Another Reader Question

This one from a Big 4 alumna, now in industry, but missing those financial statement audits.

There are all kinds of people in the world…
Dear Francine,
I am a former Big-4-er (is that a term?) who is now in private industry. I enjoy reading your blog to keep up on the accounting world (I miss it!), and the way you present the news and your ideas is really enjoyable to read. It’s a lot of fun to read!

On another note for you, let me ask you a question. I don’t have children yet, but I am thinking forward to the point when I will have them. I really loved the financial statement audits that I performed at [Big 4 firm], and now I mainly perform operational audits (which aren’t so exciting). Do you think that it is ever really possible to have a good work-life balance in terms of not traveling and not working terrible hours at an accounting firm? I guess I feel like I am going to have to choose what I do for the rest of my life based on either having a good work-life balance and not really being challenged versus really liking my job, but not having the at-home time. Any insight you have would be appreciated.

An Audit Fan

Dear Ms. Audit Fan,
Big 4 alumna…

I think if you want to go back to financial statement audits, and want to have a work life balance, you would be better off at a smaller regional firm. I have heard that they crave folks with Big 4 experience and most often have local clients, not national ones so less or no travel. You may even get to do interesting work at large private companies, hedge funds, and other types of companies that need audits but are not the typical big public clients of the Big 4. 

That being said, it seems that the Big 4 are also bending backward to stay in touch with female alumni who want to come back after children are in school and left with good relationships and good reviews. Anything is possible, but so is the possibility of getting back in and then having to do whatever is there at that time.


Dear Francine,
Thanks for your reply. I think you are spot on about a regional or local firm…that is actually the route I wanted to go right out of grad school, but I got persuaded to go Big 4. In hindsight though, I know that the Big 4 experience was essential, and it really was good training.

One more question on a similar topic. I did two years at [Big 4 firm}, and just over one at private industry. After being here, I realize that I don’t love it, but I don’t want to hurt myself in terms of my career by job-hopping. Do you think that a switch at this point would be detrimental, or would one more change be ok, if that was it for several years? Really, I want to find a job that I love and can just stay in for a long time. I am in a good place at least, that I have a good job and can afford to look slowly and find just the right job.

Dear Ms. Audit Fan,

I think you should stay put. Two years, although good at [Big 4 firm] was not a lot and only one year in industry? Even worse. Unless they are tying you to the desk and forcing you to do SOx documentation flowcharts in Word, I would stay put. Enjoy your new home, your husband, your free time now that the weather is nice. The economy is getting worse and it will be a very slow, steady process to find the right regional firm with people you like and trust. And the smaller firms have their issues too.

Go out! Network just to network, to be around people who are interested in the same things you are. Go to events and programs at your local university and professional association that you are interested in rather than that you feel obligated to attend. It’s a luxury to be able to network when you’re not pressured to find the next job.

Hey, maybe you can even write a blog!

Call or write any time,

5 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I agree, the smaller firms, from what i’ve seen/experienced have much less harsh busy seasons (obviously not true all the time), that being said, sometimes there is more travel/shorter assignments. Another plus, the smaller firms seem more apt to share their revenue with the staff level, giving the highest raises i’ve seen as well as profit-sharing cash bonuses.

  2. Independent Accountant
    Independent Accountant says:

    Ms. Big 4 Alumna:
    I think Francine has given you sound advice. I would stay where I am for at least one more year. During that year study the CPA firms in your area. If you haven’t, learn something about income taxes. I assure you at a small CPA firm, you will prepare some tax returns. One of the biggest complaints small CPA firms have about Big 4 alumni/ae, is that they lack tax awareness.
    Look at the list of PCAOB registered firms. Identify the ones which have offices in your area. Generally, the PCAOB registered firms will be better than non-PCAOB registered firms. Good luck!

  3. Big 4-er
    Big 4-er says:


    I am a current ‘Big 4-er’ and highly stressed. I need to get some things off my chest. How did this lady contact you?


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