5/29/15

I'm finishing up my first year as an audit senior and going through the should I stay (until manager) or should I go dilemma. I know I don't want to do internal audit or financial reporting and I think my target future job would be VP, Finance or Finance Director, or would love some M&A exposure, rather than the typical accounting/controller route.

I've been looking at the job market and I've had some interviews for senior financial analyst and senior FP&A positions but I just want to think through what I'm doing is the right move. If I stayed until manager, I believe that will give me an edge to get into the c-suite later on rather than if I leave just after a 2.5 years in big 4. On the other hand, if I tried to leave as a finance or FP&A manager, the job descriptions look like they are wanting people with industry experience. One of the jobs I interviewed for went with another guy who had industry experience for the FP&A role.

Is an MBA something to consider here? I have my CPA but wondering if I should be thinking about that. If the company I go to will pay, I'll definitely go but not sure it is really necessary or a good ROI. Big 4 audit managers typically leave for jobs ~100k so it would really only pay dividends long term.

Also I may have an opportunity to do transaction advisory (due diligence) for a mid tier firm. I think I would enjoy this work, but really don't see how it would play into a long term career, if I didn't stay in public accounting. The travel would get old in that area so not really an option to stay on the partner track.

Anyone with actual experience with one of the moves I've described want to chime in?

Comments (137)

6/1/15

Hi OP,

I work in auditing and am in kind of a similar spot in that I know auditing isn't for me long-term, but I also don't want to leave too early and sell myself short. Based on my discussions with people, it comes down to what you want to do.

If you want to go down the Financial Reporting/Controlling path, it helps a lot to make manager (so 5-6 years depending on if you're at PwC). You come in at a much higher grade and have the credibility to manage teams/jobs at an early age. Plenty of people go into controller or the next step down from manager.

If you are like me and want to use accounting knowledge as a base but move onto other things, 3-4 years is the max you want to do. I've spoken to a few people, such as @D M and people in the industry, and the general consensus I get is that once the manager title is bestowed upon you, you start to get more specialized. If you come in as an analyst or even senior analyst, people can still rotate you around departments, but manager onward becomes a lot harder.

If you can grind it out till senior or till you at least have 1 year of senior experience (then you can easily say that you've managed teams since you are basically the main point of contact for the client), I'd say do that so that you still come in at a level above analyst, but are not so deep in the audit game that you can't get out.

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6/1/15

If there was a correct answer you would have found it already by looking through the countless posts on this website and others which ask the same questions you are asking.

You shouldn't be asking yourself when the right time to leave is, you should be asking yourself what kind of work you are interested in pursuing. If you love ticking and tying financial statements then you should stay in Audit. If you are interested in finance, you should switch to M&A. Find out what you are interested in doing, and go pursue that. Love cars? Go work in Auto. Love tech, go work for some tech companies.

The notion that somehow Big 4 will set you up into a c-suite role is completely asinine. You will always be competing against other people and the benefits you gain by staying in the Big 4 will undoubtedly take away from other areas of your qualifications. Become an audit manager in 6 years? Great, maybe you will be up against a guy for C-Suite that did 1 year in Audit, 2 years in M&A, went and got his MBA and placed into a rotational program that grooms people for executive positions.

So yeah, figure out what you are "passionate" about, or can at least be excited about for 2 years, and go do that.

6/1/15

A few things - I'm currently a senior and finishing my 3rd year in audit.

To Ruskii - I've looked and cannot really find this kind of information this site. My question is not what i'm passionate about - it's what is the best way to get there. I know the answer to what I want to do, but looking to see when the best time would be. My concern is leaving after 2.5 years and sitting in the analyst/senior analyst position, where as if I had stayed until manager I might could make the jump as an FP&A or similar manager.

My basis for saying that staying until manager may give me a better chance is based on a study done by a professor that said those who left at manager versus those who left at senior very much more likely to reach the c-suite (big 4 propaganda). Additionally I've browsed a few linkedin profiles and found that it is possible to jump to a corp finance position from manager, but not as likely.

Also IB isn't really an option for me in my geographic, so M&A exposure would be through assistance with a deal as a financial analyst, but not really a corp dev analyst.

I'm hoping to hear from someone who is manager or above in an FP&A or corp finance role. My gut is telling me its time to go but would love some insight before I make a big decision. Preferably talk outside of WSO and run by some positions I'm interviewing for and get some thoughts.

6/1/15

Here's some food for thought which came up in a quick search (taken from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140610184903-2073...):

Think about it from the point of view of the hiring manager. If you are the Controller hiring for a Manager or a Senior Manger position, which of the following candidates would you hire:

Candidate A - This person is currently a Manager in Big 4 Public Accounting. For the last six years, he has gotten better and better at conducting audits. Mentoring staff who conduct Audits. Managing staff who conduct audits. Creating audit plans, reviewing audit working papers, presenting audit results to clients. As a Controller, if you hire this person, he will need time to learn the job, your systems, and will never be a hands-on manager without first learning all of the roles and tasks he will be managing.

Candidate B - This person left Big 4 Public Accounting after two busy seasons, completed their CPA and has spent the last two year in a hands-on role learning financial reporting, month-end close, and all the other tasks that you are looking for your Manager to manage. She has used her Big 4 experience to be a leader and a mentor in their group, and has been recognized as a top performer.

Is there doubt in your mind that the safe hire is Candidate B? No one has ever gotten into trouble for making the safe hire.

6/2/15
Ruskii:

Here's some food for thought which came up in a quick search (taken from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140610184903-2073...):

Think about it from the point of view of the hiring manager. If you are the Controller hiring for a Manager or a Senior Manger position, which of the following candidates would you hire:

Candidate A - This person is currently a Manager in Big 4 Public Accounting. For the last six years, he has gotten better and better at conducting audits. Mentoring staff who conduct Audits. Managing staff who conduct audits. Creating audit plans, reviewing audit working papers, presenting audit results to clients. As a Controller, if you hire this person, he will need time to learn the job, your systems, and will never be a hands-on manager without first learning all of the roles and tasks he will be managing.

Candidate B - This person left Big 4 Public Accounting after two busy seasons, completed their CPA and has spent the last two year in a hands-on role learning financial reporting, month-end close, and all the other tasks that you are looking for your Manager to manage. She has used her Big 4 experience to be a leader and a mentor in their group, and has been recognized as a top performer.

Is there doubt in your mind that the safe hire is Candidate B? No one has ever gotten into trouble for making the safe hire.

I'll echo this. Industry experience should not be overlooked.

