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October 4, 2023


Will One Bad Class Spell Doom for a Big 4 Recruit?

Today's blog post is brought to you by a worrisome soon-to-be-grad. Hi GC, I already accepted an offer from one of the Big 4 firms. When I did, my GPA was very solid. However, I took a class last semester with a professor that has the highest drop rates and the lowest grade average given […]

Public Accounting New Hire Fears That Application Fib Will Jinx The Big Job

Greetings, GC'ers.  Damn, it feels good to be back after a minor hiatus. Let's get to it, shall we? Subject: Big 4 Dilemma First off, I want to thank Going Concern for all of the public accounting insight. Now on to my dilemma. Last fall I accepted a full-time audit position with of one of […]

A Young Accountant’s Beard Makes for a Hairy Career Situation

Today's advice column started off with the subject "Accountants with beards." My first thought was "damnnnn that'd make a great Tumblr," one that could rival the creeps at Messages from Match and the political poignancy of Kim Jong-un Looking at Things. WE COULD TAKE OVER THE WORLD. But…then I continued reading.  Wait. This is about an otherwise qualified […]

What Would You Do If Your Boss Quit Tomorrow to Join a Big 4 Firm?

Ed. note: Looking for above average advice from some snide, know-it-all hipster doofi? Take a number by emailing your problems to [email protected] and, if you're lucky, your position in the queue will still be in triple digits! Hi GC, I am going into my 7th busy season at a mid-tier ("MT") (2nd as a manger) […]

SHOCKING: That Rockin’ PwC Wall Street Journal Ad Cost A Few Benjamins

Happy Friday folks. Hopefully you're reading this from one of three places: 1. Your Couch2. Gate 23 on your way to St. Louis3. The Bar – any bar. But regardless of where you are today, we just know your holiday weekend wouldn't be complete without knowing how much cash money The Powers That Be at […]

Awkward Sexual Advances And Your Drinking Problems – A Holiday Guide from Rothstein Kass

Hopefully this week is light for you and your cohorts, giving you some time to clean up your inboxes, hide frat party photos from your new Facebook Timeline, or finish up last minute holiday shopping. Here at GC we are already feeling the holiday hangover so luckily the email and “official” attachment below provided us with a good ol’ fashioned “WTF.”

Your Friday Completely Out Of Context PowerPoint Slide Is Brought To You By Deloitte

After our post on PwC’s credibility crisis we received a number of emails regarding the other firms’ initiatives and programs (keep the hacked love coming). We started breaking it all down for your enjoyment but stopped dead in our tracks when we came across the following slide: Deloitte – Women PantsIt was from a 2010 […]

PwC Thinks All the Ladies (Single or Not) Need to Find Themselves Some Credibility

Yesterday we touched on E&Y and Deloitte's breakthrough discovery that women are underrepresented in leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies. WELL. PwC thinks its entire female workforce needs to establish some damn credibility before it's too late.  Hi Daniel,Just read your post regarding Avon's CEO being ousted and Deloitte and E&Y's reaction. I wanted to share with […]

E&Y and Deloitte Are Here to Remind You That Women Are Grossly Underrepresented in the Old Boys’ Club

You might have read this morning that Avon's CEO Andrea Jung is being forced out. Okay, so MAYBE earnings are down more than 42% on the year. And suuuuure, the SEC is investigating the door-to-door crew for “bribing foreign officials and improperly disclosing information to Wall Street analysts.” But forget the investment story here. This is a […]

Government Do-gooder Contemplates a Dream Job in Public Accounting

Need some advice? Email the GC team with your burning questions. Just be warned – our advice might rain on your parade. Dear GC, I am on my 6th month with a Government Audit team and got an offer to join one of the Big4. The job is of the same nature and the pay […]

Here Are Some Ideas for Surviving the Upcoming Busy Season

It's that time of year again, folks. Holiday parties are wrapping up. Some of you are trying to squeeze every drop of water out of the CPA stone. And from the chatter we've been hearing, this busy season could be one of the hardest in years. Chalk this up to the fact that voluntary turnover shot […]

Engineer Curious to Know if an Advisory Role with PwC or Deloitte Would Be a Good Opportunity

Ed. note: Looking for career guidance from a couple of Big 4 expats or our resident permanently ink-stained wench? Email us at [email protected].


I have become an avid reader of your website and need your help regarding an opportunity. I have an engineering background and 5 years of experience in the heavy construction industry specifically oil & gas. In hopes to moving on to something different and possibly working as a consultant I have got a chance to work at PWC and Deloitte in a senior associate advisory role. I do know that these companies are primarily in audit but the sales pitch they gave me was that they were trying to build the Capital Projects Advisory division. Do you all think it is good opportunity?

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

Dear Chugs,

As a self-proclaimed avid reader, I hope you caught the post I did in June about the engineering consultant in a similar situation as yours. Check it out for feedback focused on what to do once you start at your new gig in a Big 4’s advisory practice.

That said, you’re asking if the chance to work at the #1 or #2 public accounting firms in the world are “good” opportunities. I follow up your question with one of my own:

If working for #1 or #2 is not a good opportunity, what more are you looking for?

So yes, they are great opportunities to jump start your career into the “consulting” slash advisory biz. Sure, they crank out audits and tax returns, but those are very different revenue generating streams than their advisory practices. To put things in more engineering terms – wary of working in the advisory group of PwC or DT because they perform assurance services is like turning down an aerospace engineering job at GE because they also make light bulbs.

Assuming the offer details are similar, look at each firm’s Capital Projects practices. Which group is more established? Have they made other external hires recently? What is each group’s current market share/focus, and what are long term plans?

Good luck with whichever role you pursue, and welcome to the Big 4 community.


Big 4 Wanna-Be with Displaced Apostrophe Disorder Wants to Make the Jump From a Regional Firm

Ed. note: Welcome to the final edition of Decide My Life For Me for this week. Thanks to all of you for keeping the shenanigans to a minimum while I attempted to fill Caleb’s comically large shoes (come on ladies, you know what they say about a man with big feet…) as editor this week. I will still be running the show for the first half of next week so if you have a question for me, DWB, Caleb or the homeless guy I let be my “Associate Editor” in exchange for cigarettes and half-eaten sandwiches, get in touch. Have a great weekend.

Dear Going Concern,

I am a third year auditor at a regional accounting firm. I was recently contacted by one of the Big 4 and decided to interview with them. Two days later, they called and gave me an offer. I told them I would think about it and get back to them. Well, here is my dilemma. I am very well respected at my firm and was awarded a mid-year bump in salary due to my outstanding performance. The partner’s [sic] at the regional firm tell me that I have a great future at the firm. However, it has always been my goal to work for the Big 4 and I finally have my opportunity. As far as compensation goes, the Big 4 company is bringing me in at roughly $7k more than I make now. The question is, should I continue to work for the regional firm where I know I have potential and respect, or should I go into the light and work for the Big 4?

Dazed and Confused

Dear D&C,
Here’s a baseball story for you.

Essentially, you’ve been playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past three years. You have a small (but dedicated!) fan base, a decent stadium, and food court options that – depending on the season – are the reason fans even come to games. Your coaches are “good, not great,” which is basically a phrase that can be used to describe most aspects of your team. It’s a good job, you can pay your bills, and generally enjoy coming to work every day.

But you just interviewed with the in-state Philadelphia Phillies. League dominators, more fans, more national exposure, higher-caliber players, and oh yeah, a big bump in pay. Your coaches in Steel Country are all telling you that you have a bright future there, but you don’t have to look at the last 20 years of business to realize it doesn’t compare to the past five in Philly. Of course you have potential and respect in Pittsburgh, and sure, your teammates might verbally crap on the fan base in Philly (who doesn’t, amiright?), but come on – why wouldn’t you move?

Back to reality: better clients, better pay, better opportunities, bigger network, more resources.

You can always return to Pittsburgh.

Corporate Accountant With a Broken Shift Key Seeks New Career

(Only until Caleb stops hitting on hot Polish girls) Ed. note: if you have a career question for our team of accounting drop-outs plus the one loser who never took the CPA exam, get in touch.

I am a young professional, I have an undegrad [sic] degree in finance and am finishing a masters in accounting. I’ve worked for 2.5 years in corporate accounting and 3 years in accounting/finance for a university. I have no public accounting experience. I want to gain a role in transaction advisory or the like.

I was recently offered a job with a small/mid size public firm in a Senior Associate role for their transactions group. The offer is 60k. should i jump at this offer, am i lucky to get a senior role? Should i hold out for a public firm in an associate role?

Can i make the jump from the midsize firm as a senior to a big 4 as a senior in a few years?

[Name redacted for privacy reasons. Let’s call him Barnabus]

I’m going to keep this short because the financial world might come to an end before I reach the fourth paragraph.

I suggest you heed the Blacksmith’s advice and strike while the iron is hot.

The transaction advisory groups across the public accounting spectrum are heating back up from their frigid days of ’08 and ’09, with hiring numbers up for both the experienced and entry-level channels. Although your degrees will serve you well in your career, your 5.5 years of experience don’t bring much relevant experience to the table. Would it be nice to wait and see if you can land a transaction advisory role at a Big4? Sure. But with the market down 200 300 400 OMFG 500 POINTS TODAY, unemployment spreading like viral Bieber videos, and the economy stuck in park with four blown out tires and an elephant sitting on its trunk, you take the open door and thank your lucky #*&@ing stars your particular iron is hot. You have an opportunity to make a move right now in your career that will put your career on the track you want.

How Does an Overachiever Stand Out From Other Overachievers During Big 4 Recruiting Season?

Ed. note: Got a question for Dan Braddock or anyone else on the GC advice team? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll get to your query in due time.

Dear Going Concern,

I am currently a sophomore in college and am interested in a Big 4 internship (Chicago) for the summer of 2012. This means that I will be
involved in the heavy recruiting season this coming fall. I have a 4.0 GPA, am on my way to becoming Executive VP of Beta Alpha Psi, am a member of the Accounting Club, and have done some volunteer work. Any tips on how to stand out from the sea of other students just like me? Should I do anything else before recruiting season besides networking? Any advice would be appreciatedver

Big 4 Lover,

Glad to see that GC has some young people in the audience. Take what you read here with a grain of salt and shot of tequila – adulthood makes people cranky, not just public accounting.

Be cognizant of the fact that there are two versions of you that every recruiter sees: the version of you on paper and the version of you in real life. Either version can make or break your candidacy. Let’s break it down:

You on paper: At first read, the “résumé” you describe seems just fine – you’re maintaining strong grades while being involved in extracurricular activities outside of the classroom, even holding a leadership position. I wonder if your “volunteer experience” was only due to the Beta Alpha Psi volunteer requirement or if you do it on your own; either way, this is minor and I’m nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. Any Big 4 recruiter will have your résumé sitting in their “yes” pile going into the fall recruiting season.

However, your résumé is strong on the “I am just trying to land an internship at a Big 4 firm.” What are your interests outside the realm of debits and credits? Unless you are a living, breathing calculator, I’d like to think that you have hobbies other than what is described above (this is assuming you did not leave any experiences out when describing your background above). I encourage you to diversify your experiences in college – not just for the sake of your résumé but for the sanity as well. VP of the Wiffle Ball Club? Great. Part of the campus sewing circle? Fantastic. Genuine, non-accounting extracurriculars will not only enrich your life but they’ll be great conversation starters when you begin meeting with recruiters and Big 4 professionals on campus.

You in real life: As you mentioned, you’ll be in the thick of the recruiting process this fall. Being that you’re only a sophomore (and probably on the 5 year track due to Illinois requiring 150 credits for the CPA), you’ll be interviewing for the “leadership” programs at the Big 4. These lead to internships which lead to job offers which lead to high-fives and back slaps for everyone. Here’s what you need to do when you meet the firms:

Do not regurgitate your resume – let your strong résumé speak for itself. No one likes a bragger, not even your mother.

Do not be too transparent – 99.99997% of Beta Alpha Psi members join the society because it looks good on a résumé. DO NOT TELL THE RECRUITER THAT. Unless you want to come across as an internship-chasing fool, then by all means go ahead and say so.

Do not suck up – There is a subtle difference between saying, “I’m only a sophomore, but I have heard positive things about your firm from my professors and older classmates and I’m hoping to learn more,” and “OMFG your company is so cool!!!”

Be yourself – you are more than accounting. The best people you’ll ever work with in the industry will also be much, much more than debits and credits.

Big 4 Senior Associate with ‘Offers in Hand’ Wants to Ask for a Raise Without Sounding Like a Greedy Bastard

Ed. Note: Give DWB a warm welcome back to regular posting. If you’ve got a question for the advice column, email us at [email protected].

Good afternoon, everyone. Caleb must have tripped and knocked his sombrero-wearing-head last night, because he has invited me back for a weekly post. Regardless, I’m excited to be back. Let’s knock the rust off, shall we?

I am a 2nd year senior associate at a Big 4 firm. I like doing public accounting but am thinking that at my level and performance I am underpaid. I’ve several offers in hand but I do like what I am doing.

Now this does seem like a silly question – how do I go about asking for a raise without making it sound like that all I care about is money? In this economy…what are the chances that I am gonna get what I ask for?

Thanks a bunch!

You don’t specify whether your “several offers in hand” are for positions in the private sector or with other public accounting firms, so I’m going to address both.

Private sector – why are you interviewing with companies if you “like doing public accounting?” Turn these down.

Public accounting – you should be considering these offers if they are with another Big 4 firm. Do not go from Big 4 to mid-tier. Don’t have any offers with the other Big 4? See your own comments above and interview with the other firms. All four have problematic staffing issues this spring as the young guns continue to burn out. Sure, you’ll receive a nice little bump in pay when you transfer from one firm to another, but remember you’ll be down at the bottom of the networking food-chain.

Considering both the fact that you work at a Big 4 and it’s only a few months away from mid-summer raises and/or compensation restructuring, asking for a raise now will probably not lead to much. You work for an international firm responsible for more than 100,000 employees…you are one person. Granted, you are a second year Senior, which is one of the areas that all firms have a shortage at.

It also depends on your what practice line, your performance rankings and industry, as all of these factors play into how much leverage you will have. If you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall, your firm may toss you a $1,500 bone to keep you salivating for summer raises. If you’re more of the middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type it would not totally surprise me if you were not given a raise or even shown the door. It would take the length of an episode of “30 Rock” for the word to spread through your office that all it took to get a bump in pay was to claim you had an offer from another firm. Leadership isn’t stupid.

Regardless of where you stand when compared to your peers, be absolutely certain you’re comfortable taking one of the offers you have should the latter situation happen. Your best bet is to wait until summer raises come through. The other firms will still be hiring experience staff in September.

Future Big 4 Associate Needs Help Choosing Between Commuting Hell and a Happy Marriage

Ed. Note: DWB was sober long enough today to pen this post for the Friday edition of Accounting Career Couch. If you’ve got a question for us email us at [email protected]. We’ll dispense with further pleasantries and get right to it.

