Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I am a young ambitious person. Throughout my university career, I always knew accounting wasn’t really what I wanted to do. However, I stuck around, and I’m still around, wondering when I should make the move.
I think a lot of our readers face a dilemma of freedom vs. face.
A lot of us want freedom, but we don’t want to lose face.
We want to quit our jobs, but we don’t want to face the embarrassment.
We’ve built a sort of pride that we don’t want to lose. We got the 40K co-op jobs while our friends were making $12 an hour at Mcdonalds. When we graduated, we got the 60K senior staff accountant Big 4 job, when our other graduating friends were still struggling for work. Our friends and parents respected us and we didn’t want to lose that respect.
Our parents brag to their friends about us. We’re Big 4 Prodigies. My son is making 60K. Your son doesn’t have a job. Etc., Etc. I mean, what kind of 21 to 22 year old has a 60K job in another field?
We’ve built ourselves into our trap.
Deep down, we also know, that if we weren’t in accounting, we wouldn’t command the 60K senior starting salary, and the respect of our high school friends and parents.
Do we have the skills to even get an 40K job?
We’d be regular graduating Joes like everyone else.
We are on the inside and know it’s not that great. But because, the people on the outside don’t know, even if we secretly resent our jobs, we choose to be stubborn, and play the appearance game.
After all, it does feel good to blow your peers out of the water in terms of comparison.
No there is nothing wrong with you if you’re young and you hate accounting and your job. If you ever considered quitting, but felt something was holding you back, I truly believe it’s a matter of not wanting to lose face.
Monday, October 26, 2009
In my first post Why They Left, I wrote there the reasons I noted why my officemates (and ultimately, I) left. These are my readily-observable-very-true-but-safe reasons. I received a couple of comments on this one, the notable of which came from an anonymous poster and to quote: “Some people leave just because the job just plain sucks.....vouching 200 invoices a day can really make you wonder about your purpose in life.....and they wanna give something else a shot”. Hmmm, telling it for what it is, I see. I was curious. Evidently there are more reasons out there than those I covered, hence this part II post.
Someone wrote me an email referring me to another site: www.jobvent.com. This site basically shows the reviews of various people (employees, both current and former) from all around the globe on their companies. Now, I know the site may be familiar to you but it is definitely new to me. So I browsed it. Of course, being an accountant / auditor, I promptly went and searched for the Big 4 auditing firms. What I found is quite…Er disturbing to say the least. All Big 4 firms have negative scores! EY has a -199 score, PWC a -26 score, Deloitte – negative 396 and KPMG has a -485 score! Wow! What negatives! Reading through the reviews opened my eyes to some of the possible reasons why these “reviewers” left (leaving the firm and leaving the negative reviews). Let me just summarize some of these reasons. A caveat first: these are based on the reviews I read and do not, by any stretch of imagination, pertain to my personal experience. So don’t quote me on this, okay?
Kiss @ss managers, bad @ss partners: Managers who retaliate because their juniors / staff do not worship the ground they work on. Partners who are being bad examples to their staff. Partners who have simply no heart and just give their staff their walking orders without so much as a by-your-leave. Managers or partners who have absolutely no ethics, who unfairly treat the staff and who do not seem to appreciate their staff’s work. Need I go on?
Not so good work environment: No work – life balance (even though this was one of the things promised when they were recruited). Stressful work atmosphere. Strict policies / stifling work atmosphere.This also includes bad technology, slow IT people, slow materials procurement, etc.
People problems: Other than the manager or partner, that is. Lack of young people working within the same office (the one who posted this may still be young and wants the company of people his / her same age). Rampant drug use (what the…? Hope this is not true). Brutally honest people (so brutal, they can reduce you to tears). Hypocrites who say one thing and do another (aren't these people found everywhere?).
Low pay. I guess I was too kind in my previous post. But some of the comments here are really negative when it comes to this aspect. Salaries / rates are too small. There are times when salaries were delayed (that hurts, you work your @ss off just to get your pay three months after!). Overtime pay virtually non-existent (this after working 7 days for the whole week!). And what about the benefits? Not so good and even sometimes, they suck.
There are some more reasons I no longer included here. Suffice it to say that the above are the most cited reasons. But they are also quite the eye-openers. I guess I was just lucky enough not to have experienced these things (except for the low pay but our benefits were okay).
