Once again I found myself at a bit of a loss as to what to […]
As you know, KPMG has elected Lynne Doughtie as its next Chairman CEO, the first […]
Is your career stuck in neutral? Looking for a way to convince your boss that […]
Our inquisitor has options. Don't you hate that? If you're stumped on career multiple choice […]
I’m a junior at a well-respected New England college with a double concentration in accounting and marketing. A few weeks ago, I accepted an offer as an audit intern for next summer from a public accounting firm just outside of the Big 4. Just as a background, my GPA sucks (sub-3.0), but I enjoy doing interviews. While I was excited to get the job, I’m still not sure if auditing is a career path I want to go down.
My biggest fear is a high-paced, numbers-intensive career tra to people, forming relationships, and pretty much anything that doesn’t involve crunching numbers. Ideally, I’d like to pursue a career that highlights my writing ability and interests, like sports marketing (which I’m sure will be scoffed at in the comment section). Additionally, as my GPA suggests, I hate studying for tests, so I don’t anticipate doing the CPA thing or going to grad school. Do you have any general advice? Any chance I survive this internship?
Love the site, keep up the good work.
My first drafted response:
Drop the accounting degree, focus on marketing, and start going to class to get your grades up before you’re unemployed.
You remind me of countless other students, studying a subject that you have little interest in. I don’t know your backstory: maybe you did well in accounting in high school; maybe one of your parents is a CPA; maybe one of your Helicopter parents told you that “you can do ANYTHING with a degree in accounting” and you earnestly believed them. Frankly, I don’t care what the story is…but you need to kick yourself in the ass and either suck it up and commit to an accounting career or get the hell out.
What you have going for your career:
• A paid internship with a mid-sized CPA firm. Ignore the fact that the Central Banks came to the rescue this morning (even Groupon is up!). The economy is in the can and because hiring trends are reactionary and delayed in a services industry like public accounting, fulltime job opportunities will be even scarcer when you’re graduating. That’s to say you want to work in the industry; but I think you don’t and you came to GC hoping we’d tell you otherwise.
What you have going against your career:
• Your grades are terrible compared to market. Firms are turning 3.8 GPA’s away at the door.
• You have little/no work ethic.
• You do not plan to do graduate school (presumably to be CPA eligible).
• You don’t plan to take the CPA exam.
If everything remains constant, you will not survive in a career in public accounting. You claim that your biggest fear is a “high-paced, number-intensive career track,” where in reality it should be more in line with “living in my parents’ basement, playing video games and ‘networking’ over Linkedin.” What would you prefer – a slow-paced environment where hypothetical interview questions are tossed around? Do you think “sports marketing” isn’t a fast-paced environment?? And what do you even KNOW about audit? Being that you’re a junior, you might not even take an auditing course before your internship. Don’t knock it just yet, man. It sounds to me like you’ve given up on accounting before you’ve even started. Which is fine if that’s the case; just accept it yourself and believe in what you actually want to do.
Not speaking for the GC commenters, but I won’t scoff at your desire to work in sports marketing. I will, however, challenge your ass to do more. What are you doing to break into the incredibly competitive sports marketing world? A piss-poor GPA, marketing degree (from a university whose program is not in the top tier for marketing…go Eagles!), and self-proclaimed writing abilities are not going to cut it. I’m not an expert on the industry, but I do know that “sports marketing” is like saying you want “a job in finance.” What do you want to do? Product development? Management? Retail marketing? Brand management? Selling Gatorade at Red Sox games?
You need to figure your shit out. That’s as much handholding as you’ll get from me. I could sit here and babble off that you need to study more, focus your efforts on your future, yada yada yada. So, here’s my advice: do some serious soul searching. If accounting is not what you want to do for the next 40 years, give up your internship. Take summer classes to get your GPA up or sweat your summer in an unpaid marketing internship making copies for the local single-A minor league baseball team. Do SOMETHING to get your career on track. At the very least, go ask your questions on a marketing-focused website. Find out how cut-throat the industry is right now. If you are hoping to ride the waves of your alma mater into some sweet gig at an agency, you are setting yourself up for a rude awakening.