6/2/15

I don't want to sound like I'm disagreeing with people, but in this particular example (written by a recruiter) was for financial reporting. I would say based on my experiences and those that I've worked with, if you want to do financial reporting then it is absolutely better to stay until manager, and leave for a manager position. Audit Manager > Corp controller of mid cap company for financial reporting manager are extremely common exits. If you can stomach 6 years in audit, you have a cushy manager level 100-140k job waiting for you, where as if you leave as senior, you're looking at 75-80k with the hopes of a potential management roles as you gain experience. I don't think there is any arguing this, and really just wanted to put this for other seniors/prospective big 4 auditors to not get the wrong info from the forum - but again my question was around FP&A/financial analyst positions.

Best Response
6/2/15

Ignore what the partners at the Big 4 say. Here's the breakdown as I see it:
- Less than 2 years: pretty much limitless exit opps. I've heard of IBD (boutiques only), ER (boutiques only), financial analysts, start-ups, etc. If you absolutely know you hate accounting and want to do finance, leaving at this time is a good idea. However, keep in mind that for most of the "high finance" jobs you will be going to a boutique... so the exit opps to PE/HF and everything else the gunners want will not be as plentiful as a BB, so the path "to the end of the rainbow" will be much tougher.
- 3-4 years: IMO this is the best time to leave. You can still go pretty much any direction with your career; granted it will be tough to break into IB or ER at this level, but a position in industry with some finance responsibilities is extremely feasible. Also, if you are a top performer in audit you can try a rotation overseas or a rotation into another service line. It's also an extremely common path to do audit 3 yrs --> industry 2-3 yrs --> decent 8-15 ranked MBA --> whatever you find interesting.
- Staying until manager: not a bad idea IF you want to do something accounting related in the long term. As you mentioned, 6 years in audit can land you a really cushy 140K accounting/reporting manager job at F500. However, if accounting is not your end goal then get out before this.
- Senior Manager: most senior managers desire to become partner, but most don't and end up leaving for either manager jobs or VP/CFO at a tiny company.
- If you manage to make it to partner, you're set for life. But it's a long, long haul of working long hours and being underpaid. The work gets more interesting as you move up though.

IMO you can get some decent experiences out of audit for the first 3-4 years. You learn Excel, the hours are a decent compromise between nothing and ridiculous, and you learn how to run a team. Not to mention you're a revenue generator so you aren't treated like a second class citizen like you would be in the back office of a company in industry. The pay will suck for how much you work, and the job is mind numbingly boring at first, but if you stick it out for a few years and get what you can out of the firm you will be in a good spot.

Hope this helps!

6/3/15

The contacts I have who started at Big 4 and are now in senior level F500 positions (Director, VP, etc) each left the Big 4 after 2-4 years and took Senior Financial Analyst / Senior Accountant roles. I also agree with what Ruskii wrote about the two candidates. When I hire someone, my top candidate is the guy who is already doing the same exact job at another company or the guy who works at my company with comparable experience and knowledge of the business, requirements, ERP system, etc.

Spending another few years at a Big 4 will not necessarily give you an edge into getting into the C-suite. There are F500 finance executives who spent 2 years at a Big 4, some who spent 5 years, and some who never worked in public accounting at all. You are just as likely to get there (if not more so) by taking a SFA role now and working your way up IMHO.

Also, if you know that your end goal is to work at a F500, is it worth it to torture yourself with the Big 4 hours for another several years before leaving when you could make more money now and work a fraction of the hours? If it were me, I'd leave now & get a good quality part time MBA with the employer footing some or most of the bill. With the MBA, CPA, big 4 experience, and industry experience, you'd be set up nicely to promote through the ranks assuming you're a high performer.

6/3/15

Thanks everyone - this has been very helpful.

6/3/15

I would put it this way: the longer you do something the more you will be pigeon holed into doing roles similar to that later on. Generally I've seen people who've left earlier (3 years in) move to a wider variety of roles than those leaving at manager level (when it's generally just financial reporting).

The more different you want your future role to be from what you're doing now, the sooner you want to get out. In my opinion at least.

6/3/15

I've heard it take 2-3 years of being a top performer in your group and networking with the Senior Managers and Partners of the advisory group you're hoping to join.

-MBP

6/3/15

More like a couple years being better than average and finding one person in TS to help. And if they don't want you, just leave for TS at another big 4 firm.

6/3/15

You can do it in 1

6/3/15

I did that transfer from the audit to the Transaction. You can join the due diligence team since your experience will be a little bit similar to theirs...however, doing your CFA will be a great benefit and will boost your chances of transfer..afterall, everyone needs someone with assurance and finance experience

6/3/15

It depends on a number of things: whether you're any good, the market environment at the time etc, but it becomes difficult more than 2 years post qualified. Big 4 Gossip have some pretty good intel on this, but I agree, showing some commitment by doing some further study, and proactively speaking to people in the department will help.

6/3/15

I'm also interested in answers to this thread as I just completed my first year in audit at the Big4 and would like to move to TS preferably soon. A friend in the group said 2 years experience is better when trying to interview/transition in. What else would be beneficial to do to improve my resume/experience and chances of getting interviews during the next few months? While I do have a finance degree, I won't have much time to study for the CFA this Dec/next June due to work and other obligations so any advice on other things that can make me stand out or show my commitment/experience in finance would be of help.

6/3/15

I am also very interested in this as well. Is it possible to go directly into TAS to another firm? How difficult is it?

6/3/15

PM me

6/3/15

Is there a way to go straight into TAS without going into audit?

I'm looking at a winter co-op for TAS at a target Canadian school.

"Try and fail, but don't fail to try"

6/3/15

Depends on the firm and what part of TAS your going into. What in particular did you have in mind?

6/3/15

I am also interested in this. I will be starting with big 4 in audit but have my heart in finance. I'd love to switch to TAS for valuation but really don't know if it's possible since audit and valuation are very different. Has anyone done the transition? Thanks

6/3/15

Yeah. Staff accountant friend of mine at KPMG pulled it off a few years ago.

-MBP

6/3/15

Also, use the search function...

-MBP

6/3/15

Yeah, you're going to have to be more of a self-starter if you want to make it happen.

6/3/15

I used to work for the Big 4 in valuation and until recently I'd never seen it done. I now know one person who has done it and he was an absolute all-star and passed two levels of his CFA as well as getting his CPA.

What is more common is to move from Big 4 advisory (esp. corp fin/valuation/transaction-related groups). There was also a thread recently that said that it's not as hard to move from accounting>equity research as accounting>banking, which I suppose makes some sense.

There have been many great comebacks throughout history. Jesus was dead but then came back as an all-powerful God-Zombie.

6/3/15

Take a year in industry after/during your Audit stint. This will address your inexperience. If you still can't lateral afterwards, then perhaps an MBA?

