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Ed. note: Feeling torn between two job offers? Questioning your career choices? Maxed out your credit cards and can no longer afford Miss Cleo’s $2.99 a minute advice? Tap the career advice brain trust for insight and we won’t even charge you for it.
I have recently received full-time offers from two Big 4 firms. One offer is for external audit, and the other is for internal audit. Which career opportunity would be more advantageous for a young professional in terms of salary, hours worked/busy season, and opportunities both within and outside the firms?
Also, the internal audit position would be for federal clients only. Would this impact the above criteria in any notable ways?
Dear Jimmy Dean,
This is a like a buck-shot of questions that you should have asked during the interview process. You never asked about what the hours are like? What the salary growth is like? What the long term career track would be in each practice line? What the hell did you talk about in your interviews!?! No really, I would like to know. The questions you’re asking here make it seem like you did zero homework on this and instead pounded out a quick email to GC because it’s easier to ask for the RIGHT-UNDER-YOUR-NOSE answers than find them for yourself. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.
My personal frustration aside, I’m sure members of the GC crew here will chime in and provide you some personal feedback. I suggest you start with career websites for the Big 4 firms. They offer a substantial amount of [HR polished] insight on career tracks. A few years ago KPMG released an external version of their Employee Career Architecture tool. It spells out the marketable skills earned throughout a career in different practices. Tip: if you’re using the tool to assess an internal audit career, KPMG lists it as IARCS under the Advisory practice line. The most useful information is under the “Explore” section of the ECA tool. As for a career in external audit? Oh I don’t know – try another Big4’s extensive website. Thanks, Uncle Ernie.
As for the government-heavy client base – it’s not going to necessarily restrict your external career options should you choose to leave, however it can be a natural transition. Again, you need to assess the skillsets each career track provides.
Ed. note: Looking for career guidance from a couple of Big 4 expats or our resident permanently ink-stained wench? Email us at [email protected].
I have become an avid reader of your website and need your help regarding an opportunity. I have an engineering background and 5 years of experience in the heavy construction industry specifically oil & gas. In hopes to moving on to something different and possibly working as a consultant I have got a chance to work at PWC and Deloitte in a senior associate advisory role. I do know that these companies are primarily in audit but the sales pitch they gave me was that they were trying to build the Capital Projects Advisory division. Do you all think it is good opportunity?
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
As a self-proclaimed avid reader, I hope you caught the post I did in June about the engineering consultant in a similar situation as yours. Check it out for feedback focused on what to do once you start at your new gig in a Big 4’s advisory practice.
That said, you’re asking if the chance to work at the #1 or #2 public accounting firms in the world are “good” opportunities. I follow up your question with one of my own:
If working for #1 or #2 is not a good opportunity, what more are you looking for?
So yes, they are great opportunities to jump start your career into the “consulting” slash advisory biz. Sure, they crank out audits and tax returns, but those are very different revenue generating streams than their advisory practices. To put things in more engineering terms – wary of working in the advisory group of PwC or DT because they perform assurance services is like turning down an aerospace engineering job at GE because they also make light bulbs.
Assuming the offer details are similar, look at each firm’s Capital Projects practices. Which group is more established? Have they made other external hires recently? What is each group’s current market share/focus, and what are long term plans?
Good luck with whichever role you pursue, and welcome to the Big 4 community.
When you become a partner at a Big 4 firm, there are many unexpected challenges that you will face. You may have a trusted senior manager quit in the middle of busy season. You may discover that someone who you thought was your best friend is actually primo inventory from the jerk store. And if you’re really unlucky, you may get bombed at a happy hour (allegedly!), then slug a couple people (allegedly!), kiss a couple more (allegedly!), not remember a thing, claim that you were roofied and have a stranger call you up out of the blue and ask you about it.
Anyway, we’ve been informed of another bitch of a situation that can arise when you become partner – when the entertainment for your little soiree cancels on you at the last minute:
Date: 10/04/2010 01:24 PM
Subject: Are you courageous or just talented?