I just received three offers from two Big 4 firms in San Francisco (Deloitte and KPMG) for audit and one Big 4 firm for advisory internal audit in San Jose. I really like the idea of going into advisory but the problem is that I live in San Francisco and the advisory clients for this firm are all located around San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This would likely mean at least a one hour and 15 minute commute every day each way from SF to SJ and back againlients I would likely be working on from SF are all located within 20 minutes of my apartment in the city. Moving to San Jose is out of the question for me because my wife works in SF and I’m not ready for a divorce just yet. My question to you and Going Concern readers is should I take the advisory job despite the crazy commute or should I take one of the audit positions?

I’d still be very happy taking one of the audit positions but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the more consistent working hours of advisory internal audit didn’t appeal to me much more than audit (no insane busy season in advisory). Much of this benefit would be negated by my much longer commute though. Also, if I choose advisory I would be likely getting reimbursed $0 for my commute since the job is based out of the SJ office and I am based in SF. Although $0.50 a mile doesn’t sound like a lot, it really does add up to several thousand dollars in missed reimbursement expenses for such a long commute (assuming 80 miles a day in reimbursable driving). Also, the advisory position pay is slightly less to begin with (approximately $1,500 less) than my audit offers. Other considerations that I am thinking about are that many people from the Deloitte office (mostly associates) have said that the Deloitte SF office is understaffed. To me this means more opportunity for advancement but also more hours of work. Also, I feel that if I started in audit I could do two years of audit and if I didn’t like it then could jump ship to advisory in SF rather than having to start at advisory in SJ and beg to get a transfer to the SF advisory practice in a year or two. So what should I do? Should the lengthy and costly commute for advisory versus audit be a deal breaker? Will I struggle to break into advisory after two years in audit if I decide to make the switch?

Hopefully I’ve given enough info about my choices so that DWBraddock will stop complaining about us not saying enough in our requests for advice.

Kudos to you and your detailed email. Peons of the accounting world – take note [Ed. note: but there is something to be said for brevity. Yeesh.].

First off, my advice is from the “this is usually how it works” camp. Are there exceptions? Of course, and I’m sure that commenters will point them out.

Are you sure you will be reimbursed for every single mile that you travel? The HR policy is typically the net difference between your home to the office and your home to the client site. For example if you live 50 miles from the office and the client site is 53 miles from your home, you are reimbursed for the three mile difference. I strongly encourage you to consult HR before you go re-adjusting the all-in value of the advisory offer with thousands of dollars of mileage.

Now that I crushed your dream of banking $1,000’s, let’s discuss the audit vs. internal audit battle. You make a lot of assumptions in your email, but I think these bullets cover everything you discussed:

• Internal audit should not be looked at as a green-lighted pass to jump around the advisory practice. Many advisory roles are target recruited and are very specialized from a work capacity point of view. The name “advisory” doesn’t mean the roles are similar; it’s simply a nicer way of saying “everything that’s not audit and tax.”

• You will not be fast-tracked at Deloitte just because they’re short staffed. You will work your ass off.

• It’s easier to go from internal audit to external audit, not the other way around (the way you mentioned).

• Don’t think a transfer is a simple process. There has to be a need in the office you want to transfer to, and considering you’re contemplating and office and practice switch-a-roo in one swift motion…really? This is not a game – this is business and not everyone gets what they want.

• PS – I forwarded this to your wife. She said you’re sleeping on the couch for the next week.

Indecisive Econ/Accounting Major Needs Help Plotting the Next Move

Ed. note: I’ve been called to an emergency meeting in an undisclosed location, so here’s a guest post from your friendly human resources professional, DWB.

Caleb interrupted my weekly Wednesday tradition with the following reader submitted question:

I am an undergraduate at a pretty big school and recently decided I want a job when I graduate so I switched my major from History to Economics with the intent on minoring in Accounting (it is too late for me to officially major in Business Economics but I plan on taking all the relevant classes anyway).

I am entering my junior year this fall but right now, my accounting academic career puts me with about a freshman level of re my belt.

Normally, next summer would be the internship phase of a student’s life but I’m wondering if I should put off graduation by a quarter and/or go to grad school so that I might also push off my internship applying to a different summer when I have more than GC-provided gossip to offer a firm.

If I do this, are there Big 4 or mid-tier firms who would look at me for summer leadership programs (and other sophomore-oriented recruiting) or have I missed the boat on that?

I’d appreciate anything you have to say on the matter — snarky or otherwise.

Dear History Buff,

You wanted a job, so you decided to major in Economics. That statement is so conflicting I can’t tell whether it induced my headache or I simply need a third cup of coffee. The reason I say this is because I see my fair share of 3.95 GPA Econ majors from “pretty big” schools every day, and they’re desperate for work. Your accounting minor is a start but like you pointed out, it’s lacking in worthy experience. Your consideration of internships/grad school demonstrates that you’re looking beyond the remaining cup on the beer pong table and thinking about your future. Kudos.

I’m going to assume you’re considering a career in public accounting, because why else would you be on GC in the first place? You’re certainly not here for the chicks (“Chicks, man.”). If I am wrong on this assumption, follow up with me and we’ll discuss.

So, assuming the above, I suggest a few things:

1) Start talking to recruiters: They should be all over campus by this point in the semester. Make it known to them that you are pursuing a Masters in Accounting following your undergraduate degree. Ask questions about leadership programs and internships. Remember, the general timeline for Big 4 programs is leadership program two summers before graduation (for you – summer ’11); internship the summer before graduation (summer ’12).

2) Make it easy for the recruiters: Want to make a recruiter’s day easier and better position yourself in their pool of candidates? List all of your ongoing and anticipated education on your résumé, like this:

“Pretty Big School” – Anywhere, USA
• Masters in Accounting – XYZ School of Business Anticipated Graduation: May 2013

• Will be CPA eligible upon graduation

• Bachelor of Science – ABC School of Economics Anticipated Graduation: May 2012

• Economics major, Accounting minor Overall GPA: X.Y | Major GPA X.Y

Formatting your résumé in this fashion provides the reader with answers to key questions – what is this candidate majoring in; when are they done with their education and ready to work; what is their CPA eligibility.

3) Follow up: Your educational path is not the road heavily traveled by most students with dreams of Big 4. Keep yourself in the conversation with recruiters by occasionally updating them through your process. Tell them when your GPA improves after a strong semester, when you get into grad school, etc. Don’t expect a response right away but rest easy knowing that they’re updating their records. Sharing this information can be done formally over email or informally during a conversation with a recruiter while they’re on campus.

4) Talk to Career Services: Be sure you’re taking the right classes to become CPA eligible in the state where you want to be licensed. Nothing worse than taking a counselor’s word on Ballroom Dance 201 counting toward the 150 credit requirement.

Go forth…and one more piece of advice if you’re following college football: Stanford over Oregon this weekend. Do it.

Five Interview Questions You Should Be Ready For If You’re Looking to Switch Jobs

I received the following question last week from a GC reader:


I don’t know if this is up your professional line of expertise, but could you touch up questions that auditors should expect to get in an interview?
Happy Moanday,

Expert I am not, but I’ll do my best to help you all out.

Interview questions you should be ready for:

1. Why are you looking to leave your current situation?

DWB: Whatever you say, never speak poorly about your current situation. Many people make the transition from public to private; harp on the positives (great people/ great client exposure) but explain that you’re looking to transition into a good private situation.

2. Tell Me About Yourself

DWB: This is not an opportunity to rant and rave; no one cares that you were on the club water polo team in college. Provide a short, organized statement of your education; professional achievements and goals- describe your qualifications for the job and contributions you could make to the organization.

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

DWB: With questions like this, you need to be careful not to threaten your interviewer, as it is likely that they will be your immediate superior and the natural promotion for you in a few years. It’s in your best interest to speak about long term growth with the company. i.e. – “I’d like to position myself in a firm like (Name) where I can learn, grow and be challenged – If I work hard and do my part, then I’ll grow with the firm and my future will take care of itself.”

Your goal should be to make it clear you’re thinking about the company in a long term sense, but not so much that you’re a threat to your soon-to-be boss.

4. What are your strengths?

DWB: Similar to the previous question, this is an opportunity to self yourself to the company. No one wants to hires someone that plans to come in and shake things up (unless it’s part of the job description). Focus on your natural, daily tasks – Team Player, Quick Learner, Efficient, Organized. Convince your interviewer by providing a real world example.

5. What are your weaknesses?

DWB: Do you sleep in on Fridays? Do you smoke 14 times a day? Whatever your real weaknesses are, avoid sharing them at all costs. Focus on the more HR-friendly ones – Trouble Delegating Work- Take too much on for yourself, etc. I suggest providing an example of how you recognize the weakness and what youre currently doing to make the best of the situation.

Are Your Firm’s Happy Hours Overrated?

AccountingWeb’s UK site discussed a recent survey detailing the mixed emotions surrounding the typical work happy hour:

A new study entitled “Health of the Workplace” undertaken by insurance firm Aviva found that although nearly three out of five managers take staff to the pub for team building purposes, just over half of employees are not so keen on going out with their workmates and one in five actively dislike it.

The research also revealed that only 23% of bosses think that such socials create a positive sense of team spirit anyway, a third find them a bit of a drag and one in 10 feel obliged to attend to keep their staff happy.

We’ve all been there – out with “the team” to a half-assed planned happy hour finagled into that one Wednesday night between interim work and busy season. Or maybe it’s the Thursday-after-working-32-straight-days-up-to-the-filing-deadline party. Whatever the situation, I feel that many of you can relate to the rough statistics above.

I’m not saying that going out with coworkers is a bad idea, because it’s not. Interpersonal relationships with colleagues is an important factor in building trust and camaraderie on an engagement team. But if a bar scene is not the ideal environment for the group, what do you suggest?

The article continues on to say, “With budgets being tight, it might be better to spend the money on initiatives that benefit both employees and the company, for example, by providing `workplace wellness programmes.’” Big 4 firms have these initiatives already, and do you know who attends them? Certainly not the staff employees who are working from the client site!

With enough team planning, smaller engagements could work from the offices during these programs, but what about the larger, more permanent field sites? Why not have the “yoga at your desk” or “financial planning for your first child” programs visit the larger engagement sites? Book a conference room; make these events work free (no shop talk allowed); encourage people to interact with one another on a personal level.

Or we could all just sit at our desk and bitch about the mandatory Wednesday night happy hour.

(UPDATE) What Can We Learn From Yesterday’s Quitting Heroes?

While you were sitting at your desk yesterday doing whatever it is you do in August*, countless Americans quit their jobs. Due to the state of our barely-above-stagnant economy, it can be assumed that the majority of those who put in their two weeks actually had another job lined up in the wings.


Neither Steve “I always wanted to use the slide” Slater nor Jenny the Hot Piece of Ass assistant had a job to wake up to this morning yet their stories are the talk of your water cooler. Airport security and Internet privacy issues aside, it’s impossible to deny that Slater and Jenny both quit in style.

We have all been there: at the same job for two, five, ten, maybe twenty years and that moment – clear as the cloudless sky – happens that makes the tiny voice of reason insanity common sense scream I’ve HAD IT with this job.

What were your “I’ve had it!” moments? Have any of your colleagues or friends outside of public accounting ever gone down guns ‘blazing? Would you hire Jenny? Share your stories, tales, and opinions of the mystery passenger** who drove Slater nuts below in the comments.

* – No, seriously – help us out – what do you actually do in August? [Ed. Note: Tax peeps, forgive him, he knows not what he says]

** – Does anyone else want to hear from the moronic passenger that rose from their seat prior to the plane being gated? How shitty does that person feel? My guess is that they are too dense to realize they did anything wrong.

UPDATE: By now, you may or may not be aware that the entire Internet was duped by the “Jenny” quitting tale. We’re completely okay with this, mostly because it’s August and there really isn’t anything else going on.

Three Things to Remember Come Goal Setting Season

Final reviews are a thing of the past and – at least for some of you – so are the days of terrible raises. Things seem on the up and up at most firms. That said, focusing on FY2011 is crucial for your career. Hopefully the potential for raises will be consistent if not better than this year’s, and but you need to be thinking about everything now.

The typical HR mantra is, “your goals need to be realistic and attainable but should also stretch you to push yourself.”

Yes, finding the middle ground between cruisin’ down Easy Street and setting yourself up for failure is crucial. So, what are you supposed to do?

1. Firm recommended goals: Every firm supplies their employees with suggested goals, and I’ve always recommended that people should use these at a starting point. Why? Two reasons:

a. Your managers and partners know them. While going through performance management training, partners and managers receive the outline of sample goals as part of their training materials. HR says, “Look, these are the goals your staff members should be shooting for” and the room goes “Ahhhhhhhhh.” Using these goals will be familiar to your superiors as you begin the review process. However, it’s important to…

b. Customize the goals to be you As valuable as the sample goals can be as a template for you, it is important that you adjust them to focus on your unique ambitions. This is your opportunity to voice your needs, i.e. – involvement in planning the audit, volunteering at firm events, or getting involved with recruiting. Showing your commitment to the firm away from the day-to-day engagements is just as important as being committed to busy season.

And for the sake of everything holy – PROOFREAD. Passed your CPA this year? Remove all of the passing-the-CPA related questions. Missing details like this will make your superiors question the effort you put into the process; don’t give them that option.

2. Review last year’s goals: Roll-forward successful goals. Re-evaluate goals you didn’t reach or didn’t surpass to your satisfaction. Demonstrating and documenting continual improvement is key.

3. Speak with your mentor: If you were promoted this year, congratulations! Newsflash – you’re in for an incredibly difficult year. New senior staff members and managers are put through the wringer, and rightfully so. Senior management doesn’t like being wrong and weeding out misguided promotions early is important to their long-term planning. Seek out the guidance of at least one person who was in your situation the previous year. What would they have done differently? Did they overshoot on a particular area in their goals? What’s one thing they recommend including in your goal setting?

Still unsure of what you should do? Talk to your peers, flip a coin, or Google it. Whatever you do, don’t miss the submission deadline.

Unless – of course – you actually want to be blacklisted.

Three Pet Peeves to Avoid at Work

Happy MOANday, people. Back from the weekend and cranky to be here, today’s post is not supposed to come off as salty.

But it might. My (somewhat sincere) apologies.

Good intentions aside, our coworkers and their habits get to us; this should come as no surprise. It is inevitable – being surrounded by the same individuals for long periods of time – that we will not like everything about our coworkers. Listed below are few popular pet peeves that should be avoided:

Music – This is a catch-all for all aspects of music at work: listening to music without headphones; listening to music with both headphones; humming to your playlist; using red pencils as drum sticks and binders as snare drums. There are other people around. Grow up, Tommy Lee. Keep the air drumming restricted to your Rock Band parties.

Everything about food – Food in the fridge labeled “do not throw out”. Fish for lunch. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a hot lunch to work; but have some respect for the surrounding cubicles. Eat your tofu and bean curd in the same area you heated it up – your floor’s kitchenette.