6/3/15

...Best way to escape an audit is to find out ahead of time where the auditors are going to be taking inventory...

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

To answer your question, I would think someone with a background in audit- particularly if you focused on a particular industry sector- could do really well in equity research. If you were to go back to school for an MS in Finance or Econ, that would be a good opportunity to transition to a BB. Another alternative would be to try and get in through ops (which should be a relative breeze) and then do an internal transfer.

6/3/15

If you want to go into finance, try getting into transaction services (or its equivalent, all these names are interchangable these days)

--Meliora sequimur

6/3/15

Thanks guys,

Yeah Im looking to go to either CF, Restructuring or TS. The problem is how to get there...I am now too qualified for graduate positions (Ill hopefully have all exams done by the time this years grads start) and I have zero experience so they dont really want to look at me as an experienced hire.

I thought it would be pretty easy once in the Big4 to make the move but its not the case. I feel if I get my final exam next september I will be in a stronger position but I am worried that a lack of experience will hold me back even then.

6/3/15

One thing to add. I'd like to go to USC to take advantage of their amazing network; however, they're not a top 20 school (from what I've read). Is USC a good place to be to break into this career, or would another school be better?

Thank you in advance for taking time to offer your insights.

6/3/15

How are you 27 and just first year staff? You should be a Manager by now...

-MBP

6/3/15

Tell me about it. Unfortunately a stint in mortgage set back my schooling and career. Trust me, I beat myself up over it, but there no changing the past. Only working toward the future.

Now I'm here, and have a focus and direction like never before. Strong work ethic and a desire to excel. Any advice would be appreciated.

6/3/15

Don't waste your time at USC. Trust me. If you want to make it in a BB you need to go to HYP, Wharton, Stanford to even be looked at. As terrible as this sounds you need the brand name to get to the Top Banks. Goes back to "Why you chose Big 4 versus a small CPA firm in Downey..." lol

6/3/15

Well, I wouldn't get discouraged at all. In the grand scheme of things, 27 is very young and you are already in a solid company. I'll give you the example of a buddy of mine. He didn't even start college until 28, and now he's 34. He's interning for the first time now, and is hussling to network and make his contacts. He used pure networking to get a solid internship at PIMCO, and I'm sure he'll find a good FT offer too.

There's a lot worse you can do than big4. Just work hard and try to get promoted faster. It will look way better on your bschool apps if you can get the manager title, so go way beyond whats required to get that title as fast as possible. Once you're in a good (aim for top 10 rather than top 20) bschool, you will have hit the reset button and you can take it from there. Also, if this stuff doesn't work out, you can still make a good career in accounting, or go into f500.

-MBP

6/3/15
manbearpig:

Well, I wouldn't get discouraged at all. In the grand scheme of things, 27 is very young and you are already in a solid company. I'll give you the example of a buddy of mine. He didn't even start college until 28, and now he's 34. He's interning for the first time now, and is hussling to network and make his contacts. He used pure networking to get a solid internship at PIMCO, and I'm sure he'll find a good FT offer too.

There's a lot worse you can do than big4. Just work hard and try to get promoted faster. It will look way better on your bschool apps if you can get the manager title, so go way beyond whats required to get that title as fast as possible. Once you're in a good (aim for top 10 rather than top 20) bschool, you will have hit the reset button and you can take it from there. Also, if this stuff doesn't work out, you can still make a good career in accounting, or go into f500.

This essentially is my goal. I am currently about to graduate from a target university but I fell prey to all the recruiting stuff the Big Four throw out and I have now come to really regret my choice. My goal is definitely to hit the reset button quickly by attending a top 10 MBA program (ideally not the same one I'm at now but if I have to so be it).

How many years should I spend at the big four firm to put myself in the best position to get into a top MBA program? Manager seems so far down the line but if that is the best option, I'm definitely willing to put the work in. Though my GPA isn't great( 3.3ish), I'm very confident about my Extra Activities have a 700+GMAT.

I apologize if I am hijacking the thread but I feel my post doesn't really need a completely new thread.

6/3/15

MBP- Thanks for the encouragement. PIMCO would be a great place to be; good for your friend. Were/are you in iBanking?

6/3/15

I'm in consulting on the financial services strategy side. I'm at Deloitte Consulting. Personally I have zero interest in iBanking, but I would love to get into prop trading or HFs. I think it will be tough coming from my background though, so I'll probably just save up and start my own operation and try to raise a modest amount of capital.

-MBP

6/3/15
Big4ToIbank:

I am a 27 year old first year audit staff at a Big 4 audit firm in a CA office. I plan to go to a top 20 MBA program in the next 2-3 years. I'd like to make the transition from Big 4 accounting to iBanking. My industry specialization is investmenet management, and many of my clients are hedge funds/asset management firms.

I figure my experiences here will be good leverage into iBanking, but then again I'm posting here for some expert advice.

Given the little background I have provided (and I'm happy to provide more), does anyone have any advice as to what strategy could take me into iBanking?

The advice I would give is to network, network, NETWORK - I cannot stress that enough. MBP's story about his buddy hustling is what needs to be done. Talk to any alumni you have from your school, and see if you can talk to guys from banks you've met during your exp. Get them to do a coffee meet, build rapport, establish yourself as smart and hungry, and let them know you're interested in a career move. If they like you, opps could potentially open up.

In Canada, it's not uncommon to see a kid who's a superstar in audit (one that probably got great grades and would have had a decent shot at banking had he/she not opted to go for accounting & the CA/CPA title out of school) move into banking after they did their time to get the designation. In fact, it's a pretty good way for banks to get more mature analysts that are still super eager/excited to do the work (because audit is boring as f--k, even 'shit' work in banking is more stimulating) but also know fin stmts really well. That said - from what I've seen from WSO posts - there's more stigma attached to 'accountants' in US and it's more difficult to make the jump to a good bank. You may need to move to a boutique first.

6/3/15

Kanon: Thank you. Yes, networking was my primary means of getting into the firm I'm at today. I've certainly learned the importance of it.

Is anyone aware of any social groups/organizations where I can network with those in the industry? Obviously my first task is to reach out to friends, associates, and colleagues; but it would be great if I knew where these people spent there time.

MBP: Best of luck in starting your op. You're coming from a wealth of experience in Deloitte, so I'm sure you'll be prepared when you make the move. BTW, I love the South Park reference- great episode!

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6/3/15

Very nice, congrats. Good advice too.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.

6/3/15

That's awesome bro, props on the job. Make sure you kick ass!!

"Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion" - Muhammad Ali

6/3/15

Awesome man. I'm sure you will inspire many others that are in the same position

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

6/3/15

success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration

"Know what to do, know how to do it, and do it hard." - Juan Castillo

If you are in the Toronto Area join my group "Toronto Prospective Monkeys"
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/group/toronto-prosp...

