Follow-Up On More Big 4 Layoffs
As we’ve seen from the comments on my PwC layoff post and other mail I’ve received, PwC is not the only one to be reducing staff via “counseling out” , “forced ranking” , “the Italian greyhounds ate the workpapers…”, or whatever other excuse they give. Both Deloitte and KPMG have also seen cuts, per my mail.
So E&Y, let me hear from you guys, please, to round out the info.
Dear Ms. McKenna
…the firms appear to be spending substantially less on new hire training. Uncle D., for instance, trained all new hires in a specific service line in Phoenix for the last few years at a swanky hotel/resort. This year, though, they are dumping us in god’s armpit: North Jersey. Ostensibly, it would seem, to keep costs down since most new hires are in the NE and it was the Midwest that was recently whacked by the “counseling out”.
Yes, this is aligned with the idea of fewer new hires too. Any word on any offers being rescinded?
Dear Ms. McKenna,
I’m a former KPMG employee as of the end of February, as I was hit by a bus when I entered the partners office saying that “due to the market change for our practice (Advisory), your skills are no larger needed, so we are letting you go.”
KPMG has been hiring left and right and promising that there is all this work in the “pipeline” in the last year, but you never hear about the outcome. They let me and three other people that I know of so far go and we have eight new college hires starting between April and August. We also just had four college new hires start as of last August. I do have industry experience and have been with the firm over two years, so I know that I have more “skills” to offer than any of the new hires and future new hires.
They have never been very good about the hiring process as it seems every time we did win a new client we need to make a mad dash so hire new employees to manage the account rather than use the ones we have locally or at another office. We promoted both managers and senior managers recently and if you ask me, we are way too top heavy and should have started to make the slashes there and cut some of the new hires. The real thing that pissed me off with the whole thing is that I was just finishing up on a client and they had the audacity to ask me to wrap up sooner and transition my work over so I could leave early that Friday instead of coming in on Monday. .
When you studied accounting in school did you really think it was an exciting career? Has anyone ever seen “The Producers” – it is not known as a stimulating career.
In response to #446 and others… I have to side with #446… After all, accounting students, like myself, are just this: we study accounting! Where else can we launch our careers if not at a Big Four (or even national mid-tiers)?
Now that i-banking is dead and consulting is suffering worse than the accounting industry, is there a better employer for us for our first job?
Sure, it’s not a great place to work for (all big 4s are in the 50-60s range per CNN ranking), but really, where else can accounting students like myself turn to after we graduate?…
I will keep my offer from Big Four and pray that they don’t rescind it.
Quick question: I think there are less posts here about layoffs at EY compared to other big three. Are there really less layoffs at EY than elsewhere?
What is an associate?
– KPwCDTMG Partner
@452, I-Banking is not dead and consulting will recover eventually, just like everything else. I don’t know why you’re comparing I-Banking, consulting (top tiered) and presumably other Wall Street roles to accounting. That’s like comparing pop warner to the NFL. As I found out, if you’re in the Big4, that means you probably never had a shot at Wall Street to begin with. Didn’t go to the right undergrad school, etc. I’m a first-year at a Big4 but I’m there because I’m a i-banking reject. The ticking and tying, checking off audit procedure list and other cookie-cutter audit stuff (yes, I know analysts nonsense in the beginning too) — this isn’t a career, it’s a vocation as non-intellectually challenging and repetitive as wheelbarrow making and only necessary because we haven’t found a way to computerize auditing 100% yet. #437 mentioned making $48K/yr is better than the Kinkos guy doing the same thing. Ok…you could also try to look in the other direction and realize we have 9 million millionaires in this country and making $48K isn’t that great doing anything.
@452 – “Where else can we launch our careers if not at a Big Four (or even national mid-tiers)?”
Oh I don’t know, how about the 1000 or so major corporations in the united states that have more stable business models (i.e. don’t have a potential death sentence hanging over them, however likely or unlikely) where you are going to wind up working after a couple years in auditing anyway.
While the big 4 are very large employers of fresh (and naive) talent, they really are a very small subset of jobs out there and odds are that you won’t be there in 3-5 years anyway. There are obvious perks like salary, CPA licensure, etc. but its not like CPA firms are the only firms who employ accountants when in fact the vast majority of accounting talent works outside the big 4.
