On a Monday afternoon in during my internship training, our instructor, a Senior Associate (the second level of the Big 4 hierarchy, third if you include intern), spent some time with us discussing the relationship that develops between senior associates and interns and associates. More or less, he said the following:
"In your first couple years with the firm, you will work with many many Seniors. You will learn more from these individuals than anyone else in the company. You will find a Senior who you click with and a mentor relationship will develop that could last for years!"
My second engagement was very a large fortune 100 company. Our office had a team of about 50 staff who worked on the client full time. There were six seniors on the job each responsible for 6-10 associates.
By the end of the summer I asked myself: "Did I find that Senior who I click with 100%." Sadly, the answer was ‘No.' While I enjoyed working with many people at the firm, I could tell that other interns made much better bonds with the Seniors than I had. Somewhat sad, though ultimately thrilled at a great summer, I received my offer and returned to college!
My Seniors were some of the smartest people I had ever met in my life. More importantly, I realized that the best seniors made everyone around them smarter as well. They taught me how to ask the right questions to the client and gave me the confidence to hold my ground if I disagreed with the client on something. The discussions we had, regardless of the complexity of the issue, were always focused and intense. They took the time to explain to me not only what I had to do, but why I was doing it and how it contributed to the big picture of the audit.
When I finally found that Senior I clicked with 100% (after my first year at the firm), he and I worked together off and on that first year. He was a mentor to me during my time with the Big 4 and I am happy to say we stayed in contact now that we both left the firm.
We have spoken many times about how we worked together. Later in our relationship, he said when he was a first year he had a Senior who worked the same way and they had a similar bond. Likewise, I worked with the associates under me in the same manner, passing the torch on to the next class.
This is one of the most important parts of working for the Big 4. There is so much collective knowledge that is passed through the ranks year to year. This is one of the reasons Big 4 alumni are valued so high in the marketplace. and why some companies will only hire those with Big 4 experience.
Writing this post makes me nostalgic for my days with the Big 4. The comradery, learning and excitement of those years with the Big 4 has never been matched in the roles I've had since I left. To all of you hoping to land a job with the Big 4, I truly wish you the best of luck.
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Big 4 Guru