6/3/15

Congrats! Great inspirational story! Good luck with your new role

6/3/15

Thanks everyone for all of the comments - I truly appreciate it. I am super excited to start as I would much rather crank on models and the various tasks that come up rather than having to test a damn internal control and SOX 404 work. Plus, I get to move to a city that I am familiar with, Go Giants!, although that has been shitty lately). More importantly, thanks for all your support and good luck to everyone.

"I'm the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy."

6/3/15

You're in a crowd of thousands that think they can break into banking, or PE, or AM, or trading from Big4 TAS. A few do, so the Big4 recruiters will sell you on how much they value your career, and how everyone has the opportunity to move around to what interests them. Let's be clear - that's a load of shit to get you in the door. Once you're an auditor, you go where you're told for at least the 1st year, maybe even 2. If your interests coincide with their needs at the moment, well great for you, but that's coincidence and shouldn't be misconstrued as them giving a shit about you.

After that, you can start to express an interest in certain clients / industries, and they may or may not entertain you. That depends on lot on how well you perform, who you get in good with, etc. At the end of the day, you're a pawn on the board and they put you where you're needed. I'd guess at least 95 out of 100 people that request a move to TAS don't see it happen. I know a few that did; they were 1st year managers (so 5-6 years in) AND rockstars during their time in audit.

That isn't to say you shouldn't try, or move cities if that option presents itself, etc. That behavior could still open other unseen doors that would be equally awesome. I just wouldn't pin all of my hopes on TAS.

6/3/15

I second djfiii...and reading another thread like this is making me want to start a website called "Lies the Big 4 Recruiter Told Me"

6/3/15

Okay, so the odds are against me as far as getting into TAS. I'm thinking of it as a potential next step in my career and a motivator to be a "rock star." I'm not putting all my eggs in the TAS basket I'm just curious as to where it might lead.

Still to be answered:

Would working in financial services be required or would I be able to make the transition (yes, I get it, the odds are against me) with a background in manufacturing/retail

Would working towards the CFA help?

Exit opportunities? I'm not expecting to be going to a BB bank or anything, but what kind of opportunities could I reasonably be expecting? Compared staying on the audit train for 5-6 years, I feel like it must position you for a more substantial financial role somewhere.

6/3/15

It's not that bad, actually, in transition process. I moved to TAS from audit being senior associate. They'll ask for your feedbacks while you were an auditor and they should be relatively strong.

Working in financial services is not required. It depends on where in TAS you want to get eventually. I'd recommend to start with financial due diligence. Your experience in auditing production, retail and FMCG companies would be relevant for them. Then you can think about valuations and corp fin, if that area of expertise is interesting for you.

ACCA was a plus during my interview. So, I guess, CFA would not make things worse.

I have not exit yet, so can't be helpful here :)) I think that if you are one of the top in TAS (FDD, valuations, corp fin), it is possible to move towards investment banking, PE or some corp fin role in industry. And yes, you have enhanced chances compared to audit. But depends on economic environment, your performance and your network.

6/3/15

You can transition to TAS from any industry focus really. I wouldn't think auditing a financial services client prepares you in any more meaningful way than auditing a retail client. Auditing is auditing, and while you definitely have different risk areas to focus on by industry, ultimately you need to retool to be successful doing valuation and due diligence type work anyway.

Exit ops are probably better. corporate finance Director gigs, Maybe heading up Treasury at a F500, Controller, etc. Probably some decent PE shops looking for TAS skillsets.

6/3/15

PI groups like GS PIA recruit primarily from BB IBD or PE firms, and they don't really look at Big 4 accounting firms. That said, it's not impossible, although it will be tough for you.

Firstly, if you really want to just 'take the next step,' then the easiest for you to do would be to ask to be placed into KPMG's T&R group - it's a good start to a banking career. If you don't want to do that, start making connections at BB banks and just ask about any opportunities that may be present.

In addition, I've heard a lot of banks are winding down their PE arms because of Volcker rules - regulatory constraints may cause merchant banking divisions (GS PIA) to divest into separate legal entities. An example of this would be CCMP Capital's split from JP Morgan. I'll admit I'm not very clear about this regulatory stuff but that's the word on the street.

6/3/15

7xEBITDA, thanks a lot for your help!!
I am actually trying to get into T&R rotation program within the firm right now. This would be a goo start then.
That being said, would it be better off to just transfer to T&R rather then going to MBA school?

Thank you!

6/3/15

It depends on what business school you can get into. For the most part, BB investment banks and PE megafunds won't consider anyone outside of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and other top business schools.

I think T&R would be a great starting spot for you, although if you can get yourself into the top business schools, definitely do that.

6/3/15

You're very specific about what you're after tando14 which is fine, but at this stage in your career it's worth taking a bit of a time out, just to reflect on your general career aspirations. I've done a few free webinars around career change, transferable skills, and job interview - more to come too. Registration takes about 2 minutes, but the webinars are FREE: http://www.stevenichollscareercoaching.co.uk/podcast/

Each webinar is around 45 minutes of content

Good Luck

6/3/15

Also interested

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6/3/15

Assuming you do not stay with your big 4 firm forever, there are 3 main directions where people go. The first is an accounting/finance position in industry. This could involve internal audit, FP&A, controllership, tax, etc. The second path is to continue in professional services. People leave for smaller CPA firms, niche financial consulting/advisory firms, etc. The last one, which I would say is the second most popular following going to industry, is people change their career entirely and do something different. They leave accounting and go back to school to do something else. They spend 1-2 years in the big 4 and press the reset button in a different field. I've seen people go into recruiting, become teachers, marketing, etc. If you start in the big 4 and spend a few years, and do continue your career in the accounting world, you are basically guaranteed a cushy life.

6/3/15

I am currently auditing at a big 4 in Canada.

Despite what traditional IB career pathing believes - especially on WSO, it is common practice (internationally and in canada) to get your CA/CFA and transfer into Banking. Just search CA/CFA on linkedin and you will see many RBC and BMO bankers with both designations.

So if you want to work in Banking after a big 4 it is possible. Especially at a firm like Deloitte where you can get your CA doing Val.

6/3/15

After five years at Big 4, you'll have met hundreds of people in exactly the types of industry roles you might be filling when you leave, and you'll understand what they all do, because you will have audited everyone's work. The most common exit ops are into industry or into a smaller accounting or consulting firm, but having a Big 4 background, you will have the option to do pretty much anything in business, as long as you don't stick around so long that you pin yourself down as an accountant. I see a lot of people going into HR, but other careers (sales, business development, etc.) do pop up on occasion.

