Reach for the Star: 5 Ways to Become Top Performer in Big 4

top performer in Big 4

You are super pumped to start your new job. Now, what are the qualities to become the top performer in Big 4? Is it through hard work, butt kissing, or pure luck? Here is my finding after talking to Big 4 seniors and mangers who have consistently been rated 1 or 2 in their firms.

1. Never Get Yourself Overwhelmed

Everyone agrees that Big 4 is a stressful place to work. Life as first year is pretty intense, but as you approach your second year, you don’t have excuses of a newbie anymore and it will be worse with mountains of things on your desk staring at you. The thing is, the more you worry about it, the less you get it done.

What you can do is to stop the vicious cycle. Divide the work into smaller, doable tasks. Tackle one small task at a time. Completing one round of tasks means you get some major work done, and it’s a great feeling. It’s the same strategy for any big challenges — such as the CPA exam, when tackling one study unit at a time is the best way to go.

2. Improve Efficiency with Technology

In my previous job, I went through an excellent training on how to manage Outlook. It cost my firm $399 for each participant (and we filled a big room), so you can imagine how well-regarded this method is.

The main takeaway is effective time management using the “4D” system. Incoming emails are divided into 4 categories:

  • Important + urgent
  • Important + not urgent
  • Unimportant + urgent
  • Unimportant + not urgent

Then, assign action appropriate to the categories:

  • Do the important + urgent
  • Delay (file to task list) the important + not urgent
  • Delegate the unimportant + urgent
  • Dump the unimportant + not urgent

This system has vastly improved my productivity at work and beyond.

I encourage that you find a way to efficiently manage your outlook in terms of email, appointment, to-dos and followups. This way, you can multitask with ease, a crucial skill to excel in professional service environment such as in public accounting and finance.

3. Take Initiatives

Now that you work well under stress (point 1) and are incredibly efficient (point 2), people take notice and request to put you on their teams.

You’ll be really busy, and this is great for your long term career, so don’t be jealous of the few who are constantly unassigned.

Instead, I suggest the opposite and get more involved in other capacities within the firm. Volunteer to campus recruiting events such as Meet the Firms, take part in resume screening and interviewing, lead firm community initiatives, find opportunities to help on sales pursuits, and take advantage of new opportunities and stretch assignments.

4. Jump for Unique Opportunities

As you move on to seniors and managers, there are other unique opportunities such as the international assignments. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth to explore.

5. Learn How to Say “No”

Before we get too excited, accept the fact that we are human beings and can’t work 24 hours. So, don’t be afraid to say “no”. It is easier said than done, but we have to understand what our limits are and what we can feasibly accomplish at the level of quality that we typically deliver.

Under-promise and over-deliver, and build your brand one audit at a time.

Final Thoughts

People have different ways to achieve success, but all paths centralize around key themes of hard work, perseverance, dedication, and ability to multi-task and prioritize seamlessly. The same rules apply whether you aim for the corner office in Big 4, or for C-level positions in Fortune 100. All the best!

About the Author Stephanie

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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