I’ve been following this post for quite awhile in anticipation of the comments related to the lay-offs at my firm this week. However, what I’ve found is that this post has become more of a place to debate the merits of a career at a Big 4 firm, the partnership model and the way firm management has dealt with the current economy. I think this is a healthy thing and have appreciated the perspective it has provided me.
I have enjoyed my career at a b4 firm. One of the reason I enjoy is that I appreciate it. I appreciate because I worked in another industry for several years in my early 20s, which if you can believe it required more hours, less pay and even less intellectual stimulation. Coming from that background my 4 years in public accounting have been a breeze. My experience has led me to conclude that alot of the complaints I hear from staff one to two years removed from college are based on a lack of perspective. Many seem to have an attittude of entitlement, based on their socio-economic status which was derived primarily from their parents station in life. Some of it is based on the cost of education. If I had $120k in student loans because I went to Notre Dame for 5 years I’d expect more bang for my buck too. Some of it is also attributable to the false impression put forth by HR and partners in their effort to recruit “talent.” Either way, the lack of perspective has created an enormous expectations gap.
These gap is making it easier and easier for management to justify treating new hires with less and less consideration. The perceived “attitude problem” of many new hires based on the expectations gap creates a resentment that expresses itself through the treatment that many posters have mentioned earlier on. Management perceives less committment from incoming and new member of the firm and therefore feels less committment to them. Hence the broken promises.
If there has been any benefit to the Big 4 from the current economic crisis, I believe it will prove to be the fact that everyone involved has been taken down a notch. What I mean by that is that everyone’s expectations will have been “normalized.” Partners will realize that pie-in-the-sky promises to staff and dreams of a pipeline of profligate advisory spend are unrealistic. Professionals just starting their careers will realize that, hey, sometimes it’s not all about their career or their personal needs. Everyone is getting the message that sometimes a little sacrifice is called for and that’s a good thing for the Big 4 over the long-term.
I was lucky enough not to have been laid off this week. For that I am thankful and I wish everyone who was laid off this week, or during the past year, all the best.
I agree. Before my pub acct job, I used to work almost all holidays and 10hr/day all year round for less pay. And believe me, I got a BS from one of the top 50 schools and my major was no joke, either. People admired my title but never knew how I was treated at work nor how much I made. Finally I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any more so went back to school which was not even ranked.
I admit it’s not at alll easy and fun at B4. I’m not saying any of you should lower your expectation. I’m just saying B4 exp is not as bad as you complain. It’s what you make out of the experience.
I am sick and tired of people bitching about life in the big 4. If you aren’t happy with it, leave it. You need to use them to full effect and to manage your own career. If you do not have a CPA and you’ve been with the Firm more than two years, you’re an idiot, barring any dire circumstances that prevented you from doing that. Further, you need to speak the hell up and tell them when something is bothering you. A sample of the general population with business degrees are not natural managers, especially the accountant subset. You may encounter people who suck at managing but YOU need to be the better person and deal with it, make sure you don’t do the same thing, and try to extricate yourself from the situation.
Quite frankly, the hours suck. So do some of the managers. But shoot at age 25, what other profession gives you this much experience and consistent intellectual stimulation. Further, you get to supervise and delegate, things that people in other fields don’t get to do for another decade.
One thought I’ve always had is that compensation is a mix of things – salary, free time, travel, experience, knowledge, personal connections. You have to decide what your mix is and what you want – if you want to punch the clock, the salary may be lower but you get a ton more free time….or if you want to take a big 4 or consulting job with crazy travel – you get less free time but you get diverse experiences, knowledge, etc. Each job has a certain set of compensation and it is foolish to view it as simply the check you receive on a semi-monthly basis.
I view my hard time in the big 4 as an investment in myself–I’ve passed the CPA, gained experience supervising people, pushed to be involved with things that advance my career, and traveled a ton gaining experience dealing with new people in new places. I know that will pay off later – it may not necessarily mean the best work/life balance right now, but in your 20s you don’t have enough experience to demand that in a field like ours.
Bottom line: use the big 4 for all they’ve got – get as much experience as you can, take advantage of it, and then get out when the benefits (both short term and long term) are outweighed by the drawbacks.
