This is not meant to be all-inclusive. But for those of you that don’t know how, or are too afraid to take charge of your career, this is the dark and dirty road you’ll be heading down very, very quickly…
The smiley, enthusiastic intern. We all remember them. They are grateful for the opportunity to pick up your coffee and do your grunt work. They even reply with sir, ma’am, please, and thank you.
Sure, sometimes they show up late and have no idea what they’re doing, but they're happy. After all, who wouldn’t be? Hourly pay, partner lunches, and everyone is scared to offend them until they actually accept an offer.
But then it happens, the last day of the internship. They receive an offer.
Last Year of School
The next year of their life is pure bliss. The now ex-intern goes back to school with a huge smile on their face. They need 150 hours to complete the CPA requirement and don’t care about the grade. As long as its better than a C-, the Big 4 firms won’t even care where the GPA ends up. The ex-intern also gets to brag to family and friends about how they locked in a great job after college.
The ex-intern also decides they don’t want to study for the CPA exam. Who wants to go through finals and then take an exam that they are probably going to fail? This part of life is too good. Why ruin it? They are at the top of the college food chain. The ex-intern is not going to be living with the parents, waiting tables like the entire graduating class of the philosophy department.
The First Busy Season
The ex-intern is ready for their January start date. They are pumped to now be called a “staff accountant." It’s the first week and the staff accountant has anxiously awaited their fresh new business cards to pass out on Friday night. So it begins.
The first few weeks aren’t too bad. A real paycheck, training, and freshly-paid CPA exam review materials. January turns into February and the staff accountant has started to realize 5:00pm means snack break, not time to go home. The hours become longer and the weeks roll by a lot slower.
The staff accountant has also realized that those new clothes have started getting a little too snug around the waist. After gaining 20 pounds, it's time to replace the wardrobe. The CPA review materials are still laying underneath the bed and the May 31st scheduled FAR exam is approaching quickly.
Remember those partner calls and lunches during the internship? The in-person meetings just to find out how things are going? They are now non-existent. The only time a first-year got the chance to speak with the partner was when they misspelled her name in the planning memo.
They also received about 25 LinkedIn messages a week begging them to consider other job opportunities. While that was annoying at first because duh, they love their job, now it's pretty tempting. Unfortunately, they accepted the CPA review materials which means they have at least 2 years before they can leave the job. Unless they’re ready to pay back the $3,500, of course.
A year has now gone by and the then staff accountant has edited their LinkedIn title to “Experienced Accounting Associate." What does that title even mean? They have one year of learning how to tie out financial statements and maybe can now explain what an accounting estimate is. Every invoice has been reviewed in detail and by golly if they receive a confirmation via fax, a call-back is getting made to ensure every 3rd party actually exists.
But one day, the experienced associate realizes that if they don’t review those last few invoices, and every number in the trial balance is not actually tied out, the rest of their day can be spent trolling Going Concern. Now that sounds wayyy better than actually working.
But honestly, as an experienced associate, is becoming a Senior Associate worth it? Seniors work harder, barely earn more, get yelled at by 3-4 managers simultaneously and on top of it all, most of the guys (and a few of the girls) are losing their hair before 30.
I guess it's time to call up those recruiters and find out what's out there.
But because the experienced associate decided not to wait for a promotion, they settled with a modest pay increase. Oh, and by the way, the “raise” is completely negated by the fact that they have half the vacation time and need written permission to see the dentist.
That is how fast you go from bright eyed and bushy tailed to bitter, miserable, and under-employed. Enjoy your new career in accounting!
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