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right time to leave the big 4?

Following is a question in the comments section on my post about my manager leaving -

"Are clients just allowed to offer auditors jobs whilst they are working on the client? Whats the etiquet[t]e with leaving Big 4, can you leave when ever you want?are employees frowned upon when they leave during certain times in the year?"

Good question. Now this relates to audit only. I believe tax and consulting services have no real barriers. Usually, as part of their "engagement letters" to clients, firms make companies sign something saying that they will not offer jobs to anyone on the current audit team. Now this could vary by engagement, but from my experience, this is really the general engagement letter condition. There's also usually a 1 year cooling off period that enables auditors to move to the other side. For example, if this manager had an inkling that he might be offered something on a particular client and he really wants to work for them, he can ask to get off the audit team for a year. He can then move on to working for them after. Another way to look at it is if the person quits the firm and then accepts the position at a client one year later. I'd say quite a few auditors move to client positions. Many move to positions on clients they've never audited but are audited by the firm they used to work for.
As far as part B goes, most people leave the firm sometime between April-November. For some reason September is a popular month for people to leave. My only theory for this occurence is that summers tend to slow down, people take vacations, enjoy time off from work, re-evaluate their lives, start looking for jobs towards the end of the summer, and are outta here a few months into the summer/ early fall. So I guess my manager didn't leave at the worst possible time (for me , it is). Ideally they should leave right after busy season. That way, we can have our planning meetings and plan for such transitions.
Firms hate it when employees leave between December-January. And a few of my friends have done so. I can completely understand where the firm is coming from, since this messes up their busy season scheduling and such. But hey, if a job you like falls into your lap, and you don't want this opportunity to dissapear, you have to take it.


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career progression

"What can you tell me about the different possible tracks a person would take at the Big 4 in regards to tax vs. audit? Is there a difference in career progression among the two specialties? How about career potential? Workload?"

Loaded question. In terms of career potential, they're both pretty potent. Audit leads you to controller/accounting manager/ VP - accounting positions at companies if you choose to quit. Tax can lead to tax manager positions at various companies/ help them minimize taxes and exploit tax loopholes. It's a pretty important position in many companies...I'm not an expert on tax careers though, so you might want to ask somebody in a tax related position.
In terms of career progression, it's the same as audit...start off as a staff associate...move to senior..manager..snr mgr..partner.
In terms of workload, my friends in the tax department seem to work two busy the fall and in the spring. So I think they work more than i…


As a big four employee, lately, I've been hearing a lot about "boomerang" employees. Those who, for some reason or another, decide that leaving work when the sun is still out is not for them and alas, return back to the firm. Yes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, however, is this trending upward or about the same as it always has been? I think, also, that the firms really do a good job in highlighting those that do choose to return to make it appear more common than reality. Can you please speak about how you've seen the trend of "boomerangs" amongst the big 4? 

Good question. A boomerang, as the commenter pointed, is one who quits a big 4 Firm and then decides to return (or boomerang) back to the Firm after getting a taste of work life in the non-public accounting world.
I have seen a few return this past summer, but didn't really notice a trend until you mentioned it. It's definitely been higher than past years, but not enough to s…

auditing vs consulting

I was wondering if you could break down the career opportunities in auditing and consulting (in a big 4). I know that consulting pays more in a big 4 and has more interesting work, but it seems that auditing has extremely good exit opportunities (Financial controller, CFO etc). Any thoughts on which is better in the long run?

Well there's different consulting services offered by public accounting companies - the most popular being IT consulting and risk consulting. There are also other consulting services offered, but these two hire the most. Do they pay more? Yes, but not by much. Not enough for you to say: Shoot, the $$ is a huge reason for me to move over. Is the work more interesting than audit? Yes. You're actually looking over a company's processes and telling them what to do instead of what not to do (audit). Everyone I know who's made the switch likes it waay better than audit.
In the long run though, choosing audit vs consulting really depends on what you want t…