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Ex-Marine Who Missed Internship Deployment Looking For His Next Assignment

Do you guys ever get an insidious sense of deja vu when reading some of these advice posts? I know I do. Anyway, here’s another lost little sheep looking for a sense of direction in this big scary world. If you’re feeling lost, hopeless, confused or otherwise unsure, hit us up with your issue and we’ll do our best not to make fun of you in front of everyone.

Dear GC,

I have a situation that may be just a little bit different than most college undergraduates but can’t be the only one in this situation. I attend a small private business sch I am a Marine Corps veteran of 4 years and currently using the G.I. Bill as an undergraduate accounting student with a 3.62 GPA. I am in my second year; however, this is my 4th semester and because I do summer semesters as well and I got 21 credits from military experience, I am right along with the Juniors in terms of graduation date. In fact I will have more credits than them when they graduate needing only 15 more to get the 150. The problem arises in me being ahead, yet behind. I am far ahead of the the sophomores, yet a little behind the juniors in regards to accounting courses completed. I am taking Intermediate I and AIS this semester and Intermediate II and Tax in the Spring. I thought because I didn’t have that many accounting courses completed going into this semester that I should wait to apply for internships, especially Big 4. Then I found out that the most accounting firms around here do all of their recruiting in September. Even though Deloitte and PwC are the only big 4 firms recruiting at my school. So I started applying for internships in October to smaller firms and filling out talent profiles on the Big 4 websites. I do plan on attending University of Pittsburgh’s MAcc 1 year program after graduation so I would in a sense have another summer opportunity to get an internship. My question is, should I in the meantime try and get an internship doing individual tax returns or private accounting at a chain retail company? (I have offers for both) Ideally I want something in Public, and eventually that is what I want to; however, would either of those internships help me at all in the long run towards getting an internship with the Big 4 next year? Also like I said only those 2 seem to recruit at my school. Is there anyway to really have a chance at E&Y or KPMG? Thank you in advance.

First off, thank you for your service to this country. My grandfather was a Marine (enlisted just before the end of WW II and missed the action), so out of respect to you for your service, I’m not going to make an excessive number of comments about how much editing I had to do to make your letter readable. But I will make a humble suggestion (in case you weren’t just being sloppy given who you were emailing), please tighten up your writing a bit before you go out there sniffing for Big 4 gigs. Granted, most recruiters can’t spell recruiter but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be putting your best foot forward here.

Now that we got that out of the way, can I ask you something? Why are you so dead set on the Big 4? You’re not actually planning on spending your entire career there, are you? It is unclear from your email why you want to be in the Big 4 so bad, so we’re going to assume here that either you drank the Kool-aid or don’t realize that there are a myriad of other opportunities for someone with your background.

Coming from a small school with low recruitment and boasting a 3.62 GPA probably won’t make you stand out on any HR desks anytime soon but the tide could definitely turn when you get in to the University of Pittsburgh MAcc program, assuming you do well and are able to attend recruiting events that are likely more active than the ones at your current school. As you noted, this is good. Also good: your military service (they eat that stuff up, it shows an ability to take orders and not revolt) and the fact that you will definitely be CPA eligible from the moment they bring you on.

What’s the rush in the meantime? Are you looking for the experience? Trying to get your foot in the door in public? Have bills to pay? Just want to get out of the house? You have plenty on your plate (not to mention the CPA exam ahead of you), if I were you I’d just focus on school for now instead of considering doing tax returns in your spare time. Unless that’s what you want to do with the rest of your career.

Since many accounting students participate in VITA anyway, telling recruiters you interned on tax returns probably isn’t going to earn you many points. And unless the “private accounting” gig involves work under a licensed CPA that you can use toward your experience requirement for CPA licensure, I wouldn’t bother.

Comment section is open for the Peanut Gallery’s (much appreciated) two cents.

Military Man Needs Help Transitioning into Public Accounting

Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at [email protected].

Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualitiSCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).

My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.

Couple of things to consider:

Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.

Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.

Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.

Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.