458 – You Sir/Madame are exactly the type of mindless drones that flock to the Big 4. That ‘keep your head down and work hard and eventually it will pay off’ attitude is old school BS. In the age of start up millionaires and opportunities on every corner to work that hard and make that little is not just stupidity – it’s borderline insanity. I mean think of it this way – all those 10-12 hour days over 2 -5 years and you made how much? Exactly. Not even enough to trade that heat up Honda accord for a newer Honda Accord. So if you want to be the mindless slave that is pounded into nothing in order to make fat dumb and lazy partners rich be my guest.
Some people in here know better and are expressing this view. It is not complaining it is enlightening. You should listen. It might have saved you a few wasted years. But right now it just sounds like you are trying to justify your poor career choice. Sad.
@ 458’s “If you do not have a CPA and you’ve been with the Firm more than two years, you’re an idiot, barring any dire circumstances that prevented you from doing that.”
Without considering busy season, auditors are grossly overpaid. Taking Jan. to March into account, it’s not that bad of a deal.
@458; totally understood what you meant; been there done that. But come on, give people a chance to vent or BS
@459-what instant millionaires – where are they now. Most are in jail or committed suicide or lost it all anyway. Many who you thought were millionaires were so highly leveraged that they were living an illusion that is now gone. I know one of my classmates did it — and died before he was 30… never got to enjoy life with or without money. Those of us who lived within our means and saved up that first million and thought we were set… watched people like you who have no concept of fiscal reality (none the less responsibility) destroy our economy… and who is going to save those irresposible saps… yes, the hardworking people who saved and lived responsibly. What does that mean — yes, the “mindless slaves that are pounded into nothing…” we are the backbone and the salvation of this economy and we resent every penny we lose in order to save the economy that people who think like you destroyed.
This is a blog – please keep to the topic of the thread! Yo dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what people want to discuss on this thread – let me help – “Layoffs” and any inside/outside information relating to the same. Rest of the Wisdom is always enlightening, but dont distract people from the focal point. There are other more appropriate threads for the rest.
Thanks for your attention to this detail!
Always watching your back jack!
@462 Anonymous 11:15
Thanks for your efforts at keeping things organized. Frankly, not sure what to do to to organize this better for those that only want to get specific information about cuts, share updates, versus those that want to discuss the larger issues.
Yes, there are other posts where such a discussion can take place, but it’s a little like saying I’m going to leave this party because the DJ started playing trance even though all the interesting people are still there. Nonetheless, I suggest Tenacious Truman’s guest post Music For Chameleons as a place for those at the firms who want to share information abut the operations and business model. https://francinemckenna.com/2008/12/music-for-chameleons-a-visitors-view-of-the-firms/
I’m really gratified, satisfied, and thrilled that there have been so many great comments, advice, disagreements, and debates here. Those that are waiting, living in uncertainty or those who have just had to deal with the disappointment and confusion of being cut, also need a place to think, discuss, vent, work out their plan. There’s lots of different needs that I think are being filled here. But yes, it becomes sort of hard to find details when the number of comments approaches 500.
I will probably close this thread in a few days when it seems the worst is over for now. Unfortunately, I think Deloitte has more to make (their PR person never called me back last week) and I am hearing PwC may start cutting some of what they will perceive as overstaffing in NYC and east coast once all the annual reports are out.
And yes, EY has cut. There have been quite a few, but they must be handling it much better. But they are happening. https://francinemckenna.com/2009/01/round-and-round-she-goes-where-she-stops-nobody-knows/
I plan to do a post early next week that sums this all up and looks to the April and forward period. Perhaps that will be a good place to start a new thread talking about the future and what you’re all going to do with it.
fm @ 464.
Just wonding what you would consider east coast? NY/Philly/Boston or Altanta/Miami/Carolinas or both?
You meant @463 11.17 pm? – agree seems to be too much noise in here other than layoffs – maybe you need to channel people to the right areas. keep it going folks – we all appreciate what you are saying – both sides of the picture are welcome…but those at a big 4 or who have been at a big 4 always see through inaccuracies.
@WatchYourBackJck Yes, I meant you.
@Q forFM I meant anyone currently working on audits or tax work for JPM, BofA, AIG, Freddie Mac or Goldman Sachs. Although there is year round work I would assume, when the heavy lifting is done for the annual report, I suspect that they wil also cut excess.
