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Five Tips For Surviving Big 4 Life From One New Grunt with a Year Under His Belt

As many of you look forward to joining the workforce in the weeks and months ahead while still others look back on your early days of public accounting through the clueless intern emails that make their way to GC, I thought it would be fitting to take a look at a post via This Way to CPA that shares the wisdom of one bright-eyed newbie-turned-old pro who boasts a whole year of experience by now.

Remember when we asked what one piece of advice you'd give to a newb? This guy did everyone one better and gave five.

1) Ask the "dumb questions"

2) Smile

3) Find your stress reliever

4) Remember what you are there for

5) If you make a mistake, tell someone

Alright… so asking dumb questions… yeah, good idea. Asking dumb questions just for the sake of looking eager will easily get you on every senior's shit list but asking "dumb" questions when you are genuinely unsure is an easy way to look both interested and useful (unless your senior is a dick). "If you haven't said the words 'can I ask you a stupid question' at least 30 times in your first year on the job, you are doing something wrong," OP writes. 30 might be pushing it but you get the point.

Moving on… smile. Excellent idea. Surely there's some study out there that found smiling through misery can get you through just about anything. "There was a period of busy season where I let my stress get the best of me. I got very serious, kept my head down and didn’t say much to my colleagues on my team," OP shares. "When I spoke with my friends I was pretty negative about my experiences. One day my Dad said 'enough, put a smile on Corey and shake this off.' So I did. Smiling, keeping a positive attitude, and avoiding any negativity has such an incredible effect." We hope this guy will check in two or three years from now and let us know if that smile is getting him through.

As for stress relievers, we're pretty sure OP did not mean illegal drugs, hookers or any number of illicit activities. "For busy season, I bought an iPad as a post-CPA gift to myself," he said. "No matter how late I got off, I went to the gym and read a chapter of my book on the Kindle App as an escape from the day. An hour later, I was infinitely better, refreshed, and ready to take on tomorrow." What the hell! My iPad doesn't have that feature! I find just half an hour of Angry Birds leaves me more frustrated than I was when I started because now I've lost half an hour of my life and feel like an idiot for not understanding basic physics but whatever, more power to this guy.

Remembering what you're there for can be a bit tricky. Are you there for the money? Then you can ignore this part. Are you there to learn everything you can from superstars of the accounting industry? You can probably ignore this too. But remember you were once a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie too so let's give the guy a break and let him bask in his accomplishment. "When people ask me why I chose Public Accounting, I tell them the same thing. How rare is it that a 23 year old is given access to some of the leaders in the business world and sensitive financial information." Right. How empowering. Guess no one at his office sent him to the supply closet for a box of tick marks.

His last point is actually the most crucial (thank goodness, I was getting scared for a minute there) and something all public accounting newbies should prepare for. If you screw up, someone is probably going to find out and won't be happy. It's a lot easier to man (or woman) up, get help and fix it before it becomes an even bigger deal. "There was one situation where I misunderstood instructions from my senior and didn’t test a significant portion of payroll expense for one of my clients. I tried to figure it out by myself and fix the problem but I needed help. I should have addressed it early on but pushed it off as I spun my wheels trying to solve the problem myself. When I finally threw in the towel and addressed it with my supervisor a few days later, it was such a simple answer and we resolved it in 5 minutes." This is directly related to #2 – get help when you need it, just don't be needy, lazy and obnoxious about it.

Are we clear? Ask questions, smile even when it hurts, buy yourself an iPad so you can cry into Fruit Ninja in the bathroom when it gets to you, feel empowered by the fact that you have access to your clients' critical financial data and be real when you mess up. Sounds sorta right.