Personal calls in public spaces – Early in my career my cubicle was adjacent to Lover Boy. Every day like clockwork Lover Boy would speak to his lady friend at 9am, 12:30pm, 3pm, and whenever he closed out for the day. Conversations were always predictable (“I’m eating the salami and Munster cheese sandwich you made me”) and oftentimes cases of TMI. The issue of over sharing on the phone is rooted in the fact that people are comfortable at work; more time during the week is spent in the office than at home. Because of that, people forget that there are strangers within earshot (we all know the person I’m referring to – feet up on the desk, recounting the cake at Aunt Thelma’s 60th birthday bash). Taking the time to find a quiet room or unused conference space to argue about unwarranted cell phone charges shows respect for your colleagues. A good rule of thumb is avoid having a conversation at your desk that you wouldn’t take while sitting next to your grandmother. If your grandmother wouldn’t want to hear it, neither do I.

Expand on these or share your own pet peeves below.

What if Deloitte Moved Out of New York City?

What happens when you’re the Prized Catch of the New York City real estate market? You threaten to move your operations to New Jersey or Connecticut, of course!

Per a report on “According to IDA documents, Deloitte notes that it is ‘currently assessing options’ for its metro area real estate strategy, ‘including the evaluation of existing in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.’”

One could assume that this is just a ploy by Deloitte to frighten the IDA into approving $21 million in tax benefits, but Deloitte – currently in four different buildings around the city – bit back with teeth:

In New Jersey, Deloitte US firms “have significant operations, including recently expanded, underutilized class A office space.” Similarly, Deloitte has more than 30,000 square feet of “underutilized” office space in Connecticut, and adds that “various other jurisdictions are being considered” for future growth.

Now before you East Village wannabe socialites and Park Slope stroller pushers freak, let’s break this down.

Deloitte isn’t going anywhere. Corporate Tax breaks are nothing new, right baseball fans?

Even if it were to move across the Hudson to New Jersey, it is doubtful the firm would go farther than Jersey City. Sure, there are comrades in Parsippany; but it would be very difficult to maintain a city presence from exit 45 off of Rte 80. But from a staffing perspective, this would be corporate suicide. What University of Texas (“at Austin” – sure, sure) graduate wants to move to New York City and Not. Actually. Be. In. New York. City?

Recruitment – shot.

Talent retention – HAHAHA.

A handful of current employees thankful their NJ Transit days are over – okay, I’ll give you that one.

Listen – in reality, this is a rather simple case. Manhattan is bleeding vacant office space; Deloitte is promising 2,100 new jobs; no one really wants to take the PATH train to work every morning. This should be a rather slam dunk case.

Unless, of course, Connecticut governor Jodi Rell catches wind that the Green Dot is looking for a new home.

Will a Fear of Flying Be a Problem for a Future Big 4 Auditor?

Happy MOANday, people. I received the following email last week and wanted to share my response with all of you. Please comment below if you are or have ever been in a similar situation, and detail how your respective firm responded.

I have a question that I can’t seem to have answered anywhere. I just finished my sophomore year a prestigious university in the northeast and am considered working at Big 4 for a few years for the resume stamp so I could transfer for better pay/work-life balance. One thing that interests me is how much traveling is required in the audit department if you work in a big city like NYC…are most of the client sites local or will a lot of flying be involved. The reason I ask is because I have an intense fear of flying and I am wondering if this will be a deal breaker. I would be more than happy to DRIVE anywhere or take Amtrak but I seriously do not want to fly. Would working for Big 4 in NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc give me the flexibility that I seek in terms of flying, or should I be considering another career? Thanks for your time!

The easy answer: Talk to the recruiters that visit campus. I don’t know how hard you’ve looked for an answer but the recruiters are campus know (or should know) their firm’s HR policies well enough to answer the question.

The must-give-Caleb-400-words-of-content answer: Generally speaking, intensive travel is generally affiliated with large corporations with resources in several states or countries; more times than not these businesses are headquartered in the larger cities you mentioned. For example: it is entirely possible to work on a large multinational corporation based in New York City that has factories in several states. Depending on the scope of the audit and the resources of firm, staff auditors occasionally have to travel to the remote sites and perform fieldwork. Most auditors welcome the travel as “part of the job” and enjoy a change in working environment (even if the environment is a chemical plant in Arizona). But because of your legitimate fear, this is obviously not something you’re interested in. I wouldn’t worry, and here’s why:

The advantage to working in a larger office is that the Scheduling team can better accommodate your request not to be assigned to engagements where air travel would be required. However, that’s not to say that should your office location be a smaller office (say, Pittsburgh), your request would be met with a “too bad for you” response. It is in the best interest of the firm to handle needs like yours in a professional manner.

My advice to you is to be discreet but upfront and honest with the firm you choose to worth with. Discuss the need to be on local clients, and remember – the vast majority clients in larger cities are accessible by mass transit or car. I have no doubt that you will have a successful career in public, even if you are there for the “résumé stamp.”

In Case You Thought Things Were Getting Too Serious…

Here are some accounting jokes for you. Why? Because this is a blog, dammit; we need to lighten things up around here.

Human Resources:
10 explanations that employees might say when they’re caught sleeping at their desks.
1. “They told me at the blood bank this might happen.”
2. “This is just a 15-minute power nap like they raved about in that time management course you sent me to.”
3. “Whew! Guess I left the top off the liquid paper. You probably got here just in time.”
4. “This is in exchange for the six hours last night when I dreamed about work.”
5. “It’s okay … I’m still billing the client.”
6. “I wasn’t sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement.”
7. “I was doing a yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress.”
8. “Rats! Why did you interrupt me? I almost had figured out a solution to our biggest company problem.”
9. “The coffee machine’s broken.”
10. “Amen.”

On Taxes:
“And there are a lot of new taxes coming. California state legislators want to solve our state’s giant deficit by taxing marijuana. Meanwhile, Oregon wants to increase a tax on beer, while New York wants to tax Internet porn. You know what this means? By the end of spring break, this whole thing could be paid for.” –Jay Leno

“Regis Philbin’s back in primetime, hosting 11 new episodes of ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.’ But because of Obama’s tax plan, it’s been re-titled ‘Who Wants To Win Just Under $250,000.'” –Jimmy Fallon

What’s the definition of a good tax accountant? Someone who has a loophole named after him.

Your lawyer friends might tell this joke:
What’s the difference between an accountant and a lawyer? The accountant knows he is boring.

May I suggest this be your rebuttal:
What’s the difference between an accountant and lawyer? The accountant is never unemployed.

Partners, feel free to use this one at the next compensation meeting:
When do accountants laugh out loud? When somebody asks for a raise.

Accounting and Relationships
If an accountant’s wife cannot sleep, what does she say? “Darling, could you tell me about your work.”
When he arrived at the hotel, there was a letter waiting for him that read as follows: “Dear Husband, I too am 54 years old, and by the time you receive this letter I will be at the Savoy Hotel with my eighteen year old toy boy. Because you are an accountant, you will surely appreciate that 18 goes into 54 many more times than 54 goes into 18.”

Has Senior Leadership Resorted to Parenting in the Workplace?

By the time you read this, Monday will be one foot in the bag for most of you. So not to hurt your already-tuned-out minds with, I wanted to report on something that probably comes as no shocker to you: the difference in working attitudes between generations continues to cause grief for company leadership across the country.

The full FINS article can be found here, but here’s the bit I want to discuss:

Another issue that cropped up in the survey is the subtle generational shift evidenced by more Gen Y’ers infiltrating the accounting pool. The survey concludes that members of a younger workforce have different expectations about their careers, insofar as they’re more focused on work-life balance and not bound to a “work is all I am” mantra. When asked about reasons for voluntary turnover, 45% of respondents said a poor work/life balance, including excessive hours, was responsible.

The other 65% 55% listed “working for cranky old farts that have no concept of a balanced life” as the reason for looking for a new job. But really, there is obviously a clash in working styles and expectations between the different generations.

Older generations worked their way through school, and many were the first in their families to attend college. This work ethic carried over into the workforce, as Baby Boomers competed against one another for everything; jobs, money, social and economic status, etc. Boomers were raised on the concept of “you eat what you kill.” Simply put, they were a generation pushed and pushed and pushed to work and work and work; by parents, peers, and society alike.

Fast forward to the Generation Y and Millenials that are currently entering the workforce. The large “complaints” of senior leadership about the new waves of workers are the necessary changes that must be made – flexible work arrangements, work/life balance initiatives, community outreach programs, etc. All of these HR-friendly programs have one thing in common – they cost time and money. Upper management and partners of the accounting firms complain frequently (even here in the comments) that the Y’s and Me’s are a lazier, more high maintenance group of professionals.

Newsflash, Baby Boomers: you’re responsible for this. This was to be expected after years of an upbringing centered around access to things, supply of stuff, and promises of you can do whatever you want to do. Baby Boomers saw an advancement in education and the quality of professional training required in the workplace. Today’s generations are seeing another advancement; this one being the quality of the workplace.

But I digress. Perhaps we should all agree to disagree on the continued generational differences and focus on these lines from the FINS article:

The survey found that praise and attention from managers can have a more positive effect than cash bonuses and increase in base pay, for example. To that end, CFOs are focusing more on gold stars and less on pay stubs.

Sounds like parenting, doesn’t it?

A Friendly HR Reminder: The Workplace Is Not a Dating Service

Yes, your calendar is correct. Sir Caleb asked me to post on Whisky Wednesday. Fill up your glass, kick back in your chair, and let’s do this, shall we?

An area that I want to address is a topic that is otherwise whispered about or downright ignored by most engagement teams at accounting firms – dating in the workplace. For the purpose of this post, we’re going to let “dating” stand for anything from a one night stand to full fledge monogamous relationships. When done correctly and professionally, there is nothing wrong (from a legal or career perspective) with dating a co-worker. However – at least from my observations – the majority of cases do not fall under this description.

Sleepin’ your way to the top; shacking up with the enemy; earning an Encore award; shagging the secretary; deserving an early promo. Whatever you want to call it, getting drunk and hooking up with a coworker falls into a grey area. And by grey area, I mean the “what the hell were you thinking” area. I suggest treading lightly.

Why it happens – Birds and bees conversation aside, I’m talking about why so many accountants hook up with one another. On paper, it makes sense – similar backgrounds and interests, close and frequent exposure to one another, the lack of time to spend with others outside the office, and of course your campus recruiting department did a kick-ass job when “randomly” selecting resumés. Sure, your associate seems like a catch – but whom have you compared him/her to? Your manager? The mailroom staff? Security!? Come on. Your firm is not or the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist.

People talk – Newsflash of the day – your co-workers are a bunch of gossip mongers. Again, some of this is due to the “work is my life” mantra. Gossip flies around larger engagement teams when cliques are prevalent – do yourself a favor and head it off from the start of things – DON’T HOOK UP WITH SOMEONE FROM YOUR ENGAGEMENT TEAM. If you absolutely must “keep it in the accounting family,” try a different practice. (Didn’t you hear? Internal audit advisory services is saturated with hotties.) But really, avoid associating yourself with this kind of gossip. As time goes on and people get promoted and shuffled around, you never know who you’re going to be working with. Avoid the guaranteed awkwardness.

It can hurt your career – I’m not saying this is common, because it’s really not. It’s not ethical, but when it comes time for reviews, managers and partners are human. Non-work related factors – like sleeping your way around the block – can have an impact.

If you’re going to date someone from work…keep both of your careers in mind. Be honest with one another, and talk about things. A lot of factors can come into play – what practice lines you’re in, the possibility of working together, and long-term promotion paths are just a few. When marriage becomes a realistic possibility or you are unsure of how to proceed at any time, speak to someone in HR. They can help you better understand your firm’s HR policy and how it relates to your particular situation.

But for you horned up co-eds out there, listen up. Next time you’re out sipping the alcoholic Kool-aid at a partner sponsored “bonding event,” think twice before downing your drink remnants and hopping in a cab with the second year with the nice eyes. You’ll thank me the next morning when you don’t walk in wearing the same peach schnapps stained shirt you had on the night before.

Have a personal experience or bit of advice you want to share? Email me or comment below.

Four Ways to Explain Gaps in Your Resumé

Slow Monday, GC’ers? You’re damn right. Call up your buddies and make today Margarita Monday. What better way to prepare for Tequila Tuesday, amiright?

I received the following question in my inbox from a recently unemployed reader:

I was let go from my firm in the fall of 2009. I have since found a part-time job but am struggling to secure full-time work. I’m afraid that if I go too long without finding a new job that I’ll have a hard time explaining the gap in my resumé. What do you suggest?

My two Lincolns follow:

Part-time work is better than nothing – If you have ever been between jobs, you know that job searching is not a 9-5 ordeal. After the first few weeks of searching the Monster’s and CareerBuilder’s of the online world, one becomes very efficient in their respective search capabilities. Jobs are not filled in a first-come-first-served manner either, so it becomes a matter of searching new jobs (typically Monday and Friday are the most popular posting days) once a day to make sure you’re on top of the newest opportunities.

That said, you’ll find yourself with a lot of time during the days. Rather than catch up on your Netflix account, find yourself a part-time job or volunteer opportunity. It will keep your mind active, your spirits up, and even some extra change in your pocket. This also shows that maintaining a work ethic and staying professionally active is important to you

Update your resume on a regular basis – On the flip side of the online job market pool, employers know the last time you updated your resume. Revising your resume once a week will ensure that it remains near the top of searches. I’m not saying you should re-work your work experience every week; changing even the slightest detail is enough to register as an update in their system.

Be honest – Whatever you do, do not lie to your recruiter or the HR professional representing a potential job. In addition to background and credit checks, employment verification checks are becoming ever more popular. Don’t feel like you need to lie about when you lost your pervious job; you’re not the only person that has been affected by the recent recession. Which brings me to my last point.

You’re not alone – Sure, the recession has led to a saturated job market; employers understand this as they begin to re-hire individuals. Recent gaps in your resumé are not scarlet letters (like they would have been in 2007) for your chances of landing an interview.

Once that interview is secured, be honest and upfront about the missing time pieces in your work experience. And whatever you do, hit home the fact that you’re hoping a new role with ABC Inc. will lead to a successful future of stability and growth for both you and the company.

Four Ways Accountants Can Battle the Slow Summer Days

Good afternoon and Happy Thursday, people. For the sake of your sanity I decided not to write about LeBron James and his impending decision*. Today I wanted to focus on something that is plaguing all of us right now – the summer months.

What the devil are you talking about, Daniel?

You heard me, my accounting cohorts. The summer months are traditionally a down time for most public accounting professionals due to the accounting cycle combined with the influx of extra hands on deck (i.e. peppy interns). The lack of significant workloads during July and August can be enough to drive even the most motivated accountant to the breaking point of boredom.

