Welcome to the is-anyone-sick-of-snow edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a Mom of two is getting her career started after going back to school and has found the Big 4 to be less than interested in what she has to offer. She’s looking for some feedback and advice but we’re guessing it has nothing to do with this Tiger thingee.
More from Mom:
Please help! I came back to college for an accounting degree at 40 after earning my first degree in a non-business field long ago. I have a 4.0 major GPA, and am at the very top of my class. I will have an undergraduate accounting degree soon and be done with the CPA exam a few months later. I have 2 kids who are 10 and 12.
My plan was to start with at least a couple years in public accounting, and go from there. It seems like you need to do that so that you don’t limit your options for later. I’ve been to one career fair and didn’t get a single interview. I intend to be committed when I go full time (45-50 hours a week) but don’t desire to work from 9 am until 10 pm 5 days a week all year, at least until my kids are out of the house. Working crazy hours for a 3 month season would be fine, but not all year. I lean toward tax but enjoy everything I’ve done in accounting. Despite all their talk about diversity, I haven’t seen any Big 4 firms remotely interested in anyone over 40 and I’m not sure that I would fit with the Big 4 culture anyhow. So the question is – what is your best advice for a smart mom over 40 who desires a job in accounting – regional/local public accounting, straight to industry, governmental? Would also love to hear some HONEST feedback about the work hours at regional and local public accounting firms. Thank you!
Smart mom over 40
Dear Smart Mom,
We’re not surprised to hear about you being stonewalled by the Big 4. You’re way past the impressionable stage and the large firms like their newbies young and clueless. Furthermore, when it comes to diversity, we don’t think age is really at the forefront of their ambitions. Your instincts are serving you well and a regional or local firm will be a better fit for you. We would advise against going into an in-house or government job at this point, as some time in public will help you determine what your interests are. We suggest finding a public accounting firm where you could engage directly with managers and partners that are closer to your age, as there will opportunities to bond over kids and other things you have in common, plus it will be a natural fit for a mentor/mentee relationship. You’ll learn more quickly and be given more responsibility sooner, which is probably of interest to you.
As far as hours are concerned, you’ll work plenty but it won’t be the epic busy seasons of Big 4 lore. You’ll likely work between 50-60 hours a week during the busiest time of year but obviously, this will vary from firm to firm. Also, small firms tend to be more creative when it comes to flexibility in order to accommodate their employees specific needs, so this will probably serve you better than a Big 4 or mid-tier experience. If all else fails, land a recruiter who can take your personal situation and set you up with a firm or company who will appreciate your situation but will also be a good cultural fit for you. Good luck.