Welcome to the maybe-we-should-start-pointing-out-who-really-isn’t-winning edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future advisory professional wants to know what kind of exit opportunities he’ll have when he’s had his fill of Big 4.
Need some career advice? Concerned that you’re being unfairly portrayed by someone? Have you recently found a mistake at work and aren’t handling it well? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll, at very a tie score.
I will be starting at a Big 4 firm in TS this fall. I have seen posts and comments on GC primarily about KPMG’s TS group, and commenters mention a “mass exodus” from TS.
I was interested to know what the exit opps are for people in TS? I have been searching around banking blogs and it seems that TS is not held in high regard in I-banking, so what offers are they receiving?
Dear Interested Viewer,
The advisory space isn’t my strong suit but I’ll take a stab. You’re starting with a “Big 4” but then mention KPMG so I’m not exactly sure where you’re ending up so I’ll keep things fairly general. All of the Big 4 have various services within their TS practices including due diligence in various forms, restructuring, accounting advisory and valuation among others. A common exit opportunity for many in Big 4 TS people is to go to…wait for it…another Big 4 firm. None of these firms have a monopoly on the services offered so if you’ve heard good things about Deloitte as opposed to your living hell at PwC, you may jump at the opportunity to join a rival firm. And we know how the firms like to poach from each other, don’t we?
If that’s not of interest to you, the top consulting shops like McKinsey, Bain & Co., Boston Consulting et al. (check out Vault for their list of the top firms) are a possibility but in reality, not a very good one. These firms like their people with smarts – frightening smarts – and Ivy League degreed. If you’ve got both, you probably already work at one of the best firms. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those two, you might have a chance. If you’ve got neither, than you have virtually have no chance.
You mention I-Banking and again, the odds are against you here if you want to work at the top firms, for the same reasons as we mentioned above. Some more realistic options include due diligence, acquisitions or analysis work for a private equity or hedge fund shop or working in the finance group of a firm with M&A aspirations or that needs other complex transactional analysis.
The other option is that you work for awhile, get an MBA and then try to land the BSD job at McKinsey, Goldman or wherever. Of course hitting the big time after going to a prestigious B-school doesn’t mean your dreams of rainmaking are a lock, so it’s a big risk but obviously many have taken this road and made a decent run.
So, there you have it, Interested Viewer: some ideas, at the very least. Any Big 4 TS types out there with some first-hand accounts of the comings and goings are invited to weigh in at this time. I’ve got to get caught up on the #winning Twitter feed.
From the mailbag:
Just curious what your thoughts or GC readers’ thoughts are on male facial hair in the public accounting world. Personally, I hate shaving. I shave once a week but am sure to keep a clean line under the chin. (I also dress well and don’t believe that business casual means khakis and a golf shirt.) A friend of mine told me that his manager at his big 4 firm was asked to shave his nicely groomed beard by his partners. Is this normal? Petty? A generation thing?
Let me address your questions one at a time:
1.a. Q: “Is [partners telling managers to tell someone else to do something, like shaving] normal?” A: Yes. Some partners can’t believe they have��������������������general vicinity as the staff, let alone talk to them, so when an awkward conversation needs to be had, a manager often gets the privilege. That said, ambitious managers who want to become partners will often take it upon themselves to inform the beast in question to break out the Bic.
1.b. Q: Is [frowning on facial hair] normal?” A: As a general rule, yes. Some smaller firms are known to be pro-beard but As far as I am aware, the Big 4 state that they allow mustaches and beards if they are kept “neatly trimmed.” However, the reality is that most partners don’t like facial hair. Whether you are growing it for charity, you lost a bet to a broheim or your spouse thinks it’s hot; they don’t give a damn. They want your faces clean shaven.
2. Q: “[Is this] petty?” A: Well, we are talking about the Big 4, now aren’t we? Petty annoyances are part of the deal. In fact, a beard could cost you a promotion if you’re working for the wrong person. That said, I personally don’t think making an issue of facial hair is that petty. The reason being, that despite your well-trimmed beard, it is the exception rather than the rule. I share your hatred of shaving (not to mention your anti-khakis/golf shirt stance) but this is one of those “a few bad apples” situations. Lots of men in the Big 4 are flat-out slobs and if you give them an inch on facial hair, they’ll take a mile. Now, if you happen to have snuck in a well-groomed beard or mustache and kept it that way, you may get a pass but if you’re just letting the 5 o’clock shadow extend an extra day or two and it’s disgustingly obvious, you should get a talking to.