459 is correct-for 3 plus years work 7 days/week 14 hrs a day on average all for what?So i could i can say i am a big 4 auditor and worked on some bitch-ass fortunE 500’s Accounts Payable?Nonesense….total big 4 compensation/total hrs worked=10/hr…my local supermarket cashier makes more and has time to spend with her family and ohh and still has a job btw…at least the I-Bankers that SLAVED for those kinds of hrs got 200K salary to show for it.
Read Tom Friedman’s(The World is Flat)-this was written way before the layoffs/Crisis etc….the global paradigm has shifted-the days off mindless,drone like work for $$$ are over…get real do what you enjoy and excel at it….Forget SWEATSHOPS like big 4 that suck the blood out of you and make you bitter,tired and “structually unemployable”.
Hey 458 your post is very funny.The fact that you have passed the CPA and supervised some poor kid in a Big 4 firm does not mean anything,so have 10’s of thousands of other CPA’s,what makes you so specialAlot of info out there about Big 4 is overated,often put out by the firm,that idea that Big 4 and CPA automatically makes you controller or CFO at GE is crazy.
Intellectual stimulation?Are you kidding?When did filing out a tax form or testing Revenue qualify as stimulating.I am looking at a workpaper now and boy oh boy i am so excited……..
Dear New Hires, New Layoffs, New frightened, currently content and employed or not content but employed…
Repeat after me, UNIONIZED; united we can demand better treatments, respect, fair workloads…
Until then, all will be the same. We can only write a few words here/there to express our frustrations; even so, management still jumps on board to lecture us. We are helpless, powerless, and defenseless.
We are smarter, work harder and know better. We can firm a better union unlike the big 3 auto’s. Come on people, it is about time.
CPA union 000000001
re: sick and tired “I am sick and tired of people bitching about life in the big 4. If you aren’t happy with it, leave it. You need to use them to full effect and to manage your own career. If you do not have a CPA and you’ve been with the Firm more than two years, you’re an idiot, barring any dire circumstances that prevented you from doing that.”
It’s much easier said than done to quit your job if you don’t like it.
Everyone knows public accounting isn’t a place you go to take it easy for a couple years.
The big 4 is brutal, especially now that they are firing their employees left and right. How can you not understand why people are so disgruntled with the big 4 right now?
I just want to gain an understanding on the salary compensation at the big 4s in in the advisory practice. Would anyone know what is the range/average of each level – associate, sr. associate, manager, sr. manager?
462 – yes you are right….Gosh it’s a good thing Serge Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg started their careers in sweatshops like the big 4 otherwise they never would have accumulated that amount of wealth….oh, wait a minute…
Continue being a corporate drone. I will wave to you from my Bentley as I pass your 92 Honda Civic on the 101. You are right about one thing: we cant all be successful and independent. Seems like you have chosen your path…
@473-just to be clear… I’ve probably lost more money than you have made in your career — and I can and do have absolutely ever material belonging I have ever wanted. Money at this point is not importnat. You will learn one day that said money, is not gratifying. Don’t learn that the hard way. Grow up and be responsible.
Some of the above comments made me remember what my high school guidance counselor used to say over 25 years ago.
“There are thousands of occupations and millions of employers so if you can’t find a job you like it is probably your own fault.”
Life’s too short to have a job you hate.
was there anyone on H1 B with green card process underway laid off?
Does anyone know what was the % of layoffs in KPMG audit? I heard single digits?
474 – Sounds like along with money not being important to you neither is spelling (‘importnat’) nor grammar (‘ I can and do have absolutely ever material’). That being said, I agree money is not the be all end all however, if you are working 60-70 hour work weeks and getting paid less than six figures you may want to reassess your options.
Bottom line is there are a lot of people who work this hard and I am not advocating abandoning hard work, alternatively, I am simply pointing out that you could be making more given the hours you put in. The Big 4 is not the pinnacle of the accounting profession no matter what these firms try to portray. Also, work life balance is a marketing ploy intended to sell this lifestyle. Anyone who has worked for a services firm understands there is no such thing if you want to excel.
Stop being a mouse in the wheel my friend. Put your Iron mountain boxes down, close the 50 excel spreadsheets you have open and get a life.
