Learning From Andersen: Opportunities and Pitfalls in a Long-Term Audit Career With the Big 4
Does anyone remember –- or care about -– the collapse of Arthur Andersen back in 2002? If recalled, what lessons might it have for young professionals taking serious stock of their career choices?
Recruiting Season: Crossing State Lines; Starting Salary Disappointment; Choosing an Industry
Welcome to this week's roundup of baffled buckaroos. Each week we'll try to save some hapless accounting students from embarrassing themselves somewhere along recruiting trail. Have a question about recruiting season? Email us at [email protected] with "Recruiting Season Questions" in the subject line. We'll kick things off with a follow-up from last week when "Pissed […]
Future Big 4 Auditor Concerned That Body’s Need for Sleep Will Doom Career
Lost your easy button? Email us your worries, problems, questions, and requests for gluten-free recipe ideas. I was fortunate enough to received an offer for a full-time audit position with one of the Big 4 following the conclusion of my graduate program. I received the offer at the end of an internship, so I did […]
Is It Shallow to Choose One Accounting Firm Over Another Based on Prestige?
If you have a problem that your spouse, friends, or Labrador can't seem to fix, why not ask emotionally detached accounting bloggers who can barely run their own lives to help? Email us your questions and we'll pull it together just for you. Dear Going Concern, I know you get a lot of these […]
How to Manage Up and Keep Your Bosses Happy (Well, Most of Them)
Don't wanna work? Just wanna to bang on a drum all day? Okay, but the noise may result in you being escorted out by security. Best to ask us about something that's been bugging you. Shoot us an email and we'll keep you out of trouble. Hi, this isn't a tip but can you do […]
Intern Weighs Betraying a Small Firm for the Big 4
Suffering from Big 4 burnout? Want ideas for your Sarbanes-Oxley 10th anniversary celebration? Need help making a smart the least stupid choice at the vending machine? Email us your questions and let us feel your pain. Hi GC, Looking for some advice. I am interning at a small firm and I am 95% sure I will […]
Where Does a KPMG Risk Consultant Go From Here?
If you're tired of listening to your stupid friends and co-workers try to give you professional/life/style/dietary/love/major purchase advice, why not turn to your friends at Going Concern for a little wisdom? You'll get the brutal honesty you're craving and if you don't like it, just write us a nasty email blaming us for all your […]
Accounting Students Looking for That Extra Edge Should Look No Further Than Big 4 Bootcamp
Many dewey-eyed accounting students dream of capping off their time in college with a job at a Big 4 firm. But getting that elusive offer isn't as easy as it seems. There are many ambitious candidates that would step over their own mothers to get an offer so some candidates want a little extra edge […]
Restless Accountant Considers a Second Chance with a Big 4 Firm
Have a question on anything from career limiting moves to plausible excuses for blowing off a random Tuesday to identifying that odor in the audit room? Email the Going Concern Brain Trust with your queries. And remember, there's no such thing as a dumb question; just dumb people who ask questions. So here's the deal. I […]
Big 4 Advisory Intern Wants To Squeeze Blood Out Of A Turnip
Your daily serving of vegetables, brought to you by GC. Subject: Advice: negotiating a starting salary GC,I am graduating in December from a masters in accounting program and I am currently interning at Big 4 firm in advisory. I am hoping to get an offer after the internship and join the firm in January. Is […]
Big 4 Manager Is Itching to Leave But the Partner Carrot Is Being Dangled
Have the busy season blues but too lazy or untalented to write a song about it? Email us at [email protected] and someone will tell your story. Hi GC Long time reader, first time emailer. I am a first year manager at a Big 4 firm. For the past 4 months I have had this […]
Public Accounting New Hire Fears That Application Fib Will Jinx The Big Job
Greetings, GC'ers. Damn, it feels good to be back after a minor hiatus. Let's get to it, shall we? Subject: Big 4 Dilemma First off, I want to thank Going Concern for all of the public accounting insight. Now on to my dilemma. Last fall I accepted a full-time audit position with of one of […]
This Is How A Soon-to-Graduate Accounting Major Makes An HR Rep’s Head Explode
GCers – we love your contributions and could use some more to get us through these first few weeks of “not really busy but not 9-to-5” season. But be advised: advice emails that meet the qualifications of #longreads drive us to our breaking points. Caleb overdoses on steamed carrots, Adrienne takes her frustration to the roads […]
Why Do People Become Auditors in the First Place?