3. Q: “Is this a generational thing?” A: No. There are anti-beard people at various ages who simply equate facial hair with hipsters, hillbillies and the Taliban. I think it’s more of an accounting firm culture thing. So if you’re sporting one, it puts you at odds with TPTB and squarely in the “counter-culture” camp. But on a more practical level, you work in a professional environment for crissakes. For advisory and audit professionals staff who are in client-facing roles earlier than their tax counterparts, partners and managers don’t want you looking like a hobo in front of clients. It doesn’t seem logical to let the gents in tax let themselves go, so the rule applies across the board.
The “beard or no beard” question is now open for debate. Sorry about the gender-specific topic ladies. Your thoughts and unfiltered judgments on the matter are certainly welcome and encouraged.
Welcome to the cancel-your-holiday-in-Libya edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, another Fall 2011 Big 4 associate would like to nail down a certification in addition to the CPA before starting work. Can I keep my head from exploding long enough to formulate a coherent response?
Caught in a ethical jam at work? Need a shredding service-provider that also has a knack of taking care of “problems”? Want to challenge your firm’s dress code but need an objective opinion? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll make like Anna Wintour.
Back to our overachiever du jour:
I am about to pass the CPA exam and have 8 months until I begin at one of the “Big Four” firms in Florida. I am excited to start at the firm as it was my first choice however, I am not certain I will be in public accounting for the long run (like most people). My question is, being uncertain about my career path, what other certification should I obtain before I start in 8 months?
I have considered the CISA, CFE, CMA, CFA, Six Sigma but, I am not sure as I am not certain of my long term path. I want something that will give me an edge if I leave the firm and/or switch careers.
What certification would you recommend?
Any suggestions are helpful.
Dear Overachiever Du Jour,
After murdering the remainder of Stranahan’s in the house, I’m better prepared to answer your query.
I appreciate your ambition and we definitely think that obtaining additional certifications is a good idea for those that move on from public accounting but I fail to see how this benefits you now before you have an inkling of what kind of career you want. HOWEVER, I’m here to help sort you out as best I can, so I’ve put aside my judgments for two.
Based on your “considerations” listed, you seem to have a case of accounting certification ADHD which is fine but there’s no clear pattern as to what your interests are. I’m not going to recommend you do something just because it may be a hot area (forensics) or in-demand (information systems) but I am going to recommend you rank these certifications based on your level interest. Want to eventually be a CFO? Then go for the CMA. Want to pile up the financial reporting bodies? Get the CFE. You get the point. The important thing is to pursue a certification you find interesting rather than one that will just puts a few letters behind your name that may (but probably not) impress someone.
But really, do you want to spend the summer prior to starting work studying for a test? Get the band back together, take a trip, something.
Auditor musical chairs isn’t something that happens too often but Reuters reports that more and more U.S. companies are looking to save a little extra scratch on their audit fees:
Bucking a long-standing preference by most companies to stick with the same auditor for years, some companies are putting their audit work out for competitive bids to win better deals on fees, or to get fresh teams looking at their books. “It’s a change in the competitive landscape among the audit firms where they have the ability and desire to take on more clients,” said Mark Grothe, an analyst at consulting firm Glass Lewis. Public companies also seem to be more willing to switch auditors, as long as one of the “Big Four” firms will be doing the work, he said.
The article cites Apple (dropped KPMG for E&Y) and Tysons (kicked E&Y to the curb in favor of PwC) as two prominent examples. We’re also aware that Credit Suisse is slowly transitioning a good portion of the audits performed by KPMG to PwC, according to sources familiar with the situation. Companies of this size willing to change their auditors demonstrates that some companies aren’t too concerned with the learning curve that may face their new auditors. In fact, some CFOs are more than okay with it, including Linster Fox of Shuffle Master who claims, “There’s no degradation in service — the service is actually higher.”
PwC’s Tim Ryan, however, doesn’t buy the idea that fees are the driving force behind the auditor switcheroo, “When a company does go through a change, it is almost always driven by something other than fees,” he told Reuters. Instead, a change is more likely to happen when, for example, a major fraud gets missed or there’s a difference of opinion on a crucial issue OR the CEO is a finicky character OR some other mysterious reason unbeknownst to all of us.
