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Big 4-Bound Associate Needs Rainmaking Tips

Welcome to the we’ve-already-checked-out-for-the-week edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4-bound associate is looking for some rainmaking opportunities as a young up-and-comer. Is this typical young grasshopper idealism or can this young man be helped?

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Returning to the rain dancer:

I start with a Big 4 firm in January. I have no public accounting experience (not really counting 2 internships I had 3 years ago). I have gotten lots of advice/tips from people in the last few weeks concering advancement. “You have to be a rainmaker” to move up.

I’ve read articles (some on Going Concern) about making sure you can show your value to your employer when negotiating raises/advancement. My questions are: how can a first year staff member begin to take steps to developing their value in a firm? What can a first year do to begin to develop “rainmaking” qualities? Is it even possible to be a rainmaker so early in a career?

I imagine networking, volunteering, and getting involved are all things that I’d normally hear regarding this topic. But I’m wondering if you have any more tangible, practical advice.

Dear Rain Dancer,

Not sure why you assume “networking, volunteering and getting involved” aren’t “tangible” but those all seem like a good places to start. As for “practical,” your firm will probably give you plenty of opportunities for all of these, so again, not sure why those options strike you as inconvenient or unrealistic.

That being said, we’ll elaborate a little bit. For starters, this “rainmaker” talk is bullshit for someone in your position. Whoever is telling you this is giving you clichéd buzztalk that is frankly, useless. Advancement, at this point in your career is more about making the most of opportunities that are presented to you (networking, community involvement are good examples).

Furthermore, you’re correct to assume that it’s pretty difficult for a new associate to walk in and bring in a slew of new business. It’s a partner’s job to find new business, not yours. You can’t become the next Piet Klynveld without knowing what a tickmark legend is, now can you?

However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from looking for opportunities to build relationships with the professionals around you. Keep your eyes and ears open and build your network. You never know who will become a decision-maker and if you happen to have a good relationship with said decision-maker, you could land your firm some new business down the road.

Same goes for volunteering. If you’re helping in the community, you’re likely to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, so this is another opportunity build your network that will allow you to shower your firm in cash in the future.

Do you honestly think you’ll can cold-call every business in town and charm them over the phone into accepting your business? Even if you did have them doing back flips on the other line, they’ll strike the deal with a partner at the firm, not you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a nice little bonus for making the introduction and while that shows initiative that hardly makes you a “rainmaker.”

At this stage in your career, being involved in social activities at your firm, building relationships with clients and co-workers and having a good attitude will help you advance. Oh, and it helps if you know something about your given line of business (audit, tax, advisory).

Building those relationships (and being of capable intelligence) will give you the chance to bring some business to your firm. Then you can get all Pacman Jones on everybody.