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Any Other Big 4 Accountants Here? (Current/Former)

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by asdf334, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. asdf334

    asdf334 Active Member

    I'm pretty much a lurker here, but I thought what the heck, I'll throw this question out there and see what kind of a response I get!

    As the title of the thread indicates, I'm an accountant with one of the Big 4 firms. I've been at this job for four years, and seem to increasingly find myself questioning 'why'? For me, it's mostly the hours. Six months out of the year, I'm working 80 hour weeks and I feel like I've finally had enough of it. I actually don't mind the work I'm doing, like my engagement teams, and feel that I'm still growing/developing professionally. What's making this a tough call for me at this point is a few things:

    1. If I stick it out for another year or two, I could potentially make manager, which is what is recommended in the professions since that makes a big difference in the $/opportunities you can command upon leaving.

    2. Other than the hours, I really don't have too many complaints.

    3. With the economy, I know it's not going to be easy to find something else.

    So now, it's survey time. In addition to the questions below, feel free to leave any other comments, advice, etc.

    If you're a current employee...

    1. What's keeping you there?

    2. Have you thought about leaving, and if so, why?

    3. If you left the Big 4 world previously to do something else, and then came back, why?

    If you're a former employee...

    1. What was your reason for leaving?

    2. Do you have any regrets about leaving from a professional perspective?

    3. If you had to do it over again, would you still take the job?

  2. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    I'd recommend this. Will make a big big difference because once you make manager here, lots of other companies will look at you favorabably for their own management positions. And manager jobs are better generally better than staff jobs in corporate world. Plus you can scout opportunities while you stay.
  3. VALuvsMKwan

    VALuvsMKwan Wandering Goy

    Former Big 8 accountant, but not since 1979 (which certainly takes us back a few years)...

    I hated auditing because I actually like(d) doing the accounting work, rather than testing someone's else's work. So I lasted for 2 years and 2 weeks of experience to qualify for my CPA certificate (those were the rules back in the day) and went to work for a client and stayed there for several years.

    Eventually I wanted to do something different and got a certification equivalent to a bachelor's in information systems. The combination of the accounting experience and the IS training got me my present job, which, in four weeks and through various incarnations of supporting systems, I will have been doing for 25 years. I wouldn't have gotten this job without the CPA designation or the experience, so I don't regret doing the CPA track originally at all.
  4. smurfy

    smurfy Well-Known Member

    I am a cpa, but did not work in public, got my time as an internal auditor, and did not work in a firm. My observations...

    -since you have 4 years in, if you leave now, ok, but might be worth getting that manager title. Sounds like you are ok with everything but the hours, so might be worth staying maybe 1 year after getting the manager title.
    Your time in public/certificate is something you will always have and be beneficial in your career
    -if you only had 1 or 2 years public, that could be iffy. I have worked with many from public and all have been great, except for a small percentage of those that only lasted 1-2 years - there is a reason, and not reliable.
    In my experience anything 3-4 Plus is golden.
    But warn you on hours outside of public - are not necessarily less. I have worked places where someone from public came in expecting 40 hours a week and was shocked how many hours. Grass is not always greener.
  5. Erin

    Erin Well-Known Member

    I left a Big 4 firm almost exactly 4 years ago and it was largely because of the hours, as I'm sure won't surprise you. It was also because a good opportunity came up, as I live in an area where not a lot of companies have tax-specific roles...and also, I was going to one of my biggest clients, so it was a situation where I was probably going to be stuck with the work on this client anyway, but if I went to work for them directly, I could get rid of my other clients and make more money doing so. I also really hated the sales and marketing aspect of working at a firm, which only increases as you move up.

    I do not have any regrets about leaving from a professional perspective - in fact, I have probably had more professional development in my new role than I would have had at the firm. If I think about the type of projects that I've worked on since I've left, these are things I never would have seen in my role at my Big 4 firm.

    If I had to do everything over again, I don't think I'd change much. I was really grateful for the experience and learning opportunity from working at a Big 4 Firm, but I think I left at the right time. I would never be able to go back now. Even though I'm busy at my job now, my whole definition of busy has changed...it's nowhere near what it was like at a firm. The only thing I really miss is the social atmosphere at the firm, but the longer you're there, the more that goes away (because everyone that you socialize with has left!)

    The one comment I would make is that I do generally agree that it's a good idea to stay until you make manager, not just because it helps when you're looking for other opportunities, but also because I feel like you learn the most during your last year as a senior/first year of manager. But it doesn't hurt to be looking now and if the right opportunity comes along, it's probably good to strike while the iron is hot and take it.

    ETA - this bears repeating. I don't work anywhere near the same hours as when I was in public, but it's also not a 40 hour work week either. I think that some of this depends on the person...when I left for my current job, one partner pointed out to me that "wherever you go, you take yourself with you" - if you're the type of the person to put in long hours in public, you're probably also the type to work hard, take on extra responsibility, etc in other jobs, which will probably lead to longer hours there.
  6. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    If you decide to stay, you might want to think about which industries you might be interested in for future career prospects, and try to get on audit teams serving clients like that. I would guess this might be particularly helpful now that you're a mid-level auditor and (probably) no longer doing routine confirmations,... . At least around here, someone with substantive audit and accounting experience for extractive industries is more likely to get a job with one of the oil or gas companies than someone whose clients were largely high tech, and vice versa. Lots of client side job offers come through these kinds of connections.

    I was on the consulting side, not the audit side, but this is pretty much what I observed with friends who were on the audit side as well.
  7. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    I worked at one of the big firms many, many years ago (like VALuvsMK, there were 8 back then). I left after I got my CPA and went back to school. I haven't worked in accounting since, but many of my friends stayed in the profession.

    As you mentioned, it typically takes longer to find a new job in this market than it has in the past. I'd probably try to stick it out until you make manager, but start to be more active in organizing your career. Make sure your resume is up to date and spend a little longer talking to the headhunters when they call. Check the job listings and if you have friends who've gone into industry that you trust, you can start to let them know you're starting to examine options. Consider if you want to join LinkedIn or explore other networking options.

    It's always better to find a job from a job, so I certainly wouldn't quit until I had something. But sometimes just taking the first steps to organizing a job search makes it easier to stick it out through the long hours at your current job. And if the right job happens to fall into your lap before you were seriously thinking of leaving, be open and see if its something that you'd like. If not, you'll at least be well positioned for when you start looking in earnest.