Regardless, the real concern is that all this auditor swapping puts a lot of pressure on fees:
Fee pressure has been intense worldwide, but especially in the United States, according to the International Accounting Bulletin, which tracks global audit fees. “The U.S. is a very competitive market, easily the largest audit market in the world, and the Big Four have competition from a much larger pool of firms,” said IAB editor Arvind Hickman. “Last year we received reports of fees being cut between 5 and 15 percent on average on audit work, and there were extreme cases where fees were being cut up to 40 percent,” he said. Fee pressure appears to be easing somewhat, “but there will still be fee pressure this year and we don’t predict it will go away any time soon,” he said.
This has Big 4 firms undercutting regional competitors and is no doubt, partly responsible for the parking lot at the Senior Manager level in some markets. With this level of competition and, as a result, a slowly decreasing portion of the Big 4 revenue stream, it doesn’t necessarily mean a career as an auditor is a dead end but it sure doesn’t help.
Just something for the ol’ memory bank, Big 4 risk managers.
[Professor] Michael Power from the London School of Economics told the conference that big audit firms were “probably” not “systemic” in nature, in the same way as banks, and that it was unlikely government would step in to save one on the edge of going bust. Power said the lesson from the collapse of Andersen was that the crisis facing the audit market was relatively shortlived when a big firm collapsed, and that a global firm in trouble will break up into its national components to find a solution. He added there was no real evidence of market failure as a result of Andersen’s demise.
Big Four are ‘not too big to fail’ [Accountancy Age]
A tipster from Manila sent us this video telling us “[it has] got us laughing over here.” And based on what we see, it seems that being an auditor in the East isn’t really that different from being an auditor in the West. That said, if you detest subtitles or Disney you should probably just move along.
Welcome to the Lindsay-Lohan-prison-jumpsuit-fitting edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, we’ve received a flurry of emails from Big 4 hopefuls who can’t land interviews and are FREAKING OUT. Are they doomed to the breadline and/or parents’ basement or can their CPA firm dreams still come true?
Are you working for the devil this busy season? Are you looking for a summer activity that doesn’t involve three letters? Need an excuse for not passing the CPA exam that will pass the mustard with the Email us at [email protected] and we’ll try to come up with something better than, “The dog barks whenever Peter Olinto is on screen and I can’t concentrate.”
Now, then. Today is a little bit different in the ol’ advice column. And since everyone out there seems TOO BUSY to engage in any busy season chicanery and tell us about it, this thing will be a tad lengthy. In the last week, we’ve received three emails from people who are borderline having panic attacks because they can’t land interviews. Obviously, this is a problem worth these pages but if you think we’re writing three columns on the same damn thing, you’re all a bunch of mental cases. And for those of you thinking that this sounds like you, don’t even try giving us the “well, this doesn’t address my specific situation,” story. Sure, everyone is special but not so special that you need the delicate intricacies addressed. [BREATHE]
All right. Let’s do this, shall we?
Here’s a portion of email #1:
I interned at PwC with an internal position during Summer 2008 and I did audit with them in Spring 2009. I wasn’t given an offer for full-time employment and I have been looking for a job since. I tried recruiting with Ernst and Young last year and they kept saying they did not have any positions and then last summer they hired another candidate from my school with whom I graduated. Just about everyone I’ve graduated with has a position at an accounting firm. I’ve applied nearly everywhere (other big 4, mid-tier, local acct firms, industry, and even Craigslist). I can’t help but start to take it personally. Career services at my school doesn’t seem too interested in helping me…in fact one of the counselors actually was a recruiter at PwC when I worked there and she just recently left a voicemail that we should stop talking. I have one professor that still keeps in touch. I knew I wasn’t going to get an audit position even though I still applied but I’ve even been turned down for staff accountant positions. Last September I passed all four sections of the CPA exam. I’ve been told that I’m either “over-qualified” or I don’t have enough years of experience.
That should be enough but if we suffered through them, then you are too. An excerpt from email #2:
I have been to numerous career fairs since then and I’ve made significant contacts with some big 4 recruiters and other regional firms. But after sending my carefully prepared résumé by mail and continuous attempts to get some information about an interview, I‘ve been always getting the usual “we are looking at other candidates and wish you the best” reply or none at all. The only significant feedback I received was from a regional firm that was really interested, but was drawn back when I told them my college GPA. I take full responsibilities for my shortcomings in college, but I have invested the needed time and effort in doing what EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TOLD ME TO DO, which is passing the CPA exam. I have also gained significant and progressive experience at my current workplace, but I still have not even gotten an interview! I am 25 and I feel time is running out for me. I’m even thinking of getting other certifications like the CFE or ACCA (Association of certified chartered accountants), to make me a more desirable candidate.