Ed. note: Is busy season bringing out the worst in you? CPA exam seem hopeless? Having trouble finding the box of tickmarks in the supply room? Email us your problems and one of us will put you on the couch. GC, I recently decided to leave my position in a Big Four Advisory position after […]
Big 4 Advisory Professional Wonders What a Title Is Worth
Ed. note: Whatever your problem is, we can fix it. Or at least make you feel better for the rest of the day. Email us your query at [email protected]. Going Concern: There is a good amount of time spent discussing careers moves within and outside of the public accounting world, but one topic I have not come […]
New Big 4 Associate Wants to Know If His Career Will Go Up in Smoke After Pot Possession Arrest
Welcome to the bullshit-faux-holidays-that-accountants-don’t-get-off edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. Today we have a new Big 4 associate who’s wondering how much trouble he could get in for a recent arrest for pot possession. If his firm finds out will they just blow it off or is his career baked?
Do you need advice on your career as “The Help” to our capital markets? Whether it’s CPA exam anxiety or minding your debits and credits at career fairs or putting together a to-do list after you put in your papers, we’ve got solutions for you. Email us at [email protected] if you’re in haze.
I just started at a Big 4 firm and to celebrate the college life being over my friends had a party over Labor Day weekend. To cut to the point, I ended up being arrested and charged with marijuana possession in a city about 2 hours away from my office. I had a prior arrest for marijuana from 4 years prior as well. Basically, my question is, how likely is it that the firm finds out about this incident without me telling them? Also, if they do find out does this mean automatic termination?
Any advice would be appreciated.
Dear Stoney Jabroni,
Let me just say first that I’m not a lawyer, so take this advice for what it’s worth (not much more than a dime bag). Having said, that, your solution is easy. Move to Colorado. Or California. Or anywhere pot is decriminalized. Maybe I’m misinterpreting “arrested” but here in in the MHC, for example, adults don’t really get “arrested” for possession of less than one ounce and thus, there is really no problem. I realize this is probably unrealistic advice but your state’s laws will ultimately determine how “serious” this really is. Generally, this is not a serious issue but if you’re in state that likes to throw the book at marijuana users, then it gets more complicated.
To answer your first question – since you work in a city that’s two hours from where your arrest occurred, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone at your firm will find out you had your little run-in with the law. Unless, of course, there’s townie that would go out of their way to contact your firm to fink on you. That seems unlikely but, hey! you never know.
As far as termination is concerned, it depends on the agreement that you signed when you accepted your offer. If you’re held to specific code of conduct, it’s possible that this arrest could violate that code. If there’s nothing in the agreement that would cover something like this, your firm doesn’t really have grounds to dismiss you. There are plenty of Big 4 employees and partners that enjoy a nice toke every now and again and it is more socially accepted than ever. If someone at your firm does get a whiff of this news, certainly some will frown on this behavior and you may get a talking to but does it mean the end of your career? That’s just wack, man.
First World Problem: When Does a Big 4 Tax Accountant Jump Ship for a Job at a Hedge Fund?
Ed. note: Do you have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].
Dear Going Concern,
I have been in Big 4 FS Tax for the past two years and recently was promoted to Senior. Headhunters have been calling me with great opportunities in the tax departments of Hedge Fund/PE firms. The pay increase is significant and the hours will undoubtedly be better. However, I’m worried about leaving Public Accounting too early in my career. My eventual career goal is to become a Controller or CFO at a Hedge Fund. The headhunters I’ve spoken with insist that HF/PE firms prefer candidates with a mix of Public and Private experience for those positions. I’m wondering if I should stick around until making manager at Big 4 or if, as the headhunters recommend, leaving now as a Senior is the right move for me.