@446 is an HR mole with nothing better to do then take part in low-level anonymous gutter-snipping. It’s not like HR has anything better to do. They have to justify their job in some way. The BIG 4 has failed us, plain and simple.
@446 Do you really think you can continue to get away with your deceful web of lies?
Do you really think you can orcastrate a mass cover-up of the BIG 4’s unfair business practices?
Current and former BIG 4 employees are mobilizing:
1st, the college campuses to explain to prospective hires that the job is miserable and the partners are nothing but a bunch of lieing deceitful scum bags that use the staff to line their own greedy pockets.
2nd, Going to the media and revealing all of the deceitful and illegal activity that takes place at the BIG 4.
3rd, Going to the government and turning these thugs (i.e. partners) in — just you wait, many of these gangsters will be leaving in hand cuffs. You think Madoff was bad? Just you wait. Dung will hit the fan. Thing are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
@ 473, your attitude is arrogant and frankly kind of disgusting. Material wealth is fine, but a person shouldn’t be boastful and proud , try and humble yourself a little before life humbles you, (which it eventually does to everyone).
@478-now you are talking more sanely. Yes, spelling and grammar are important — I need no excuse for those details on a blog when in a rush (check out @479 — ‘orcastrate’? or was that a pun on the word.. in which case it was very clever. But given it followed ‘deceful’.. I think it is just plain wrong). You are correct that people should be paid for the “value” of the work they do – and that value is partially measured by hours. It sounded more like you felt you shouldn’t have to work and millions should drop in your lap-and that you were entitled to them rather than willing to earn them. In reality, your value is lower when you first get out of college regardless of the hours you put in (sorry – but that is true, no judgment implied). But that value grows, and it grows only with hard work. I hope your value grows and you make your millions — but I have seen too many who leverage themselves into a hole trying to get that instant return — and in the end they are on the streets (and dependent on those that were responsible with their finances). Also, the money you make is based on not only value but risk… to make the megabucks you have to take mega-risk. Most of the drones as you call them are risk averse and prefer the slow steady way to financial security. If you are not risk averse, have a good idea, and are pretty lucky — then may you can join the ranks of Steve Jobs with your billions.
@479-take a deep breath. I do not know about your region or practice or firm, but we do explain the culture to new hire candidates. We also expect them to speak up for themselves and take responsibility for their work life balance. Your manager cannot read your mind — you need to explain things sometimes. The new hires should be told what is expected of them, and should understand that the firm exists for the partners — they are taking the risks and they will reap the biggest rewards… but they will take you along with them when things go well, and as long as they can in bad times if you are contributing in ways that further the practice (which ultimately is equal to them). if you did not know this, then it is because you were young and had unrealistic expectations and did not listen to your interviewers, your friends, your parents, or pretty much anyone out there who is over 25 years old. As for illegality — be careful what you say and do… as without solid proof and evidence it will be hard to say what is illegal. It is not illegal to lay people off. There are some questions about exempt status for associates I understand and that will be ironed out in court – but the partners will not go to jail for that… they will pay out some money. Good luck with your efforts — if they are involved in illegal activity, then I hope you find it and uncover it. I ask though – when Google laid off 1000s of employees were you accusing them of being thugs? Google feeds their staff 3 meals a day — and that is a cost benefit to them because it keeps the staff there late working. Is that much different – the B4 allow for food when you work late. I also ask you whether there isn’t a more constructive place to put your energies than into trying to put the partners in jail. What will you gain from this? Will you move to a better place more quickly? Do you stand to gain anything from them financially? Is it enough to get you through life? If they are doing illegal things, they should be caught, I merely suggest you put a measured amount of energy into that – as in the end it will take a larger toll on you than them (most likely).
Please note – HR moles are probably paid less than the staff, and they really do not like what is going on any more than you. May of them were laid off too. Before you condemn a complete class of people, think about the people on your team in the same title/position — if all those people’s bad characteristics were projected on you, I think you would be upset.
For the record — I am not a partner nor am I in HR.
While many posters are understandably angry at being layed off, please don’t discount them as whiners. I have observed several college grads quit the big 4 in their first year due to exactly what these posters have stated. The big 4 do a wonderful job of luring in the best and the brightest. The fancy hotels, incredible meals, the care packages with goodies, and especially the college tuition grants impress the students and even the parents. Everyone hears that the big 4 are slave drivers, but no one believes it till they see it first hand. Read the posts carefully, they are telling it like it is.