Sick of it yet? Here’s a bit from #3:
I’m in my last semester and will have my 150 hours at the end of this spring. I am also preparing the the CPA exam (have started Becker, taking my first section, AUD, at the end of February). As a student in these times, I have never been able to find an accounting internship or any part time accounting work as all of my job inquiries wind up unanswered. It’s not for lack of trying, but my GPA isn’t spectacular (3.2) and my résumé is average. At the college job fair a few weeks ago, I put in resumes with all big 4 and all mid tier firms and was NOT INVITED TO A SINGLE INTERVIEW. I became an accounting major because I thought there were jobs available to qualified students. I have an accounting and finance degree, 150 hours and will have the CPA under my belt in a few months…what the hell am I missing. Am I really not qualified to become a slave to the Firms?
Good Lord. Let’s see if I can do this without LOSING IT.
For starters, we’re making the assumption all three of you are socially capable individuals. If you’ve noticed people responding to your typical conversation with “That’s awkward,” or “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” then we suggest engaging a life coach or some other professional that can help you with your awkward tendencies. Secondly, all three of you need to stop freaking out. Sure, you’ve got responsibilities and school loans and whatnot but thank your lucky stars you’re not a lawyer. You have a good educational skill set, a job market that is thawing out and your debt is probably under six figures. CALM DOWN.
Now. If the Big 4 isn’t interested in what you have to offer, you have to get over it. Somewhere in your gray matter, you knew striking out with all of them was a possibility. Now that it has become a reality, you need to move on. If you’ve managed to do that and say you’ve gone to Grant Thornton, BDO, Rothstein Kass and McGladrey and you’ve been denied there too. And maybe you’ve gone to regionals like Moss Adams, BKD, Clifton Gunderson, Plante & Moran, WeiserMazars, Dixon Hughes Goodman et al. [ugh] At this point, it’s natural for frustration to start creeping up on you. But if you want to work in public accounting, you can’t get discouraged. Next thing you should do is to knock on all the doors in your geographic location. The Vault 50 is a good place to start. Firms from every part of the country are on the list and you can specifics on them over at the Vault website. Pound the pavement, people.
If that doesn’t work, then we suggest calling some reputable recruiters in your area to find out if they have any entry-level positions at CPA firms. Keep things cool, don’t act desperate and put your best qualities forward. The recruiters should be able to help you polish your résumé if needed and find you an interview or two. IF ALL THAT FAILS and you simply need a job, look for an in-house accounting job to get your career started. Just because you don’t start in public accounting doesn’t mean you’re doomed to work a dull job and have a lackluster career. And who knows, you might – gasp – like the work.
Any words of encouragement from the peanut gallery? I need a drink.
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 .
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.
Welcome to the first Friday in February edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition a future Big 4 soldier isn’t sure what to make of all the myths and rumors swirling around the quad about said four firms. He’s asked me to debunk.
Are you in desperate need for a
regime career change? Have a gassy cube neighbor? Need some tips on how to turn that frown upside down during busy season? Email us at [email protected] serve you better than Dr. Phil (or his dopplegänger).
Back to our Big 4 mythbuster:
I was wondering if there were any truth to the rumors/legends that seem to percolate through campuses about Big 4 accounting. Here’s a short list of stuff that I’ve heard while attending accounting job fairs, business frat/club meetings, and associates from Big 4 and regional firms that come back to campus for recruitment events.
1. During their respective busy seasons, new tax and audit associates at a Big 4 work so many hours that their monthly salaries break out into an hourly rate that is less than minimum wage.
2. It is nigh impossible to study for and pass any portion of the CPA exam while simultaneously working at a Big 4.
3. Internships are virtually the only way for new graduates to break into a Big 4.
4. Becker is better than Kaplan is better than Bisk.
5. Beginning a career at a Big 4 will open more doors down the road than starting at a mid-tier , regional or local firm.
6. At Big 4 firms, advisory associates make more money than audit associates make more money than tax associates.
7. The average Big 4 associate leaves/quits/defects before their 3rd year.
8. Evan after taking raises into account, Big 4 associates that were hired during the brunt of the recession will actually be paid less than new hires this year.
