Leaving the Big 4

Thinking about leaving the big 4?

Published on 14th September 2018

Thinking about leaving the Big 4? Let's breakdown what the market is telling us and what you should consider before making the move.

So you want to go from working around the clock to a more comfortable and flexible 9-5 role and get a 20% increase in salary? 

The three most common reasons I hear from Big 4 first movers in the market, whether it be Auditors or Management Consultants wanting to leave are: 

  • More work-life balance 
  • More money $$$ 
  • Wanting to be ingrained in one company and see the end result of your work (more so Management Consultants)

Two factors to consider when considering a job that pays more are:

  • More responsibility and potentially… 
  • Higher expectations, which then lead to hard work and dedication in order to propel your career forward within the business. So you might just end up feeling the same, underpaid and over-worked, even when you have made the move! 

The question this leads us to is - Is the grass greener? 

The first thing to address is the pay rise you might be able to get. Gone are the "glory days" that our Gen X elders talk about! (I can say that as I'm Gen Y!) Where you’d get phenomenal increases moving out of audit into industry, we are still however seeing significant increases in salary in management consultants moving into strategy positions - but still not as much as they used to! The reasons for this are twofold: firstly, it is a very candidate heavy market so this drives the price down for candidates, and secondly, more candidates than ever are seeking a role into the commercial space rather than the logical step into financial reporting roles. The desire to get into these commercial roles is so high that candidates are prepared to accept lower salaries. However, what many don't think about is that financial reporting roles will play to their strengths - this often leading to more money! The last thing that is important to note about pay rises is specific industries and what they pay. Often the "sexy" industries that many Big 4 candidates want to get into of big brand names and attractive products usually pay less than market rate and rely on their brand presence to bring in the talent. The industries that are more hard to relate to, have a less powerful brand and are often less consumer driven in nature over pay to compensate for their harder to relate to products and services. 

Now that we understand what the trends are in the market, what are the key things that should be crossing your mind when you are deciding to make that move? 

When entering the thought process of even considering a move out of Big 4, the top 3 things I would encourage job seekers to think about would be: 

What do I actually want to be doing in my next role?  

A question I always ask every single candidate I meet is "What would be your ideal role - If there was a position description in front of us right now, what would the top 5 responsibilities say?" Reason being, many candidates get caught up with titles, usually with the words 'Senior' or 'Business Partner' or 'Analyst' attached to a job description, when the job might actually be bank reconciliations! I would encourage everyone who is seeking a new opportunity to really have a good think about the top 5 responsibilities they want to see in their next move, as if you can't answer that question, then maybe you are not ready to move. 

What do the next five years of your career look like? 

Do you see yourself as a people manager? Do you see yourself as a technical expert? Whatever it is, think about what this move now will do for you and where you want to get to, either within that move or beyond it. Ask yourself, what will I get out of this move? I'm sure when entering Big 4 this plan was there, maybe to complete CA and then leave or to make it to Manager and then look elsewhere or maybe your next 5 years is to stay and make it to Partner! Whatever it is, make sure it has crossed your mind, as the skill set you will develop in your first step out of chartered will consolidate your skill set and propel you into that next move or promotion. 

The standard of your resume. 

You’ve got past thousands of other applicants to get into your current role at Big 4. Think about what type of standard of company you want to have on your resume moving forward. Did you specialise in your time at Big 4 in an area of interest? Maybe it was retail, government, start-ups, or ASX100. Whatever move you make next if you thoroughly enjoyed this specialisation, you might want to consider going into that space alternatively if you found it tedious - maybe it's time for a change! Make sure you think about this long and hard because the first company you move to will be on your resume moving forward and will help you get the next change you want. The first move you make will set the tone of your career moving forward, you will be explaining it or praising it for the years to come! 

So in conclusion, whether I have encouraged you to move or encouraged you to stay, there is no harm in speaking to your networks or looking around to explore your options. Often waiting for that perfect match can take some time, and often when you are already ready to move when you start exploring opportunities you are hasty in your decision making. There is nothing wrong with keeping a finger on the pulse and chatting to your network or engaging with recruiters. Like I always say, just because you're speaking to a recruiter, doesn't mean you are going to walk out the door tomorrow, all it means is you're not going to miss an opportunity that could be your perfect match. 

Good luck! 

If you would like to speak to one of our Finance specialists about your options and potential career moves, contact us today.