To Curious @472 A good site for salary info is glassdoor.com
I agree with adviceforgrads.
I have not left the Big 4 yet, but this busy season will be my last. I went Big 4 tax because I thought the large clients would involve more sophisticated work. This is an illusion. 90% of staff level work in a compliance group is essentially data entry and trial and error with the software. The work in a mid tier firm would be the same. If you have to have the Big 4 stamp on your resume, at least wait until the the manager level when you may actually get to deal with challenging issues and will have more control over your schedule.
It is ok to be a Cheerleader for Big 4 Firms,they have their good parts,but to imply that 1st years dont have a life because they are not taking charge of their work life balance is plain STUPID and IGNORANT-try having a work-life balance when you are holed in some audit room with some looser snr and kiss ass mgr for 16 hrs a day 7 hrs a week becos some loser want to tell the partner that their team works SO SO HARD feel free to sing the praises of big 4 but do not be a hypocrite and lie
Agree with 484. From what I can tell, most compliance work is as you described. Being able to navigate the software is the most important skill you can have, much more important than anything accounting-related.
The issue a lot of the disgruntled first years have in my office is that there isn’t enough work, not that there is too much.
@ 481 & 485 —
481, the problem with your argument (which is that each individual is responsible for his/her own work/life balance) is that the layoffs are essentially based on utilization. So those people who speak up for a personal life are automatically put at risk. Far better to accept the long hours and sacrifices, in order to keep the job. Your argument fails because the firms penalize those who ask for a life, while those who give up any pretense of a life are spared.
I remember a partner who called everybody in the practice into the office on Saturday at 8 AM — every single week. They had a 30 minute meeting of no particular consequene. Why? So the partner could see who was committed enough to come in … and who was committed enough to stay afterward for a few billable hours until noon. Those who skipped the meeting or failed to put in 4 more hours, each Saturday, were noted.
485, the problem with your point is that most times the budgets don’t support hours charged without valuable work getting done. If the team is putting in 16 hour days, there had better be a good reason, because when the budgets get blown away, the partner is going to be asking why. My experience is that the Seniors and Managers are constantly stressing about budgets and work getting done, and never have the hours available to keep staff late for no reason. But of course, maybe your experience differs from mine.
— Tenacious T.
There is no such thing as a good job or a bad job. Only people who are happy in them and people who are not.
I’m curious, for those who seem to despise the BIG 4, if you just graduated college and could start over where would you likely go instead?
Based on my previous posts (405 and 420), it probably comes off that I despise the Big 4. I however do not despise them. They serve their purpose and I’m not posting here as a backlash to being laid off. I’m posting to inform people to not be clouded by the image the Big 4 gives of themselves. It’s not for everybody. I thought it was for me, however, it is disappointing to have made those sacrifices during my first couple years and get laid off, but some people had to go. I hold no grudge for that.
I won’t complain about hours either, because if you decide to work at a Big 4 and don’t expect to work long hours, you really weren’t listening to anybody while looking for a job. That’s what you signed up for when you took the job.
Also, if you’re not someone’s favorite or if you’re joining in which you’ll have a lot of catching up to do in terms of learning and networking (didn’t intern, winter hire, etc.) you might want to reconsider. Not everyone’s treated fairly in regards to what clients and audit areas they can work on. I had an incredibly unique situation that explains why my learning experiences were so limited, through no fault of my own, however I took the opportunity to speak up about learning more, working on different areas, and my thoughts were considered but in the end vetoed. I wasn’t being selfish. I believe it was in the best interest in the firm for me to learn different areas prior to becoming a senior.
To address 489, had I begun my time 9 months later, I would have been in a different position and would have had more opportunities – I would not have gone somewhere else. I had opportunities, but it’s much better to get them during your first two years, rather than as a senior, while trying to refresh yourself on more common audit areas, as well as teach them to a staff, delegate, deal with the client, etc. all at the same time. As a whole though I think you’re going to get more opportunities than other places. I’d estimate a good 90% of people that work at a Big 4 get that. If during your first couple years it doesn’t seem like you’re one of those 90%, you might want to speak up to someone (in a professional manner of course), and ask to get those opportunities. If you’ve done limited work, but have always done what’s asked and have a good attitude, you may get those opportunities. Sometimes you don’t, but at least you let someone know. If it doesn’t work out, then you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
I haven’t had a good experience with the Big 4, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good opportunity for others. I think that my temperment and also my personal circumstances [btw, I am in my mid-30s, so I’m not in the typical new hire demographic] just made it the wrong choice for me.