Ed. note: Find yourself caught at a crossroads unsure which path to take? Feeling lost and hopeless? Just want to know your lucky lotto numbers for next week? Hit us up and the career advice brain trust will take your hand, restore your faith, guide you down the path of greatness and even pick out what you should wear tomorrow.
By the end of the week, I am going to need to make a decision on which offer to accept. I am applying for entry-level auditing positions, and received my first offer last Friday. I also anticipate receiving two more by Thursday. The one I recently received is from a mid-size regional firm that specializes in an industry that I find to be very interesting. I also ith their staff and think I would really enjoy myself there. One of the offers I anticipate receiving on Thursday is from a Big 4 firm.
The biggest issue for me it seems is which job will put me in the best position 3-5 years from now. There is a greater than 50% chance that I will need to move in the next few years, and I keep going back to the fact that working for a Big 4 will give me the most options. The mid-size firm does some work nationally, and may connect me with other public accounting firms around the country, but that is about the extent of it. Is working at a Big 4 that big of a deal to future employers? If I plan to make a career in public accounting, is it easy to switch from one mid-size firm to another – or am I more likely to get recognized by a mid-size if I’m coming from a Big 4?
I have been a regular reader of Going Concern over the past few months, and appreciate the depth of knowledge you and the readers have, so I’m hoping you can help.
#1) Thanks for the kind words but maybe you need to spend a few more months on this website if you actually do not possess the knowledge to answer your own questions for yourself, namely the ones that question just how big of a deal Big 4 is on your resume. We at least hope when you say “mid-size” you mean a truly mid-size and not a small, regional firm that just so happens to have a national client or two. At least you’ve got hope for flexibility in that case.
#2) Now that you’ve thought about it for a moment, slapped yourself upside the head and come to the realization that yes, Big 4 on your resume really is that big of a deal (how we feel about that is irrelevant for this discussion, we are not talking about the Kool-Aid itself but simply the effects of said Kool-Aid), the question is what you want to do in the next several years. You should also realize from your short time on this site that few public accounting grunts actually dedicate 3 – 5 years of their life to the firm. 2 years in Big 4 is sufficient to get your CPA, get some good connections and earn a solid item on your resume.
However, you note part of the mid-size appeal to you is the opportunity to work close to an industry that interests you. It’s awesome that you are aware enough of what you like to think in these terms but what happens if you turn down Big 4 for this mid-size option only to find out this specialization is not at all interesting to you? Are you 100% positive that the Big 4 opportunity wouldn’t allow you the same close quarters with an industry you find appealing?
When you say you hit it off with the mid-size staff, do you mean their actual staff or just the hot recruiting bubbleheads hired to lure you into their trap? If you mean actual staff, then I think your decision here is clear. You seem to have a good feeling about the mid-size opportunity and are simply confused because you have bought into the idea that there is nothing like Big 4. That isn’t a myth, but it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a career of mediocrity if you forgo the Big 4 route for something that you feel fits you better.
You probably already know all of these things and didn’t really need to email us to ask. If your heart is telling you go mid-size, do it. It isn’t going to make you a public accounting pariah, though it may limit your opportunities later on slightly. Note I said slightly. You will not be relegated to some public leper colony for being branded with the curse of anything but Big 4. On the other hand, Big 4 might steal your soul and you could find yourself suicidal before you are anywhere near to the two year mark just for the sake of a few extra opportunities and a nice resume item later on down the road.
Is that a risk you are willing to take? Only you can decide that. I’m pretty sure we have at least one or two mid-size staff lurking around here to offer you some more specialized advice based on their experiences beyond what I’ve just suggested to you (just ignore GT Partner, who is an obvious troll). Good luck.
Oh dear, have we taken the Big 3 joke a little too far?