Here are a few tips to get you through the days ahead once you reach the max weekly usage on Pandora:

Five before 5 – Things never feels slower than when there seems to be nothing to accomplish through the course of the day. Avoid the “I did nothing for 8 hours” by setting out a list of five things to accomplish during the day, trivial or not. List items can include everything from contacting your scheduler or manager about the fall client schedule or rolling forward workpapers in preparation for the 2010 year end. Creating the list the night before will also help set the tone for your morning routine.

Volunteer – The effects that volunteering has on one’s mind and well being are well documented. In short – it’s good for you. Check in with your local HR rep or watch out for the monthly emails about volunteer opportunities. Want to look outside of your firm? is a wonderful resource.

Mentor an intern – See that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed intern in the cubicle passing time by reading through 10K’s on the SEC website? Do their internship experience a favor and walk them through one of your clients’ workpapers. Carving out time in your day to explain the steps and processes documented in your work will help them better understand what they can expect in the future. Anything you can do to expand their exposure beyond cas rec’s is an accomplishment; and trust me, they’ll remember and appreciate the fact that you took the time to explain the process.

Get out of the office – If nothing else cash in a chunk of your vacation days and take a week off. Even if you don’t travel, use the time to catch up your personal life. Read a book, sleep for 16 hours, I don’t care. Just get away from the office and turn off your Monday-Friday mindset.

*That said, I hope he comes to New York

Another Survey, Another Reason Parents Will Pressure Their Kids into Accounting

Welcome back, people. Stuffed with watermelon mint juleps, fireworks and Klynveldian meats, most of you probably returned to full stomachs and fuller inboxes. That said, I hope your day is as painstakingly slow as mine (HR is a beautiful thing).

My morning news feed (i.e. Caleb’s morning news round-up) contained a story that is all too familiar – graduating college with an accounting degree is a safe bet. Of course. This report could have been 10 days or 10 years old; the song and dance would be the same. Consistently one of the best (meaning safest) bets for an undergraduate degree, the report from National Association of Colleges and Employers that, “jobs in accounting paid an entry-level salary of $50,402.” (It should be noted that – rumor has it – NACE pays a circus monkey to regurgitate these statistics EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.)

Not too shabby, 50 grand a year after college. This number obviously comes with a salt shaker, as those entering into a career in public need to factor in their location and the fact that the number is pulled upwards – at least to a degree – by private salaries. My beef is not with these numbers but with the parents, high school guidance counselors and university staff that use these numbers as a means to push their products on to naïve students. Alas, my list of Flakey Reasons You Should Be an Accounting Major:

“My (insert random acquaintance reference here) is an accountant, and he/she does just fine.” That’s wonderful for your barber’s cousin’s friend, but really the success of one accountant means nothing. Doctors are successful, as is the 15 year old kid bagging my groceries. This “Mr. Smith is successful” argument is generally used as a conservative reference to a job that is less popular. Quality of life is a relative term; so who’s happier, the produce bagger or the family tax accountant?

“You need to graduate with a degree that will earn you a job.” I understand this argument; however isn’t the point of college to study a subject which you actually like? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for being realistic about this, but the long-term consequences of studying a particular subject and focusing on an industry cannot be overlooked. This leads me to…

“You can work in any industry with an accounting degree.” I like Skittles. I am downright passionate about Skittles. Skittles are my life*. Is an accounting degree the only way to work for their producer, Mars Inc? Umm. No.

“You need a job to pay back your student loans.” No argument here, except for the one about overall crisis in higher education (you know, no big deal really). A recent poll showed 36 percent of college graduates are carrying student loan debt on a credit card. Sleep soundly knowing the remaining 64 percent of the group is simply burdened by lower interest rates.

But I digress. The loans should be considered a necessary means to an end (i.e. – finding a job and career of interest). If you’re majoring in a subject so you can pay down the debt…that you took on…to earn…said degree…you’re vastly missing the point of going to college.

*Don’t judge.

Eight Things Accountants Can Do This 4th of July Weekend

Study for the CPA exam: July is a testing month, so study up on whatever exam is hanging over your head. Your firm is giving you time off – stay sober for six of those hours and cram some knowledge.

Spend The Man’s money: Are you done with the CPA exam and now have an incentive check for doing so burning a hole in your madras shorts? Cash it in, treat yourself to something nice, and begin the b*tching about fulfilling upcoming CPE requirements.

Eat some meat: If you’re a lucky KPMG Kamper that already received your Omaha Steaks package, light up the grill and cook up a feast. (I hear outdated Becker CPA review books make excellent fire starters.)

Jump Start things early: E&Y, PwC, and Deloitte are all closed tomorrow and Monday (at least that’s the case in New York City), leaving Uncle Peat as the lone office stuck with just a three day weekend. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that…sucks? Skip out early, Kampers.

Click on the ads all over Going Concern. Come on, Caleb deserves your ad revenue.

Network you patriotic pants off: Holiday barbeques bring together both friends and strangers. Also be open to the possibility of talking shop with the acquaintances you meet; you never know when a job or new client opportunity will present itself.

Work on your resumé: Your resumé should always be updated; simple as that.

Spend time with family and friends: No, really. You public accountants work too hard and spend too much time together (yes, I’m referring to the romantic couplings occurring at Thursday night happy hours). Branch out and reconnect with your friends – you know – “those people” with 40 hour work weeks. They miss you. Plus, the tan-less look you’ve been rocking since busy season is so February’s look.

Share your plans or off-the-cubicle-wall ideas below. See you all on Tuesday. Cheers!

How the Big 4 Are Helping Career Moms Have It All

The Harvard Business Review’s blog (Harvard blogs?) ran a piece earlier today about a recent Pew Research study that claims more women are not having children.

The HBR brushes over the whole birth control thing and serves its best interest by focusing on what they consider having it all (an advanced degree and at least one child), picking the following statistic out of the hay stack, “in 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree had not had children, a decline from 31% in 1994.”

This had me thinking about the benefits that the Big 4 provide to their employees going through early parenthood. What might surprise you (or might not) is how similar the firms’ services are.

From PwC.

From Deloitte.

From KPMG.

From E&Y.

Parental leave of absence: “Eligible primary care parents with three months of service can use six weeks of paid parental leave during the year following birth or adoption placement (three weeks for non-primary care parents). This is in addition to maternity disability benefits, if applicable, of 60% to 100% for approximately 8 weeks. Paid parental leave runs concurrently with any job-protected time under family and medical leave.”

Provided by every Big 4 firm:

Adoption assistance – Per EY’s site: “Pays expenses up to $5,000 per child (with an additional $1,000 for special needs children), with paid leave available for the caregivers, along with resource and referral services.”

Lactation program – PwC’s program, explained: “Access to educational materials, unlimited pre/post-birth counseling from nationally recognized lactation specialists and breast pump discounts are available through this program. Private mother’s rooms are also available in many of our offices.” Do conference frooms count as “mothers’ rooms?”

Parental paid leave of absence

Deloitte – 2 weeks (this is all I could find – can anyone prove differently?)

PwC – up to 6 weeks

KPMG – 8 weeks “Professionals who plan to return to work after the birth or adoption, are eligible for two weeks (10 days) of paid child care leave.”

E&Y – 6 weeks

Unique programs:

Family time off – The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 promises 12 weeks of unpaid leave for those employees who need to take care of a sick family member. E&Y extends this service to 16 weeks.

Back up Child and Elder Care – many of the firms provide some kind of support for employees when family care emergencies occur. KPMG takes things one step further by allowing employees to share their unused resources with colleagues that have depleted their resources.

Note – I used external websites when reviewing the different options – these might outdated from what you have internally. Does your local office offer something unique that is not listed here? Share details in the comments.

More Women Manage to Have It All [HBR]

Compensation Watch ’10: PwC Starts Spreading the News in New York

It’s raining bonuses and raises over at PricewaterhouseCoopers these days. Unfortunately, all I’m seeing are news tips (monetary tips or buybacks at the bar are always appreciated). All of my sources are from the NYC office, so if you’re elsewhere in the country, please share your numbers in the comments below. Here’s what we know so far:

• Advisory/Consulting senior associate received a raise north of 18.5%. No, that is not a typo. So in the advisory practice it’s safe to assume the spread is 0% to 19% for raises this year, with the average being about 6% as reported by Caleb earlier.

• A recently promoted associate to senior associate in advisory received a 10.5% raise and a $3,000 bonus.

• Tax bonuses are being handed out now as well. Size matters in this instance, people. Cough up the details below.

This indicates that resources are being spent on what is being determined to be the right people in the right practices. Average performers should expect to receive 4-6% and take it to the bank.

Audit people, what are your numbers looking like? Email us or post your comments below. Practice/office/level are always appreciated

Thanks to everyone that is sharing information. Enjoy the weekend.

PwC Is Making “Recruit a Friend” Worth Your While (No, Seriously)

As if PricewaterhouseCoopers hasn’t been popular enough around the GC community, I received the following letter from an Advisory practice leader out of their New York City office yesterday:

You know what it takes to succeed here. Smarts. Flexibility. Teamwork. Excellence. Leadership.

Sounds more like a description of the US Soccer team, no? My emphasis and notes below.

That’s why we’re turning to you to help us find our next new hire, that future teammate, a qualified colleague. And, beyond the reward of perhaps having a friend work here and enhancing our level of talent, we’re making it more worthwhile to recommend a friend by temporarily increasing the referral bonus for client service psue our growth goals and win more work, our staffing needs are growing too.

In Advisory, our business continues to grow and we need the right talent to fill the dynamic and challenging positions we have open to support our continued growth for the remainder of the year and beyond. As we communicated to you, we recognize the need for additional resources in many areas of our practice. Referring qualified candidates has always been one of the best sources of candidates for us, and an important way you can help.

Refer someone you know for a client service position, and you can earn up to a $6,000 referral bonus if they accept the position, depending on the level of the position, from June 14 through September 30. Asking you to help is just part of our push to find new ways to bring talent in faster and through different channels.

So, take a minute and think about people you know from your professional and personal networks. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to connect with a former colleague, a friend, or someone you volunteer with who has the skill sets we need. We all know people who could achieve personally and contribute to the success of the firm, whether in our line of service, or in another. (And, we could all use a little spending money.)

Not sure you want to comb through all your contacts? You may want to think again. As additional incentive, for client service referrals, you’ll:

§ Receive a $100 American Express gift card for any client service referral who is submitted between June 14 and September 30 and interviewed for a position other than partner or principal in any line of service other than IFS [Internal Firm Services] by October 31, 2010. These will be awarded on a monthly basis after the interview takes place.

DWB: Tell your buddies at other firms to apply, interview, and take you for $100 worth of drinks.

§ Be entered automatically into announced prize drawings for each new client service referral who accepts a job offer (other than as partner or principal) for the position which you referred them in any line of service other than IFS. And these aren’t just any prizes: the first drawings will be for $15,000 or one of four iPads, per line of service of the referrer. There’s no limit on how many acceptances gain you entry, either — so if you refer three new people who accept the client service job offer for which you submit them, you’re entered into the drawing for your line of service three times (though you can only win one prize per drawing).

DWB: Uhhhh. So you can win either $15,000 or an iPad? Fifteen THOUSAND dollars or a personal computer? What pains me is to see the money they are throwing at this process – surely one would assume PwC has an internal recruiting team to fill these needs. Right?

Wrong. My source was kind enough to check their internal job directory, and there are multiple experienced recruiter positions for the Advisory line up for grabs. This makes sense, as these glorified internal “head hunters” are cut early on when times get tough (no sense having recruiters when there is no need for new personnel). These roles were probably canned in 2008 or ’09 when the Advisory sector was bleeding resources.

So get on the horn, PDubbers – call up your friends at the other public accounting shops and cash in on this opportunity.

How Accountants Can Get the Salary They Want

I’ve always been a nerd.

Not a dork, a nerd. The financial services industry and its incredible economic influence (from tax structuring to secondary industries like cab drivers and event planners) has always interested me. So it should come as no surprise that I am an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal (I have the dual paper/online subscription…obviously).

There was an article in today’s edition that has to do with getting “the salary you want.” If only it was as easy as these five points. For what it’s worth, here’s my summary of, and input on, how these rules suggested guidelines if you are looking to transition out of public accounting:

Do your research – The article makes a point to research what current salary ranges at the potential place of employment could be.,, and are all mentioned. My advice – remember to do your research with grains of salt in easy reach. The greater number of employees that contribute their statistics will lead to a more accurate number. ( lists PwC’s “audit associate” salary average salary as $53,358. Is that accurate? You tell me.)

Don’t give out the first number – When you get beyond the confusion of that statement, you realize the article is referring to the pay day you would love to receive if given the job. My advice – Don’t give a number. Here’s exactly what you need to say if asked “what is your ideal salary:” “For me the role and opportunity is what is most important.”

Yes, that is a vague statement. But it is your recruiter’s job to fight for your salary; remember their pay day is dependent on yours.

Don’t lie – Listen to your mother. My advice – this is self-explanatory. Your current salary will be verified. Lying to your recruiter about anything – most notably salary and background check details – is a way to sever ties indefinitely.

Don’t take the first offer – The article goes back and forth about negotiating salaries, something that you won’t do if you use a recruiter. However, if you are not using a recruiter, I recommend reading this bit. My advice – People typically have two magic numbers in their head: 1) the salary they’ve dreamt of and 2) the number they really need to receive in order to commit to leaving. Be honest with your recruiter. They will fight for you, or they will talk you off the ledge of asinine expectations.

Once that’s locked in, go for other benefits – The article pretty much shoots itself in the kidney on this one. Read it. It’s 17 seconds you’ll never have back. My advice – consider the benefits part of your total compensation. More or less vacation days? Summer flex programs? Cheaper health benefits? Better 401k? List everything out and compare with your current situation. Due to fair employment practices, companies are usually hand-tied to offering equal employees different (or “better”) benefits.

That’s all I have. Oh and for the record, the difference between dorks and nerds is simple. Dorks read the Journal with coffee. Nerds read the Journal with scotch.

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?

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:
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.

Three Things Accounting Firms Can Learn from Jim Joyce

Chances are good that at this time yesterday you didn’t know anything about James Joyce III. Today, America can’t stop talking about the poor sap. His Wikipedia page has been frozen and he’s a trending topic on Twitter.

BP sent Joyce a bottle of tequila this morning, the card reading, “Thank you for taking the heat off of us. Enjoy the spotlight. Remember to wear sunscreen. XOXO – BP”

Experts have varying opinions on what this means for baseball and the implementation of instant replay. What is easier to agree on is that Joyce deserves respect not for his poor call but for the fact that he was humble enough to admit that he was wrong, saying, “I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay. Biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it.”

If nothing else, Little Leaguers everywhere can learn from this moment. But the lesson doesn’t need to end there. What can every accounting firm take away from this situation in hopes of never pulling a JimJoyce* themselves?

Admit when you are wrong – Listen to your mother, George Washington, or whatever truth-telling role model you have in your life and fess up when you are wrong. Deloitte did just that back in April when they admitted to handling the “headcount adjustment” in poor fashion.

