5k bonus out of college for a Big 4, I was VERY close to not accepting the offer and instead going with a private firm that was $60k starting and normal hours. The only reason I went to the Big 4 was because I fell for the trap of ‘the name recognition.’ If I could go back in time, I would have chosen the private firm.”

• Another Guest crunched the numbers, “In a Big 4, you’re overworked about 20-25% more than the private sector (if not, then more). Say a Big 4 offers you $55k starting. Your “REAL” salary relative to your peers would in fact be $55,000 / 1.25 = $44k. If you lower it to $50k for a first year, that equates to a real salary of $40k.”

• Finally, 2nd Year Associate chimed in with, “Plenty of my college pals are making upwards of $10k more than I am a year and they don’t even have their CPAs. I joined public accounting to get ahead over the next 5 to 10 years but if my pay was any less I’d have skipped this route completely.”

I think it all depends on where your career is at. If you graduated in 2007 or 2008, you might be less thrilled to be on the public accounting career. The double digit percentage raises for everyone on the team that were fiercely promoted by the Big 4 campus recruiting machines have yet to materialize for you, and now you find yourself lumped into the “just happy to have a job” group. Your classmates that went the private route have been cruising on decent pay and 45 hour work weeks. Nothing good to see here; move along.

If you’re 4-8 years into your career, you’re obviously in a different place. You’ve experienced the 15% raise, climbed the corporate shuffleboard to senior staff or manager, and utilize the phrase, “when I first started here…” all too often. You’ve earned your stripes after a number of busy seasons; your desire for a new job is to be better respected by your superiors. Pay isn’t everything, but it’s important.

Throughout all of this, you’ve benefited from the resources of working at a large firm (no, I’m not talking about free dinners). The training programs have been extensive, your CPA license is paid for, and you’ve been enjoying as much of your five weeks of vacation as the firm allowed you to take. And what about having the name on your resume? Having a pedigree firm on your resume can oftentimes land you the interview; earning the pay day is up to you.

So why did you enter into public accounting? Was it because the Big 4 had a strong presence on your campus? Were private companies not offering enough? Would you change anything about your career path to this point? Leave your thoughts below.

A Freakishly Good Memory Isn’t Necessary to Succeed in Public Accounting

“I know that some people might not have the same kind of memory that I have, but if you have enough passion about wanting to help people and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll go very far in the world of public accounting.”

~ Steven M. Braunstein, President of Snyder Cohn

Three Things You Need to Remember Now That You’re Promoted

Weekends worked: check. CPA passed: (hopefully) check. Blood, sweat, and tears: check, check, annnnd check.

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off – you’re a newly crowned senior associate or manager. The question is, though: are you ready?


Both promotions<into unpopular clubs. After all, it’s no secret that senior staff members are in a very difficult position. There are budgets to learn, manage, and finagle. Speaking of managing, there’s the staff below and the managers and partners above. Senior staff members may be at the crossroads of the team, but new managers are now forced to the bottom rung of the upper ladder. The track to partner is narrowing down to the final few years; if you thought things were political before being manager, you need to wake up and smell the shifty maneuvering. Here are some tips to help with your newly acquired responsibility: 1. Remember where you came from – This is very much one of those “easier said than done” situations:

Seniors: Chances are you were once a clueless intern, hungry to learn about the fascinating world of public accounting. Sure, interns are overpaid and carry a sense of entitlement – but do you remember what it was like to earn that first intern paycheck?! You bought drinks for all of your Marketing major friends the following semester. And come on – you were definitely a first year, balancing life in a new town, your first “real” job, and moody bosses as old as your parents.

Managers: Simply put, you worked for some awful managers in your day. Remember the nightmares and learn from them. Don’t. Be. One. Of. Those. Managers. Respect your staff; value your senior-in-charge. They keep the wheels turning, after all.

The point I’m trying to hit home is that it is important to remember what your subordinates are going through. This will help you better manage their expectations and mold them into a reliable and loyal workforce. Organize a happy hour or weekday evening event and learn about their interests outside of work. The more you know, the better you can manage expectations, the more your staff will respect you, and the easier your job of handholding will be.