I just received my internship offers (audit), one from each of the Big 4. The office culture I like the most and felt I had the most connection with is KPMG. However, I know KPMG’s reputation as the “worst of the big 4”. I don’t want to stay in public accounting forever and want the firm name on my resume to say something when I am looking for jobs in the future. Since I have other options, am I dumb to turn them down? Deloitte has offered the most money, but I don’t want to chase money, I want to go somewhere I’ll actually like. I just don’t want people to look down on my choice, or have to deal with crappy audit software and be miserable.
Well congratulations on a grip of offers; for someone in a predicament, it’s a pretty nice predicament to be in. That being said, I think your best bet is going to be to ignore the complaints (there are plenty, and not just about KPMG) and listen to your gut.
Who told you KPMG is the worst of the Big 4? I really hope you’re not going solely on what has been said here on Going Concern, because it’s fair to say we get trolled pretty heavily by competing firms (and by firms I mean PwC) trying to start a who has the biggest dick contest on the Internet. For as much as we joke about how KPMG isn’t really a Big 4 firm, for all intents and purposes they are. Hey, our own downward-dog-facing, veggie-eating public accounting refugee Caleb came from there, so they can’t be that bad. OK, maybe he’s a bad example of what good comes out of the firm. Forget I mentioned it.
Yes eAudit sucks according to those doomed to use it but are you really getting into this line of work for the cool, totally functional software?
Who are you worried about looking down on you? It’s KPMG, not GT (I kid, GTers). For real though, it’s KPMG, not Johnson and Johnson, CPAs in some guy’s basement. You’ll still be getting the Big 4 experience and exposure to large clients that you’re after. KPMG’s reputation is mostly an inside joke, it’s highly unlikely that someone in private industry looking at your resume is going to exclaim loudly that you’re some kind of loser for spending your internship with them. Seriously.
What I would suggest to you is to keep in touch with your points of contact at the other firms just in case and take the KPMG gig. If your heart is telling you KPMG is the one and you don’t have any real evidence proving otherwise, it’s worth a shot. If it doesn’t work out, having those contacts at the other firms will come in handy – and even if you stick around at KPMG for awhile, you can expect the poachers to reach out later anyway. Point being, let everyone down softly but keep those doors open in case you need to GTFO through them later.
You are not dumb for turning down other options if you feel your choice is the best. You are, however, dumb for not taking an opportunity that excites you just because some people have said some not so nice things about it.
Contributor note: if you have a question for the Going Concern audience at large (including the useless dbags) or our team of accounting drop outs and degenerates, please get in touch.
Here’s a tip if you guys are thinking about submitting a question: it helps to know your motivation if you are asking for our advice. It’s difficult to tell you what you should do without knowing why you’re trying to do it, unless you’re asking us an obvious question like “should I take X position to make way more money?” because in that situation we obviously assume you’re in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with that.
That said, this indentured serv So let’s commence to helping.
I’m currently working for a large mid-size firm as a Staff II and will become a Senior I next year on a relatively large public client. However, I’ve been debating whether or not I should follow up on opportunities to work at a Big 4 firm if it means I have to wait an additional 2 years to become a Senior I?
I know from my friends currently working in the Big 4 firm that new hires work for 3 years at the staff level before being promoted to Senior I. In addition, I may also slip one level from Staff II back to Staff I when I change firms. I’d essentially be 2 years behind my peers as a result of going to the Big 4 so I don’t know if making this switch would help or hurt my career. Is it really worth losing that much time in order to get the Big 4 name on my resume? Should I wait until next year in hopes that I could be recruited as a Staff III instead?
Surely I’m not the only one struggling with this decision, does anyone else have experience with this problem?
Thanks and Best Regards,
-Staff II(?) Auditor
Well, Would-Be Staff II, as you are probably already aware, the Big 4 item on your résumé is going to blow any of that mid-tier nonsense you’ve got going now out of the water (don’t get butthurt, mid-tier-ers. It’s not personal). The actual practical application of what you’re learning at a mid-tier firm versus what you might learn at the Big 4 is irrelevant here; it’s all about marketing yourself, and you’re better equipped to do that with bragging rights slapped all over your work experience. You’re pretty much only going to get those rights from the Big 4.