One thing you'll learn about industry is that titles mean pretty much nothing - what matters is the work you're doing. 99% of auditors go into industry to try to get a more "managerial/financial" role and get out of accounting, but it's very easy to be hired as a "financial analyst" and just be a glorified staff accountant.

6/3/15

I consider myself almost spot on with the OP(except I do plan to go to business school at some point), and I will also be starting at the Big 4 in September. I have an economics degree, as well as an accounting degree, but I was always given the impression accounting was the way to go(given I attended what I would call a fairly respected state school) in eventually obtaining an upper management position/ a position with the opportunity to influence business level strategy. I know the site has obvious bias, but it makes me wonder if I chose the right path. Does anyone actually see this kind of eventual transition often, or was I simply a victim of "I am an accounting professor who worked for the Big 4, and that is the path you should take as well to be successful."

6/3/15
qnx688:

I consider myself almost spot on with the OP(except I do plan to go to business school at some point), and I will also be starting at the Big 4 in September. I have an economics degree, as well as an accounting degree, but I was always given the impression accounting was the way to go(given I attended what I would call a fairly respected state school) in eventually obtaining an upper management position/ a position with the opportunity to influence business level strategy. I know the site has obvious bias, but it makes me wonder if I chose the right path. Does anyone actually see this kind of eventual transition often, or was I simply a victim of "I am an accounting professor who worked for the Big 4, and that is the path you should take as well to be successful."

can you clarify what you mean by "this kind of eventual transition"? Do you mean a transition to an upper management position at a CA firm?

6/3/15
ssmaclac:
qnx688:

I consider myself almost spot on with the OP(except I do plan to go to business school at some point), and I will also be starting at the Big 4 in September. I have an economics degree, as well as an accounting degree, but I was always given the impression accounting was the way to go(given I attended what I would call a fairly respected state school) in eventually obtaining an upper management position/ a position with the opportunity to influence business level strategy. I know the site has obvious bias, but it makes me wonder if I chose the right path. Does anyone actually see this kind of eventual transition often, or was I simply a victim of "I am an accounting professor who worked for the Big 4, and that is the path you should take as well to be successful."

can you clarify what you mean by "this kind of eventual transition"? Do you mean a transition to an upper management position at a CA firm?

I actually mean upper management in industry. For example, the company I interned at had about 10,000 employees. One of our controllers(came from Big 4) obviously dealt with the accounting side, but it was obvious he/she had a great deal or responsibility for directing strategy for the company, solving operational issues, and a vast amount of influence outside of the accounting side of things.

6/3/15

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6/3/15

Five years into your college education with a full time offer in hand is a little late to be thinking about gearing yourself toward a different entry level job. At this point, I would apply to the consulting divisions of the other Big 4, or possibly consider a TAS job at a regional firm. If you're a top performer it's really not that difficult to move from audit (not easy, but not impossible). I would also consider some lower-level boutique management consulting firms.

6/3/15

I heard if you spend a few years in audit and you are good, you can transition over to TAS. Also top MBA isn't out of your reach from a Big 4 audit position.

6/3/15

What's the difference between advisory and TAS? Since TAS stands for transaction "advisory" services

6/3/15

TheTwoHacker:
What's the difference between advisory and TAS? Since TAS stands for transaction "advisory" services

He was talking about any type of advisory group in general (TAS, Corp Fin, etc.) as compared to audit.

6/3/15

Take audit, stick it out for a year, move to TAS and decide if you want to move to Corp Fin, M&A, Business Valuation, or management consulting.

6/3/15

People make it seem easy to make it into TAS. Positions are very limited and there's never a guarantee that you'll have a spot in a couple of years, so it's not a good idea to stick the two year stint out in hopes of that.

That being said, if you're aiming for MC, TAS probably would not be the strongest segue. Try to apply to one of their more consulting-oriented verticals, like HR consulting.

6/3/15

1) From what I've seen, this is a pretty safe move for career advancement after public accounting. However, you'll be staying in accounting and there's no clear exit to anything finance related.
2) This is a good move for what you want to do. Find a good company where you'll have a supportive champion. It also gets you directly into a finance role with some modeling and understanding of businesses that could translate to equity research.
3) Internal audit is really not that glamorous. You're in audit, you know how those in IA are perceived. This jump is typically for those who enjoy audit but desire higher pay and fewer hours. You also run the risk of getting pigeonholed here.
4) Transaction Service is probably the best jump for you too if you could get into it. With appropriate networking, it appears to be a rather direct path to finance and banking. ERM on the other hand is largely useless.

If you're looking for a transfer into consulting in ~6mo, initiate talks with your counselor or talent professional immediately, since there's definitely a lead-time to get placed and jump through the appropriate hoops.

6/3/15

That is very helpful. Is fp&a considered a better move than financial reporting or IA in terms of the better exit opportunities into different roles in the future? Risk practice, on the other hand, can be very pigeonholded as well

6/3/15

1) Financial reporting is dealing with the month/year end closing of the TB. If you love journal entries, this is your gig. Senior accountant can mean a lot of different things, but likely to be a staff person of a fin. reporting director/manager.

2) FP&A can really vary, and can include financial reporting, but can also be some analytical forward thinking things (cost accounting, ad hoc projects, lease/buy analysis).

3) Almost everything I've heard about IA is similar to what Jake Flash mentioned. It is not fun, has pretty reasonable pay(with 2.5 years of big 4 you would be looking at ~80k with 40 hours a week) and low hours, and low progression outside of VP internal Audit, if there is such a position. You would be testing controls - as in - the worst part of audit. I have talked with a handful of people who said their position was more a consulting role, and getting to travel around. I imagine in this scenario you would be desigining and implementing internal controls at plants/facilities - and not necessarily just for SOX.

4) If you have the opportunity and want to try something new, I would go for an advisory practice. Transaction services can be similar to investment banking yet offers a middle ground between audit and investment banking in terms of hours and pay. The risk practices of the big 4 vary, but with an audit background you could likely be in a "risk" type practice yet you're still dealing with internal controls for audit support. Valuations or "FRM" seems to be suited towards your goals because it will be analytically focuses and offer some good exit opps in that area. For example, valuations groups often deal with valuing the goodwill of a company after a merger.

Other options include:
Treasury department where you would be focused on working capital, credit lines, debt issuance, ect.
corporate finance - although this is more likely to be filled by ex bankers, but deals with M&A if the company is actively buying up companies.

Big 4 Accounting Recruiting Guide Interview Questions and Answers, Networking Guide and more - Complete 50 page guide.

