Fork in the road... Career advice needed

med2CPA's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | banana points 23

I've been trying to break into finance for a few years now.. it's been difficult. I'm a CPA at a national accounting firm and I was recruited out of a non-target state school. Using LinkedIn and other resources I've been able to land a couple informational interviews with boutiques, but nothing more.

Recently however, a couple opportunities came my way and I need to make a quick decision. I know many of you are very experienced and may be able to offer some advice on which path to take:

Option 1, Senior Associate at a Big 4 CPA firm (audit): this path would allow me to obtain a relatively prestigious name on my resume. After about a year I should be able to network internally and ideally snag a position in their transaction advisory group. From there I may have a bit more leverage to apply to boutiques, or possibly a competitive MBA program.

Option 2, Back/Middle Office Position at Oil Company Trading Desk: I managed to connect with a senior trader at a huge oil company who has been a tremendous help. He offered to help get my foot in the door in the trading arm of the company as type of support analyst, the job title is not impressive... though he told me that this is a great way to enter the industry. The pros: I have been fascinated by the energy industry/trading for years, and if I could land a position on the trading desk down the line I'd be very happy. Cons: although I've researched this extensively, I'm still clueless as to how easy/possible it is to transition from a back office role to a trader at an oil company. The Big 4 role offers a more familiar and guaranteed, albeit very boring, career progression.

Thanks for your help!

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Comments (4)

Oct 25, 2013

Very few people possess the requisite mentality to be successful at trading, so even if you have your "foot in the door" so to speak, there are no guarantees you will make it to the trading desk, let alone become a profitable energy trader. I would argue the big 4 accounting path affords you far greater scope and opportunity for advancement into a broader range of career paths - whether that be IBD, MC, CF, Corp Dev, etc. A more tacit consideration would be whether at this early juncture in your 30+ year career you would even want to enter a declining and progressively more regulated industry, such as the oil business.

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Oct 25, 2013

These are really different paths, and neither are direct routes to investment banking/corporate finance and trading, respectively. I think what might help is asking yourself a more long-term question - would you want to be in corp/fin or be in trading. If you prefer one over the other then that could help your decision.

You've summed up Option 1 quite nicely. Hopefully someone on WSO can help clarify Option 2. I can't point to any particular thread I've read, but the general idea is that it's pretty hard to move out of back office. For Option 2 - can the senior trader point you to any legitimate examples of a prior support analyst that has made the transition to trading? You should try and ask him that, and also whether you can speak with those individuals - to 1) get an idea of what the job is like and what skills you pick up, 2) how they were able to make the transition (was it through the backing of a senior trader/mentor, was it because there was a spot that opened up, etc), and 3) how often this phenomenon actually happens (if at all).

I would personally go for Option 1 - Big 4 is a good name to have and can set you up for other opportunities besides just banking/corp fin. It can help with your MBA. There's more mainstream recognition of the firm and its quality. And the career path is a lot more visible. With the support/back office - unless there are a number of strong cases where someone has successfully transitioned into trading, it's a shot in the dark. And you really have to like trading to make this move. Or be very certain that you'll be good if and when you make this move.

Oct 25, 2013

Go the big 4 route so you add some padding to your resume, work for two years, then pursue an MBA at a top program (Stern, Darden etc.). Accounting will help you more in IB then trading. Trading's a tough career - especially when everyones switching to electronic/algorithmic

Oct 25, 2013