Another note: This blog is not to discourage those who want to go into the Big 4. It just shows how it is inside BUT you don’t really want us who used to work in these firms, to sugar-coat it for you, do you? In my next blogs, I will write positive stuff about the Big 4, promise. Till then, bye and see you!
Okay, so you just might say “What the…! What is this blog?” Settle down. I just wrote that first paragraph because well, these are really hard times and those working in the Big 4 are not immune to the effects of this recession.
In fact, after reading through some blogs / posts and some articles over the Internet, Big 4 firms around the globe announced employee reductions as early as last year and as late as the second quarter of this year! These firms may have been late in such announcements, but they are catching up in the redundancy wagon and they are catching up fast!
That said, I just really want to write a blog (a rambling blog, if you want to call it that) about the Big 4 and the effect this recession has on them.
In fairness to these Big 4 firms and from what I read, they tried (as much as possible) to avoid these redundancies. I mean private companies shut down or laid off as early as 2007, with the bulk of them (the most controversial ones at that) doing so in 2008. But the Big 4? They held it off for as long as they could, going to the extent of implementing other cost-cutting measures (like flexible working hours) just to avoid the staff cuts.
But alas, the hard times caught up with them and all four have no choice but to let go. Sure the redundancy rates are small but if you compare them to the thousands of people employed by these Big 4 firms, the number can also be quite large.
But then again, on a positive (if you want to call it that) note, I haven’t seen any indication that any of the Big 4 firms implement freeze hirings (unless I’m wrong about this, feel free to correct me) and I really don’t think they should. Why? Because it backfires.
When a certain continent experienced a financial crisis more than a decade ago, some Big 4 affiliates reduced their new hires to the bare minimum (like only 20% to 40% of the usual number of new juniors). After less than 5 years, this continent’s economy picked up and the Big 4 affiliates realized their mistake, a mistake even one country managing partner admitted in a speech. By reducing their new hires during the 1990s, they now had fewer experienced people to promote to seniors and managers, and even partners!
On the other hand, I remember when I visited my old office a few months ago. I talked to a friend of mine still working in that auditing firm. She was a manager when I left the firm, now she is a partner. I asked her how the crisis was affecting them. Her answer was the firm is still doing okay (not excessively well, but just okay) but…here comes the tricky part – they were now on the evaluation stage for the new juniors and they were going to be quite brutal about it. Meaning? They were going to weed out those juniors that they think are not good enough and replace them with a new batch of faces (which legally they can still do since these juniors are still classified as “casuals” or “temporary”). They can afford to because there are already a lot of applicants (unlike before when we had to scramble to get new ones) who may be better than the ones they have now.
The above just goes to show that in good times, being a good junior (or a good auditor) will guarantee you a place in the Big 4. In bad times, being a good junior does not cut it; you have to be an exceptionally damn good junior because there are other applicants out there who are more than willing (excessively eager, in fact) to take your place.
It’s harsh, I know, but this is how it goes. And this ends my ramblings, uhm, I mean my blog. Good day and cheers!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
- The grass is greener…on the other side of the fence. The number one reason? Money or financial reasons. Don’t get me wrong, salaries in Big 4 are okay. But they’re not really that big and well, private companies pay bigger salaries. And if you have loans to pay or a family to support; or if you just want to live a better life, this can be a very good reason for leaving. Of those people I saw leave the firm, maybe about 60% to 70% left because of this reason.
- The other company’s (and even firm’s) offer is too good to resist. This is not only based on salaries, it also includes perks. Perks such as giving you a car, giving you company shares, more benefits, less overtime, giving you a chance to travel to other places and even in other countries. The list can just go on and on. I have a former senior (I was her manager) who resigned to become a chief accountant. Two years later, I saw from her Facebook account pictures of her visiting other countries (with her family in tow). Turned out she was sent there for certain job assignments and the company allowed her to bring along her family (the company subsidized some of their expenses). Lucky her!
- They don’t like their clients / boss. I had a fellow junior who, after finding out she’ll be assigned to the same client for the next busy season, promptly served her resignation letter to her boss! Obviously her reason was, she does not like the client (like may seem a mild word, okay, she hates the client). Or there’s this other junior who was constantly at odds with her manager that she left after just one busy season. Of course, she wouldn’t admit it but, knowing their history, we could read between the lines. Resigning because of the client or the boss is not quite as common as the first two but they do happen. And when they happen, you can be sure that client or that boss will be avoided like a plague by the other juniors.
