I’m Daniel and I’m a final year accounting student at the University of Melbourne, Australia. I came across your blog while doing some research for my upcoming interview with a big 4 firm next week. It’s very interesting i must say. I like the stories about scandals the best.
In any case, if you think audit is a poor choice of profession, I guess now would be the time to tell me.
Keep up the good work and may your views be always true and fair.
Thanks for writing. Audit is not a poor choice. Accounting (and auditing) is a great discipline that can be leveraged later in many different kinds of careers. It’s taken me all over the world and back.
But it’s very important in these times that you think about what you want out of a career, out of life. Make sure you like and respect the people you work for and that you’re always learning something.
The firms have different personalities. Make sure the one you choose, if you go in that direction, is compatible with yours. I liked KPMG because it seemed to me very collegial, fraternal. But maybe that’s why they’re not as diligent in monitoring those who didn’t want to maintain the standards. Deloitte always seemed to be full of very hard working folks, diligent, and hands-on. But those qualities can be a liability when the world is changing fast. Strategy, vision and seeing ten steps ahead requires pencils down and thinking caps on instead of rigidity and routine. PwC had a lot of very smart, very well regarded specialists. They feel very strongly about their culture and believe it to be very unique. Unfortunately, what they sell is a commodity and many I met did not see the need to differentiate themselves somehow or to compete. It’s time to lose the hubris… Finally Ernst & Young never made a big impression on me, either as a firm or via any of their people. In fact, I saw many folks from other firms moving to Ernst & Young when things didn’t work out. Is that good or bad? I’m not sure.
But these are only my very personal impressions, limited by the exposure I’ve had. One thing to keep in mind about the firms is that they are locally managed. An office takes on a distinct personality based on its local management team and the culture of the city, state or country it operates in. You may find a very different set of personalities in Melbourne and therein lies the reason for strong due diligence before joining any one of them.
Think of your career as an investment portfolio, where you add experience, positions, jobs to a resume as one adds stocks and bonds to an account. Try to add more gains than losses, overall, over time, and always manage your risk.
Finally, I would hate for anyone to think I am negative on the profession. I’m only negative on bad leadership and the bad guys!