As most of you are acutely aware, your humble editor is a KPMG alum. By virtue of said alumni-ness, occasionally, I’ll receive an email from the old firm informing me of this or that and the occasional invitation to an event of some sort. Recently, I was asked to participate in a survey called, “The Career Value of Big 4 Experience” and since the firm said that for my participation they would donate a brand new children’s book to First Book, I figured it was worth my time. ANYHOO, since it’s a painfully slow day out there and you guys aren’t making squat happen (with the exception of tax returns, audit workpapers, due diligence and whathaveyou) I thought I’d share my answers with you and put Big 4 career value idea out there for discussion.
Apologies for the various sizes, clipping these screen shots were a bitch. And full disclosure: there were six additional questions to the survey that asked about my salary, my company, etc. that are of little consequence.
Now then – the 1 to 5 scale was only offered for the first six questions:
Now, let’s be honest – I wouldn’t be where I am without my experience at a Big 4 firm, so answering #1 was easy. Question 2 on the other hand is a little tricky, as my “current skills and experiences” involve reading blogs, figuring out WordPress, tweeting and stringing together mildly amusing run-on sentences with the occasional quip or pun. Some of my friends describe it as “shit-stirring” but I prefer…well, that about covers it. Is this valuable in the current job market? Sure. But probably not in a way any a Big 4 firm would have imagined. For question 3, it’s simple – I’m satisfied with my job. I don’t make as much money as a Big 4 baller but I don’t have a second job, my work/life is good and it’s fun. Not much else matters.
Career advancement isn’t really an issue since I only have to deal with TPTB if the lawyers come calling. Again, not exactly typical for a Big 4 alum. Question #5 is more or less a joke. Question #6 was interesting. Many people argue that manager is the ideal point to the leave the firm and I suppose if I had become a manager maybe I’d have a little better perspective of the management team but I know enough people at that level to get the gist and if I have questions, they can give me the lowdown. So had I stayed at KPMG a couple more years (I wasn’t given the option, btw) perhaps I’d be marginally better at my job.
Okay, so #7 – had I not been shipped off in the fall of ’08, would I have stayed longer? Probably not. I was burned out and had explored as much of the firm as the bureaucracy would allow so it was a good run. Question #8 – after talking to MANY people who have gone on to new careers, I’ve concluded that leaving as a SA is best but I should qualify by saying that you should at least be an SA2 and SA3 is probably ideal. Sure you might be on the cusp of manager but by becoming a manager, you’re fully saturating the Big 4 indoctrination and some employers would prefer if you still have a shred of impressionableness in you. With the manager title and experience, your ideas (right or wrong) about audit/tax/advisory are pretty steadfast and you may be an old dog already. That’s not to say that you people aren’t flexible but I’ve been around enough of you to know that getting into mental ruts is a specialty.
So wrapping up, I’m very grateful for my Big 4 experience. It was unimaginably valuable, I met a lot of great people and have no regrets (except for a few brutal hangovers at national training). So, I’ll give it a 5. But most of you aren’t me so feel free to discuss your own experiences. I need to get back to ignoring AOL/HuffPo headlines.