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By the end of the week, I am going to need to make a decision on which offer to accept. I am applying for entry-level auditing positions, and received my first offer last Friday. I also anticipate receiving two more by Thursday. The one I recently received is from a mid-size regional firm that specializes in an industry that I find to be very interesting. I also really hit it off with their staff and think I would really enjoy myself there. One of the offers I anticipate receiving on Thursday is from a Big 4 firm.
The biggest issue for me it seems is which job will put me in the best position 3-5 years from now. There is a greater than 50% chance that I will need to move in the next few years, and I keep going back to the fact that working for a Big 4 will give me the most options. The mid-size firm does some work nationally, and may connect me with other public accounting firms around the country, but that is about the extent of it. Is working at a Big 4 that big of a deal to future employers? If I plan to make a career in public accounting, is it easy to switch from one mid-size firm to another – or am I more likely to get recognized by a mid-size if I’m coming from a Big 4?
I have been a regular reader of Going Concern over the past few months, and appreciate the depth of knowledge you and the readers have, so I’m hoping you can help.
#1) Thanks for the kind words but maybe you need to spend a few more months on this website if you actually do not possess the knowledge to answer your own questions for yourself, namely the ones that question just how big of a deal Big 4 is on your resume. We at least hope when you say “mid-size” you mean a truly mid-size and not a small, regional firm that just so happens to have a national client or two. At least you’ve got hope for flexibility in that case.
#2) Now that you’ve thought about it for a moment, slapped yourself upside the head and come to the realization that yes, Big 4 on your resume really is that big of a deal (how we feel about that is irrelevant for this discussion, we are not talking about the Kool-Aid itself but simply the effects of said Kool-Aid), the question is what you want to do in the next several years. You should also realize from your short time on this site that few public accounting grunts actually dedicate 3 – 5 years of their life to the firm. 2 years in Big 4 is sufficient to get your CPA, get some good connections and earn a solid item on your resume.
However, you note part of the mid-size appeal to you is the opportunity to work close to an industry that interests you. It’s awesome that you are aware enough of what you like to think in these terms but what happens if you turn down Big 4 for this mid-size option only to find out this specialization is not at all interesting to you? Are you 100% positive that the Big 4 opportunity wouldn’t allow you the same close quarters with an industry you find appealing?
When you say you hit it off with the mid-size staff, do you mean their actual staff or just the hot recruiting bubbleheads hired to lure you into their trap? If you mean actual staff, then I think your decision here is clear. You seem to have a good feeling about the mid-size opportunity and are simply confused because you have bought into the idea that there is nothing like Big 4. That isn’t a myth, but it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a career of mediocrity if you forgo the Big 4 route for something that you feel fits you better.
You probably already know all of these things and didn’t really need to email us to ask. If your heart is telling you go mid-size, do it. It isn’t going to make you a public accounting pariah, though it may limit your opportunities later on slightly. Note I said slightly. You will not be relegated to some public leper colony for being branded with the curse of anything but Big 4. On the other hand, Big 4 might steal your soul and you could find yourself suicidal before you are anywhere near to the two year mark just for the sake of a few extra opportunities and a nice resume item later on down the road.
Is that a risk you are willing to take? Only you can decide that. I’m pretty sure we have at least one or two mid-size staff lurking around here to offer you some more specialized advice based on their experiences beyond what I’ve just suggested to you (just ignore GT Partner, who is an obvious troll). Good luck.