Posted by: clairebyron | January 13, 2014

Guest post – Big Four or not?

© Jenny Rollo

© Jenny Rollo

In addition to our brilliant regular bloggers, occasionally on Careering Ahead we will publish one off ‘guest posts’ – this one is from Sam Heward, currently doing his third year in Geography here at Newcastle…

When it comes to accountancy it’s very easy to get drawn towards the ‘Big 4’, they all have a huge presence on campus and all promise good salaries, prospects etc. In fact many students looking at grad schemes won’t look anywhere else. So why after a summer internship at a non-Big 4 firm have I decided to accept their offer of a job for next year?

In truth when I started out last year I was more looking to get some kind of work experience which could help me finding work in my final year, and when I got accepted I have to admit I still saw my future with a Big Four firm. So what changed? Why did I sign on? After all I felt strongly that particularly after my experience this summer I would be in a good position when applying.

Firstly I get the impression that the gap between non B 4 and B4 perceived at student level is much greater than at professional level. They must have some level of respect for us because they allow us to audit one of them!
Also working at a slightly smaller firm allows more time as a new starter before specialisation; this was a complete seller for me as someone who is terrible at making up my mind. While with a B4 firm you may have to choose a particular sector to work in early on, in a smaller firm you may experience working with a larger breadth of clients, which is interesting as well as standing you in good stead for different kinds of work later in your career. Meanwhile you are more likely to gain more responsibility earlier and move up the ranks quicker; in my 6 weeks there I made a presentation to managers, worked one on one with clients and travelled across the country from Glasgow to Birmingham!

On top of this I felt that working at a slightly smaller organisation with ambitions to grow was a more exciting place to begin a career than one already at the top. And this could be said for many of our clients also, and with all the talk of an audit reform it’s an interesting time to be involved in a smaller company.

I know there are a lot of differences, but since working I have realised there are actually many similarities as well. The majority receive exactly the same technical training for example.

So back to the question of where to look for a job. It completely depends on the individual at the end of the day and there is not a ‘one fits all’ response as everybody is different. However what I would advise is not to solely get caught up in a discourse which envisages the Big 4 as the be all and end all in the accountancy world. You just might be surprised, I was and I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision.

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