- Health reasons. Okay, I’m not trying to give you a panic attack or something. But it is true that sometimes, people leave the firm because they want to stay healthy or to manage their blood pressure (which is perpetually high during the busy season) or to live a longer life. I’m just kidding on the last one. Seriously, the Big 4 is not for everybody and sometimes, being in a Big 4 can wreak havoc on one’s health. Some people just deal with it by taking in more and more medicines (and staying on the firm) but other people, well, they deal with it by leaving the firm.
- Family reasons. How does family become a reason for leaving the Big 4? Let’s count the ways. One, your family pressured you to leave the firm because they see that you are looking very, very tired, are often sick, have dark shadows under your eyes and have no time to visit them anymore. Two, the family is banking on you to earn more money because you are helping them out financially so they pressured you to leave the firm (even if you don’t want to) just so you can get a higher-paying job. Three, you, yourself, are starting a new family and you want to have a more balanced work-family life so you chose to leave the firm and get another job that is not too demanding and does not make you work until 2 in the morning (on a Sunday at that!). Fourth, your aunt, uncle, father or mother runs a small town accounting firm and he or she wants you to take over him or her. And you, being the dutiful son / daughter / nephew / niece, resign from the firm to jump to a smaller one.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
In my previous blog, I was asked to write something about how to write cover letters. Although I promised to come up with one within one to two days, due to some unforeseen, I was unable to write one circumstances (sorry Anonymous, whoever you are). Finally, I have the time to write one (hope it’s not too late). Same as my last post, I have to add a caveat here. I am by no means an expert on writing cover letters. I have written even less cover letters than resume in my 12+ years of experience in accounting / auditing. So I do not profess to be an expert. That said; I do have experience in looking through cover letters so the tips I’m going to provide below are more on the side of the interviewer / hirer rather than the interviewee / new hire.
The first thing to remember is that the cover letter is your sales letter. And what are you selling? Yourself, of course. Your cover letter will basically tell your potential employer whether it will be worth his / her time to read through your resume and to call you for an interview. So, when you write that cover letter, make sure that you are writing the best cover letter (that you can write) on your side of the Earth. Okay, an exaggeration, I know. But if you’re a new graduate in need of a job in a good company where you will have lots of competition, your cover letter should put you on a class above everybody else. Unless you graduated with honors and at the top of your class and the companies are all after you to hire you, then you won’t need that cover letter. But for the rest of us, mere mortals, a good, no, great! cover letter is the way to go. Enough of the intro, let me just go through some basic tips:
Keep it simple. Use simple words. Write short sentences (don’t make your whole paragraph a one-sentence thing). No fancy words please. No slang words either. A cover letter that is worded in a simple manner connotes professionalism, something that you will need if you’re going to apply in a professional firm (like the Big 4).
Go straight to the point. The advice is to limit your cover letter to one page ONLY. This is so you will be able to capture quickly and retain the attention of the one reading your cover letter. State your objectives in a forthright and concise manner. Include brief (but thorough) descriptions of your accomplishments. Not beating around the bush may be cliché, but this really applies when you’re writing that cover letter.
Keep a positive, upbeat tone. This will ensure that you will give a positive impression to your potential customer. Use active, instead of passive voice, as the former will make your cover letter look more dynamic and interesting.
Customize it. In your quest for a job, you may have applied in a lot of companies and writing a single, uniform cover letter may be a little bit too tempting (saves you the hassle of thinking about writing various cover letters). But this is not recommended, not even for applying for jobs that are (more or less) similar to each other. Always customize your cover letter to make the contents more appropriate for the job you are applying for. Even if you know the jobs are similar in nature, take the time to tweak your cover letter every time you submit it.
Write to impress. When writing and submitting your cover letter, keep in mind that you need to impress your potential employer with that one-page letter. What does this mean exactly? One, no matter how short the cover letter is; do not forget to include (even highlight) your accomplishments that you think your prospective employer is looking for in an applicant. Two, if you know something positive about the firm, state so in your cover letter so that you will be able to show that you are really interested in working in the firm. Three, do not forget to stress any quality that you have which you think is unique and is of interest to your potential employer. These three, among all the other tips, will make your cover letter stand out among the rest.
