What is a Big 4 Career?

The Big 4 is the name given to the four largest professional services firms: PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG. Many professionals strive to work for these firms as the learning and growth opportunities are fantastic. Yet, the burnout can be a real issue. Leaving a successful public accounting job is tough. Walking away from a Big 4 firm takes a tremendous amount of will power, determination, and guts especially since you know how having the big name on your resume looks.

But despite the name recognition, the valuable time and project management skills you learn on the job, this career choice isn’t for everyone, and you can be very successful at other places or doing other things than what you were doing at the Big 4. Plus, eating takeout everyday is a special kind of hell, reserved for dedicated public accounting folks!

Tips to Leave Public Accounting

Here are six tips to transition into careers after public accounting:

1. Your managers will be disappointed. It’s okay; they’ll get over it.
When you give your two weeks notice, management may react like that kid in the ‘Charlie bit my finger’ video, i.e. wail loudly and complain noisily.
However, once the initial shock/disappointment wears off, you might be pleasantly surprised when they support your decision. After all, you are moving on to something that truly matters to you and is going to make you happy in the long term.

2. Look for a role where you can transition easily.
As you job hunt, be on the lookout for a strong leader who can be your mentor in your next position. This will not only make the transition easier but will also give you confidence you made the right decision to leave.

3. Do your research and ask questions about the new role.
It’s important to do background research and to ask questions during the interview process (although make sure they are not the same questions to everyone you talk to – they will talk with each other after your interviews). Also, see if you can talk to your potential future peer colleagues to see if they are happy. If you want to be in a challenging and fast-paced environment, ask questions around that during the interview process so you don’t get stuck in a role pushing papers on a desk and watching the paint dry.

4. Understand that the new work culture will be different.
It takes a little getting used to a new place of work. And sometimes, it may take a lot of time to train yourself that it is okay to leave at 6pm instead of toiling away until 9pm. Plus, you can take back your weekends instead of staring at the computer until you’re cross-eyed. Added bonus: not having crazy amounts of work during busy season.

5. Transitioning can be hard; be gentle on yourself.
Transitioning to anything new can be hard – just ask a werewolf on a full moon day! So be kind to yourself. Give yourself a few months to learn the ropes and stick with it until you get past the learning curve.

6. Life does not end when you leave the Big 4.
The biggest thing to realize as you transition into life after public accounting is that your career isn’t over if you don’t stay in the Big 4 until you’re a manager – I work with plenty of people who were there for a few years and are in a great place now.

However, if the experience you’re getting at your current Big 4 firm is great and you can handle the work-life balance (or lack there of), then it may be worthwhile to consider staying in your current position for a little longer. This will allow you to carefully consider your career choices post-Big 4 and may open up opportunities at companies that do prefer people who were a manager at a Big 4 firm and/or have 5 years of Big 4 experience.

Should you stay or should you go? What are your tips on working for the Big 4 and did you transition into something new? Share your thoughts on your post-public accounting lives, here!