When entering the accounting world the initial temptation is often to chase money and run to the Big Four or other large firms, but before you head that direction consider the benefits of working in a small or mid-sized organization.
No matter where you are trying to get a job, there are pros and cons for working with one size company or another. At a larger company, you are going to be thrown into the higher echelon of the corporate world, rack up experience, will likely specialize in one form of accounting, and your paychecks will be a little beefier right away. At a smaller company, you'll get to work closely with upper management, are more likely to gain more leadership experience, will get to explore many sides of accounting giving you a more diverse background, and will have better access to move up quickly due to the type of experience. Large firms may be better for those a better fit for those looking to advance themselves by proving their knowledge through hard work, long hours, being sharp as a tack, and plugging away at a system. Smaller firms, on the other hand, may be better for those who excel in interpersonal skills, communication, efficiency, and ability to manage a diverse workload.
Either way, firms are going to be looking for the same core skills and qualifications. You'll want to have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or above, have a solid ability to work in excel, and being experienced in not only filing but also analyzing tax returns is a bonus. Another helpful thing to do is learn the basics of the software the firm is using.
Efficiency and Multi-Tasking
This is especially important at succeeding in smaller firms. Everyone is going to be able to put multitasking on their resume, but you need to ask yourself if it's an actual skill set you have to offer. Are you efficient and able to take on multiple projects with different tasks and goals related to each? Or are you better at producing and replicating work at a high rate? Which makes you happier? If it's able to churn out high amounts of work perfectly, look into a larger firm. If it's being able to turn on and off different types of thinking to manage multiple projects, a small firm might be ideal for you.
Are You Proactive or Do You Like Following Someone Else's Lead
Proactive people fit in great at small and mid-level firms where as someone who can understand the communication from a superior perfectly is a better fit at a larger firm. If you are given a project, and the first thing you think is how it could be done better, think mid-level firm. If you get that same project and think about how you could do it most efficiently, the larger firm is probably best for you.
This is not to say there won't be times at either size firm where you want to be able to be pro-active or follow someone else's lead. The best thing to do is to be able to read a situation and respond accordingly - this will lead to promotion, but it's fair to say you should know what your routine and where you're most likely to enjoy and excel.
"You are going to want to pass the CPA Exam early on in your career before you take on more responsibility."
Problem Solving Ability
This is another quality you will want to institute at any size firm you are at, but as we mentioned before you are likely to specialize at a larger firm. This means you'll be more likely to consult a coworker when figuring out a problem rather than solving it for yourself. At a smaller firm, you are going to need to be the one to do research and figure out the solution. This means a little slower work place but again feeds into the idea that you are going to be more well rounded.
This is going to be another big step in your career as an accountant and will likely happen at either size firm for you to advance or garnish a large pay raise for the future. All size firms will likely offer assistance in the form of paying for the CPA Exam Review and sitting for the exam, but smaller firms are generally better at working with your schedule as you do so. Either way, you are going to want to pass the CPA Exam early on in your career before you take on more responsibility. We see a lot of students with intention of passing the exam but put it off early on to acclimate to their job only to realize that beginning stage would have been the best time to study an pass.
We've worked with thousands of students who have gone on to work at firms large and small. If you need any advice or want to talk about what your schedule to study and pass the CPA Exam would look like, just talk to one of ourCPA Exam counselors today!