Big 4 neither pays the best nor offers great work-life balance. So why work for the Big 4? Here is my take.
Let’s face it. Most 22 year olds want to get into Big 4 because of the wow factor. But the prestige you get from Big 4 is more than vanity — the brand name accelerates your path to build a powerful professional network.
The respect you get from peers, family, friends and business contacts make networking much easier right from the start. Anyone in your circle working in accounting and finance gives you more attention simply because of the firm you are now associated with.
Big 4 hires smart, hardworking people with good social skills. After a few years, your peers will move on to different companies and industries. Because of firm’s reputation and their own likeable personalities, Big 4 graduates tend to get good jobs and lead successful careers. The friendship and contact developed “back in the old days” at the Big 4 will help immensely in your long term career.
You will be working closely with the client’s team on a daily basis. As a junior auditor, you stay longer and work harder than the clients, and people respect that. If you have a good attitude and stay in touch with the team, chances are that, when there are openings in their department and you are ready to leave the Big 4, the job is yours.
Even if they aren’t hiring, the senior guys in the client’s team would be happy to forward your resume to their contacts in other companies. This is probably the best referrals you can get for corporate jobs.
You may have learned about business operations and marketing at school, but it’s nothing when compared to seeing it first-hand on how actual businesses are run.
Investment bankers get to see how CEOs decide on big matters; but auditors are the ones knowing the tangible, operational side of the business — how each business unit functions, how they relate to each other, problems that these companies face and the strategies they employ to overcome such problems.
Now imagine the amount of knowledge you will gain auditing several different companies, with different product lines in different industries. These are very applicable skills and exposure to have if you aspire to become a CEO or a business owner someday.
People leave the Big 4 mostly because of brutal hours and intense pressure; I am sure you are well aware of that. However, if you determine to fly high in this profession, you should see this as a great opportunity.
Some of us may think the national training is an oversell, but the ongoing in-house training and seminars are one of the best ways to get updated and upgraded.
Working 80 hours and pulling late nights may sound insane, but we did that in college — for fun and parties of course, but we have the stamina to do it. So, first of all, tell yourself that this is doable. Then, make it acceptable by taking on this challenge to build a successful career.
Because you work with big and important clients, the audit /tax work is more complex, and expectation is high. Therefore, you are trained to face tough issues with hard deadlines on a daily basis. You are also trained to check your work meticulously because errors and typos are less tolerant in front of big clients.
Both John and I used to work in global financial firms (He at PwC; I at Morgan Stanley). We still somewhat retain our ability to deliver high quality product, because we are so used to triple check our work and spot our own mistakes, no matter how small they are. We used to complain how anal the whole industry is; but then, after 10+ years of seeing how the real world functions, we are grateful for the opportunity we had.
So, are you up for the challenge?
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!