Today I wanted to learn why you want to work at the big 4. Since I can’t ask you myself, I’ll look at reasons why I think people join the big 4. If you would like to share your reasons for working at the big 4 with me, make sure to visit our forum index and go to the general discussion section where we have a topic regarding why you want to work for the big 4 firms.
Ok let’s get down to why someone might want to work for the big 4.
The Value of The Big 4 Experience
Most people think other people want to work for the big 4 because of the great experience it provides. I believe the big 4 do provide great experience but how valuable is big 4 experience?
It actually is pretty valuable experience working at the big.
Clients will recruiting big four accountants because they are willing to work any hours to get the job done. It’s not because big four accountants are more technical or that the firms are prestigious. It’s that big four accountants come with a certain type of training a certain get it done mindset.
Back to Basics
That’s not what I really want to discuss today. That’s more of a surface level view of why people join the big four. That’s what the big four want people to think about why people join the four large public accounting firms. They want you to think that people work for the big four because of the prestige of the firms and the amazing clients that they have. That’s not the reason people join the big four in my opinion. I believe people join the big four accounting firms because of the stability that the job provide. I think most of the people that go into accounting are generally fear-based and generally introverted. I think this is also the reason that so many people leave the big 4 so quick. They thought it was a good stable job when they joined only to find out that it is a tough, draining job.
Let’s be serious here people don’t choose accounting because they want to do something dangerous or sexy. They choose accounting because they don’t want to be outselling a ton of work or being client facing. Those people go into finance or some other type of business career path. People that typically choose accounting as a profession are the ones that are okay doing a lot of work. They are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to have job stability. That is what the big four provide and accounting as a profession provides.
They provide job stability whether you choose to stay with the big four or are going to work in industry. It doesn’t matter what the economy is doing you will always have a job somewhere if you choose accounting. You can’t say the same thing for people in finance and people in marketing or people in advertising. Even people in sales lose their job. Now those people make more money than accountants when the economy is booming, but they are replaceable and an economy that’s not doing so well. Those jobs also are located everywhere. Accountants can work just about anywhere they want.
So let’s go back to what I said about accountants being fear-based. I don’t mean this as something offensive. It’s just stating a fact. There are some people that are more adventurous and move towards things and then there’s others that that are more conservative and move away from dangerous things. These are risk-averse people. Accountants are risk-averse people.
This risk-averse attitude establishes the work environment at the big four as well. This is what frustrates me and my job currently.
It’s that any time you have an independent idea or an innovative idea people get scared. They are scared of listening to your new ideas or implementing them because they are so fearful of changing things. To extrapolate off of that, you have to be perfectly okay with doing things the same way they have always been done. The same way that they’ve always been done.
There’s even an acronym for this in the big four accounting firms it’s called S-A-L-Y, pronounced sally. It stands for Same As Last Year. This is what you’ll be doing when you join the big four accounting firms. Whether you join audit, tax or advisory, your managers will tell you to just follow what was done last year. Some might pretend to tell you that you should make sure everything makes sense to you, but they don’t really care about your ideas or thoughts. This is just a trap don’t fall into it. If you do find something wrong with what was done in prior years, people will just think you are a troublemaker.
This means that if you like to see the other side of things, if you like to question the way things have been done, then you should stay away from 4 big accounting firms. The people that work at PwC, Deloitte, KPMG or Ernst & Young, and stay at the big four accounting firms like doing things the way they’ve always been done. They don’t like questioning authority. Remember they are fear-based. Additionally you shouldn’t go into the big four accounting firms if you’re extremely creative. You might have the best most innovative idea in the world that can make the firm billions of dollars but if that goes against the way things have always been done your ideas will fall upon deaf ears. If something like that will frustrate you then don’t go to the big four accounting firms.
I also think people work at the big four accounting firms because they are introverts, and they know that being an accountant means you don’t have to deal with people all the time. At the big four, unfortunately you will have to deal with people on a frequent basis. It is just part of the job. I think people know this going into the job, but they also know that they won’t have to be fake or salesy. They know that most accountants are conservative and are outgoing like them. Therefore, they are willing to deal with a little bit of human interaction in order to get a paycheck. They aren’t the type of people that want to see people every single day, and they don’t want to sell people on ideas and hear other people’s ideas. They want to sit at their desks, be by themselves, and think through things by themselves.
I know there are going to be people out there that tell me people just like accounting or that people just like tax. I don’t doubt that’s true for some people, but I don’t think that’s true for most professionals.
Mainly because I worked at the big 4 for a while now. For every one passionate accountant or tax accountant that I meet, there are nine more people that could care less about accounting. In order to say that you like accounting you have to say that you like obscure guidance about how the financial position of the company’s reflected on the finest statements. You also have to be okay with that guidance being manipulated any time it gives a company an earnings hit.
Same thing goes for tax. You have to be okay with obscure guidance around how a company should be taxed. You also have to be okay with the IRS manipulating that guidance in order to increase the tax of your clients. And when you’re working with your clients you have to be okay with them manipulating that guidance to avoid the tax. I don’t know many people in college that say I want to help large corporations interpret strange guidance in order to increase a fake number so that executives can get paid more. That’s why I think the other two factors (introversion and fear) that I’ve spoken about before are more of the reasons why people choose not only accounting but to work at the big four accounting firms. I don’t think it’s because people are passionate about debits and credits and income tax law.
I think the majority of people that go into big four accounting firms are introverted and fear-based. I don’t think those two reasons are good enough for you to justify a career that you don’t want. Don’t be fearful of not having a job. Be more fearful of having a career that you don’t want. Be fearful of being good at something that you dislike. If you’re good at something you dislike you will keep moving up, and you’ll keep earning more money. Then it will be harder to walk away from once you reach a certain income level.
I encourage everyone to investigate what they are passionate about and find ways to make money in that area. Don’t only look at jobs. Look at what it would take to start your own business. Whether that’s your own accounting firm or an art studio or opening your own restaurant or making movies and becoming a YouTube sensation. Don’t go into big four accounting because it safe and it is a stable job. Because you are exactly right; it is safe, and it is a stable job. But those are the type of people that you are going to be working with. The type of people that are just there to have a job and to be perfectly safe and to take no risks. Are those the type of people that you want to work with and the rest of you career? You better sit and think about it long and hard. Because the career path for big 4 accountants is one of the toughest paths in the world. It means you will have to work long hard hours in small confined spaces. It means significant time away from family, friends and loved ones. Are you willing to sacrifice your life for that safe stable job?