Don’t point fingers – I don’t know if you’ve noticed the bickering going on between E&Y and PwC recently, but it’s kind of…what’s the word for it…pathetic? First there was the “our raises are bigger than yours” spout from E&Y leadership. Boys, boys, keep it in your pants. Size doesn’t mat…oh wait, what? It does in this case? Well then. Brag away. Then PDubs’ London arm decided to pull a Joe McGinniss and set up camp a mere 10 meters from E&Y’s fish ‘n chips office. Awkward love affair or uber-competitive personalities? Either way it’s immature to act like this. Grow up.

Hide – Joyce is probably in the process of doing this (don’t expect him to return to the field anytime soon). But the newly branded McGladrey is leadership’s efforts to mask the fact that cuts are affecting morale and staff ranks. Perhaps no one commented on Caleb’s putting green post because no one is left. Just sayin’.

What else can your firm learn from Jimbo? Comment below.

*you heard that phrase here first.

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.

Lowering the Bar – How the Big 4 Can Raise Morale by Reducing Starting Salaries

Last Friday’s post by Caleb surrounding the Bonus Watch at Deloitte sparked a handful of intuitive comments from GC readers.

In case you didn’t read the post and subsequent commentary, Commenter Anon51 responded to the question “what do readers suggest firms do to retain practitioners” with the following:

1. treat every team member with respect

2. you can’t just force your team to work harder year after year with fewer people and a smaller budget

3. pay 4-7 year people more, pay new hires less, so it seems there is an incentive to working harder

4. reward your people with an extra day off without having to utilize vacation time, especially after a really busy month/audit

Point 3 is bolded because it resulted in the following comment from Guest:

“That’s a really good idea, and I’m not being sarcastic. There is no reason why new hires fresh out of college need to make $59k ($55k + $4k sign-on bonus), when they would happily work for $50k. Then, a $5k bump every year would be a reward, with maybe a higher bump during promotion years…Pay disparity is a bigger issue than actual pay.”

Well said, Guest and Anon51.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Big 4 are constantly in cahoots with one another with regards to hiring benchmarks. So I propose that TBig4PTB get together and reassess their starting salaries. Behold, a template for all Big Wigs to follow:

1. Decrease starting total packages (salary + sign on) by seven percent. Lower the bar from the get-go.

2. Now is the time – blame the decrease on “a firm wide strategic response to the economic risks of being a major player in the professional services industry. Unofficial response – did you see the DOW sink like the Titanic the other day?!”

3. Spread gap created by initial decrease in salary over the next two years. This will create an artificial sense of accomplishment and praise.

4. Send internal emails stressing the “increase in raises for well deserving employees.” Everyone cheers.

5. In three years college graduates will not know the difference; this “decrease” becomes a non-issue.

Guest’s comment that “pay disparity is a bigger issue than actual pay” can become a non-issue with very little effort. Is this fair or ethical? Mehhhhh. I personally think it would be a slap in the face to those of you who have busted your humps and sacrificed career and personal opportunities all in the name of KPDeloitterhouseErnstMG. But it certainly wouldn’t be the most desperate attempt made by one of the firms in recent memory.

Raising morale – hardly. What are your thoughts?

Treating Workers with Respect – What Accounting Firms Can Do to Improve Their Bottom Line

Welcome back from the weekend, folks. With the short week coming up, I hope this one is not terribly swamped for you.

The Harvard Business Review recently published a McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy study on the treatment of bottom-of-the-barrel workers. Its sampling followed a range of companies large to small from 2005 on through the latest recession. The biggest takeaway from the study was that every employee matters and the companies that provide every employee with a voice see the most positive improvement with their bottom lines.

Idealistic? A bit, yes. But the study’s author, Jody Heymann added, “How work is structured, how it is rewarded, and how workplaces encourage employee engagement are all central to the profitability of firms and to the quality of the daily lives of working men and women. Employees determine 90 percent of most businesses’ profitability.”

Read the article or the study if you’d like to know more. If you do, you’ll notice that none of the success stories were founded on better pay. Often times a company’s success was about listening to employees and acting on their feedback. Foreign concepts, perhaps; but this is what KPMG’s Summer Blast! program is attempting to do just that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other firms follow suit.

The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series before my input is ever requested by a firm for programs like this, but just for kicks I’ve laid out a few ways the Big 4 could improve worker relations with minimal financial impact.

Stick with summer hours – Friday afternoons are notoriously slow; interns are hung over, partners are reviewing work from home the beach/mountains/countryside; and weekend plans hinge on the prospect of not getting stuck in traffic. And since most clients are at their slowest pace in the summer; so why force workers to be locked up until 5:00pm?

Release staff members early; 3:00pm would be a fair start to one’s weekend plans. Firms should take it one step further and adjust utilization reports to reflect this change. Is an extra half hour Monday through Thursday really necessary to the bottom line? (Blogger note – comment below if your firm adjusts utilization reports). Relieving the necessity for staff members to make up the time is a better act of good faith than the time off itself.

Leave the steaks at home – grab a (pitch)fork and volunteer – It would take some effort, but organizing a community service day for every office would provide employees with the opportunity to escape the office and interact with coworkers in a different kind of way. Volunteering in the community is encouraged by every firm and is generally a big hit among the younger staff members. Partners and managers would have an opportunity to connect with their staff on a more casual yet work-appropriate level.

Comment below how you’d like to see your firm approach the issue. If they were listening, what would you say?

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

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.

Lots of Accountants Want a New Job Even if It Means More Stress

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the grind. I don’t know how your respective Monday started off, but mine began as it usually does; a large black coffee from the corner bodega, a longer-and-slower-than-it-has-to-be commute, and a daily update e-newsletter from FINS. I typically skim the link-heavy message for relevant stories or articles of interest, but today I found myself killing an extra few minutes browsing their website’s articles. I was caught off-guard by the title of one of their articles, “Accountants: ‘Push Me, Please!” Accountants wanting more work and stress? No chance in hell.

Actually, that seems to be just the case.

The short piece tosses around a few statistics, one that stands out when reading the fine print (my emphasis), “The majority of accounting and finance professionals surveyed (79%) say they prefer work with the opportunity for growth and advancement, even if it means more stress.”

That’s right. Even though stress in the workplace can lead to heart disease, strained personal relationships, and general irritableness, nearly 80 percent of accounting professionals would leave their current working environment for a new one. Think about that; hell, look around the room. Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. They all hate their jobs.

Not to continue playing Daniel Downer over here (it is MOANday after all), but a report out of the UK cites a report that says more than one in four working adults have their weekends ruined by the pending workweek ahead:

In a study to be launched tomorrow by the mental health charity Mind, employees were questioned about their levels of anxiety and more than 26% said they felt dread and apprehension the day before they were due to go back to work after a day or weekend off…Other findings include effects on people’s sleep patterns, high rates of illness and reports of extensive low morale.

(The bold portion sounds a lot like busy season.)

It’s no secret that everyone lives with stress; nor am I naïve in thinking that we all deserve well paying, stress free jobs. But how one manages day-to-day stress is just as important as planning for and working towards long term career aspirations. I encourage you to take the initiative to learn how strike a better (and more calming) balance in your daily routine. WebMD has a comprehensive Stress Management Center that covers topics ranging from quick fixes to diet changes to managing job stress.

Or you could just keep working for The Man and leave it up to your employers to catch on. They’re probably reviewing PwC’s book of HR strategerie as we speak. If you’re working at PDubs, well lucky you – consider your career is in good hands.

Don’t stress.

PwC Chimes in on How Companies Can Retain Top Talent

It was only a few weeks ago when Deloitte threw their two Lincolns into the mix; now it’s PricewaterhouseCoopers offering advice on how to retain workers during this economic recovery. So, in an effort to not play favorites:

1. The financial crisis and ensuing recession have quickened the pace of structural changes already underway in many industries. As companies rethink the way they operate, they should assess the talent pool and look for opportunities to add new skills while keeping their existing employees motivated and engaged.

DWB: Because nothing says your job is safe with us like hiring new workers, right? The cojones on Dubs to lead off with this statement. Essentially Dubs is suggesting that companies poach talent from competitors; the exact action the article is intended to prevent.

2. With budgets expected to remain tight, it makes sense to focus on non-financial incentives such as training and mentoring programs, challenging assignments and other opportunities for growth and flexible work schedules.

DWB: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Did they really just lump (mandatory) trainings and (mandatory) mentoring programs together with “challenging assignments?” Does anyone else think that last one is code for “your staff has been cut in half due to layoffs and departures?” Umm…no…neither did I.

3. This may be obvious, but determine whether your top talent feels well compensated.

DWB: How much does PwC charge to perform that survey?!? It continues:

“By freezing pay across the board or cutting bonuses and benefits during the recession, you may have inadvertently given key employees a reason to leave.”

DWB: Dubs, are you looking in the mirror again? Shameful.

4. To figure out the right mix of incentives, executives need to first determine what motivates their top performers and other key employees.

DWB: Common sense. As an HR professional, statements like three and four really bother me. They only perpetuate the “HR fluff” stereotype that is associated with our field of work. (Some of you might say the same about my posts, so I should probably be careful where I tread.)


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

What to do, what to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Caleb Newquist,

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

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

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


Daniel Braddock

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

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

Deloitte Is Totally Cool with You Jumping Ship

A GC reader from Deloitte emailed me the notes from a recent meeting for management on the health of its staff levels. Our source had the following to say:

I’m a senior in D&T (making manager in the fall) and thought the minutes from a recent manager meeting were interesting in terms of HR’s take on attrition. It does match what you’ve said in your column, i.e. they plan for a certain level of attrition, but I don’t think they even want to consider that there could be a cause for concern.

Management Community Feedback

Retention: Previous S. Manager / Manager Practice meeting unity is seeking additional clarity as to where the firm is heading, in the short term and long term (i.e., economics, compensation, etc.).

HR Audit Update: As of the time of the meeting, specific numbers are not known

DWB: Staff complaints, questions, and concerns, are summed up with the phrase “community is seeking additional clarity.” People want to know what the *#&! to expect in these still-somewhat-unclear times. Oh, and HR? They can run their “numbers” in minutes. Why they were not shared is a mystery; a concerning one at that.

Senior Turnover: Managers feel concerned with the leadership leaving at the senior level – potential for additional turnover in the fall

HR Audit Update: Turnover is comparative to 2 – 3 years ago so not considered a concern.

• Recent increase in the number of seniors that are voluntarily leaving the firm when compared to those trends seen in the last 12 – 18 months
• Region is looking at approximately 75 new hires
• Restrictions on inter-office transfers are being lifted

DWB: A lot to take away from this.

1) Managers are vocalizing the fact that people are leaving; this goes beyond the typical public accounting attitude of “good riddance.”

2) Turnover in 2007 was incredible. Do you remember what the market was doing in 2007?! It was a rip-roaring success. To compare it to that time frame and say it is “not considered a concern” is troubling. The difference between then and now is D&T was hiring like gang-busters themselves at that time so the attrition was not “felt” as severely as it’s being felt now. Layoffs and frozen hiring budgets make the recent staff losses more significant.

3) More people quitting now than during the recession? What research expert included that bullet point?

4) Inter-office transfers being reintroduced is a positive point; expect an announcement about this spun in the HR-style of “woo-hoo, now you can work in St. Louis!” And by St. Louis they mean Branson, Missouri.

What to do?

• Create a positive environment for the seniors and staff
• Leverage personal experiences to keep seniors/staff motivated
• Express advantages a “manager” position can add to one’s career path when looking at long-term goals.
• HR Advisory Update: National recruiting expects a good group in the Mid-West. Comparative attrition trends are taking place even though it may feel that the turnover rate is higher than normal.

DWB: Talking about the glory days of D&T audits doesn’t sound exciting, but sometimes it’s enough of a Kool-Aid effort to keep staff motivated. And look! Attrition rates are right where they want them to be. So all of you on under-staffed, over-worked projects? Yeah, this is the type of environment they plan for.

I’ll let our anonymous tipster finish off the commentary:

At least they might try to “create a positive environment” for me. I’d be really concerned if HR actually believes this or if they just don’t want to panic the managers. (Incidentally, I will be leaving after they give me the promotion.)

Three Ways Accountants Can Use Performance Reviews to Polish Their Résumés

One of the complaints I oftentimes hear from my colleagues who begin the job search is, “I haven’t updated my resumé in (insert absurd amount of time here) years. I don’t have a clue where to begin.” Combine an outdated resumé with the fact that speaking highly of oneself without sounding pompous can be difficult at best, and it’s understandable why putting a resumé together is typically the biggest hurdle in committing to looking for a new job.

Today’s lesson in common sense – use what you’ve got. No, not those red pencils. I’m talking performance reviews.

For those of you who are KPMG Kampers, Down Towners and the GT shipmates, you should all have your performance reviews signed, sealed, and stamped with a rating. (Sources say that Uncle Ernie’s are ongoing; calls in to P. Dubs were met with a “We do not participate in surveys, sir.” So let us know where your processes stand). Here’s what you can do with your performance reviews when drafting a resumé:

Keep the technical – Remember how you’re constantly being reminded that you need to stay until making manager in order to develop your people skills? Or that rebuilding New Orleans makes you a well-rounded employee? No one cares. Okay, okay – people care, but these are not the skills that should dominate your resumé. Recruiters and their clients want to see technical marks. Talk about the FASBs you deal with; the financial products your banking client invests in; the material mistakes you uncovered. Anything soft skills related should be pushed towards the bottom of your bullet points.

Sell your resumé like you sell your peformance – It’s probably safe to assume that you spent more than 12 minutes on your performance reviews. For this reason and others, your performance reviews are a detailed, year-by-year, role-by-role account of your accomplishments. Scour through them next time you look at your resumé. Don’t be scared to brag on your resumé like you do in your reviews. If you’re not bragging, you’re selling yourself short. You have to be true to the work you’ve accomplished. With enough effort you’ll be able to understand where your strengths lie; working with your recruiter to understand how these experiences fit with target jobs is the next step.

Ask for feedback – The hardest thing to do is honestly capture your personality and experiences on a few pieces of paper. That said, no one knows you better than your peers. We all have former colleagues who have moved on to the private sector; seek their feedback. It’s one thing to have your significant other or a family member proofread your resumé (and you should seek this kind of advice), but unless your mother is a senior partner in the firm, there’s little feedback she can provide about the technical weight of your resumé. Seek the advice and critical eye of someone who worked with you. Most importantly, be open to criticism; it’s for your benefit.

PwC Reminds Us All to Be Realistic Come Raise Time


With PricewaterhouseCoopers’ communication about raises behind us, the proverbial dam of anticipation, expectation, and hopefulness gets closer to cresting. From the sound of things though, disappointment and frustration might be joining the flooding the gates as well.

Debate all you want about how much gravy is (or isn’t) on the train, but the partners in your respective firm will tell you that times are still tight. And to be, they’re probably not stretching the truth too far. Here’s what we know:

Revenues were down in 2009 for everyone. Want a re-cap?

