Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

What Can a New Big 4 Associate Expect Their First Week?

Welcome to the Holiday Hump Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a future tax associate wants to know how to prepare for the first few weeks on the job. Can we help this newbie avoid a nervous breakdown?

Need career advice? Looking for busy season survival tips? Curiosity around the dirt of our country’s diplomatic relations getting the best of you? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll make sure you don’t end up in a room with no windows.

Back to our nervous Nellie:

Hey guys,

I apologize if this is a duplicate of a prior question; but I’ve scoured the forums and can’t seem to find an answer.

I am starting at a Big 4 firm in January as an associate in the Federal tax practice. I have a few weeks at my local office before leaving for national training.

Could anyone give me an idea of what to expect from the first few weeks? Like most new associates, I feel like HR’s oversight. I really want to give myself the best possible chance to not look like a complete idiot. What can I do to prepare for my first few weeks at work? What am I expected to know or not know going in?

Constructive comments (I’ve heard all the “get ready to have no life”, “you are a slave” comments already) would be much appreciated.

Booker T. Nervousman

Dear Booker T.,

Constructive comments? Where do you think you are? If you want real help, call Dr. Phil (the real Dr. Phil, not his Deloitte doppelgänger).

Kidding aside – it’s pretty difficult for us to predict what your first couple of weeks as a newbie will be like (our personal experience was as an experienced hire) but we’ll give it a shot. You’re likely to get a whole lot of mindless training thrown at you – diversity, sexual harassment, the ushe. This will be useful when you’re sitting around with nothing to do, while a SA or manager tries to drum up some work for you. Like everyone, you’ll get the office tour but since you’re in tax, you’ll want to pay close attention because you are going to spend all your time at the office; our guess is that you’ll have a cubicle waiting for you.

Things to keep an eye out for – a) bathrooms with lighter foot traffic; b) hotties (regardless of proximity to where you sit); c) easily accessible stairs so you can avoid awkward elevator encounters; d) break rooms with real coffee (not that Flavia garbage).

You’re likely to get some work in your first couple weeks leading up to your national training but it’s not like you have to memorize Bittker & Eustice before starting work. Chances are your seniors will assume you don’t know jack and in some respects they’re right. Hopefully, they’ll walk you through exactly what they need from you but remind them that you do have training coming up so you don’t have work sitting on your desk for the better part of a week. Keep in mind that if you had an internship with the firm and will be working with a lot of the same people, they may have higher expectations for you than if you end up on a brand new team.

Ultimately, your first-ish week(s) will be hectic but you’ll be fine. Make like an eager beaver but not too eager. Oh, and look sharp. Nothing worse than sloppily dressed newbie.

Surely we’re missing some things here, some chime with appropriate insight, keeping in mind that Booker T is already aware that their life is about to come to end.

“Doing It Wrong” Twitter Case Study: The Over-Excited Newbie

Continuing with our series on how not to behave in social media that looks at what certain accounts do wrong without actually naming names, we thought we’d take a quick look at a Twitter user that should be all too familiar to most of you. Heck, you may even be this Twitter user, go ahead and stop me if you feel like you’re looking in a mirror.

The over-excited newbie thinks hashtags are great. So great, in fact, that he or she feels compelled to put them in every tweet. This is normal since we’ve seen this sort of behavior in accounting firms as well and they allegedly have media teams to run social media for them. We’re here to tell you for the last time to settle down and reserve hashtags for pre-determined conversations (like a chat that is easily tracked using a hashtag) or selective topics of conversation but not the entire conversation for the love of sweet baby Google.

The over-excited newbie also makes the mistake of jumping in head first without watching how others handle themselves in the arena. With hundreds – if not thousands – of well-established, accounting-related Twitter feeds already in the wild, it doesn’t make sense not to look to them to learn a thing or two about how the natives operate.

Lists like Michelle Golden’s “Accounting Awesomeness” can give you a direct line to some of accounting’s best, try following them for hints on how to behave before attempting to go out into the scary world of Twitter all by yourself. No one is implying that you should get all cookie-cutter on us but there is something to be said for sticking to the script, especially if you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.

The over-excited newbie tends to have trouble differentiating between streaming consciousness and appropriately answering the question “What’s happening?”, often dropping the most mundane details about what the yardboy wore while raking leaves and mistakenly letting threats towards co-workers seep out.

Signs you may be an over-excited newbie? Comments like “I am going to slit my senior’s throat if he doesn’t start doing some of this work” or “My boss is a fucking moron for giving me a raise after all these months of me showing up late every day” are dead giveaways.

Remember: everyone can see what you are doing on Twitter, even if your stream is “private.” That means vindictive colleagues, obnoxious clients and seniors who don’t appreciate being called raging douchenozzles in front of the entire Internet during an engagement.

So if you are the over-excited newbie, don’t worry, there’s hope for you yet. Try refraining from doing much more tweeting until you understand how Twitter works. For starters, stick to being a casual observer. No one is saying you can’t be opinionated or use the tools, however, you might choose. We have to remember our industry and keep in mind that as protectors of the public we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in a certain way.

Think of Twitter self-censoring like a privacy screen, it’ll keep all your nastiness to yourself. Exactly where it belongs.