I definitely would have explored smaller firms or considered the IRS—I’ve learned that I’m not cut out for a big firm, and I wish I’d kept looking after I got my offer letter form PWC and just used them as a backup plan in case I couldn’t have gotten some other job. Still, hopefully if I last a year, that will work in my favor for the next job.
Experience outside of audit is quite different. That is where I see some disagreement here. For example, layoffs in advisory were not utilization based (the discussions I was aware of were more about long term potential, attitude, quality of work, skillset, etc). As for making your work-life-balance… I wasn’t clear. Work-life-balance is not about taking off whenever you have a personal desire to do so. You need to know when the job needs you, when your personal committments need you and how to balance the two. You will put in more hours in busy season, and you will have weekends to work. But if you have a family emergency, then even busy season need not get in the way. Or you might go to the Dr during the day and work later. Work-life-balance isn’t about working 8 hour days and having weekends off, it is about managing both the work and personal committments in a way that meets the needs of most people (including you, the engagement needs, the firm needs, your family, etc). It is all about making the appropriate compromises in the right places at the right times.
As for being a cheerleader — I am not. I think there are many problems with the Big 4… having to layoff people in these economic times is not one of them. I think they do not train people well. For example someone mentioned learning software by trial and error — there is no excuse for that. Also, the wining (not whining) and dining and wooing people into thinking the firm is something it is not — that is incredibly wrong. There is incredible inequity across offices and practices on pay and promotions and such… some office promote simply based on years of service not quality of work, while others hold people back until they have been performing at the next level for 1-2 years. Senior management and partners are not always willing to work through the issues – they want an answer and do not care if it is any good as long as it is on time… if you discuss the issues they get mad at you. The firms focus on your title not your ability — they do not empower people based on their contributions, they create a bizzare chain of command that results in inefficiency rather than well supervised work. I can go on…
But for the good and the bad — you really do need to make of it what you can and want to. If you cannot make it what you need/want – then you need to move on because you do not belong at the Big 4. I have seen much worse environments, but then again – I haven’t seen the audit environment.
To the new hires – I would agree with 492. Even if you get an offer letter, and it doesn’t have a salary, what more viable option do you have? I’m currently a manager at one of the Big Four and I can assure you – you won’t be given the breadth or responsibilites that they can provide. At 22 yrs old you’ll have a company credit card flying around the country, staying in nice hotels, eating out at dinners, seeing ballgames/shows with your colleagues. By 23-25 you’ll be given the responsibility to manage interns and other staff and aid in their developments. Often, by 25, you’re often meeting with SVP’s, controllers, CFO’s and being their point person in the filed. Working in industry won’t even avail yourselves of that direct entrance to the “C” suite at your clients. You’ll get more CPE than you can imagine, will constanly be listening on webcasts on the latest accounting guidance and will be at the forefront of your industry.
But, to whom much is given, much is required. You’ll be expected to work 55 hrs from Jan 1- March 31 (at a miniumum). You’ll be expected to work weekends around every quater close/year end. You may not get to do those ski vacations in Jan/Feb but have to opt for the later March sessions. The work at the onset of your career might not be as glamorous or forensic as you envisioned, but part of learning and truly managing is knowing how to do the grunt work. You have no idea how many times document services has missed a deadline and I’ve been forced to rush to Kinkos, finish last minute jobs when the staff has gone. In the end, our only real dealiverable is either an opinion or normally an Excel/PPT/Word deliverable. Mastering everything from tracking changes in Word, Pivot Tables in Excel and formatting quality PPT presentations will help you quickly distinguish yourself.
When you being your first day at a Big Four, keep in mind your starting salary will be higher than the “MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME” in the entire US. In this culture of greed, many compare our salaries to that of ibankers, private equity or hedge fund guys. Of course, they make a ton more. But compare yourself to an AP clerk, a nonprofit accountant or a mid level CPA firm. At 22 when you start, you’ll be making more than 50% of households in the entire US. And you’ve still got 30-40 more years to go. Think of the opportunities. Think of your potential. But never compare your net worth with your self worth.
