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How to Choose Between Two Big 4 Offers When You Have No Clue What Either Involves

In this week’s accounting conundrum, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed accounting student is mustering up the courage to click “accept” on one of two offers: Big 4 Business Valuation vs. Big 4 Supply Chain Consulting:

Hey guys,

I just started reading your website and it has so much helpful information about the big 4. I'm in a huge pickle and I was wondering if you guys could help me with a decision. I have two offers from big 4 that I have to choose between; one offer is in business valuation and the other is Advisory in supply chain (both will be in mostly oil and gas work). Here are my main concerns about the two options:

1. Which option will give me a better skill set for the future?

2. Which one will give me better industry knowledge?

3. What are my exit opportunities?

4. Any other pros and cons that you guys can help me with?

I appreciate any advice from anyone out there. I have a couple of days to make this decision and I'm so conflicted 🙁

Dear GC Reader:
First piece of advice: eliminate “guys” from your list of commonly used phrases within e-mails, irrespective of how informal the message actually is.  Just do it.

So before we dive into the good stuff, let’s make a blanket assumption that the offers are identical in terms of salary, signing bonus and location.  To the extent they are not – well, that matters, a lot, but I’ll let you dig through that fun on your own time.  

You mentioned you have two offers from Big 4 firms: one in business valuation and one in supply chain management.  Congrats.  This is not the worst problem one could have.  The short answer and good news for you is, in accepting either offer, it is virtually impossible to know what is going to happen at this point and each offer presents a unique set of benefits, rendering each of them a pretty good decision at this juncture in your career.  In fewer words, you can’t really make a bad decision here.  Let’s take a look at your questions:

Which option will give me a better skill set for the future?

I’d be a liar and downright misrepresenting everything I stand for if I didn’t at least touch on the tirade a question like this pushes me to the brink of.  

I mean, GC reader, where do I even begin??  Skill set? Future?

What are you envisioning?  A government collapse throwing society into a dystopian, chaotic state, existing in a post-apocalyptic world??  

Assuming that’s your future, then you’ve got to go the supply chain route.  

I don’t know you and this question is one only you can answer.  Attempt to understand as much about the roles as is possible and take that information in conjunction with what you know about yourself personally.

Generally speaking, the business valuation role will strengthen your financial acumen and can provide a nice foundation to get into an investment banking / private equity career later in life.  

Supply chain looks great from a management consulting perspective and can spring-board you to upper tier consulting firms if that piques your interest.  Both will look great with a few years of experience if you decide to go the MBA route.  

Final piece of advice here, specifically with respect to the valuation role: attempt to understand how much of the job is going to be supporting existing audit/tax clients (i.e. performing asset valuations supporting audits).  It is my belief that many of the Big 4 valuation practices masquerade as valuation consulting groups however provide nothing more than audit-support roles, often times at the mercy of the dreaded auditors, their clients, deadlines, and all that other fun-auditor-shit.

Which one will give me better industry knowledge?

I’m really holding back over here, GC reader.  Come-the-fuck-on.  See my mini-tirade above.  Queue the scene from the masterpiece, Billy Madison, when he is shaking the young-naïve-little fat kid’s face.   Here’s your answer: the roles are probably equal with respect to “industry knowledge” and it probably doesn’t matter at this point anyway.  What the fuck is industry knowledge anyway?

I was recently asked by a CFO of a healthcare firm if I had “healthcare industry experience”.  The truth is I had none.  


None what-so-ever.  

I did happen to read an article about several major healthcare insurance payors and impact of new legislation in the WSJ that morning, replied “yes” to the CFO, rattled off some buzzwords & bullshit (“B&B”) coming directly from the article and by the conclusion of the call, I was referred to as my firm’s healthcare and revenue cycle operations expert.  That’s industry knowledge for you.

What are my exit opportunities?

Touched on this here in #1’s response:

Business Valuation: Investment banking, private equity, other financial consulting (corporate restructuring / turnarounds, other), MBA.

Supply Chain: Management consulting, in-house opportunities (think Amazon, Target, etc.), MBA.

Note: if you want to pursue any of the above, you’re going to have to work your ass off.  Getting married or having kids will also really impede your ability to pursue any of the above as well.

Any other pros and cons that you guys can help me with?

If you eliminate the short-term metrics that need to be evaluated (salary, location, etc.), I think you can ask yourself:
Do you want to go the management consulting route?
Or the investment banking / financial industry / consulting route? 

In the meantime, hurry up, make a decision and enjoy the rest of your last year in school.  You didn’t hear it from me: remember they’re only jobs, you’re young and work sucks.  Good luck.