September 26, 2020

Ask GC: Is It OK to Renege on a Previously Accepted Offer For an Offer From a Bigger Firm?

Back in the day, advice emails were our bread and butter. Well, more like my esteemed former colleague Caleb Newquist’s bread and butter. He loved cranking them out while I really had to be in the right mood otherwise I’d end up telling some poor intern to go fuck themselves just because I could. The good news is I’ve mellowed out in my old age.

I digress. These days we don’t get as many “Dear Going Concern Team” emails as we used to, which is fine as it’s a sign the younger generation has gotten better at Googling than their millennial counterparts and/or are just better at pretending like they don’t have any problems and going whichever way the wind blows. Yeah, that must be it. Anyway, we do get them from time to time, and sometimes the issue is so specific that we simply can’t direct them to a post buried in our 11 years of archives which surely answered their inquiry already. Like this guy who recently reached out to the dusty GC brain trust:

Going Concern team,

I hope this email finds you all well.

Some time ago, I read an article in which one of you shared your experience regarding passing up an opportunity due to a sense of loyalty to your employer. The situation I find myself in is different in a lot of aspects, however it still revolves around looking after my own interests. I will try to summarize it as best I can, but I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

I’m pretty sure the article he’s referring to is one of mine and my employer was the company that owned this website at the time. As the story goes, this was back in our heyday when GC was the go-to watercooler of the profession, the trolls were alive and occasionally funny in the comment section, and no one had even thought of making Fishbowl yet. I was offered another position at a different, more progressive media company that would have meant far less work, way more money, and — possibly the best benefit — I wouldn’t have to deal with unfunny assholes trolling the comment section. Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I declined out of a twisted sense of loyalty to Going Concern, to what we’d built over all these years, to the blood, sweat, tears, and alcohol I’d invested since its inception to make it what it was. They fired me less than a year later without any severance, citing poor revenue which wasn’t even my damn department. Technically I was laid off but I like to say fired because it makes my loyalty seem that much more stupid when I tell this story. So there, you’re caught up. Getting back to the question …

I will first outline all involved parties in order to make this story less confusing:

Me – Confused fourth-year who prides himself in having a strong sense of loyalty which has caused me a fair share of trouble in the past.

Firm A – National firm with which I did a summer internship. They have not extended a full-time offer, but based on what the partner said, there is a strong chance they will.

Firm B – Niche-focused regional firm with which I did a busy season internship. They extended an offer which I have already accepted.

To make this story as short as possible, I was not feeling very confident about the quality of my work at the beginning of my summer internship, so out of fear that I would not receive an offer from Firm A, I accepted Firm B’s offer. The only gave me a short window to respond and said window would have ended before Firm A extended offers. Fast-forward several weeks, on one hand, I accepted an offer with a regional firm with a great team with which I get along great. On the other hand, Firm A offers an exponentially higher amount of growth opportunity and earning potential, both of which are very appealing. The only deterrent to going back on my previously accepted offer in order to accept a potential offer from Firm A is the fear of letting them down and the guilt associated with it, which possibly only exists in my head.

Are there any other factors I should consider? Am I ludicrous for even considering going back on a previously accepted offer?

I do not want to draw this out any longer. I sincerely appreciate your time if you have read this far and look forward to reading your thoughts and advice.

You asked: Am I ludicrous for even considering going back on a previously accepted offer? Uh no. Let me get one thing out of the way first: you’re allowed to change your mind. The firm is used to it, it happens all the time. So if that’s the route you take, be as professional as possible and avoid going into some long, personal manifesto about why you’ve done so. Remember that public accounting is a small world, and when burning bridges you want to do so gently, not the way Confederate soldiers did to the city of Richmond in April 3, 1865.

Now, to the bigger issue. You cannot “let Firm B down” because Firm B is not a person and doesn’t have feelings. Did you ever watch The Americans? There’s a scene — season 4, I believe — in which Agents Aderholt and Beeman are discussing a FBI memo reminding them that they shouldn’t say “the FBI feels” to reporters because “the FBI does not feel.” Something like that, you get the point. Even if you have what feels like a close personal relationship with a recruiter, if you tell them thanks but no thanks I assure you they will have forgotten you by happy hour that same night.

The only time “loyalty” or some form of it should be considered is when you’re established at a firm and have your team to consider. The firm doesn’t give a shit if you jump ship, but if you leave your team stranded because you didn’t stick it out like they are, well, then you’re kind of an asshole and will be considered as such. But that doesn’t apply here so don’t worry about that.

It sounds like you have some confidence issues as well as the aforementioned loyalty problem, making you an asset at any team from the perspective of a public accounting firm seeking to drown you in work and ring you out like a sweaty gym sock. Although you hear a lot of people complaining about the work itself, you never actually hear someone say “you know, I really regret having a large firm on my resume.” So there’s that to consider.

If this were a dating column I would tell you “don’t date potential,” meaning don’t shack up with some loser who might some day get promoted at the Burger King and stop wasting their life perfecting their 360 noscopes. But it isn’t, and your future opportunities and earning potential are definitely something to keep in mind. Trust me when I say this as a now old person, that’s really all you’ve got. What’s that they say? It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

On the other hand, shit’s rough out there right now. You know, that whole Rona situation and what-not. So you also have the what ifs to consider: namely the fact that one firm extended you an offer and the other didn’t. A partner telling you “there is a strong chance” is worth as much as a fart in the wind if you bank your future on something that doesn’t technically exist, especially in the current environment. But if they do give you an offer? I say go for it if the national firm is what you want, which it sounds like it is otherwise you wouldn’t be second-guessing your decision. A decision which, let’s be honest, it sounds like you were kind of pressured into making.

TL;DR fuck that firm and do you, boo. Trust me, the firm is always looking out for itself first and foremost no matter what any hottie at Meet the Firms tells you.

I leave the peanut gallery to dispense their own opinions below. Good luck and check in to let us know how it goes.

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