Bonus Watch ’16: Underachievers
Good news for the lion's share of you who are unexceptional: you're getting paid!
How To Be a True Underachiever In Public Accounting
Jumping directly off from yesterday’s post stuffed with good advice for the newbies (thanks everyone who gave honest, useful answers for our fresh meat), today’s reader question comes from a future grunt looking for the perfect balance of effort and mediocrity:
Philosophy Major Considering a Big 4 Career Needs a Reality Check, Better Grades
(Acting) Ed. note: if you have a question for our team of highly knowledgeable monkeys, email [email protected] and we’ll be happy to make fun of you in front of your peers, superiors and the Internet-at-large, unless it’s a good question, in which case we will do our best to give you awesome information.
I found the advice column on your blog so I thought I would ask you this question:
I recently graduated from a state school in the California State University system as a Philosophy major. My original plan was to go to law school, but I am now thinking I may want to go into accounting instead (due to the terrible job market for lawyers and the 150k debt I’d be faced with). Par ike to work at a Big 4 firm. Is this change possible? I found a “Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate” at Portland State University (I’d like to end up in Portland if possible). Does that program have any chance of helping me land a Big 4 job, or does it lack prestige? If you’d like to suggest the best post-bac/master’s program for me you should know that the only math I’ve taken is statistics 1, and I’ve taken micro econ and macro econ, but aside from that I’d be starting from scratch. My undergrad GPA is 3.13, which I believe is a little low for the Big 4. Could I make up for that with a good post-bac certificate GPA, or perhaps a good master’s GPA if that is the route I should go?
Thank you for your help!
Listen, Ambulance-Chaser-cum-Capital-Market-Hero, you need to slow down and do a little more research on the Big 4 before you even attempt this stunt. The Big 4 don’t want some 3.13er who originally picked a different profession and then just kind of stumbled upon accounting as a more “viable” option due to the long-term (or even short) career opportunities. Sorry the law school plan didn’t work out but no allegedly prestigious firm is going to want you with your “certificate” (unless it is one of these) and low GPA. So if I were you and actually attempting this, I would be sure to spin those particular details into as much gold as possible. Don’t lie but don’t be so upfront about it either.
You admit that you’re new here so I won’t rail on you too but hard I will highly recommend you catch up on some advice columns (and especially their comments) we’ve done before. If we can sniff out your “well looks like you’re the only viable option” attitude via email, I can only imagine which method recruiters will use to avoid your emails and talk about you behind your back.
You still have a chance here if (and that’s a huge if) you actually want to do this, get yourself into a real program and not some funky certificate program, you might as well get a degree from some adult college advertised during Maury Povich for as much good as that will do you. And for Christ’s sake, at least try to pull a 3.8.
Fast track the CPA exam if you can but I get the sneaking suspicion that you are one of the candidates who will end up having to take BEC 7 times based on the fact that accounting is not your background and you don’t seem all that excited about the prospect of ticking and tying your good years away for “The Man,” but are instead focused on making a few bucks in an industry that’s still actually hiring because your first choice is a really awful one. In my experience, those who do best on the CPA exam are those who actually want to do it (shocking, I know). The ones who are forcing themselves because of the economy, their parents, their boss, etc are the ones who fail miserably over and over, usually with infuriating 74s. If you managed 4 years of philosophy, you’re probably too right-brained for the CPA anyway.
Big 4 recruiters do hit Portland State but you’re going to have a hell of a time explaining to them what you did with the last four years of your life and convincing them that you’re in it for the long-term and not just to have a job ’til the economy looks better.
We’re not going to do your job for you and recommend “the best” program for you, but nice try. We recommend Google, it’s a pretty helpful career tool. That’s how you found us, right?
I’m not saying it can’t be done but you need to be realistic here. The industry has already reached its quota of useless, mediocre assholes who don’t know which side debits go on. If you’re OK with being an AP clerk or working at a smaller firm I say go for it but with your “credentials,” I wouldn’t count on having to beat off the Big 4 recruiters with a stick any time soon.