How to: Leave the Big 4

Are you feeling like it might be time to leave the Big 4? You are not alone (see The Pyramid).  Below are tips on how to maximize this opportunity and leave with grace.

1. Share your desire to leave the firm

If your mind is made up (or close to being made up) to leave the firm, bring a couple of leaders in your office (e.g. performance manager, mentor, your engagement partner, etc) into the conversation.

The biggest mistake people make when leaving the firm is not talking about leaving until after they have already accepted an offer elsewhere.

Certainly, this can seem like an intimidating conversation, but it only has upside (no one has been fired for sharing that they are considering leaving the firm).

Misconception #1 – My situation at the firm can’t change. 

A common reason people leave the firm is due to a bad fit (be it client, industry, engagement manager, schedule, etc).  They feel like their situation can’t change and it is not worth staying.

Slow down.  Often, the firm has more levers than you think that can be pulled.

You would be surprised how much flexibility the office has over schedules, engagement teams, and other seemingly “unchangeable” situations (especially if the other options is talent walking out the door).

Note: this might even mean taking a role within the firm outside of your current function.

A change of scenery can provide an entirely different experience.   

Misconception #2 – The firm will disown me if I tell them I might leave

The firm wants you to succeed. Alumni networking is something the Big 4 takes very seriously because they know the value in maintaining trusted connection.

Alumni are Big 4 firm’s best source for: new business referrals, market intel, and industry insights.   

While it doesn’t feel this way, the firm has almost as much incentive as you do in finding you a high growth role where you could one day be a decision maker (hoping that when that day arrives, you remember where you came from 😊).

Misconception #3 – Recruiters have access to the best opportunities

“It is not what you know, but who you know”

This axiom proves true when finding new opportunities.  Sometimes the recruiters have great insights, but often the best gigs are not posted.

In walks the partner group.  

Big 4 partners have their finger on the pulse of the local market (after all, they are the Finders). Their shared experience and network can prove invaluable in finding a meaningful role outside of the firm.

2. Read How to: Win New Business as an Associate

Make the list of leaders you know (or have an even remote connection to). Ask them advice on how to look for new jobs. Tap into their network. You may even be pleasantly surprised to find that a job just became available at their company.

3. Tailor your resume for specific opportunities

The Big 4 has provided you a wide variety of experiences. Tailor your resume to highlight experience that is relevant to the user.

  • Have you been on an engagement in the (or a related) industry?
  • Have you worked on transactions or accounting areas that would be relevant to the target’s business?  
  • From stalking researching the hiring managers social media, do you have shared background/interests?
  • Do you have exposure to with ERP systems, technical software, industry research tools, etc. used by the entity?

Above all, be creative. Yes, this might mean creating a new version of your resume for each opportunity.

In conclusion, if you are thinking about leaving, talk to the firm, network, and be creative.

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