6/3/15

1) Financial Reporting is the sausage making of the accounting world. It can feel like a sweatshop during ME, QE, and YE especially because many companies don't hire enough people in this function. Not as bad as public, but still not really the best option. Very easy to get "stuck" there and forgotten.

2)FP&A rarely means the same thing at every company. Some companies treat the FP&A team as a kind of "utility player" that they can plug in to different teams that need a little analytical help on the accounting side when they are busy. Others use them as intended to generate forecasts and provide analysis of performance. You'll want to be very careful when interviewing to determine how a company views its FP&A staff.

3) IA is a dead end for working your way up the finance ladder. You test controls, test other controls, and then test the first controls again. Forever. You won't really learn any technical finance skills.

4) If you are early enough in your career there is a chance you could transition to an M&A team or TS role that would give you some exposure to the accounting/tax side of deals.

I'll also agree that Treasury is a good option, as well as returning to school for an MBA in Finance. A buddy of mine from PwC got stuck in IA after he left the firm and ended up getting his MBA and now has a great consulting gig.

Good luck!

"Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money." - Mickey Bergman - Heist (2001)

6/3/15

For reference, I did big 4 Audit for 2 years covering the Pharma Industry group. I then transferred over to TS-Financial Due Diligence as a Senior Associate at the same firm for 1.5 year. Finally, I took a Revenue Forecasting manager position in the Financial Decision Support group with a top 5 Pharma Company and have been there for 1 year. My current role is 50% quantitative forecasting (unitized demand modeling, market event based forecasting) ect.. and 50% strategic decision analysis (really a lot of purely business based analysis, but with a financial view). The job is not really FP&A as I understand it. Seems most FP&A gigs have some accounting, perhaps some cost forecasting and analysis, but very few at the junior level will look at major strategic decisions bringing commercial/business team, finance, business development all together to make a joint decision. I do work on divestitures and potential product acquisitions. I'd say the job is closer to stategic finance than traditional FP&A.

I would say that following this path might be ideal, but that depeds on your long term goals. Doing this or skipping TS and moving into FP&A. But as others have warned, be very careful with the term FP&A. In pharma, we have complex accounting estimate for revenue deductions and we have folks evaluating the balance sheet estimated liabilities for rebate claims. It's analytical, but at the end of the day it's still mostly accounting. This would be a prime example of FP&A being decieving. The other issue is that the good FP&A/Strategic finance jobs are very top heavy (ie no senior analysts, managers and directors only). Since the work is both complex and requires interface with so many stakeholders in and outside the organization, all the positions are higher level. A senior analyst in an FP&A department may do a lot of data crunching, but atthe end of the day they wouldnt be expected to independtantly figure out what the entire market for a product looks like, competitive landscape, market events, overall economic conditions and the impact to an individual product. It may be that Pharma revenue is inherently complex with patient based forecast models, patent exclusivity ect and I can't see anyone with less than 5-6 years of direct experience doing well.

The final issue you might encounter is moving from audit to a non-accounting type FP&A role might be a hard sell, especially coming from financial services. Gaining some deal experience in TS would help, and since TS is a much more analytical group than audit, I found it to be a perfect bridge.

I'd advise you solidify what your end goal is and think about the steps needed to achieve that goal. So if Equity Research is the end game, Industry FP&A jobs where you forecast revenue will be very helpful. So landing that gig might be your short term goal. MBA might be needed to cross over into ER, but with the background in big 4 audit and FP&A, you would have no problem making it into ER with a top 10 MBA.

Hopefully this helps a bit. Let me know if you have any other questions as far as the right path to take. For what it's worth, I think someone who already has argueably the best core accounting experience one can obtain, branching out into something less accounting focused will really make you marketable in the long run. Most companies looking to fill VP and up finance positions will love someone who has both accounting and true corporate finance experience. That combination is suprisingly rare, probably because those who got into FP&A rarely go to accounting afterwords unless they are looking forbetter work/life balance.

6/3/15

The best option would be transferring into consulting group (for instance at D&T there is an AVA group, or PE group that only has one client - KKR). This option was not available to me due to my location.

I joined investments specific accounting policy group within a large insurance company in town. My day to day i look at PE/HF/Tax Credit deals and evaluate for proper accounting treatment. On one hand i get good exposure with right people, on the other hand due to the location and lack of another large companies, probability of an openings are lower then i would want them to be.

6/3/15

Hello all, I've been reading the comments and I would like to ask a similar question. I am currently doing an internship in big4 as an Internal Auditor. I view that the job in Internal Audit is merely testing controls and its effectiveness, and I think that I might not want to do this forever, since I am more interested in Transaction Service and Valuation/corporate finance (I had internship in these areas before). My question is, is it possible to transfer from IA to External Audit, then to Transaction Service? Would it be useful for me to have IA background ?

Thanks!!!

6/3/15

bubu:

Hello all, I've been reading the comments and I would like to ask a similar question. I am currently doing an internship in big4 as an Internal Auditor. I view that the job in Internal Audit is merely testing controls and its effectiveness, and I think that I might not want to do this forever, since I am more interested in Transaction Service and Valuation/corporate finance (I had internship in these areas before). My question is, is it possible to transfer from IA to External Audit, then to Transaction Service? Would it be useful for me to have IA background ?

Thanks!!!

Thanks for asking this because I have a similar since I am in somewhat of the same position! I'll be doing Internal Audit at a BB full-time (which would be more of a risk "consultant" role). I initially thought it would be an interesting position but I didn't know getting pigeonholed in this role was likely until recently and I don't want to be in this role forever of course. Would love to end up in a more finance related role (particularly Credit Risk or Leveraged Finance at my firm) but don't know if its possible and moreover I don't know if I have top MBA prospects due to this role.

With that I have two questions: Is the jump from IA --> lev fin or credit risk possible and how does a IA candidate fare with top MBA programs?

6/3/15

The CMACS group is a technical accounting group. If the audit guys have any really tricky accounting questions, they'll go to CMACS. It is a combination of ACS (accounting consulting services) and CM (capital markets). I don't think the CM side has anything really to do with transactions however, likely more around accounting for capital raisings. Probably not your best bet if you want to avoid becoming a specialist accountant, I'd stick with audit if that's your other option, considered much more of a generalist role so easier to move later.

6/3/15

I went from one year in Big 4 audit to credit risk at a BB. People transfer from here to IBD in some cases, and you talk to bankers frequently (plus this job itself is pretty good too). Could be worth a look.

6/3/15

My friend's brother did big 4--->top 15 mba----->Lazard....

6/3/15

Thanks for the feedback, especially in regards to CMAAS. I was heavily considering that option, but looks like I will rule that one out.

6/3/15

Are you in New York? What Big 4 you have a better chance with?

