Finance Career Paths: The Road You Choose Makes All the Difference
So you've got three offers and you're not sure which one to take. Like most things, there are always pros and cons. The question is what is the right fit for you.
Offer 1: Big Four Firm
Prestigious. These firms are resume builders. Everyone around the world knows these firms and the quality of the experience you'll be getting. No matter what your future career plans -- going to work for a top corporation or getting an MBA at a top school -- this is a credential that everyone knows and respects.
Outstanding Education. You'll spend your days serving diverse clients across various industries and learn a ton. Your clients could range from a global bank to the city government to a privately held retailer. These diverse experiences will give you a sense of what excites you and help you decide what direction you want your career to go. These top firms pride themselves on OJT (that's On the Job Training). You'll work hard and learn a lot.
Access. As a young person right out of school, you'll have access to not only senior partners at your firm, but you'll find yourself sitting across the table from your client's CFO and other senior execs. Shockingly, they will actually care what you have to say.
Great Benefits. To attract top talent, these firms typically have outstanding employee friendly benefit programs from health insurance to retirement to tuition reimbursement, etc.
Travel. Since most of your time will probably be spent working at client locations, you may well find yourself on the road -- a lot. Depending on the office and your client list, leaving home Sunday evening and returning late Friday night for months at a time is not that atypical.
Long hours. The hours can be long and the pressure sometimes intense. Projects have to get done on time and on budget. You are in the client service business and your clients -- who pay the firm big bucks – must be delighted with you and the service you provide. You are expected to deliver a service commensurate with your absurdly high billing rate.
Offer 2: Public Corporation
Multiple paths for advancement. Large multinationals offer a plethora of career paths and options. The enlightened firms rotate their top talent around so they can punch their ticket and get the diverse experiences they need to advance.
Learning Opportunities. These publicly held corporations can give you exposure to areas like SEC reporting, compliance and mergers & acquisitions.
Less Travel. Odds are you'll be working out of the same office everyday with typically less travel than a Big Four gig.
Good Benefits. Many of these corporate giants pride themselves on providing very generous employee perks and bennies.
Bureaucratic. These are very large and very complex organizations, which sometimes come with bureaucratic slow-moving cultures.
Just Learn About One Company. Unless you're working at a GE or a Berkshire Hathaway, odds are you won't see the diversity of companies and industries that you would working for a Big Four firm.
Offer 3: Small Firm
Have a Real Impact. Working at a small firm could provide you the opportunity to make a major impact that you may not if you're a cog in the wheel in the giant corporate machine.
Less Bureaucracy. Odds are a smaller firm will be less complicated and give you a chance to "get your arms around it" and truly learn the business.
"Never Heard of It." From a resume building perspective, a smaller firm may not give you the same prestige that a Big Four firm or a multinational with a household name would provide.
Fewer Benefits. Likely that a smaller firm will not provide the same level of employee benefits that an industry-leading large firm will.
Please keep in mind that all of the above are sweeping generalizations. Take a look at all the pros and cons of the particular options you are considering, but then decide based on your gut. What feels right? Where will you learn the most and have the greatest opportunity to excel? Do you fit with the organization's culture, mission and values? Will you get the experience you need to get you where you want to be five years from now?
Whatever path you decide to go down, take advantage of it and make the most of THAT experience. Choose wisely and good luck!