Professional service firms are lagging in the market. When Wall Street (and the rest of America) began melting in 2008, accounting firms were still collecting on contractually agreed upon procedures fees. Fees were slashed when contracts were negotiated over the course of the next year, and it was these cuts in services and fees that cost employees their raises, bonuses and sometimes even their jobs. Fees might be back on the uptick; you would know better than me. But the general consensus in staffing camps around the country is that teams are doing more work with less billable hours in the budget. Less billable hours means…less revenue. Less revenue means…double digit bonus season? Doesn’t add up.

Expenses were cut but will the savings make enough of a difference? Recruiting budgets, headcounts, national trainings, corporate donations, and holiday parties – all areas of cost-savings. The financial faucets to many of these areas were adjusted; how soon they’re opened up again is hard to gauge. “Slowly” is the first word that comes to mind.

Raises will be purpose-driven – The vast majority of – if not all – well performing employees will receive raises this year. The pot will be spread out, but don’t be surprised when more love is thrown at strategic groups. Sorry, healthcare auditor, you’re simply not generating as much revenue as your firm’s M&A tax group. Fatter raises will be given to those that the leadership thinks are vital to generating continued revenues and/or will be expensive to replace should they move into the private sector.

The one upside to raises, small as they may be, is that they will drive up your base salary. If you do decide to test the job market, the last two years of effort in public accounting will be mostly represented in your new target number which will lead to a higher base elsewhere.

Stay tuned as we learn more about the state of raises across public accounting. As always, share your thoughts in the comments.

Cash-strapped Clients Could Force Accounting Firms to Come Up with Creative Cost Savings

Because times weren’t already cheerful enough around GT, they recently released a study which found that businesses are generally pessimistic about raises and bonuses this year.

From the press release:

The firm surveyed 496 U.S. CFOs and senior comptrollers from March 22 through April 5, and found that 53% plan no salary changes in the next 6 months, while 32% plan to decrease and 15% plan to increase. On the bonus front, there is also equal pessimism, 47% plan no change, 44% plan to reduce, and only 8% plan to increase.

Well – that certainly sucks.

We know raises are the last thing on the minds of higher-ups at GT, but come on, really? Imagine being a no-name staffer at GT grinding away on a report about how your clients are a collective group of Negative Nancy’s. With headcount discussions ongoing in several GT offices, one would be – and should be – concerned.

The freezes in salary and bonuses don’t really apply to the accounting firms because – as it has already been discussed here in great length – money should be flowing your way this summer. The underlying concern with this report is this – if your client isn’t giving its own employees a bump in pay, there’s no bloody chance your firm is getting a bump in fees, either.

Any and all resources will be applied to minimizing any talent exoduses from occurring.

So how will the firms find enough cookies in the jar to “support the current pipeline?” I checked in with a Big 4 auditor in New York who had this to share:

During casual conversation with my mentors, word is the firm will be pushing for leaves of absence again this summer for everyone who has not completely passed the CPA. The hope is for a decent percentage of staff members to do this to save on salaries.

Makes sense-ish. Temporarily cut staff salaries during a relatively quiet audit period. Will this be enough to cover raises and bonuses while client fees remain stagnant? Heavens no but it’s a start. As always, let us know if you learn of ways your firm plans to pinch pennies.

Here’s What Big 4 Accountants Need to Know About the Current Job Market

Ernst & Young’s red alert email that was shared by GC yesterday should not be taken lightly. Doesn’t matter where you work – your job is about to get harder.

Chances are your most recent busy season was relentlessly terrible. A year removed from rounds of cuts and going on two years with zilch for a raise, the masses at the Big 4 are getting antsy, as they should. It’s now or never. Raises are coming. People are leaving. What should you do?

Consider it professional osmosis – Remember high school science labs? Same theory applies to today’s financial services job market. In one Petri dish there are overworked and underpaid public accountants; the other has job openings and cash flow. It doesn’t take a lesson from your high school chemistry teacher (or me) to explain how this one works. The back offices of financial markets are increasing their numbers as investments begin to flow in again.

Better than a tax refund – The job market for tax professionals will hopefully see its typical action this summer. According to a recent FINS article, interest in making a change is at an all-time high, “43% of tax professionals are hoping to change jobs when the economy evens out, according to a survey by the large U.S. finance headhunter Ajilon Professional Staffing. ‘That’s a large number — one of the largest numbers than we’ve seen in years,’ said Jodi Chavez, a senior vice president at Ajilon.”

Does this mean 43% of your staff is jumping ship? Hell no. The job market is warm not on fire. But it does mean that you should expect to see more “Farewell” emails like this one. If your buddies skip town in a similar fashion to that letter, please share with us.

What about this E&Y thing? Well…I don’t know. Desperate times sound like they’re wrapped up in a formal message with a $7,500 ribbon on top. KPMG made a similar request for advisory reinforcements a few weeks back but they didn’t go so far to make a public plea for external hires. The E&Y situation is probably not as bad as it’s being played out here at GC; it could be a pre-emptive move to protect the practice from layoffs. How bad is it really? We need to know. Get on the horn and tell us in the comments.

Deloitte Offers Insight on How It Plans to Retain Its Workforce

Continuing with Wednesday’s attempt to provide insight on some KPMG H.R. banter, I will try to do the same with a recent Deloitte press release.

What seems to be their attempt to provide the private sector advice on how to prevent an exodus of talent actually sounds like a fluffy internal HR memo. Perhaps the Big 4 should review Deloitte’s top ten list of ways to not get slaughtered by the ever-improving job market:

1. Take advantage of the continuing globalization of talent and leadership markets.

DWB – Raid your competitors of their best talent, downplayed earlier this week.

2. Know your critical leaders and most critical talent. Keep your talent pipeline robust enough to deliver those critical skills.

DWB – Pay your top performers in order to keep them happy. If they receive an offer elsewhere, counter-offer their asses. Because the only inevitable outcome is the loss of some talent, see #1.

3. Prepare for a workforce that is more mobile and quicker to pursue new career opportunities.

DWB – Keep tabs on your people. Job loyalty has gone the way of the dinosaurs Baby Boomers. The “what’s in it for me” mentality is keeping job markets saturated with talented individuals looking for a better deal.

4. Tailor your strategies to address the generational and geographic diversity of your workforce.

DWB – Old people and young people don’t get along. They’ve never gotten along. They never will get along. Accept it and move on.

5. Show your employees both the money and the love. Communicate your employer brand as clearly to employees as you communicate your product brand to customers.

DWB – One part water plus two parts HR spin, stirred. Pour over ice. Serve.

6. Know what it takes to stay ahead of your competitors in retaining critical talent, developing new leaders, implementing workforce planning and driving innovation.

DWB – I don’t have a clue what you’re supposed to learn from this. Money is the main driving force. Money makes people dance for joy or jump ship. If your retained talent is net positive, suhhhweeet.

7. Create clear career paths for employees at all levels.

DWB – I like this one if implemented correctly. The traditional career trajectories are well known; communicate practice-to-practice and geographic rotations. Change – even short term – can refresh one’s career and create a greater sense of loyalty to the firm.

8. Align your leadership development programs with your long-term business goals.

DWB – Every firm has ‘the chosen ones” and invests in additional training, retreats, and leader cultivation courses. This should come as no surprise.

9. Know the real impact of talent retention and voluntary turnover on your bottom line.

DWB – Newsflash: it is not cheap to replace talent. Considering most hires begin their careers as interns, we’re talking years of financial investment in every staff member. From pen giveaways to amusement park tickets, there’s a steep price for every staff member lost!

10. Be a beneficiary — not a victim — of the resume tsunami.

DWB – Perhaps you should revisit point #1.

Decoding the Latest KPMG HR Talking Points

FINS published an interview with Bruce Pfau, KPMG’s vice chair of Human Resources, on Monday, with the topics ranging from, “getting a foot in the door, poaching amongst the Big Four, the firm’s push into environmental advice and its goal to capture the best and brightest on U.S. college campuses.”

You can read the entire interview here, but good luck understanding the HR-code served by Pfau. Calm your fears, you don’t need a Ouija board in order to understand the current state of the KPMG Kamp. Below is my best attempt to translate Bruce.

Kyle Stock: Can you provide a geneent hiring?
Bruce Pfau: Each year we hire a couple of thousand people from [college] campuses into our audit, tax and advisory practices. In addition to full-time people, we’re also hiring interns.

We’re also very focused on making sure that we’re keeping an eye on creating a diverse workforce compliment.

DWB – Yes, we’re still hiring. But hell, we have to. We’ve committed to interns and fulltime hires going forward multiple years. Remember when the bottom fell out in late 2008? Yeah, we already had 2010 kids signed up. Also, non-English speaking professionals help out with our diversity statistics; even H.R. has numbers targets. Have fun in that client meeting!

KS: It seems that some of these concentrations would favor certain geographies, are there any specific parts of the country where the firm is growing?
BP: You can pretty much gather from some of the areas of focus that there will be some geographic concentration. We have a gigantic financial footprint in New York, but that doesn’t mean we’re not hiring financial folks on the West coast as well. And we’re obviously beefing up in developing countries — in China, Southeast Asia, India.

DWB – Yes, I used the word “gigantic” to officially describe our position. PS – if you’re not in the gigantic New York market or the west coast, you’re dead weight. Expect cuts or consolidations in offices. Conversely, thank you to our folks in the Big Apple and the Silicon Valley for keeping our pants on these past 18-24 months. Your free Phil hat is in the mail.

KS: KPMG also recently hired the United Nations’ chief climate change expert, Yvo De Boer. Can we expect the firm to offer more environmental advice?
BP: We’re looking to expand our footprint in that area, not only in the standpoint of the firm’s commitment to being a good corporate citizen environmentally and having our own green efforts, but also to try to utilize some of his capabilities, knowledge and relationships to expand our business and gain higher visibility in that space globally — areas like carbon evaluation and emissions trading.

DWB – We finally moved away from paper audits, didn’t we?

KS: You recently hired a new partner in charge of campus recruiting, Stacy Sturgeon. Is the firm taking any new directions there?
BP: I don’t expect to see any major changes in our approach there. We’ve spent the last several years taking campus recruiting to a new level. We’ve redoubled our relationships there and did a variety of things to make sure that our message is getting across to the best and brightest students.

DWB – Hell no, we ain’t changing a thing. There will always be a slew of helicopter parents shoving their over-achieving children into an accounting career. Our traps are set. Fish. In. Barrels.

KS: Do you engage in recruiting via social media and has it proved to be valuable?
BP: Yes. Obviously, [we use] the electronic job-boards and things of that nature. The Facebook-type forums we’re obviously participating in as well, though I cannot say it has transformed our hiring at that level. It’s more of an incremental difference. Our hiring at the more junior level really has a lot to do with sustained relationships with students. Huge percentages of the people that we bring in from campus have done an interview with us. That’s the best social interaction that we can have [with them].

We believe that we’re a great place to build a career.

DWB – we always have and always will scour the’s of the world for tax and advisory talent. Audit is a lost cause. I don’t have a freakin’ clue about Facebook. My kids are on it. Our first year associates swear by it. Some of our managers think it’s suave to “friend” their staff. But just like everyone else in the universe, no here has figured out how to profit it from the networking site.

But newsflash – we interview kids on campus, not on Facebook. Most of them, that is. There’s a select group that have parents at important clients that we let into the KPMG Kamp for free. And do you like that last line about building a career? Yeah, I’m paid to say that.

KS: You mentioned culture, how is KPMG’s culture different from the other three of the Big Four?
BP: Our cultures are way more similar than they are different.

I strongly believe that we face the same challenges, we recruit the same kinds of individuals, we’re in the same business — there’s a lot that’s similar. Where we differ is in a few areas.

First, although all of the firms have a good record in this, I truly believe that our firm has a remarkable culture of corporate social responsibility and volunteerism. I think that that’s something that really is a little bit different at KPMG. I literally could go on and on about how our people have risen to the occasion in that area.

The second thing is the whole area of continuous learning and development. We want to differentiate ourselves as being a great place to build a career.

DWB – We’re all accountants; how different can we be? In terms of volunteerism, what other accounting firm stuffed bears instead of getting blitzed on light beers and chardonnay? That’s what I thought. Build a bear, build a career (I said it again!). Come on, this was a brilliant idea.

A brilliant idea that us partners are still paying for. $*%@.

Read This Before Getting Excited About the Big 4 Announcing Raises Early

What was first a bold move by PricewaterhouseCoopers has now become a pattern for the Big 4 – announcing raises early!!! Woooo-hoooooo!

Or will it be more of a boo-hoo?

Never to be really subtle about anything, news of these promotions and raises is a clear indicator that the firms are trying to lock down their talent and keep the masses happy, and by happy, I mean remaining on the boat. Avoiding an exodus now is absolutely critical; too many people leave and the already short-staffed will be painfully crushed come fall interim work. But where is the balance between raises, bonuses, and promotions?

Early Promotions! – Ahh, the double-edged sword that cuts deep. Years of relentless work, 100 hour weeks, and passionate ass-kissing finally paid off and you’re bumped up ahead of schedule. Welcome to hell. Take the expectations dial and crank it to max; your boss just got free reign to play the, “Well you got skip promoted, no way you can handle this” card. And your peers? They’re no longer your peers because money and job titles make people finicky. Better focus on befriending the first year hires.

And speaking of money – because promotional raises are typically a smaller percentage for early promotes, there’s no tangible financial gain to being bumped up a year early. Why is this? Because you should be happy to be get promoted early. Last time I checked, warm and fuzzy feelings can’t be put towards the mortgage.

Don’t waste time printing new business cards. – Some of you will soon be inheriting a new job title to slap on top of your newly polished resume. The firms run the risk of those moving up to manager might jump ship completely. Don’t be surprised if the senior-to-manager class is larger than expected. Because eenie meenie minie moe – you’re moving on. Remember, it’s expected.

“That’s it?!” – Unless you were part of the 0.043% of those who received raises since 2008, you’ve been living in monetary stagnation for quite some time; many of you even complained about receiving the “you’re lucky to have a job” speech from your superiors. When you have the raise conversation this summer, keep in mind that it is a raise for two years of work. Two years; two busy seasons; two increases in monthly rent. Don’t let yourself get all giddy over seven percent.

Three Remedies for the Busy Season Hangover

Greetings, red-eyed accountants. I hope those of you who celebrated yesterday’s sign-off didn’t drink the local watering holes dry last night. The markets are closed tomorrow, so hit the town again tonight and find yourself a Wall-Streeter (or is it a midtowner now?) to shack up with!

Who am I kidding? You’re probably going to sleep like babies for the first time in months.

Regardless of how you spend your first few days of re-born freedom, you need to be sure not to get caught up in the whirlwind slow season.

These short drops in production need to be stretched to maximum gain. Here’s are few ways to make the most of your slow hours:

Cash in that vacation time – One of the (few) perks of a public accounting gig is the incredible amount of personal time. Five to six weeks of vacay is simply unheard of in the private sector (three weeks are standard issue). So why not do something with your time? Sign up for the mass emails from travel sites and pick a random location to cash in those hotel points that have accumulated over the last three busy seasons.

