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big 4 politics

Just joined one of the big 4 as a first year senior. Any tips on how to succeed and navigate the political side of things?

The audit firms are not immune to politics unfortunately, not sure if any companies are. It's part and parcel of the game unfortunately. There are three ways to play -

1) Stay above the fray - Don't play the game. If you're good at what you do, word will spread. Let your work speak for itself. People will clamor to put you on their jobs. As a senior, it's harder, since managers and partners don't spread the word as much as seniors do about staff. Why? The amount of communication decreases at higher levels, and the managers want to make sure the other managers don't steal the good ones. The only bad part about this is that you might not have control over the type of clients you get. Ideally, this is what everyone should do, but unfortunately, it's not.

2) Be a pawn in the game - Be a participant in the game. You add to the politics, you win some, you lose some. You become the average joe, not adding to much value to your rep.

3) Play the game - Okay, what do you need to do to get ahead? Work hard. Always respond to your higher ups whenever they email you. This is very important, otherwise they will get mad and let others know. Make sure they are happy with your work. Now that you have the wheels churning, always be one step ahead of the schedulers. If you've met partners in the past, and if their door is open, swing by to say hello or ask a pertinent question. This way, they are aware of your presence. Do the same w/ the senior managers and the managers. Always be cordial to the schedulers, swing by at times to say hello or send emails thanking them for their help whenever they come through.
Also, remember, you are in client service. This means you need to keep your client happy. This doesn't meet that you shouldn't ask questions. It means you should ask intelligent questions, and make small talk when necessary, and build a relationship so they're more open to your questions. If they're happy, they may let your higher ups know.
Don't complain too much, if you have to work a late night or two if it's not busy season, if it really helps hit a deadline, just do it. Go to a couple social events here and there, just so people know who you are. Be aware of your peers and their schedules. When someone is leaving, look at their schedules, and see if there's a client you'd like to have. If so, jump on it by emailing the scheduler/ manager. How do you know if someone is leaving? Don't wait until the end. Be a participant in the social circle, or at least get to know that one gossip who will tell you if anyone leaves.

Do I play the game? Sadly, I have to. It's human nature, and I like to have some semblance of control over my clientele. When I see other really good auditors get stuck on some horrendous clients that push them to the edge, it reinforces in me the importance of playing the game to make sure I'm on the right path and that I'm avoiding wrong ones.


Brittany said…
Great blog! I've enjoyed reading your blog and getting an insight on what it's like working in auditing at a big 4.

I will be starting as an associate at PwC at a smaller office in a few weeks. Your advice for someone starting as a senior seems like it would apply for associates too. Is there any additional advice you have for someone starting as an associate straight from school? Thank you for any recommendations you have. :)

Anonymous said…
How much of Big 4 auditing is client services? Maybe like time spent working with clients versus actual checking accounting accuracy?
Anonymous said…
This is unfortunately true. You can produce a better work product than your peers, but, if they play the game and brown nose more than you, they will get the better rating. After two years, I'm accepting this fact, grabbing my ankles, and smiling as if I like it. And my reviews are better.
Kellen said…
Politics is a big reason I decided not to go Big 4. I am okay with playing the game some, but I can play it on a much smaller level at a small firm, and the quality of work people produce seems to be noticed more. I do make sure that I get to know everyone, and try to get work from several partners, but it's not as overwhelming as it would be at Big 4.

It seems like if you want to go Big 4, you have to be more excited about being a salesperson than being a great auditor (although doing good work is part of the package.)
Anonymous said…
Can you talk some about the cuisine? Would you take / trade / give up a client job because of the caliber of the lunch food? What’s your ideal lunch? Seriously, after 3 years of auditing, the thought of a decent lunch is what keeps me going.
Audit Guy said…
I'm thrilled that I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago. I've read all your posts since 07 (beats studying for the CPA exam), and sadly I've gleaned more information about the auditing world from your blog in the past two days than I did throughout my recently completed accounting degree. I'm starting at a Big Four firm in October following an exciting summer of foregoing traditional post graduate activities in favor of studying for the other "Big Four" (CPA exams). 

Anyways, in reading your posts it seems that blogging has been an effective tool for you to maintain your sanity over the past few years. I'd love to contribute a fresh perspective to your blog as I begin my audit career, as I think it can be similarly therapeutic for me and perhaps revive your own passion for writing about your work. I guess leave a response if you'd be interested. 

Either way, keep up with the blog, it really is great. 
Anonymous said…
How to vacation days work at Big 4 firms? Do people (in particular first years) tend to use up all their days, or is there an unspoken thing where you only take them when you REALLY need them?

Is it frowned upon to take days off during busy season?
What are common times to take a week off? Christmas to New Years?
Anonymous said…
No everyone is encouraged to take vacation, as long as it doesn't interfere with client responsibilities. Essentially this means to book your vacation well in advance so the firm knows and they can schedule accordingly.

Taking days off during busy season is frowned upon, but depends on your workload as well. If you're not busy then you can take some time off...but this is pretty unlikely.

Most people take time off in the summer because it's slower.
Anonymous said…
How successful are Big 4 auditors in leveraging outside offers for pay raises? What is the best way in going about doing this?
Kellen said…
The firm I work for does annual reviews (I know other firms have little evaluations much more frequently.)

My first review will be coming up in a couple of months. Do you have any advice for a first-year on how to prep for a review?

I don't think that the reviewee is expected to bring a written self-evaluation to the table, but I feel the need to write one for myself to help bolster me mentally against criticisms, and potentially to argue on my own behalf.

What should I expect? Should I be prepared to counter the reviewers evaluation of my "weak points" or do I just sit and listen quietly?
notfordisplay said…
Audit Guy,
Sure, hit me up at with a sample post.

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