2. Build off your mentor’s lessons – We all have mentors that we look up to. Make an effort to realize what it is about their mentorship that you admire. Embrace those traits, make them your own, and build off of them. Constant improvement should be a daily challenge; a challenge that you accept head on. Seek out feedback from your mentees and staff members. Constant improvement – make it your purpose.

3. This is what you signed up for – There’s not getting around the fact that you’re stepping into a more demanding role in the firm:

Seniors: Managers will expect you to stretch a dime of budget time into a twenty dollar bill. Clients will be up your back and first years will want to know where the bathroom is located. Fact of the matter is this role will really test your personal ambitions of a career in public accounting. But that’s the point, right?

Managers: You’ve reached a very critical plateau in the firm’s hierarchy. Question leadership and thought processes. Get involved with your firm’s committees and organizations. But above all else, set an example for your staff members to respect. People work harder for those that they respect. Earn your staff’s respect.

Daniel Braddock is a former Big 4 human resources professional and auditor. You can read more of his posts for Going Concern here.

Three Signs That It Might Be Time to Get Out of Public Accounting

Busy season is rounding the corner and, if you look carefully, you might be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Squint. No I swear, it’s there.

My posts this week will shift from social media to the potential job market. As a public accountant, you should always be cognizant of the fact that you have the ability to continuously develop your strengths and mold your career path. Want to pursue of a career in hedge funds? Network within your firm to be staffed on the right engagements. Need to add tax experience to your resume? Seek out a rotation.


Here are three signs that you should get you thinking about exploring your options.

1. You’ve got your CPA – This might go without saying, but many people enter the public accounting industry with the “two years and done” mentality. Pass the CPA, earn some experience stripes, and get the *$@% out. There’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t expect to $100K jobs to be jumping into your lap. The average salary bump for younger staff from public to the private sector can range from 5-10%, usually topping out around 15%. If this isn’t enough of a bump to seriously consider a private job, don’t lose sight of the quality of life improvement a new job can bring. No, not the smoke and mirrors your firm is promising you. The real deal.

2. Someone you know is interviewing – Believe it or not, the job market is actually improving. The hiring freezes on many financial firms is now limited largely to supporting roles (i.e. HR folks like myself). Hedge and private equity funds are picking up their hiring as the markets begin to thaw. Recruiters are not wasting their time with interviewing individuals for the sole purpose of interviewing. So take note next time your senior staff member has three doctor appointments in a week; perhaps you should be “coming down with a nasty bug,” too.

3. Recruiters call – and you listen – Speaking about recruiters, be prepared for an onslaught of calls. Their timing is no coincidence. The private sector has been shuffling around over the last few months (remember when your client contact suddenly went MIA?), and as the cycle goes, the newly opened private jobs will inevitably be filled by auditors and tax accountants from public. Listen to the cold, scripted calls; be open to a pay increase and better work hours; reclaim your weekends. It can’t hurt to listen to the (substantiated) claims that you’re undervalued in today’s market.

Newsflash: you are grossly undervalued.

Moss Adams Values ‘A Balanced Life’ over ‘Accountability’

Thumbnail image for work life.jpgIt’s pretty much a given that all “serious” accounting firms have “values” that they pitch to their rank and file and other interested parties.

Rumor has it that Moss Adams has recently changed the ‘A’ in their PILLAR of values from “Accountability” to “A Balanced Life”. This may or may not be a completely arbitrary change but it does put the firm out there as a work/life horn-blower.
While we applaud the attempt of accounting firms to provide a balanced life, it is certainly a debatable reality. Besides, shouldn’t a public accounting firm be accountable before it provides a balanced life? Many will make the argument that if you don’t want to work overtime for very little gratitude you should GTFO of public accounting. Can’t say we disagree.
While the thought of accounting firms having actual values is nice, sometimes brutal honesty would be really refreshing. One would think that smaller firms would have the luxury of leveling with their employees about what the culture is like.

However, judging by the switcheroo by MA, they like to do the work/life song and dance just like the big boys.

If anyone from the Moss Adams family would care to chime in on the latest switch in values, please do so. Also, for those of you at the other smaller-ish firms, let us know about your firm’s open commitment to balanced life (or lack thereof). If you work at a big firm, just complain away about your work/life balance.