That isn’t to say you can’t gain valuable experience from your current employer, so it comes down to what you want to do career-wise and in what time frame you would like to accomplish it. Have you passed the CPA exam already? Are you itching to get out of public altogether? It’s pretty hard to try and push you in the right direction without knowing what that direction is. What do you want out of your career? Money? Prestige? Experience?
Why did you start mid-tier in the first place? Are you happy where you are? Do you enjoy the work and feel fulfilled? What is it you think Big 4 can offer that you aren’t getting at your current firm?
If I were you, I would wait it out, gain additional experience, keep those Big 4 contacts and try to make the jump when you have a little more leverage. The more secure you get in your skill set, the better equipped you’ll be to leverage that experience into a more ideal gig with a Big 4 instead of starting at bottom a level above the clueless interns.
I would also have a candid conversation with whomever you’ve been speaking to at the Big 4 about your concerns. Don’t come off as a money-grubbing, work-averse dick but definitely express an interest in being involved with work on par with what you’ve been doing with your firm, not taking a step back. Feel free to embellish whatever paperwork you’ve been assembling up until this point into a full-blown PCAOB-compliant masterpiece.
I’m sure any number of mid-tier grunts who read this site religiously can talk you out of making the jump, and for good reason, while others will tell you to jump now and worry about how quick you ascend the Big 4 ladder later. A smaller firm allows you a better chance at truly learning your trade instead of simply going through the motions and checking boxes; think of mid-tier as stripping at the pole as opposed to mopping up the floors. You probably won’t put stripping at the pole on your resume but you’ll be gaining practical experience you can segue into a better opportunity.
I’m not clear on the opportunity you’re after here. Can you clarify?
The morning subway commute to work in Manhattan this week was refreshingly quiet; maybe it’s because so many bankers are in Cashew Mode (Street talk for the fetal position); the Hamptons are crowded; the interns are GONE. I know, staff members…time to return to the days of fetching your own copy paper and finding other “mentoring” reasons to light up the corporate card. But this is not about you – rather, it is about the suckling interns that are now the proud holders of fulltime offers.
Interns – what a long, sometimes awkward road of courtship it’s been, amiright? For some of you, the relationship with one or more of the firms started in your junior year, whereas others of you were swooned early and often from the wee days of being a fi��������������������But regardless, with a fulltime offer in hand your search for a job has finally come to a definitive end. Or has it?
It would be silly to think that every intern across the board has a positive summer experience. After all, the old school way of doing things was that internships were cutthroat programs that were unofficial “try outs” for only the top flight of students. Only if the i-ship was successful for both parties would a firm extend an offer. But remember, these were “real” internships with more in-depth work being done than the average fleets of thousands that we have now. Back then if a student didn’t receive an internship, it was not nearly the Scarlet Letter it is in today’s system. But in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of way, the modern day internship program is just one giant recruiting pipeline tool. You know it. I know it. Everyone (including the professors) know it.
What about that intern at ABC LLC that feels incredible pressure to accept the offer, oftentimes when recruiters remind them of how much the firms have invested in said student (University happy hours. Dinners. “Trainings” in Florida. I don’t need to keep going.). Is it worth risking not getting an offer from another firm during the Fall recruiting season? Afraid of being labeled as a “risky” candidate?
So, interns – what the hell are you supposed to do? Here are a few ideas.
Same firm, different role – This is the easier change to make. Maybe you interned in financial services tax, but you have a yearning to get involved with non-profit or corporate clients. Speak to your recruiter about the possibility of transferring your offer to a different group. This does not mean you can make the move from Assurance to Forensic advisory, however. Stay within the skill set your internship provided.