So is there any truth to these rumors? I’m guessing that there’s quite a bit of embellishment that come from associate ‘war stories’ so I’ve tried to take everything with a grain of salt.
Big 4 Mythbuster
There’s a lyric in “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” that goes, “People say believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you hear,” which we find to be generally a good rule of thumb (with the exception of what you read at this fine publication…most of the time).
ANYWAY, we’ll tackle these one at a time:
1. During their respective busy seasons, new tax and audit associates at a Big 4 work so many hours that their monthly salaries break out into an hourly rate that is less than minimum wage. – Let’s keep this simple: if you calculate an average salary based on this year’s starting salaries and 2,000 chargeable hours, it’s pretty difficult to get down to the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25. Now, can you work far more than the 2,000 hours? Of course but even if you doubled the hours, you’re still above the minimum wage. MYTH.
2. It is nigh impossible to study for and pass any portion of the CPA exam while simultaneously working at a Big 4. – Is it difficult to balance a work schedule, studying, arranging to sit for a section, having a shred of a personal life, finding time to take out the dog AND still pass a portion? Yes, absolutely. “Nigh impossible”? No. People working at the Big 4 pass portions of the CPA every month. MYTH.
3. Internships are virtually the only way for new graduates to break into a Big 4. – When the Big 4 firms were hiring everyone and their dog back in the mid-Aughts, this would have been a myth. These days, with hiring budgets being a little tighter, the internship route is a must. Most interns end up taking the full-time offers which leaves just a few spots, so that doesn’t make for very good odds for any outsiders. TRUTH.
4. Becker is better than Kaplan is better than Bisk. – God, sorry to say but this is fruitless exercise. I don’t endorse any of the CPA review courses (FULL DISCLOSURE: I used Becker and passed and some companies happen to advertise with us.) out there. The companies will present stats that presents their pass success rate in the best light possible. That said, ranking the review courses in some arbitrary order like you’ve done above is meaningless. If you hear from someone on campus that Becker is the best because that’s what they used (Tim Gearty’s handsome wardrobe notwithstanding) or that Roger is the best because that’s what they used (and not because they have a thing for hipster chicks) that doesn’t mean you will necessarily have the same success. And if someone tells you that they’ve tried more than one review course, you should know that this person probably just sucks at taking tests. MYTH.
5. Beginning a career at a Big 4 will open more doors down the road than starting at a mid-tier, regional or local firm. – As a general rule this is true. Having the exposure to the most complex accounting systems, transactions and business models will allow you to work at these companies if you so choose. Working at Big 4 firm (and in some markets, mid-tier firms) will give you that exposure. Does that mean you’re doing yourself a disservice by accepting a position with a regional or local firm? Of course not. It all depends on what your career goals are. But does a Big 4 firm name on your résumé get more attention than a non-Big 4 firm. Yes. TRUTH.
6. At Big 4 firms, advisory associates make more money than audit associates make more money than tax associates. – In my experience, I’ve found that salaries for tax and audit associates are extremely close with a slight edge to the tax side, so you’ve got those two backwards. But yes, Advisory associates are paid the most. ONE-THIRD TRUTH.
7. The average Big 4 associate leaves/quits/defects before their 3rd year. – Again, the “average” number of years that an associate works at a Big 4 firm is a complete arbitrary statistic. I’m not sure when people started throwing numbers like this but it’s pretty useless information. Typically when people state an average number of years that an associate stays, it’s not backed up with any stats. I’d be surprised if the firms themselves even know what the average shelf-life of an associate is. I may be wrong about this and would love to see some stats if they’re out there but for now we’re going with: MYTH.
8. Evan after taking raises into account, Big 4 associates that were hired during the brunt of the recession will actually be paid less than new hires this year. – Pay freezes and meager increases certainly put a damper on salaries in ’08-’09 but this past year saw the Big 4 return to some reasonable increases across the board as well as bonuses in various forms. Starting salaries for new associates will always keep up with the market (as is popular to say) but with coverage of salaries being more transparent than it used to be, it will be impossible for firms to allow new hires to earn more than their superiors. MYTH.
Whew! There you have it; discuss as needed.
Last week we went through the painful ritual of listing out the accounting firms blessed with a spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work. All the usual suspects made an appearance but ultimately a regional firm, Plante & Moran, took the highest spot among accounting firms (but they didn’t get to ring the closing bell, did they?).