6/3/15

Possible yes, but it will be very difficult. If you're still in school, why not just do the internships and apply for banking/finance jobs full time and save yourself the headache of making a difficult switch? The internship experience on your resume should make you competitive.

Hey, how's your art career going?

6/3/15

Moving from audit to the positions you described is very difficult and will take a ton of time. Your rationale for going into audit is also very misguided. I did big 4 audit myself, and the accounting you will learn will not be applicable in any of these roles, because you will not have access to the general ledger, sub-ledgers, etc. and you likely will not be calculating pension liabilities and the like either. The Big 4 name on your resume will also have you coming across as an accountant on paper in the eyes of many people, which is not something you want.

If you want a solid background in the sort of accounting you need for a finance role, there are several textbooks available and you will learn this on the job anyway. I would just do the internships but start networking with people working in the types of roles you want to get into so that you have a fighting chance at getting an internship or FT offer in a more relevant role come next recruiting season.

6/3/15

I started in big 4 audit, moved to Transaction services, then demand forecasting & financial decision support at a F100 in the same industry as my audit and TS focus. After MBA, I plan to move to ER. Couple pieces of advice.

1) Try to move into TS after year 2 in audit. Anything more and a future in finance will become less and less likely for the simple reason that the higher your level (ie manager, director) the harder a transition will be. a year or 2 in TS will partially erase the accounting stigma while building deal experience and exposure to at least some finance.

2) I would 100% avoid working as an auditor in anything resembling financial services. FS auditors even struggle moving into TS because they lack experience with normal industries financial statements, understanding sources of revenue and how normal companies operate. Everyone assumes FS would be best for future finance jobs but in reality it's the opposite. In short, you would become an expert in the backoffice functions of a bank and will spend 2 straight years looking at asset prices on bloomburg and comparing $.01 differences in price. FS auditing has poor exit ops (other than to backoffice bank type jobs) for this reason. Said another way, Bankers, PE and Hedge fund people understand how companys work in the industries they cover, and as such you should select a normal industry. I prefer Pharma or Tech but basically any industry with normal product sales will be much better.

6/3/15

Marine, glad you mentioned not doing FS. I'm actually in the exact same situation where I'm currently in pharma/tech but looking at FS.

Big 4 Accounting Recruiting Guide Interview Questions and Answers, Networking Guide and more - Complete 50 page guide.

6/3/15

Big four auditor in FS for 3 years and now in VC. Like others mentioned, its possible for sure (case in point) but pretty rare. I also wouldn't bank on learning accounting as an auditor. Depending on how big or small your client is, you could be testing cash and and doing confirms for the first two years. After two years or so of doing that, you're not really marketable for front office finance relatively. If you do end up doing audit, try to get to transaction services when you can. If not, try to get more exposure on smaller teams so you're not doing 1st year grunt work forever. Ask to do 3rd year work when you can but obviously put in your time and prove that you can handle it.

6/3/15

Just out of curiosity, were you in audit at big4 previously or in TAS? I just recently left big4 audit in nyc. You mention that you left, "to pursue personal goals." Is that true, because I left for a hell of a lot more reasons (mostly big4 related) ?

6/3/15

Go and don't look back.

6/3/15

no brainer assuming it's from an F500.

Eager to learn

6/3/15

The only thing that would make you question it is whether the title is misleading. Is there any M&A modeling? The only thing I can think of that would cause you to question it is maybe if it is "Business development" with a focus on the developing sales and relationships with potential customers? Other than that congrats and yeah, don't look back.

Big 4 Accounting Recruiting Guide Interview Questions and Answers, Networking Guide and more - Complete 50 page guide.

6/3/15

It seems modeling heavy so I have no reason to believe its more of a "business dev" role. It is F500, and I think I decided to make a leap of faith here and take. Thanks, I just needed some reassurance there weren't variables I was missing in this, because to me it seems like I should jump at this.

6/3/15
mmbergmm:

It seems modeling heavy so I have no reason to believe its more of a "business dev" role. It is F500, and I think I decided to make a leap of faith here and take. Thanks, I just needed some reassurance there weren't variables I was missing in this, because to me it seems like I should jump at this.

Definitely the right choice. Good luck!

6/3/15

Go for Corp Dev. You'll likely get better access to executives and leadership and have the chance to do deals that get more visibility than a standard client facing role. Full disclosure: I made the switch from ops to Corp Dev so I'm biased. However, after hearing how execs talk about M&A vs. standard client facing roles, I'll never go back to ops.

6/3/15
mooresrp:

Go for Corp Dev. You'll likely get better access to executives and leadership and have the chance to do deals that get more visibility than a standard client facing role. Full disclosure: I made the switch from ops to Corp Dev so I'm biased. However, after hearing how execs talk about M&A vs. standard client facing roles, I'll never go back to ops.

moorersp - sent you a PM.

6/3/15

It depends on the description, you should be able to tell if it's M&A focused based on the job posting that was sent to you. Just because something is called "Corporate Development" doesn't mean it will be M&A focused.

Also, how do you have a job offer but don't know if the job is modeling heavy? What did they tell you when you were interviewing?

6/3/15

Just in case you're still thinking: Go, and don't look back.

6/3/15

aaaaaand?

6/3/15

I have no idea why my text got cut off, there was a break html command in my text for some reason.

6/3/15

The "break" command makes your post appear in such a way that it shows the paragraphs or sentences before the command, on the front page.

6/3/15

I'm surprised you're taking a pay cut considering entry level corporate banking analysts bring in between 90-110k a year inclusive of bonus and from what I've heard, auditors don't make much.

6/3/15

It's a high growth spot, from people I have talked the salary growth is a 20% bump each year as an analyst. So it's s short term sacrifice. I'm mostly worried that career wise it's a step back, and it's not a worth while step back.

6/3/15

I am currently in an ARM role within corporate banking for a super regional. Right now I am supporting all of our segments due to the recent departures of other associates. We have been seeing a lot of M&A activity, but don't participate in a whole lot of it, but that is good experience to have under your belt.

I am also getting my MBA via an evening program, which is probably not a very popular option on this board as it is not a M7, but it is a good part time program with a very strong alumni network locally and nationally. As you can imagine I am not in NYC/Chicago/LA, etc. I am surprised the pay is a large step down, but I suppose that could be tied to bank size ($30bn is more of a small regional/large community bank imo) or market you are in. I used to work at a community bank for 1.5 years and the pay is embarrassing compared to any other bank. The good news is depending on how your group does for the year, you may see a decent bonus to pull it back in line with what you are currently making.