So there you have it, 5 tips (I won’t say they are simple) in writing a cover letter. Before I end this post, I just want to make two more points. Do not forget to PROOFREAD your work. Check for errors in both grammar and spelling. Failure to do so will make your letter look sloppy; which may also be a reflection of your personality and professionally capacity. Lastly, do some research before writing that killer cover letter. The Internet is positively booming with all sources related to cover letters, as well as samples of cover letter. I’m sure you will find one that suits your needs. Just don’t forget to customize your letter. No matter how great the source is, you will still need to customize it and add your personal touch to that letter. Good luck in your job application.
Monday, October 12, 2009
So that’s out of the picture. What am I doing writing this blog anyway? Well, for one, I may not have written (or edited) much in terms of my own resume but I have certainly read some resumes when I was still an audit manager and was asked to interview some applicants after they already went through the HR Department. And although they seemed okay, there were some that caught my attention and when I googled about resumes, I remembered what were those things that got my attention. So I decided to write this blog on some tips on how to improve your resume. Most of these tips are for new graduates. Not planning on writing much, just a quick rundown will do and here it goes:
Job Objective – make this short and brief. Don’t make it into a one-paragraph, half-page thing. I’ve read some resumes that have long objectives and my mind just shut off after reading a line or two. And please make sure that your job objective coincides with the job you are applying for. If you’re applying as an audit staff on a Big 4 firm, your job objective should be connected to auditing like ‘developing your auditing skills’ or ‘gaining professional growth in a top-rated auditing firm’. Not ‘getting my license as a commercial pilot’ (an exaggeration, I know, but gets my point across right?).
Hobbies – This one has me confused really. The resume is supposed to be a reflection of what you are in your professional life. But then again, hobbies are more of personal in nature, not professional. But they are still included. Although sometimes I have to shake my head when I see these hobbies – cooking, cross-stitching, reading novels, listening to radio, searching the Internet, etc. From what was taught to me, the rule is that, while it’s true that you have your hobbies (few people do not have one), if such hobbies will not further your job application, don’t include them. Unless your hobby is reading the business section of the newspaper or an international business magazine (is there such a person?) and you’re applying for a financial analyst job, leave those hobbies out of your resume.
Plain versus fancy paper – Although I have never seen this in my whole time in auditing, I know that there are some people out there advocating the use of fancy paper for resumes, instead of plain white bond paper. I can see why they would suggest such a thing and, personally, I don’t have anything against using that kind of paper. But you have to admit, fancy papers are not really appropriate if you’re applying for an audit or accounting job. If you want to impress (and look very professional), use ivory paper or a white bond paper that is of highest quality.
Short resumes vs. long resumes – The usual advice is: don’t make your resume too long. If you’re just starting out, a 2-page resume may seem appropriate (unless you have a lot of work experience in the past). But then again, do not scrimp on the number of pages if you really have very good credentials to fill up those pages. If you have been working your butt out for the last 4 or 5 years while studying in college, by all means, include your job experience there.
Extra-curricular Activities – such as organizations, groups, clubs, etc., etc. Same with hobbies, make sure your affiliation with an organization will help your case in terms of your job application. Student organizations related to your course / profession are okay. Organizations that show you possess a certain skill or talent needed for the job you are applying for should be included. Other than these, if you are in doubt about including your other organizations, think and re-think about including them. If you still cannot decide then it would be better not to include these organizations. Better be safe than sorry.
Okay, this is a little bit longer (thought I said I’ll run them down ONLY, oh well). But I didn’t want to break this off into two. Hope the tips I gave will come in handy for you. Have any questions or concerns? Feel free to drop me a line.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
So, you’ve finally graduated, scouted around for a potential employer and finally submitted your resume. Then you received that all-important call telling you that you will need to go to their office for your first ever face-to-face interview. Way to go! You spend the full hour jumping up and down, overjoyed that all your hard work has finally paid off. But wait! This is just an interview, man! You’re not yet fully there, if you know what I mean. So instead of thinking about salaries, benefits, bonuses and all those things, start thinking about your interview and how you can prepare yourself for it. Think about it this way: the actual interview is just 50% of the whole probability of you getting accepted. What’s the other 50%? The preparation for the interview. So, to help you ace that first interview, here are some tips that you can use in preparing for that interview:
Clear it up and mark it down. Check your schedule for the interview. Clear up that schedule then note down the time and the date of your interview. Better yet, ensure that you don’t have any activities (important ones) during the day of your interview. You’ll never know if that interview will take longer than you thought or if and when you pass it, you’ll be told to have another interview and another and another. You might think these are all nerve-wracking (which they are, actually) but it is actually a good sign because the more you are interviewed, the higher the position of your interviewer and the more chances you have of getting accepted.