Sign on that Big Four line…
@ 492, you posted:
“For example, layoffs in advisory were not utilization based (the discussions I was aware of were more about long term potential, attitude, quality of work, skillset, etc)”
That may have been true at the most recent mid-year touchpoint sessions. In fact, that’s been true of every mid-year session I ever attended. However, it is emphatically not the case regarding prior rounds of layoffs, in which a certain number of heads were identified by national leadership based almost entirely on actual YTD utilization numbers. Folks with millions in the pipeline were targeted; one Director who just sold a $3.5 million engagement but hadn’t actually started working on it was laid-off. Those attributes you mentioned had nothing, but nothing to do with the layoff decision … and the local partners had little if any input.
Of course I can’t speak for all firms, just the one I was with until late last year. But I was in an Advisory practice and I know whereof I speak. (By the way, I left on my own but I was aware of how close to the axe I came in the prior rounds. Knowing how vulnerable I was helped hasten my exit.)
— Tenacious T.
Ugh. 493… I have no words for you. Enjoy the kool-aid, buddy. From the outside looking in, 493’s arguments seem totally reasonable. Once you sign on that Big Four line, don’t expect the ballparks and nice hotels. Expect “we’re watching your every expense and you are gone in two seconds if you try to get anything nice for yourself on the Firm’s dime.” Times have changed. Maybe 493’s post was true 4-5 years ago. It’s not true anymore. And 493 is going to be fired soon anyway, since his bloated salary (thanks to the good times earlier this decade) is going to look a lot worse than people 3-4 years into it who have been getting crap for raises.
Reality, people. That’s what we’re here for. Quit the freaking kool-aid dance. I swear…
@495-as a result of my business travel I have been able to take vacations (after client work), visit friends/family, tack-on extra weekend visits, and see places all around the US, Europe, and Asia. This is not from years ago. It is as recent as yesterday. People from my practice are in Asia or on their way in the near future. You may not get all those things as a first year… but you will in time. As for local ball games, Christmas parties, etc — yes, they can and should cut back for now. In fact, they seem to do too much of that even in good years. It is a job afterall — all these things are bonus and should not be expected. But from time to time you can take advantage.
As for “getting something for yourself on the Firm’s dime” — that would be illegal unless it is an approved activity with business justification and partner approval. If it is purely a self-benefit it is taxable (by law – not cause the partners are after you). You may take advantage of things such as the flight to a client site and adding on extra time for sightseeing while there, but otherwise it is a different form of income.
Also, where else can you get 5 weeks vacation/PTO in your first year.
PBC – I bet you miss writing that at the top of your workpapers =)
Let’s make this constructive – since I’ve laid out the perks and drawbacks of life at the Big Four – expound for us in a similar way your job at your current position. As we don’t see the other side of the grass, until after we make the jump, it should prove helpful. Do a pargraph of the pros and likewise for the con (i.e. thus keeping it objective).
@495-what good does name calling and outbursts about things you have no knowledge (someone’s blaoted salary) do? Focus on the facts, and recognize that there is a diversity of experience by people in the B4.
496 – Govt. gives you the same vacation plus 9-5 hours and a lot more holidays. Also the pay isn’t that much less.
In addition, the person (493?) who argued above about your ‘income being above 50% of all US households’ — seriously man thats the weakest argument in here. If you live in CA or NY or anywhere else that is actually a RELEVANT market your income would probably still allow you to qualify for government assistance.
As we approach the 500 comments mark, I’m going to close this thread to new comments.
Until I make a new post with a summary of these comments with regard to cuts, I would suggest the following:
https://francinemckenna.com/2008/01/big-4-starting-salaries-the-facts/ For salary updates.
https://francinemckenna.com/2008/01/the-reality-of-working-for-the-big-4/ For pros and cons of Big 4 life
https://francinemckenna.com/2008/12/music-for-chameleons-a-visitors-view-of-the-firms/ For the discussion of the partner model, becoming a partner and partner compensation
https://francinemckenna.com/2008/08/update-deloitte-statement-on-layoffs/ Any updates specifically on Deloitte cuts
Thanks for al the great discussion. I look forward to more, hopefully under better circumstances.