One GC reader told me, “I’m going to Bermuda in a few weeks. Why? Because JetBlue had a special, I’ve never been, and I’ll be damned if I lose out of my vacation time.” FWIW, many of the airlines are running specials now for flights in the next few months. Pick a random location and get the hell out.

Recharge your batteries and your resume – Pick a Friday or Monday in the coming weeks and call in sick. Book yourself a day of relaxation; hit the spa, the golf course, or work on that rusty ‘72 Chevy taking up room in the garage. Whatever you do, keep the Blackberry on your nightstand and spend your day away from the office. After a day of mental relaxation, pick up your resume and make your time in public start working for you.

Shop around for new work – So you want to work at a hedge fund but are currently auditing depositories – what the hell are you wasting your time for? Now is the time to talk to your mentors and work with staffing to really push your accounting career in the direction of an industry that interests you. Volunteer to do clean up work on a client that is decimated by team members taking vacation. Do what you need to do to begin getting the exposure to work that is relevant to your career aspirations.

For those of you done with busy season, have a drink and enjoy your weekend, but don’t forget about your comrades with 4/15 deadlines. The end – after all – is near.

Newsflash: Accounting Candidates Are Stalked

In what should come as no surprise, social media and its effect on the job market continues to be a conversational presser. The topic is often discussed by nobodies (like myself) in online environments like Twitter and blogs (here’s looking at you, GC), but as the topic shifts from the Wild West of the Internet blog-o-sphere and into dinner conversation circles, CNN is jumping on the topic.

CNN’s article expanded on a recent study by Microsoft that “found that 79 percent of United States hiring managers and job recruiters surveyed reviewed online information about job applicants. In fact, 70 percent of United States hiring managers in the study say they have rejected candidates based on what they found.”

You read that correctly – 79 percent of recruiters and hiring managers Google stalk their candidates. If this was a toothpaste study, that’d be 4 out of 5 dentists. Convincing, right?

As busy season winds down and the itch to test the job market becomes irresistible, what should you do? Many of the people interviewed in CNN’s piece changed their Facebook profile names to be something other than their first and last names. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that profiles can still be searched by email address, employer and school networks, and geographical location. So yeah, switching your name from Jay Smith to Jay Tizzy is great until your recruiter types the email address on top of your resume into Facebook and finds your page.

What should you do? I covered the importance of Facebook etiquette a few weeks back (refresher can be found here), and I can’t stress how important it is to take advantage of their privacy settings. Once you set them accordingly you should test them out yourself. Log out of Facebook, Google yourself, and click on the search result that is for your public profile. What you’re able to see this way is exactly what your recruiter or potential new boss is limited to.

Pictures of last weekend’s rager? Probably not a good idea. Tighten up your security settings until you’re satisfied with how you’re represented online.

What Can Big 4 Accountants Expect Come Compensation/Firings Time?

Now that we’ve covered the natural and expected attrition of the Big 4 firms this time of year, let’s talk about what to expect if and when the post-busy season ax falls again. Per a reader’s request:

“Something similar to the salaries thread, except let the people tell us what $ package they were offered upon being “laid – off”, and how that was calculated (i.e. 1 weeks pay for every year of service? PTO paid out? 1 month severance pay?). I think this would be of interest to many folk out there who are about to be let go, as they can get a rough idea of what to expect and plan accordingly.”

I don’t expect the firings to be very widespread, but rather focused on small, top-heavy sectors (random, baseless examples – state and local tax in St. Louis, followed by IT advisory services in Atlanta). The reason for this is because the firms should be accounting for many to jump ship between April and Labor Day. Those up for promotion (“It’s coming this year, we promise!”) will bail in July/August once promo’s are announced.

For those of you only sticking it out to earn the manager title this summer before you leave, my advice is to start looking now. Inform your recruiters that the title is a mere formality and they will tailor their job hunts accordingly.

So. Let’s kick the weekend off with some wild speculation:

Potential Cuts:

• Federal tax groups
• Small offices and practices that have recently lost several small clients or one large client (e.g. PwC Orlando tax)
• Further cuts “when deemed necessary” before new hires begin in the fall

Safe zones:

• Hedge fund audits
• M&A advisory (based on KPMG whispers)
• IT advisory

Were you let go in the past two years? Share your severance packages in the comments so everyone can better gauge what to expect.

Big 4 Firms Are Planning for Your Exodus

For some time now, Caleb has been touching on the upcoming/ongoing/always-occurring exodus from Big 4 into the private sector. The obvious reasons for the change from public to private are obvious, but here’s a few for kicks:

• Bigger pay day (and potential growth)

• CPA requirements completed

• Actual work/life balance

&ill set transition to a new career

There are other reasons of course, but it is the ferocious combination of these that leads to the breaking point – low morale.

Going Concern received an email from a distraught and burnt out Big 4 auditor from the Southeast region:

The level of morale in the [XYZ] office is at an all time low. Discussion with low level staff, through managers, have yielded the same opinion of overwhelming expectations without the needed support from the firm. They want us to draw blood from a turnip, and they want it done better, faster, and with less resources than last year. This has caused everyone to start exploring options in the market. A vast majority have started fielding resumes and contacting recruiting firms. The select few who have made it past that hurdle are interviewing with no looking back.

Not to downplay what this auditor is saying (and I’m not), but this sounds like the unfortunate reality of many auditors working on smaller, non-public clients. You know, the not-as-sexy-as-ABC Bank but just as important to the firm’s bottom line. You won’t get tickets to the pro sport’s game, but thankyouverymuch for your efforts.

The reader goes on:

Primarily, people have expressed their interest in holding out any real intentions of leaving until promotions roll around in the later part of the summer. They’re hoping that maybe there will be some juicy 20% raise waiting for them, but the stark reality of a measly 5% raise is what they know is coming. Any fifth year Seniors who are waiting for the promotion to manager are just using it for resume purposes.

Our offices are already using under qualified second year staff at the Senior level, as well as retaining new managers in the Senior position because they are extremely understaffed at that level. This, in turn, is causing all of those people to take measures to leave perhaps after busy season and certainly after the insulting promotions come through in August.

It’s a matter of time before this individual (and half of their respective office) becomes another statistic that the Big 4 HR guru’s term “natural attrition.” From an HR perspective, here’s a loose idea of the attrition formula:

Fall 2010: 100 new hires

Fall ’11: 95 new hires become “2nd years”

Summer/Fall ’12: 88 2nd years promoted to senior staff, 70 seniors remain

Summer/Fall ’12: 2 years of public experience reached, 55 seniors remain

Summer/Fall ’13: 45 seniors remain

Summer/Fall ’14: 35 seniors remain

Summer/Fall ’15: 25 seniors remain; 15 promoted to manager, 10 remain on as seniors

Summer/Fall ‘XX: 10 senior managers are eligible for partner

The recession stunted this formula for every firm, as they were forced to make cuts, not only for cost cutting purposes, but also to keep their staffing formulas close to being in-check. But think about it – your firm expects this kind of turnover. They know it’s a matter of time before their hiring class is whittled down to 10% of its original size.

And in the case of the reader, their firm dropped the analytic ball 3-5 years ago. Had they better estimated the percentage of projected losses, there would be more seniors to handle the work.

Remember that time you felt bad about leaving? They’re waiting for you to do so.

KPMG’s Layoffs in Advisory May Have Made Room for Some Auditors

Happy Hangover Thursday, folks. Hopefully the green food coloring washed off easily this morning.

I was out networking with my Irish brothers last night in midtown New York, quite a few blocks north of my normal after-work locale. Second Avenue bars full of cold beer and burned out white collars, St. Patty’s Day was a welcomed Wednesday relief for those in busy season. The day was over, the night was turning late and, for once, shop talk was put on the back burner. That is, until I heard the phrase “Uncle Peat” used as the object of affection bitterness for a toast.

Obviously, I couldn’t resist.

DWB: “Are you guys auditors?”

Auditor 1: “Yeah, over at KPMG. Hopefully not for long, though.”

DWB: “Nice, nice. Moving on to better things?”

Auditor 2: “Hopefully.”

Auditor 1: “Not soon enough.”

A round of drinks later (toast to Uncle Peat not included) and these Irish-for-the-day gentlemen filled me in about an email circulating around KPMG’s NYC audit practice regarding a temporary rotation into the Transaction Services (TS) practice. TS specializes in mergers & acquisitions work and was — most likely — hit steeply by the rounds of the falling guillotine back in 2008 and 2009.

How does a practice that was hemorrhaging money and resources a year ago now have business blowing through the door at such a fierce rate? If you read anything beyond the usual busy season distractions, it’d come as no surprise to you that the markets are slowly picking up. But service firms typically lag in response, both on the positive (Woo-hoo, new business!) and negative (Sorry, this isn’t about you – this is about the numbers) sides of the equation. Nonetheless, Uncle Peat’s auditors should be leaping at this opportunity. A rotation out of audit can be refreshing, even in the quieter months of summer.

Did KPMG’s advisory shake up and realignment pay off? Is the firm’s leadership blowing smoke to perk up the down-trodden auditors currently drowning in busy season? Was a picture of a giant carrot on a string used in the email? If you received this email, I’d love to read the text. Last night’s informants promised to send it over, but they probably called in with emergency doctor “appointments” this morning.

Three Things to Remember When Changing Accounting Careers

Happy Friday, folks. Hopefully with busy season ending soon, this marks the end of your work week. If not, well, keep reading. Maybe we can change that.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, you might be feeling the tides of change in the next few weeks in your office, whether that be with your personal career or with co-workers dressing better than usual.

It’s about the total package – Even in the glory days of post-SOX rulings and lush amounts of advisory services work, public accounting has never paid close to what the private sector provides. When looking for new positions, know that you should not be expecting to find 50%-100% salary increases. It can be expected to find base salary increases to fall into the 10-15% range. Why? Because honestly, the stories told over warms beers at your last work function were grossly overblown. Sure, the occasional rock star accountant makes the leap from newly christened manager to controller of a small fund and landing on a cushy financial pillow. The monetary difference between public and private (and I’m speaking of financial services) rests in the annual bonuses:

Senior Associate, Big 4: $70,000 salary + $5,000 bonus = $75,000

Fund Accountant, XYZ Hedge fund: $80,000 salary + $30,000 bonus = a no brainer

These numbers are general but realistic for today’s market. Keep these in mind as you reach for that red wax pencil.

Be realistic about your next job title – You’re an accountant. No, you can’t be a trader. No, front office is not for you (yet). You need to be honest with yourself and really scrutinize the experience you’re building in your current role. Working on a private equity fund-to-fund will not prep you enough to slip into a fund accounting role at the P/E firm of your choice. Mold your career experiences to fit what you want to do. The right recruiter will manage your expectations, which leads us to…

Start out with multiple recruiters – Finding the right recruiter is like finding a career counselor. Some will be pushy and force unwanted jobs on you. Others will take the time to polish your resume, help you realize the steps you need to take to work toward your ideal job, and only pass along relevant job opportunities. Consider a recruiter like this a blessing. And don’t forget to pass that person’s contact information on to your buddies. They helped you; return the favor.

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.

Are the Edgy Efforts Really Necessary for Recruiting Accountants?

PwC’s Branding Week taught us nothing we didn’t already know.

So as you may recall, PwC launched its massive PR campaign two weeks ago, wrapped up in super-PR spin in this clip from ABC news:

Even if you sat earnestly with pen in hand, I doubt you had any significant takeaways from the video. “Networking starts with the people you know.” “Students should be aware of what they post online.” “Careers are a marathon, not a spring.” Really? For a moment I thought networking was accomplished by connecting with complete strangers on LinkedIn. Please.

Don’t forget about Deloitte’s push to join the 21st century, albeit it a few years late. Talk of Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels, oh my! Come ON. Walk into a campus lecture hall of 100 students and you’ll find 97 of them tapping away on their cell phones. Are they tweeting? Hell no. This generation finds Twitter boring. They need more (as in pictures, tagging, communication channels) than Twitter can offer. Blah.

At the core of it all, are these efforts really necessary? The fundamentals of supply and demand will always make accounting majors one of the top recruiting prizes on college campuses. The major consistently has a top-five placement rate after graduation. Both the accounting firms and the private sector will continue to flourish as hiring grounds.

Then why bother? We all know the profession is sugar coated with promises of worldly travel or volunteer release time; the need for the best and brightest is no secret. That is, in itself, the answer.

Anyone can recruit an accountant, but the best and brightest are chased. Hounded. Stalked. All in the name of tweets.

Thinking Career Change? Big 4 Probably Isn’t for You

A reader posed a question to one of Caleb’s posts last week with regards to, “how to get into one of the big four accounting firms as an entry-level auditor when you are a laid off baby boomer with many other experiences?”

My short answer — in so many polite words — is why would anyone want to do that? Even as a recently laid off baby boomer, I can only hope that your career, up until its unexpected termination, was fulfilling. Contacts, networks, referrals, and references; all of these resources should be tapped out before considering a complete career change.

On a more basic level of necessity, I doubt that an entry-level career (well below the average Big 4 salaries earlier discussed) starting between $48,000 and $60,000 is ideal for a baby boomer. This is before the return on investment is even discussed. If I was a recruiter and had to choose between hiring a green recent graduate with minimal zero family obligations versus a baby boomer, parent of three, coming off of a recent firing, the answer is simple. The young buck will complain less, cost less in insurance terms, and has a recent education that can be molded to fit the firm’s methodology.

The typical public accounting career path is set: graduate from school, start career with a Big 4, take your punches and roll up the ranks. Those still standing in 10-12 years make partner. Burnt out souls need not apply; there’s always the private sector.

There are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb. The experienced hiring departments of the Big 4 are consistently recruiting specialized talent from the private sector. Ten years ago this centered heavily around the IT departments, as firm security practices grew exponentially (gotta love those SAS 70’s). Tax specialists are always in need. Many of the firms poach experience from government work, which is about as plug-and-play of a situation as you could hope for.

More on the volatility side of things are the firms’ advisory practices. Through 2005-2008, experienced hiring for the forensic, corporate finance and M&A practices tried desperately to keep up with growth opportunities. Turn the page to 2009 and where do you think the axe fell the most? No question it was the advisory lines. But even now as the markets shed thousands of jobs, a supply of raw talent appeared on the horizon for the Big 4 to gobble up. It can oftentimes be a rollercoaster of both potential and risk, but generally the best opportunities for experienced employment can be found here.

Deloitte Polishes Its Online Recruiting Presence but Who’s Listening?

A few weeks back I talked about the flashy websites the Big 4 have invested in for recruitment purposes. For those of you DT’ers still wondering where your raises went, the answer is now clear.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a brand new (interactive!) recruitment website. DT is completely revamping their online presence.

Seemingly launched the same week as PricewaterhouseCoopers’ personal branding campaign, DT’s overhaul is much more comprehensive. The Twitter page already boasts 1,500 followers; its unique twist is that employees take turns tweeting about their daily work. Interesting approach, only if you remember to log in to the Twitter page and read the biography of the weekly tweeter.

