Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Diversity? Ugh.

Whenever Caleb assigns me a diversity article, my first thought is always “Diversity? Ugh.” I'm […]

Big 4-Bound Associate Needs Rainmaking Tips

Welcome to the we’ve-already-checked-out-for-the-week edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4-bound associate is looking for some rainmaking opportunities as a young up-and-comer. Is this typical young grasshopper idealism or can this young man be helped?

Need some career advice? Recently been let go and want some ideas on how to go out on top? Looking for an interpretation of the latest message from your firm’s CEO? Email us at and we’ll translate thrning to the rain dancer:

I start with a Big 4 firm in January. I have no public accounting experience (not really counting 2 internships I had 3 years ago). I have gotten lots of advice/tips from people in the last few weeks concering advancement. “You have to be a rainmaker” to move up.

I’ve read articles (some on Going Concern) about making sure you can show your value to your employer when negotiating raises/advancement. My questions are: how can a first year staff member begin to take steps to developing their value in a firm? What can a first year do to begin to develop “rainmaking” qualities? Is it even possible to be a rainmaker so early in a career?

I imagine networking, volunteering, and getting involved are all things that I’d normally hear regarding this topic. But I’m wondering if you have any more tangible, practical advice.

Dear Rain Dancer,

Not sure why you assume “networking, volunteering and getting involved” aren’t “tangible” but those all seem like a good places to start. As for “practical,” your firm will probably give you plenty of opportunities for all of these, so again, not sure why those options strike you as inconvenient or unrealistic.

That being said, we’ll elaborate a little bit. For starters, this “rainmaker” talk is bullshit for someone in your position. Whoever is telling you this is giving you clichéd buzztalk that is frankly, useless. Advancement, at this point in your career is more about making the most of opportunities that are presented to you (networking, community involvement are good examples).

Furthermore, you’re correct to assume that it’s pretty difficult for a new associate to walk in and bring in a slew of new business. It’s a partner’s job to find new business, not yours. You can’t become the next Piet Klynveld without knowing what a tickmark legend is, now can you?

However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from looking for opportunities to build relationships with the professionals around you. Keep your eyes and ears open and build your network. You never know who will become a decision-maker and if you happen to have a good relationship with said decision-maker, you could land your firm some new business down the road.

Same goes for volunteering. If you’re helping in the community, you’re likely to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, so this is another opportunity build your network that will allow you to shower your firm in cash in the future.

Do you honestly think you’ll can cold-call every business in town and charm them over the phone into accepting your business? Even if you did have them doing back flips on the other line, they’ll strike the deal with a partner at the firm, not you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a nice little bonus for making the introduction and while that shows initiative that hardly makes you a “rainmaker.”

At this stage in your career, being involved in social activities at your firm, building relationships with clients and co-workers and having a good attitude will help you advance. Oh, and it helps if you know something about your given line of business (audit, tax, advisory).

Building those relationships (and being of capable intelligence) will give you the chance to bring some business to your firm. Then you can get all Pacman Jones on everybody.

Russian Spy Who Attended CFO Conference Was That Annoying Person You Can’t Shake at Such Events

Donald Howard Heathfield is “Defendant #4” of the eleven alleged Russian spies and it turns out that he was playing pretty true to the part of a go-getter executive looking to network his ass off.

CFO reports that “prodigious networker” Heathfield attended the CFO Rising Conference that was held in Orlando in March and he was well remembered by some of the other attendees. Not only for his persistence (we’re imagining really aggressive handshakes, name tag prominently placed, business cards in a holster) but for his just plain weirdness and his ginormous business card:

“I met him early on in the conference, and he was very persistent in trying to reengage,” recalls John Kahn, CFO of a private-equity-backed portfolio company. “I didn’t reengage with him. He just seemed slightly strange.” Kahn still has Heathfield’s business card, which folds out to twice the size of a normal business card and contains a somewhat inscrutable description of the company’s mission: “Future Map gives leaders a synthetic ‘big picture’ of anticipated future. Future Map helps building proactive collaborative leadership cultures.”

Frankly, the “inscrutable description” doesn’t sound that much different from all the other hustlers out there but whatever. Supposedly this was extra, extra inscrutable, even by business conference standards. Anyhoo, another attendee just found DHH to be flat out annoying:

He started talking to me, and I couldn’t shake him,” says Frank Quigley, CEO of CFO Publishing, who remembers Heathfield approaching him in a hallway outside the meeting rooms and seeking introductions to specific conference speakers and attendees. “There was no doubt in my mind when I saw his photo that I recalled the encounter and the persistence of it, and the vagueness of who he was.”

Obviously Mr Quigley did not have any pre-arranged signals to get him out of bad convos. HUGE MISTAKE.

Back to our Russian friend – if you visit his LinkedIn page you’ll see that he keeps it similarly inscrutable with a past position being, “Partner at Global Partners, Inc.” and specializing in “Comprehensive management of Risks and Uncertainties, Anticipatory Leadership, Building of Future Scenarios, Development and Execution of Future Strategies, Capture of Strategic Opportunities, Global Account Management.”

Considering his use of buzzwords, we’re not surprised at all that he was able to blend in so well. No word on the prevalence of acronyms but despite what people are saying, he was more like them then they could possibly even realized.

Spies Like…Us? [CFO]