None of this is of interest to you and frankly we’ve had about all we can stand when it comes to these lists but Adrienne pointed us to this post by Laura Vanderkam that takes the debunking to an intricate level, starting with something that we all know, that most of these lists are opted into by the companies HR or Marketing Departments (emphasis ours):
To be eligible for a list, you have to fill out whatever paperwork the tabulators require […] This means that not only do you have to be a great place to work, you have to be a company where management cares about being listed in magazines as a great place to work. Only 311 organizations bothered this year, out of thousands of employers in the US. So if you went through the whole process, your odds were pretty good. But that doesn’t means that the 311 employers that did try are better than the thousands that didn’t.
Our resident math genius is on vacay but if you do some rough calcs, your chances are, what, 1 in 3? Decent odds. Then, comes the strange phenomenon of where these companies fall and why:
[I]t’s strange that a magazine with such great reporters as Fortune relies on such a flimsy methodology for creating their rankings. If you believe this list, then Americans prefer to work at Nugget Market (a 9-store supermarket chain) than at McKinsey, at Google vs. Facebook even though some headline-making defections would point otherwise, and we should want to work at Aeropostale because, as one young employee put it “Where else can you talk to the boss over pizza?” (Um, where can’t you?)
There are clues:
We hope you are settling into your new role and that things are going well!
The purpose of this email is to make you aware of some important information regarding the year end performance management process that applies to all new campus hires and all newly hired associates/administrative assistants for this year.
The firm recognizes that as a recent new hire, your primary focus is to transition into your role and responsibilities and build your network. It is important that you have the appropriate amount of time to learn about the firm and integrate fully before you are formally evaluated on your performance. Therefore, for this performance year, which ends June 30, 2011, you will not be assigned a performance rating.
Even though you will not receive a rating, you will participate fully in all other aspects of the performance process, such as getting feedback from individuals you work with and meeting with your counselor to discuss your feedback, progress, development and goals for the 2012 fiscal year. We are confident that even without a performance rating for this year, you can fully understand how you are doing by asking the right questions and having meaningful conversations with those you work with.
In the meantime, please make sure you are getting periodic feedback and staying in touch with your counselor. As the year end process approaches you can access helpful tools that will help you prepare for a variety of coaching conversations
Further, you can learn more about the Performance Management and Development process by clicking here.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact your counselor or your People Consultant. Thank you for your participation in this important process.
Take a stab in the comments and feel free to speculate as to the motivation and repercussions behind “all (wo)men are rated equal.”
Welcome to the is-anyone-sick-of-snow edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Mom of two is getting her career started after going back to school and has found the Big 4 to be less than interested in what she has to offer. She’s looking for some feedback and advice but we’re guessing it has nothing to do with this Tiger thingee.
More from Mom:
Please help! I came back to college for an accounting degree at 40 after earning my first degree in a non-business field long ago. I have a 4.0 major GPA, and am at the very top of my class. I will have an undergraduate accounting degree soon and be done with the CPA exam a few months later. I have 2 kids who are 10 and 12.
My plan was to start with at least a couple years in public accounting, and go from there. It seems like you need to do that so that you don’t limit your options for later. I’ve been to one career fair and didn’t get a single interview. I intend to be committed when I go full time (45-50 hours a week) but don’t desire to work from 9 am until 10 pm 5 days a week all year, at least until my kids are out of the house. Working crazy hours for a 3 month season would be fine, but not all year. I lean toward tax but enjoy everything I’ve done in accounting. Despite all their talk about diversity, I haven’t seen any Big 4 firms remotely interested in anyone over 40 and I’m not sure that I would fit with the Big 4 culture anyhow. So the question is – what is your best advice for a smart mom over 40 who desires a job in accounting – regional/local public accounting, straight to industry, governmental? Would also love to hear some HONEST feedback about the work hours at regional and local public accounting firms. Thank you!
Smart mom over 40
Dear Smart Mom,
We’re not surprised to hear about you being stonewalled by the Big 4. You’re way past the impressionable stage and the large firms like their newbies young and clueless. Furthermore, when it comes to diversity, we don’t think age is really at the forefront of their ambitions. Your instincts are serving you well and a regional or local firm will be a better fit for you. We would advise against going into an in-house or government job at this point, as some time in public will help you determine what your interests are. We suggest finding a public accounting firm where you could engage directly with managers and partners that are closer to your age, as there will opportunities to bond over kids and other things you have in common, plus it will be a natural fit for a mentor/mentee relationship. You’ll learn more quickly and be given more responsibility sooner, which is probably of interest to you.