This kind of move will only be possible if the group you’d like to transfer to has vacant spaces. For example, if the corporate tax group has 10 fulltime needs for FY2012 and they extended five fulltime offers to interns, you have a decent shot of transferring groups. If there were nine offers made for the same ten spots, your chances are much slimmer. Why? Because your recruiter (and really, the practice leader) will want to keep some room in the budget in case the next big tax star is found on campus in the fall. If you are going to request a change, be absolutely sure it’s where you want to be. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot 1-2 years down the road from now.
Request a deadline extension – Look at the deadline on your offer. Got it? Good. Now go look at your university’s fall career fair schedule. Same date? Pretty damn close to it? Mmmhmm.
The turn-around on fulltime offers is a short window for two reasons: 1) because of the “you should be dying to work for us” Kool-aid and 2) because the recruiting teams need to know how many people to hire from campus. This is a fair and understandable, but it can put potential hires in a sticky situation if they are unsure of where they’d like to be come graduation.
Put your feelers out to the other firms early – before getting back to campus – Tell them about the positive experience you had during your internship, but express your continued interest in pursuing a fulltime option with them. It’s okay to ask them if there is any chance to be considered in the fall; recruiters do not waste time, especially their own. If you receive positive feedback from other firms, request an extension for your offer. Send your recruiter an email asking to speak with them over the phone; remain positive throughout the conversation (about your internship experience, your relationship with them, etc.); kindly ask for an extension. Most importantly, have a date in mind. Ask the other firms what their timelines are for interviewing on campus and extending offers. They are not immune to the situation themselves, and they will understand the sensitive timing.
Important to keep in mind: the conversation rate (interns who receive, then accept fulltime offers) is a critical aspect in many firms’ performance rankings for the recruiting staff, so it is in the recruiters’ best interest to do what is in their ability to land every acceptance possible. It should also be noted that the relationship you have within the practice you interned with and your recruiter are influential wild cards in these situations. The stronger the relationship, the more flexibility you will be privy to.
Seasoned vets – what advice can you give to you future staff members? Dish your details below.
We swear we don’t mind answering the same question over and over and over, so if you have a question for us, please don’t hesitate to pound it out and get it to us.
Here’s our latest CPA exam quandary from the mailbag:
I am just beginning to study for the CPA exams. I am in an MBA program and I will graduate in December. I was not an accounting major (poli sci) so I have also been taking the necessary required accounting classes in order to sit for the CPA exams, hopefully in January. I am taking an MBA-level auditing class in the Fall. I just finished a corporate income tax class this Spring, so I am a little confused as to which exam I should focus on now and take first, in January: REG as a lot of tax info is still fresh in my head or Auditing, as it will be most fresh by January?
Let’s all keep in mind that the CPA exam is not a test of your ability to be a good accountant, nor is it at all representative of the depth of your knowledge but the breadth. In other words, it’s a huge inch-tall puddle as opposed to a small, 9-ft deep pool. Your job is to jump across the puddle without getting your ankles wet, ya with me?
If it’s going to help your confidence, you can start with the section that will be easiest for you – in your case, that may be whatever you studied last. Keep in mind, however, that what you study in college and what you see on the CPA exam may not necessarily align. The CPA exam changes twice a year and with CBT-e changes, the AICPA Board of Examiners is now testing material that you are expected to know as a new CPA but may not have covered in school. Professors tend to favor the same material year after year, so unless your school is incredibly progressive and you’ve been learning IFRS (unlikely), it may not matter what you studied most recently.
That being said, I always tell candidates to start with the part that will be hardest for them simply because your 18 month timeframe starts from the time you sit for and pass your first part.
Here’s the deal: any review course will give you what you need to fill in the blanks in your education, even if you go the self-study route and pick up a set of CPA review textbooks from Amazon. In my professional experience, those who don’t have as rigorous an accounting background actually do better on the CPA exam as they come into it fresh instead of relying on what they were just taught in their accounting program that is no longer relevant for CPA exam purposes.
You’ll be fine either way, just pick one, study, and pass. It really is that simple. Or so I hear.
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…