Deloitte’s YouTube approach is similar to that of KPMG’s established page; clean and consistent website hosting professional videos. One of the videos, entitled “What if your work mattered to the world,” delves, umm, deeply into the importance of cow manure on the job. Taking the term “shitty job” quite literally, I suppose.

Finally, everything is nicely tied together with a flashy site showcasing – shockingly – its youngest and brightest employees. Stories, videos, and links to various DT pages make working for the dot seem downright enjoyable and fun.

The question remains, though – who is this targeting?

From my brief experience on the sites, there’s still no direct way to contact the recruiter responsible for a particular school (PwC boasts the only clear option). There’s no way to ask questions, request feedback, contact the recruiter who’s business card just went through the wash.

This maneuver of hiding behind a flashy website is a running theme for corporate recruiting websites. Why? Why not? The employers hold the cards. The recruiters mailboxes are already overflowing. And if you’re a top student on campus, trust me, the recruiters will find you. So why the website?

See the Joneses out there in front? Yup, better go catch them.

We’re still at a point in the social media world where no one really knows what works best. Facebook has been all the rage for teenagers and young adults, but now that older generations are joining in swarms (i.e. creepy overprotective parents) , there has been a shift of concern among younger users. Twitter is a cluster of a mystery, but the it’s a cluster that everyone (including me) is going along with.

The Big 4 marketing gurus are no different. They know that the recruiters will do the legwork to find the best candidates. They know students will talk to their professors for advice, and listen to their older friends who interned elsewhere.

Perhaps in the end the websites, tweets and cow videos are for the helicopter parents. Seriously. Recruit the parent, recruit the student.

PwC Wants You to Know Your Elevator Speech

By now busy season is causing many of you to burn the candle from both ends and I have little doubt that you’d have a few choice words if you found yourself sharing the morning elevator ride with your firm’s CEO.

No fake smiles or warm-felt appreciation for your job. But as much as you’d like to punch The Big Boss in the spleen and kindly ask for your personal life back, you’d find yourself grinning and bearing it, and maybe even thanking them for the excellent work / life balance initiatives.

Ha. Balance.

Well, PricewaterhouseCoopers still believes in the elevator speech, or at least their recruiting team does. Personal Brand Week kicked off on P. Dubs’ Facebook and recruitment pages yesterday with the first lesson. The week’s schedule is as follows:

Monday – your elevator speech
Tuesday – your passion
Wednesdsay – your network
Thursday – your online brand
Friday – open to change (career momentum)

As soft as these topics may seem, the worksheets provided on the site can be a starting point for those of you already in the midst of your careers. Forget the elevator and the high-up partners. This should go for everyone above you that you’ve worked for, no matter how briefly that experience might have been or where you happen to bump into them.

Take the elevator speech idea: knowing how to succinctly articulate your position and experience within the firm is important. It might sound trivial, but remembering the name of your first manager-who-recently-made-partner and name-dropping this individual can be beneficial. Same goes for what clients you’ve worked on. Mentioning how you worked on XYZ bank and that you found the work engaging and something you want to experience more of could spark the interest of the your target.

Like I mentioned, this conversation can take place anywhere. In line at the cafeteria. Your building’s shoe-shine or newspaper stand. Even the end-of-busy-season party is an opportunity.

There is a fine line between sounding sincere and sounding manufactured (ask Tiger Woods). The last thing you want to come off is an overzealous associate who stalked down the leading tax partner only to say how much you appreciated the opportunity to work 14-hour days. Be genuine but avoid sounding rehearsed.

Gen X Accountants, Here Are Four Ways to Cope with Your Millenial Co-workers

Judging by the timing of the comments, it looks like many of you were burning the oil on Sunday; sorry to see that. As always, thank you for your discussion. Picking up where I left off with Generation X, my advice is simple:

Know your competition – With the job market consisting of 80 million Baby Boomers and 78 million Millennials, the 46 million Generation X’ers out there need to realize the statistical battle that lies ahead. Accept the inevitable – you will be working side-by-side with Generations MY regardless of their competency. Sure, they might be “whiny, work-dodging, self-satisfied wimps” as GC commenter champmonkey expressed so eloquently; but it’s only a matter of time before these wimps are pawning work off on to you, Gen X.

Roll up your sleeves – And grab a shovel, community service is here to stay. recently cited a Harvard poll that “found that 61 percent of Millennials feel personally obligated to make a difference in the world, and a full 78 percent believe that companies have a responsibility to join them in this effort.” Your firm’s recent (past five years) attention to community service issues and providing tangible options to employees is not because Scrooge suddenly had a heart – these were direct and purposeful recruiting strategies clothed in heartfelt intentions. I’m not saying this is a negative, quite the opposite. Nonetheless, be prepared for programs like Ernst & Young’s corporate responsibility and KPMG’s Build-a-Bear event to become staples.

Attention to detail – As another commenter on last Thursday’s post noted, multitasking has a primary downside – tasks simply take longer to complete. Although the MY generations are becoming increasingly efficient at multitasking (have you seen them text?!) not enough can be said for being responsible for one’s work and seeing tasks through to their completion. Your bosses know this; your clients know this; you thrive on this. Use this to your advantage and, by all means, beat this habit into the minds of your tweeting/Facebooking subordinates. On the flip side you need to understand that Generation MY is not going to wake up one morning able to burrow through a day’s work without staying connected to the outside world. It is an engrained part of their daily lives that needs to be accepted, not smothered out like a fire.

Get used to hand holding – It’s going to take time for Generations MY to comprehend the essential need for better work, honest ownership of one’s responsibilities, and understanding that “me” in team is a crock. There will have to be acceptance and understanding from both parties. Drop the bogus mindset that “it is what it is” and begin to actively try to get along.

That means you too, Millennials.

A Wake-up Call for All Gen X Accountants

A potential client of mine was presenting its case to my firm a while back. The presenting team consisted of senior leadership, management, and staff members; all of which were professional and polished in their demeanor.

The presentation was divvied up between members, with much of the discussion being led by the management and staff. When it came time for the closer – the make or break – a fresh-out-of-college kid stood up and delivered one of the best deal closers I’ve ever experienced.

At the conclusion of the meeting I took a moment to catch up with the young professional who delivered the knock-out. I asked, “Why were you the teammate to deliver the final pitch?”

“Easy,” she responded, “I volunteered to do it, and no one objected.”

Generation X’ers — those of you born in the 60’s and 70’s — are in a tough position, and it’s you that I’d like to address today. Above you are the Baby Boomers; sucking the well and its resources dry for every last drop. Sure, they’re holding on too long but who is kicking them out? Who is applying the professional pressure for them to move on? Look down.

Below you (but quickly rising) is the Future – Generations Millenial and Y (MY, for short) are ready, willing and capable of busting through the corporate door and crossing the finish line ahead of you. They multitask, network, and socialize better than ever thought was possible. Their collegiate education went beyond debits and credits – group projects, public speaking tasks, and teamwork were the norm. And they’re connected!

They are maturing in a digital age that makes them comfortable with who they are. They are “friends” with a 1,000+, sharing photos, comments, and personal tidbits about their daily lives; something Generation X is used to sharing with buddies over beers or at home with the family. Most significantly, Gen’s MY are opportunistic. Their college and job applications were filled with Habitat trips in Guam, hospital philanthropies, and more part-time, non-paid work than you can imagine. Why? Because not only do they care about traveling the extra mile – they see the personal gain that comes with it. This is exactly why the 20-something year old staff member delivered the closing speech to my firm.

The problem is not whether the staff member had the right or the talent to be trusted with the responsibility. The question is – why didn’t one of the three senior managers step up? They obviously didn’t see the opportunity in front of them.

Let this simmer over the weekend, Gen X’ers. Next week I’ll be addressing what you can do to speak up and be seen from valley between the Boomers and Gens MY; otherwise known as where you currently sit.

Three Social Networking Tips for Accountants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPAs Friending Potential Clients? Only Time Will Tell

Earlier this week I caught a link from @CPA_Trendlines about the “next generation” accounting firm. The article spotlighted Blumer & Associates, a second-generation firm in South Carolina trying to find its niche in tomorrow’s market. With an eyebrow raised, I continued reading:

Blumer’s “new management” theories, for example, mean a ruthlessly honest kind of client focus, including three essential hallmarks:

• a sharply defined niche focus,
• a “clean” client list and
• innovation “to create new services as awareness of client needs grows.”

Sure, this theory is great if your firm consists of fewer people than most Big 4 engagement teams, but I nonetheless nod in recognition and approval to the idea of change. It would be hard, however, to apply these thought practices to today’s large firms.

Just for kicks:

Niche focus – You mean spreading thin across every crevice of market opportunity, right?

Clean client listOops. Oops again.

Innovation – Slow moving giants are just that. Slow.

Lost in the article’s comments was commentary from management consultant Rita Keller commending Blumer’s challenge to the “one size fits all” approach: “[T]he next generation of leaders will create organizations that are more nimble and open to continual change and new ideas. They will not get new clients at a Chamber networking event, they’ll get them from Facebook and from blogging. They will keep in touch with referral sources on-line, not at lunch.”

Don’t scoff; this might very well be true. The long-term advantages of networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are nothing more than “what-if” conversation bits better suited for the Twitterverse and blogs like this place. But think about it – Millennial’s are connected to hundreds if not thousands of people on Facebook.

These networks started in high school or college and will only grow organically as their careers expand and evolve. Friends and colleagues will move on from public accounting, and their new careers will be accessible via newsfeeds and status updates. Facebooking stalking will have a new (and potentially profitable) purpose.

Will shaking hands on the back nine be replaced by wall posts? Probably not, but the Rolodex is becoming irrelevant right in front of our eyes. Why pick up the phone when a brief Facebook message or direct message Tweet will suffice? Boomers can object all they want, but person-to-person interaction is well on its way out of fashion.

Just don’t go poking that potential client; at least not right away.

Managing Diversity for the Accounting Firm of the Future

E&Y tweeted an interesting release this morning regarding their outlook on cultural diversity and how it relates to future success, both at their firm and in tomorrow’s global economy. I encourage you to read the full text (linked above), but here is an exercept I want to focus on:

“Our recent study “Redrawing the map: globalization and the changing world of business” reveals that the boards of many global companies lack the diversity to deal with intercultural challenges. At the same time, they cite the need for internationally experienced staff as the most important cultural factor in conducting business globally.”

Every firm is well aware of the importance for cross-cultural efficiencies as an accelerator to getting business done in the global markets. I agree with the article’s point that, “If an organization does not leverage the potent weapon of diversity, it risks limiting its creative potential and ultimately losing its competitive edge.” This is absolutely true. But how does a firm balance the “need” for cultural diversity with the reality that the leadership of many clients oftentimes resembles more of an Old White Man’s Club than that of an idealistic HR workplace? From schoolyard to the boardroom, we as people are naturally drawn to the bubble of comfort created by surrounding ourselves with those who are similar to us; commonalty breeds security. Think back to your last happy hour or the lunch table in 4th grade – what has changed?

On a personal level, E&Y isn’t failing at its internal diversity efforts; per Caleb’s post last week, they are second among the Big4 in terms of overall diversity hires (29%) and their male/female ratio is an even-steven 50%. These numbers are most likely bolstered by increased retention over the last 18 months as well as a focus on diverse hiring from the campus pipelines.

That’s not to say that the ongoing effort to strike a better diversity balance is unrealistic or futile. The next generation of partners (i.e. you new associates sweating through your first 80 hour workweek) are better prepared for the global workforce than the average 20 year veteran partner. The influx of group work, community service, and international students enrolled in American higher education institutions remains at the origin of preparedness. Couple these attributes with the fact that these colleges and universities see the statistical advantage to stirring the Diversity Melting Pot, today’s students are prepared more than ever for the corporate boardroom. If only you could send your partners back to experience the same thing.

The challenge for any firm lies in managing the differences created across cultures and generations. The basis of this responsibility lies within personal relationships formed between colleagues; something that no report or Fortune statistic can analyze.

You can follow Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources professional, on Twitter @DWBraddock.

This Is How Some Accountants Are Surviving Busy Season

Thanks to those who stopped by Tuesday’s post to discuss work-life balance issues. I also received an email from a PWC reader which details the firm’s “official” tips for dealing with hell busy season. Let’s begin with the PWC checklist of helpful tips. The best of:

Work late two nights a week and stay for dinner. The ve by 7, 7:30 so you can have dinner at home. This way you aren’t staying until 9 or 10 and eating at the client every night of the week.

Is Dubya promoting a four-day workweek or just assuming that most people don’t count Friday as anything more than a 9 to 5 barnburner? Either way, factor in a 7:00pm departure, home by eight, dinner on the table an hour later. While thoughts of what you left at work brewing on your mind? I don’t think so.

Work 7am – 7pm Monday through Friday. This allows for team members to have dinner at home and eliminates the need to work weekends.

It also means your team members land the best parking spots in the lot. It’s all about the little victories, isn’t it? FTW.

Agree which weekends the team will work from the client site at the start of the audit if this is something that can be accomdated by the engagement team. Set an agenda for those weekends and send a calendar invite. This way everyone knows what their expectations are upfront related to hours you will work and what you should try to accomplish. Sending a calendar invite and working hours for the weekends gives staff the opportunity to plan around those hours instead of not knowing when you might wrap up that Saturday.

I like this one. Communication is constantly at a shortage when it comes to weekend work, especially on larger engagements where weekend face time is an awful reality. Nonetheless, you competent team leaders out there should consider this. Be mindful of the realistic possibility that some team members will finish Saturday’s agenda on Friday. Do these people still need to come in on Saturday?

Make your course of action known ahead of time. The personal motivation of your staff will be severely threatened if their timely work is unknowingly rewarded with more. There’s nothing wrong with updating the meeting request Monday through Thursday as work progresses; but at some point the staff needs to know what to expect.

PWC’s list also included the popular idea discussed in the comments of Tuesday’s post regarding leaving early one night a week. Commenter bitteraccountant made this point:

If you think that it (a work-life balance) does exist, and going home at 6pm during the week and working till 10 the remainder is what work life balance means, you have a fucked up image of a life.

Touché, bitteraccountant. To a degree, the comment rips the blinders off and exposes the truth of the situation. Is it naïve to think that the public accounting industry can really have a near balance of work and life, especially during busy season? Oftentimes it’s not happy hours or PTA awards that your staff needs to get through the winter months (although the vodka doesn’t hurt). Clear communication from everyone, straightforward status updates, and a minute amount of respect for colleagues is a stronger foundation than most teams care to admit they’re missing.

Person in apocalyptic environment holding an open can of food

Do You Have Any Tips on Achieving Work/Life Balance This Busy Season?

As your chargeable hours begin the steady uptick, it is naïve to think that you can take the  the same mental and physical approach to busy season that you took to the interim months. Baseball players don’t use the same training methods in September that they did in spring training, and neither should you. “Busy […]