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Intern With Uncertain Future Wants to Know If It’s Time to Stay or Go

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My question is a little bit of a twist on the internship question. As an older accounting student, I struggled to get any real offers or opportunities. Right after I graduated, I interviewed with PwC for an audit specialist job at their Service Delivery Center (or SDC) which is the US form of audit outsourcing. I noticed over 150-200 of us got hired with contracts, but only 50 or so fulltime offers are available. My contract ends in February, and this seems like dismal odds. Normally, I hear at a PwC internship you are very likely to get an offer…but now I feel I was lied to and that there isn’t opportunity available. Should I stick with it? Look for a job on the down low? Maybe combine both strategies? Should I talk to anyone in PwC about what to do?

Should I stay or should I go now?

It’s understandable that you would feel frustrated about your full-time prospects when you are seeing “dismal odds.” Most in your situation would feel the same way. There are two parts to this situation that I believe will be helpful for you: 1) Advice on how to navigate the internship stage of your accounting career and 2) How to handle career frustration and make it work for you.

First things first: navigating the internship stage. Specifically, the internship stage when your shiny full-time offer is not yet in your hands. Just as a rule of thumb, it is NEVER a bad thing to network with other accounting firms and hear about different opportunities. 3 reasons why this is important:

  • You are not putting all of your eggs in the PwC full-time opportunity basket. Especially since it sounds like your gut is telling you (and the 33% retention rate that you calculated) that your full-time offer is not guaranteed. The same way we are told to diversify our investments, diversify your job prospects so you don’t wind up disappointed and unemployed.
  • You may meet a different firm that may be a better fit. I would be curious to hear why you hesitate to talk with other firms. At the internship stage, it is expected and you deserve to work at a firm that you enjoy. If you view this as an opportunity (more on this later), then the results would be a win for you (full-time offer, money, glory!) and a win for your future firm (engaged & loyal employee).
  • If you receive multiple full-time offers, then you have negotiating power. Oh, the power of negotiation with supply and demand. For every position, there is a salary range. Do you want to be at the bottom or the top of that range? If you show that you and your skills are in demand, then you can better negotiate the result.

The internship process is like a cattle call; it’s the opportunity for accounting firms to hire the best of the best when they are fresh out of school. It’s also an opportunity for you to play the hiring game to show why you are unique and why you are a good fit. Which leads me to point number two — how to handle career frustration.

Right now, you are viewing this situation as a problem. With the words “dismal,” “lied to,” “isn’t opportunity available,” it makes sense that you see this situation as black and white. “Should I stay at PwC or should I go?”

What if you challenged this thinking? What if you saw this situation not as a problem, but as an opportunity? Let me spell this out for you.

Person A (problem thinking): Ugh, my full-time offer isn’t guaranteed. I’m stressed and nervous and I can’t believe that PwC lied to me. I feel frustrated and can’t do anything about it.
Person B (opportunity thinking): I know that my full-time offer isn’t guaranteed so I want to do my research, attend job fairs, and utilize my network. My goal is to receive a full-time offer from at least 2 firms that would be a great fit so I can choose the best opportunity for me.

One more thought to leave you with…yes, it is true that there is 33% chance of you receiving a full-time offer. If you start thinking about this as an opportunity and feel confident about your ability, then who wouldn’t want to hire you? People will start to notice, including PwC and those other firms that you are going to network with. Instead of worrying about the future unwanted result — not receiving a full-time offer — focus your energy today working towards the goal that you really want — full-time offers, money, glory!

Image: iStock/StockFinland