First world problem
Dear First World Problem,
Alright, listen up. The most important thing to do when you want to start looking for a role is to find a headhunter or two that you trust (and hopefully can trust you to not tattle on them for $5 worth of Starbucks). Yes, we all loathe headhunters. They call, they email; some pester more than others. Sure, most are in the same pool with real estate brokers (an evil means to an end), but there are some that see you as more than a pay-day and will serve as excellent resources throughout your career. A good recruiter will send you a select handful of opportunities that fit exactly what you’re looking for, not a blast email with 17 write-ups all containing the same five bullet points.
That said, with two years into your career you’re just starting to see the wave of job opportunities. Two to four years is the window that many most staff roles fall into at hedge/PE firms, both on the fund accounting and tax side. This is because most asset management firms consider the Big 4 (and regional firms that have an alternatives focus) to be training grounds for their back office hires. Why hire an accountant off of a college campus to do fund accounting work when you can have the Big 4 train ‘em up and toughen ‘em, up for you?
However, the difference is that the number of tax staff positions in-house at a hedge/PE firm are limited. Example: a hedge fund running $5bil in assets under management through six separate funds needs a tax director (typically 7+ years of public/private) and a staff member to assist with work. The same firm would have Sr. Controller/CFO, 1-3 fund controllers and a small staff of accountants running the day-to-day. Because of this prime example in supply and demand, I’d encourage you to interview for any and all roles that interest you, but more important than when you leave is what you leave for. In your case, being a CFO is your ultimate goal – you should be looking at opportunities that are a blend of tax and fund accounting. These roles typically exist at less institutionalized funds, so do your due diligence on opportunities at the likes of Och-Ziff, Blackstone, Fortress, etc. Talk to your recruiter about your long term goals and the need to better position yourself by diversifying your professional experiences. Right now you know K1’s, wash sales and partner allocations; a good recruiter knows what it takes to get you on the Controller/CFO track. It might be the first firm you interview with, or the tenth. When you find it, you’ll know.
Big 4 Boomerang: Former Auditor, Bored with Corporate Gig, Wants to Join Advisory Group
Ed. Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].
Dear Going Concern,
I started my career in B4 Assurance, got the bump to SA relatively quickly (1.5 yrs), stuck it out for another year, then jumped ship for corporate goodness (Fortune 100 – double the money, half the hours). I’ve been doing that for 5 years now, and I feel like I’ve plateaued. I’ve been promoted 3 times in those 5 years, but I’m sufficiently elevated in the corporate ranks now that my next step is likely to be more a function of “serving my time” rather than continued innovation and stand-out work product; a war of attrition, if you will. I put in 40 hours in a rough week, don’t travel, and my comp is on par with (or slightly in excess of) a B4 Senior Manager in major markets (think NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc).
So, on to my dilemma: Am I crazy to be considering a jump back to B4? I miss the challenging work, and the energetic work-force, but I don’t necessarily miss working 80 hours a week. My primary driver is to be interested and engaged in what I do every day. Making partner and a seven figure income is a nice idea, but is just an afterthought in the context of this decision. I wouldn’t make this move expecting to become a partner (although if that’s how it played out, hooray for me). I’m looking for your candid feedback, criticism, blunt verbal beat downs, etc. I’m also looking for input from the GC rank and file – particularly those that have done what I’m considering: B4 -> cush corporate gig -> back to B4.
Let’s assume for the sake of this question that with my skill set, I could re-enter as the equivalent of an experienced Manager, or first year Senior Manager in one of the Advisory practices. Let’s also assume that I have partner friends at all of the Big4, that my experience and academic pedigree are top notch, and that I have a lot of corporate contacts that are ideal for selling new business. So essentially, the option is there – I just have to choose to do it.