As far as hours are concerned, you’ll work plenty but it won’t be the epic busy seasons of Big 4 lore. You’ll likely work between 50-60 hours a week during the busiest time of year but obviously, this will vary from firm to firm. Also, small firms tend to be more creative when it comes to flexibility in order to accommodate their employees specific needs, so this will probably serve you better than a Big 4 or mid-tier experience. If all else fails, land a recruiter who can take your personal situation and set you up with a firm or company who will appreciate your situation but will also be a good cultural fit for you. Good luck.
Welcome to the Bachmann 2012 edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Big 4 acceptee’s beloved is moving across the country while he’s stuck with his job in New York. Does he request a transfer, stick it out or simply choose love over money?
Does your career need a wake-up call? Got the busy season blues? Jealous because you’re not in Davos hobnobbing with great minds like yours? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll remind you why you’re stuck in a broom closet somewhere in Iowa.
Back to our ockquote>Hi Caleb,
I graduated from a west coast college and moved to the New York after graduation with a few friends. I ended up going back to school out here (NY) and am getting my Masters in Accounting in June. I went through the accounting hiring process this past Fall and did much better than I expected, receiving offers from a few mid-tier firms and two from the Big 4. I ended up accepting an entry level audit position in a New York Big 4 office and am starting in the Fall (2011).
However, my girlfriend, who I am serious with, is getting transferred for work to the city I was born and raised in on the West Coast. I had always planned on working in New York for a few years and transferring/moving back closer to my family. Now I wish I had gone through the interview process for the specific west coast office where my family lives but I have already accepted my offer for the east coast office.
I know there are a lot of politics in the Big 4 and I don’t want to be viewed as a problem child/uncommitted by asking if I could transfer to the west coast before even working a day at the firm. And if I start in the New York office and want to transfer: first, I have no idea how long I would need to work there for for a transfer to be appropriate (both to ask for one as well as how long it would possibly take), and second, a long distance relationship would be stressful and not ideal (duh).
So, my two options seem to be:
a) Ask my HR contact at my firm or my manager I interviewed with about my situation and see what they can do.
b) Suck it up and work (a while? how long?) at the New York office until it’s an appropriate time to transfer.
Thanks in advance,
Lost but in Love
I never thought I’d actually delve into relationship-cum–Big 4 career advice but luckily for you I have a similar experience so here goes nothing.
I know the LDR situation all too well, so we feel your pain. It can be good if you like space but it can be bad, well…obviously. What’s missing from your story is your better half’s side. Is her company requiring her to move to the west coast or is this her choice? If it’s the latter, did you discuss the potential ramifications of such a move? You say, “I wish I had gone through the interview process for the specific west coast office where my family lives but I have already accepted my offer for the east coast office,” but this is meaningless since we get the impression that you accepted your Big 4 dream job (with the intention to work in New York for “a few years”) prior to your girlfriend’s transfer.
Assuming you’ve talked this over with your g/f, she certainly has an opinion on the matter. If she can’t live with you being so far away, that sounds a bit needy (but maybe you like that). If she’s indifferent (i.e. she says, “do what you want” or “I don’t want you moving because of me”), perhaps she’s passive-aggressive, incapable of emotional intimacy or a little freaked out about the seriousness of the situation and doesn’t want to held responsible if things go wrong. If the two of you have actually sat down, talked it over and she says, “I’ll support you in your choice, whatever that may be,” you have a winner. But remember, ultimately it is your decision.
Now, then. Your firm. Odds are, they won’t be impressed with your request for a transfer straight out of the gate but situations similar to yours have surely come up in the past, so hopefully they’ll be sympathetic. Problem is – as you mentioned – transfers do involve the intricacies of the Big 4 bureaucracy so you’re looking at a slow process and they could just say, “no” or “right now we need you here but we’ll continue to work on it.” That being said, if moving back to to the left coast is really what you want to do, then you’ll never know unless you ask. Sooooo, ask the question (being prepared for “no”) and then go from there. If your firm isn’t accommodating you and you’re still head over heels in love, you can always quit and hitch it west. I hear they have accounting jobs out there. It may not come to that but we’d be remiss if we mention it as an option. Good luck.
Welcome to the Calebs-are-a-loyal-sort edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a non-tradish student is getting all wishy-washy about choosing between BDO and a Big 4 firm. There are lots of variables involved so we’ll get right to it. But first…