After the trials and tribulations of navigating the Big 4 hiring process, many candidates find that they do not really give thought to what it will be like to work for the Big 4 once they are hired. College students, especially, are told from day one that if they want to start their career on the fast track that they should get a job with the Big 4. However, most candidates do not have a clear idea of what it is really like as a first year at the Big 4. What follows is a general overview of what you can expect from your first few months with the Big 4.
Training, Training, Training
Before you do any “real work” at the Big 4, you will go through an extensive training program. First Years typically go off to training prior to even stepping foot in their respective offices. These trainings are held in large cities across the country (e.g. Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta) and First Years from all over the country travel in large groups to these locations. It is not uncommon for 500 First Years to have their initial training together. While this population is split into smaller groups of 20-30 for the actual classroom sessions, the large group may participate in various social activities and team building events together. The whole group typically stays in the same one of two hotels, so there are a lot of informal social activities in the evenings.
These trainings typically last one or two weeks. The core of this first training is to learn your firm‟s audit methodology. You will learn how to use the audit database, practice documenting your work and work on various case studies. The atmosphere of these trainings is fairly informal. The instructors are typically Senior Associates or first year Managers. Most instructors are outgoing and fun and will participate in the evening activities as if they are your peer, rather than your teacher or boss.
First Weeks in the Office - Big 4 Accounting Firms
Once training is out of the way you will report to your office. Depending on the size of the office and the backload of work to be done you may be immediately assigned to a team and go off to a client site. Or, you may have some “unassigned” time in the office. If you do not have a project right away, you will report to your office each day. Typically there are other members of the firm working on client engagements remotely from the office. If you are not assigned to a client it is a good idea to ask around the office to see if you can help anyone else. This is a good way to display your willingness to help out and get some chargeable hours. Sooner or later you will get picked up on a client and your real work will begin.
First Client - Big 4 Accounting Firms
While every client engagement is different, there are some elements that are fairly standard at each client site. When you report to the client you will likely be given an ID badge or keycard to access the building. Most clients have one contact person that you primarily report to for logistical needs like accessing the building, getting an internet connection, accessing a printer, etc. Sometimes the amenities at a client are great. In the best circumstances you will have your own cubicle or office, wireless internet access, a Herman Miller Aeron chair, use of the coffee or break room and a quiet environment to work. Other times you will not be so lucky. Some clients just do not have room for a bunch of auditors. In that case, you and ten other people may be crowded around a small conference table, sitting on metal folding chairs and passing one internet around each time you need to check your e-mail. I’ve heard stories of engagements where the team was in an unheated warehouse of the client in the middle of winter! One thing you learn quickly is to make the best out of any situation. Eventually you will be able to work comfortably regardless of where you are. You will develop the ability to quickly drop into any situation, carve out a comfortable working niche and get the job done. One of the best parts about working for the Big 4 is that nothing is permanent. If you do not like one client it is only a matter of time before you are doing something completely different!
Thanks for Reading!
Big 4 Guru