A “detour” to land an accounting job at the “big 4”.

Job hunting has never been easy. It is a very painful and disappointed process. Looking for a full-time job is actually a full-time job itself. Job hunting is even more stressful for international students. We have “been there, done that” and we can confidently say that a “realistic” plan which helps you target the Right Job will make the process more efficient.

Obviously, this right job might not be your dream job, but it will teach you valuable skills, pays you some money and most importantly, this job is a building block for you to move to your dream job.

We have interviewed Ms P., a senior associate at PwC for her amazing story of how a realistic plan help her land her dream job. Of course, she is an international student, just like us. (Privacy is our top priority when we showcase success stories, thus names and firms are altered whenever necessary. However, the substance of the story remains clear and relevant.)

Ms P., a then-graduate accounting student from Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University (not from the prestigious Schulich School of Business*), didn’t land an interview with the Big 4 firms after attending so many networking events and hours of editing resumes. The fact that she didn’t graduate from Schulich School of Business was certainly a disadvantage in competing for a spot at a Big 4 firm. As a student, she didn’t work for some “recognized” brands. By “recognized” brands, we mean those national brands such as Starbuck which is well-known for world-class customer service experience. Thus, getting a job at a Big 4 firm seems to be “unrealistic” for now.

She didn’t give up, she came up with a “realistic” plan which included lowering her job expectation and doing whatever it takes to learn all the skills that she needed. This sounds so simple in writing, but accepting a low-level low-paid job or even zero-paid volunteering opportunity is a tough decision, especially you now hold a bachelor degree. You might always overlook the fact that you need more skills and experience, hence always be aiming for analyst-level jobs or jobs at industry-leading firms.

Her realistic first goal was: getting a job at a smaller recognized-brand firm and then used it as a building block to re-apply to the Big 4 in the future.

After a lot of researching, she was able to find a job called Fund Accountant that was not as popular as Staff Accountant at the Big 4 firm. But still, to get into a recognized-brand firm (CIBC Mellon, Citco, State Street), the competition was fierce as she was not the only one applying.

After so many failed attempt to get an interview, she started to think about her approach. Lining up at “formal” networking events was not helpful as one recruiting staff collected like 100 business cards per day from students who said the same thing over and over again. “Have you ever wondered what happen to those cards after that? Does the recruiter remember you?” were just two of many questions she had. The conclusion was: going to networking event didn’t work, at least for her.

The only way for her to make an impression is to meet the recruiter in person. “But how can I do that?” – She thought. As she was trying to connect with many professionals on her job-hunting trip, someone told her that she didn’t need to meet with the recruiter, she just needed to meet “someone” in the firm, who could potentially act as a referral. The only advice was “be straightforward, well-prepared and don’t make them feel you are wasting their time”. In order to do this, she must have excellent communication skill. Her English was ok, but surely had to be improved to achieve the above goal in a 10 to 15 minute meeting with that “someone” in the firm.

Once again, she had to lower her expectation. She would look for excellent volunteering opportunities and part-time temporary customer service jobs to learn how to talk “professional language” and learn how to make an attractive “sale”. After months of volunteering and working part time as a customer service representative, her communication skill was improved tremendously. She shoot an email to a Vice President of a well-recognized firm to ask for a quick meeting. Of course, she sent like 100 emails and only got 1 response. But this was her golden moment and she successfully impressed the VP, who later acted as her referral to the firm. She was in a recognized-brand firm now as a Fund Accountant. Within the capacity of this job, she had a chance to work with auditors from all Big 4 accounting firms and she successfully built strong relationships with them. After a few years, she successfully landed her dream job: Staff Accountant, which is a highly-sought after auditing role at a Big 4 firm.

If she didn’t have a “realistic” plan and kept chasing those jobs at the Big 4, she would probably still unemployed and be depressed. By facing the reality that she didn’t have the required experience yet, she started to pick up her skills in various volunteer roles and temporary part-time customer service jobs. Looking back at her amazing journey, be realistic to realize that we might not be ready for our dream job, we need to take a step back to think “long-term” and we need to work hard to pick up necessary skills are her key advice to our fresh graduates. Taking a step back is never a bad option if you know where you are going.

This article was written by trainandgethired team in the series of success stories. Please like, share and subscribe for more useful articles

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