Crazy is a relative term, and we’re all a little crazy around here at GC. I find your confidence in both your Big 4 and private industry contacts to be refreshing and brazen. Who cares that the economy is still a sputtering engine block inside a car chassis that’s resting on blocks, you have connections! Of course you’ll get a job back in public! OF COURSE your private industry drinking buds will want to sever whatever pre-existing consulting relationships they have with other vendors and go wherever you are!
My advice is simple – play both fields. Look into the Big 4s and their needs for someone with your background and experience in addition to pursuing opportunities that might be with your corporate contacts. You are not necessarily locking yourself into a career in public should you transition into a Big 4 advisory practice, whereas returning to assurance would be moral and career suicide. The advisory lines are generally more fluid opportunities and can act as stepping stones back into a corporate world after a few years.
For those breezing the submission above, Glutton’s career has been as follows:
• 2.5 years in public (assurance)
• 5 years in private
• Potentially back to public (advisory)
Has anyone in the peanut gallery done this? Share your horror stories or little victories below.
Aspiring KPMG Manager Needs Help Defecting to Another Big 4 Firm
Welcome to another round of Accounting Career Emergencies (aka: “Decide My Life For Me: GC Edition”). Today we have a KPMG Senior Associate who badly wants to make manager except for the small matter of not being able to stand her client, manager, partner and basically everything else. Jumping over to another Big 4 firm is an option but how does one convince them that you’re worthy of the new stomping grounds.
Looking for an extra edge? Concerned that your performance isn’t up to snuff and need a contingency plan? Working in an environment that makes you uncomfortable? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll try to explain how poles and porn fit into “team building.”
Back to our Benedict Arnold du jour:
Hello dear friends at GC,
I am beginning my fourth year with audit at KPMG and would like to make it to Manager, if for no other reason than the title’s weight on the résumé. If I were to stay with KPMG and made manager in the average time frame, I would be here for another two years. To be frank, I can’t stand my client, manager, or partner and want nothing more than to quit tomorrow; I’ve already spoken to my PML (direct supervisor, basically), but there really isn’t an option for me to get out of working on this client and or this team any time soon.
My job is ok when I’m working on other clients, but this engagement is so terrible that I’m not sure I’m willing to stick it out long enough to get to my other clients. Like so many others, my primary goal is to make it to Manager at a Big 4 (have no idea if I will stay after I do, but that’s the goal at this point). There are needs for audit seniors at the other Big 4 firms in the city, and I’m thinking about jumping ship to another one. If I do this, I figure I’ll at least get a fresh start and shake things up a bit, while still working towards my Big 4 Manager goal.
So here’s the question: how do I convince another Big 4 firm to hire me? Also, if I were to get hired by the like of DT, E&Y, or PWC, could I feasibly expect to make Manager within two years? I have my CPA out of the way, so that shouldn’t be a big factor…
Help me, Going Concern. You’re my only hope.
Dear Big 4 Flip Flops,
Your problem is easy, ring up PwC. They picking off KPMG people like a WWII sniper. But seriously, I’m a little perplexed by your question. When you go into an interview with any potential employer, how do you convince them to hire you? You research the company. You smile big and are ready to talk about things other than work. You discuss your accomplishments at KPMG, you play up your strengths, admit that you’re working on your weaknesses but ultimately, that you’re bringing A-1 talent to this organization and they’d DAMN FOOLS to pass up the opportunity to hire you. There will probably be a curveball question or two in the interview and those may help/hurt your chances but it’ll be a pretty standard interview.
As for your promotion timeline, I think you can safely ask your potential new firm about that without fearing any repercussions. If you adjust to the new firm quickly (e.g. new methodologies, navigating political waters) and are a performer there’s no reason you shouldn’t be considered for a promotion in another two years. Good luck and may the Force be with you.
Big 4 Aspirant Wants Help Choosing a City
Welcome to the way-to-double-bogey-18-Phil edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a prospective Big 4 associate wants help deciding between a large or mid-market city. Let’s see what we can do to get her out of the sticks.
Have a spotty past that may hurt your career aspirations? Need help spending some