I am having an event at my home tonight and my normal pianist has canceled on short notice. This is a test of the courage of you as a group of people.
I know someone is out there in our midst who in their spare time is a really good pianist. I would be eternally thankful if those of you to whom this note applies, would volunteer to help me out tonight. I know we hire people with many talents — the question is — do you have the courage to display them? The event is from 6:00 – 9:00 PM in McLean. You will be well fed. If you are interested, please contact [redacted]. Hopefully we’ll get more than one taker, and we will figure out who we should use.
The fact of the matter is, my event this evening will survive the lack of a pianist. What I am really trying to figure out is what we as a people at pwc [Ed. note: nice usage of the low caps!] are made of.
Jesus. Talk about a conundrum. And since Big 4 partners don’t pull down the kind of dough that could afford them a short-notice call to Elton, Harry Connick, Jr., or even a cheap Liberace impersonator, throwing a line out into the employee talent pool was the only option this partner had.
Unfortunately, since this opportunity was on such short notice, anyone with the necessary skills that is now just learning about it is SOL. With any luck however, you can volunteer your services as a solid pinch-hitter for future reference. God knows how that comes in handy.
Presumably you don’t have to be the next Mozart but if you can pull off some singalongs such as “Piano Man,” “Friends in Low Places,” and “Sweet Caroline” that will go a long way to nailing down that “eternal” gratitude (for a future event of course).
We touched on international rotations yesterday, albeit one that probably would be provide more risk than most accountants are comfortable taking.
That being said, rotations – either to another practice, office or international – can be a way to re-energize your career if you’re feeling stagnant or a simple distraction from the distinct possibility that you don’t like your job. We’ll discuss all three of these possibilities and then open it up for discussion:
International Rotations – Offering international rotations is an excellent recruiting tools for the firms that offer them (primarily Big 4) and most people that work in firms that offer them would state that they are “an extremely rewarding experience,” whether or not they’ve actually experienced one. It’s one of the cliché message that firms put out without mentioning the fact that the politics of negotiating one can be tricky. All that being said, those lucky few that do experience them rave about their experiences (for the most part, there are some that just can’t be pleased) on both a personal and professional level.
Domestic Rotations – Again, firms market these as opportunities for those that are interested in them. There are less politics involved in the domestic versions although a particular office may have to demonstrate a need before it would be approved. A slight twist on these the domestic “rotation” is an unsolicited one, where one office has a desperate need for warm bodies and your firm offers you up to spend a significant length of time (e.g. two to three months up to a year or more) working in a different office.
Practice Rotations – You’re sick of auditing/tax/advisory. One day the idea of a rotation to a new service line or to a support department (e.g. HR) comes along and you jump at it because, well, you’re bored out of your mind. This can be a great opportunity to do something completely different which could be the start of a new career path. Or it could be your firm filling its need for grunts in a practice that is short-handed.
From a recent thread on staying or leaving public accounting, commenter Guest had this to say regarding internal rotations.
Internal rotations are also BS. They are generally looking for cheap labor to bridge them in times of need. Most people don’t get asked to stay on, in which case your peers that stayed in audit may have a leg up. If you do get asked to stay, you will be behind your advisory/tax peers since you didn’t start with them.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag out there. On the one hand, landing one of these rotations is the first step and then you have to consider the repercussions of leaving an office/practice for a length of time. If you’ve got personal experience with any of these, discuss below for the wishers and dreamers out there mulling rotations.
PricewaterhouseCoopers is opening a field office in Rwanda, thus bringing the glorious PwC Experience to the African nation that has likely never known it. This means one more opportunity for anyone interested in an international rotation to country that barely qualifies as such.
Although this isn’t quite as adventurous as working the Somali engagement that the firm won last year (no pirates in Rwanda after all) but it’s nice to know that you have one more option on the continent.
The daily comings and goings still seem to be dicey enough to keep things interesting although authorities seem to be giving Americans fair warning. S’pose that’s the most you can ask for except the second you explain what an accountant does, they’ll assume you have money and you’ll get shaken down.