Know the important details. By important details, I mean, know the full name of the company (not knowing will be a disaster, believe me), the exact address, the name of your interviewer, his or her position and location of his or her office in the building and his or her phone number. If you are not familiar with the location, research it ahead of time. Get a map or directions and familiarize yourself with the route to get there. Better yet, drive to that office a few days or even a day before your interview. That way, you’ll see firsthand the traffic situation from your place to the office and how easy or difficult it is to park in your prospective employer’s parking lot.
Know the Company…beforehand. I know this is a very common tip, but I cannot over-emphasize its importance. Its importance increases with the number of companies you submitted your application to. I mean, you don’t want to go to an interview with a company where you will talk about things that actually pertain to another company, and a competitor at that! So before your interview (and even before you submit your application), start learning about the company. What is it? What is its main purpose, main products, main clients? Where is it located, where are its branches? Who’s the president or company head? Take down notes or if you have these already, review those notes.
Prepare all your files. Need to bring your references during the interview? Make sure you secure them a few days before the actual interview date. Better yet, have a checklist of everything that you’re going to bring. Prepare all the documents that you feel you will need for your interview. These documents may include (but are not limited to): another copy of your resume; your transcript of records; identification cards (passports; driver’s license); work samples (if you’re in a profession requiring these); your references; your diploma and extra pictures. Once you have all of these, place them in a briefcase or a document bag no later than a day before your actual interview. You don't want to be scrambling for your files during the day of your interview so make sure you have everything on hand the day (or even days) before.
This is just Part I of this blog. Part II is just below this blog. Happy reading!
Okay, I posted part I of this blog above. Here are the next tips on how to prepare for your first ever interview:
Practice, practice, practice. Go online and research possible interview questions. Then practice answering them. Don’t do this with your mind only, practice saying your answers out loud. Better yet, if you know of someone who have gone through the same interview, ask him or her what the questions are then practice how you will answer the same questions. Get a buddy and have a mock interview so that your buddy can give you feedback on how you answer those questions. You should also ask feedback on the non-verbal things like your posture, the way you talk, your gestures, the way you listen, your eye movement and how you look when you think about how to answer the interview questions. Your non-verbal communication skills are just as important as your verbal communication skills, so make sure you receive feedback for these also.
Prepare interview clothes. Okay, nothing can really derail all your preparations than finding out you have absolutely nothing to wear or your clothes are not really the “right” ones. Once you find out about the interview date, go over your wardrobe and look at your clothes if they will go well for an interview. If the answer is yes, try them on (next to having no appropriate clothes to wear, ill-fitting clothes are also guaranteed to set panic on your interview day). If they still fit and still look good on you, bring them out and iron them no later than the day before your interview. If nothing fits anymore, go out and buy or borrow one. Do not settle for clothes that are available but are inappropriate for your interview. Not only do you have to sound like you belong on that job but you also have to look the part.
Set that alarm clock. Okay, it’s already the day before your interview. You think you’re ready but wait (again)! Make sure that you will make a good first impression on your interview. And what’s the first thing that will give you a good first impression? Your punctuality. So, before you go to sleep the night before, set up your alarm clock. You already know how long it will take you to physically prepare yourself and the travel time to the office so you have a good estimate of what time you need to wake up. Set your alarm clock accordingly so that you will not accidentally ‘oversleep’ and end up being late (heaven forbid!) for your interview.
Get a good night’s sleep. Lastly, relax and sleep tight. Don’t think about it too much. If you have been preparing yourself for the interview days beforehand, reassure yourself that you are ready. Then go to sleep. This will help you re-energize and wake up the next morning feeling positive and ready to face the day. Your energy will translate to a good outlook and a positive attitude that will surely give you good points even before your interviewer starts the interview proper.
These are just some of my tips on how to prepare yourself for an interview. I guess they all just boil down to one thing: prepare yourself. This is an all-important day for you and you will surely want to put your best foot forward. Preparing yourself is one of the ways for you to ace your interview. Plus, if your interviewer notes how prepared you are, he or she is going to be pleased with how you really value your chances of getting accepted by the company. This, in turn, will increase your chances of getting inside the company. So, good luck and I hope you get that job!