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Big 4 Senior Associate with ‘Offers in Hand’ Wants to Ask for a Raise Without Sounding Like a Greedy Bastard

Ed. Note: Give DWB a warm welcome back to regular posting. If you’ve got a question for the advice column, email us at [email protected].

Good afternoon, everyone. Caleb must have tripped and knocked his sombrero-wearing-head last night, because he has invited me back for a weekly post. Regardless, I’m excited to be back. Let’s knock the rust off, shall we?

I am a 2nd year senior associate at a Big 4 firm. I like doing public accounting but am thinking that at my level and performance I am underpaid. I’ve several offers in hand but I do like what I am doing.

Now this does seem like a silly question – how do I go about asking for a raise without making it sound like that all I care about is money? In this economy…what are the chances that I am gonna get what I ask for?

Thanks a bunch!

You don’t specify whether your “several offers in hand” are for positions in the private sector or with other public accounting firms, so I’m going to address both.

Private sector – why are you interviewing with companies if you “like doing public accounting?” Turn these down.

Public accounting – you should be considering these offers if they are with another Big 4 firm. Do not go from Big 4 to mid-tier. Don’t have any offers with the other Big 4? See your own comments above and interview with the other firms. All four have problematic staffing issues this spring as the young guns continue to burn out. Sure, you’ll receive a nice little bump in pay when you transfer from one firm to another, but remember you’ll be down at the bottom of the networking food-chain.

Considering both the fact that you work at a Big 4 and it’s only a few months away from mid-summer raises and/or compensation restructuring, asking for a raise now will probably not lead to much. You work for an international firm responsible for more than 100,000 employees…you are one person. Granted, you are a second year Senior, which is one of the areas that all firms have a shortage at.

It also depends on your what practice line, your performance rankings and industry, as all of these factors play into how much leverage you will have. If you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall, your firm may toss you a $1,500 bone to keep you salivating for summer raises. If you’re more of the middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type it would not totally surprise me if you were not given a raise or even shown the door. It would take the length of an episode of “30 Rock” for the word to spread through your office that all it took to get a bump in pay was to claim you had an offer from another firm. Leadership isn’t stupid.

Regardless of where you stand when compared to your peers, be absolutely certain you’re comfortable taking one of the offers you have should the latter situation happen. Your best bet is to wait until summer raises come through. The other firms will still be hiring experience staff in September.

Big 4 Tax Associate Feels Pigeonholed; Is an Ultimatum Necessary?

Welcome to the All Saints/Election Day Eve edition of Accounting Career Couch. Today a Big 4 tax associate is concerned that their career experience has been too narrow and has been begging TPTB to rotate to a different group. Will a fist-pounding ultimatum finally get the point across?

Have a question about your next career move? Wondering if you should wear your Benjamin Bankes costume all week in order to get your money’s worth? Is your unpatriotic boss refusing to let you leave work tomorrow to vote and you’re thinking of emailing Glenn Beck? Stop! Email us at [email protected] and we’ll give you a sane solution.

Back to our trapped tax guru:

I’m currently a 1st year senior at a Big 4 company and I have specialized in the R&D Tax Credit since I started here. Ever since passing my CPA I have been requesting a rotation in other parts of tax such as provision work and FAS109. I keep on getting the ring around from both my Partner and HR who say a rotation is coming but that I just need to be patient.

Since the R&D Tax Credit is such a specialized area I understand that they don’t want to just give me up because they have invested 3 years in me to learn the Credit but it is not fair to my career development to be stuck in one of the many areas of tax. From talking to recruiters and searching the Internet it does not seem like there is really a secondary market for R&D Tax Credit Specialist such as myself and I believe not being able to earn experience in other areas of tax with negatively effect me when I start looking for a private job in the next year or so. What do you recommend that I do? Should I put my foot down and let my partner and HR know I am going to start looking for another job if I don’t get a rotation in the near future or should I start interviewing with other Big 4 firms to find the kind of experience I am looking for? Please help!

Dear R&DTC Associate,

It’s true that some partners/managers will hold on to some SAs or associates like grim death the moment they express interest in doing something different. The concern is typically they don’t want to lose a talented staff person to a more provocative practice or they’re simply too lazy to train someone new. So your concern is valid and it sounds as though you’ve been proactive but you’ve still have some options before going the “take this job” route.

First, go back to both HR and your partner and ask if the rotation is a realistic possibility and requestthe specifics behind the delay. It sounds as though you’ve taken the Job approach and it has gotten you nowhere. Reiterate your patience and express your concerns about your narrow experience.

If that stalls, try reaching out to some partners and managers in the division where you would like to work. Maybe you were recruited by one of them or you have a friend in that group. Explain the situation and perhaps they can broker a solution for you. Going behind your partner and HR probably won’t feel so great but seeing as though you’ve exhausted every other possibility, you have little choice.

If that fails, then it’s time to have the Come to Jesus meeting to get things moving. You don’t sound like you’ve got issues with your firm other than the snail’s pace of the rotation process. Explain your position (again) and this time state that you have little choice but to go somewhere else to get the work experience you desire. Keep it cordial but definitely make your frustration known. Hysterics rarely work. This should get you some answers one way or another. But we don’t think it should have to come to this.

Good luck.