In terms of exit op's it is hard to say and I am still trying to figure that out myself. One of the associates on my floor recently made a lateral move to another bank while another associate left to take a very good corporate development role with a F500. Personally, I have been networking with a few small mezz debt/PE firms, which may bring something for me down the road.

As you will see plastered all over this board, it is all about your network, which you can build in an ARM role. Your normal course of business will have you talking and meeting with clients, other CPAs (I am sure you know plenty already), attorneys, PE firms, etc.

6/3/15

Thanks for response. Maybe drastic isn't the right word, but for the first year at the very least it's a pretty big cut but from my understanding it's high growth. A lot of people from your MBA, do they come from a similar role or are ARM MBAs fairly unique?

6/3/15

In my cohort (65 students), I am only one of three commercial/corporate bankers. Another gentleman is an underwriter, one is in back office (auto finance loan operations), and the last one is an ARM for another bank in town. I know in past cohorts there has been a stronger representation of bankers in the program. The part time program works fairly well while an ARM as if you don't have a live deal, you can usually find some down time at work to get a little homework done. Conversely, if you have a couple live deals, you can fall pretty far behind with school work. I know my school's full time program does get a few corporate bankers.

I would have done the full time MBA, but I don't necessarily plan on leaving the city I currently live, which is why I chose the part time MBA. The OCR at the full time program generally draws students out of the state to Chicago, NYC, etc. Ultimately I would like to move into a corp dev or PE role in town, but if I end up staying in corporate banking I would be content with that. I would never make as much money as anyone else on this forum, but would have a great work/life balance while living in a low COL city.

6/3/15

Got to the bank. You will get the best experience and make associate much more quickly. If the goal is to be in investment banking then why waste time in TS? It will do nothing for you I promise.

6/3/15

Your goal is to go into banking, why would you go into TS? You're only 25, so you aren't even that old for an analyst.

Hey, how's your art career going?

6/3/15

Work for another year, get into a top MBA program and graduate with a stellar GPA. Directly going from Big 4 Audit to IBD will be virtually impossible without that.

What interests you about finance, specifically? Big 4 audit backgrounds don't just lead to internal audit and SEC reporting roles.

6/3/15

I'm not an expert on this but don't top MBA programs typically want at least 5 years of experience for regular people? Of course this doesn't apply to the MBB, BB/EB IBD and megafund PE/HF people.

6/3/15
keyboardb:

I'm not an expert on this but don't top MBA programs typically want at least 5 years of experience for regular people? Of course this doesn't apply to the MBB, BB/EB IBD and megafund PE/HF people.

I know people who went to Booth, Wharton, Stanford and Kellogg after 2-3 years of Big 4 Audit. They had to kill it on the GMAT but it is totally possible. Their Bachelors were from schools like USC and UCLA... so it's not like they went Ivy for undergrad.

6/3/15
Managerette:

keyboardb:I'm not an expert on this but don't top MBA programs typically want at least 5 years of experience for regular people? Of course this doesn't apply to the MBB, BB/EB IBD and megafund PE/HF people.

I know people who went to Booth, Wharton, Stanford and Kellogg after 2-3 years of Big 4 Audit. They had to kill it on the GMAT but it is totally possible. Their Bachelors were from schools like USC and UCLA... so it's not like they went Ivy for undergrad.

Some anecdotal evidence to contradict the above. When I was a naive auditor back in the day, I applied to b school (Harvard, Wharton, Northwestern, etc.) after having worked for roughly 1.5 years. I would have had 2 years of work experience upon matriculation. I scored in the top 99% on both the LSAT and the GMAT. The year before, I had applied to law school and got into all of those aforementioned schools before deciding I didn't want to be a lawyer (thank god). For b school, I wasn't even granted interviews at those schools. Straight up denied to every school I applied to, with the exception of my safety school. Take that for what it's worth.

6/3/15
straight cash homie:

Managerette: keyboardb:I'm not an expert on this but don't top MBA programs typically want at least 5 years of experience for regular people? Of course this doesn't apply to the MBB, BB/EB IBD and megafund PE/HF people.I know people who went to Booth, Wharton, Stanford and Kellogg after 2-3 years of Big 4 Audit. They had to kill it on the GMAT but it is totally possible. Their Bachelors were from schools like USC and UCLA... so it's not like they went Ivy for undergrad.

Some anecdotal evidence to contradict the above. When I was a naive auditor back in the day, I applied to b school (Harvard, Wharton, Northwestern, etc.) after having worked for roughly 1.5 years. I would have had 2 years of work experience upon matriculation. I scored in the top 99% on both the LSAT and the GMAT. The year before, I had applied to law school and got into all of those aforementioned schools before deciding I didn't want to be a lawyer (thank god). For b school, I wasn't even granted interviews at those schools. Straight up denied to every school I applied to, with the exception of my safety school. Take that for what it's worth.

That sucks, not sure what went wrong with your apps. Maybe something has changed since my friends went, but they all were within the last 10 years so it's not exactly dated information (albeit probably were before the huge rush of applicants during the financial collapse). Double-checked and the longest any of them were in public accounting was 2 years 11 months.

Not sure what you ended up doing, but hope you can get to b-school soon.

6/3/15

I don't get on here much, but I've noticed about 1,000 threads on this subject. I'll respond anyway because I'm a nice guy.

I went from audit --> consulting --> PE. However, this path is not the norm, and I would not recommend it to anyone wishing to break into PE.

I had a few friends in audit make the jump to IBD via networking (i.e. referred by friends from college working at the bank) , but coming from a small state school, I assume you don't have many friends currently in banking, so I'm going to assume that's not possible. In your spot, I'd recommend that you either: 1) get your full-time MBA from a reputable school or 2) switch to your firm's valuations group (TS will work too, but the skills you learn in val are generally more applicable to both IBD and PE). Your chance of breaking into IBD will be exponentially higher coming out of grad school or from the val group. You're most likely not going to be able to get into PE unless you do IB beforehand. Maybe from valuations, but it's not likely, especially given that (I assume) you don't have much of a network.

Even though I personally did none of the above, that would be my advice looking back on it now. My path out of audit and into PE is an anomaly. Again, I wouldn't recommend that anyone take my route if he/she wishes to get into PE. However, I'll tell you what led me to land the job, since it still may be of some benefit to you:

1) networking (you will have to be referred by someone at the firm...same goes for IBD from what I've seen)
2) simply being a normal person that gets along with his coworkers
3) CFA (had only passed levels 1 & 2 at the time)
4) very good standardized test scores
5) deal experience in consulting

The importance of both 1 and 2 above cannot be overstated.

Good luck, man. Audit (and working for any Big 4 firm in general) is a miserable experience, so I always cheer for anyone hoping to escape that hellhole.

6/3/15
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