Balancing work and life at big 4 Watch

Simonthegreat
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How does the work life balance work out at the big 4? What kind of hours do you put in a typical day?
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Chapeau Rouge
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Honest answer - it is a struggle (second year Big 4 in London).

The need to study for ACA means that the majority of your first two years you are spending weekends/evenings studying which eats into your life. As you get more senior, you tend to work longer hours as there is a tendency for work to be pushed downwards and you'll almost always be juggling multiple engagements at the same time. Working on jobs you are not booked on currently as there are a number of annoying admin tasks (particularly in audit) is a very common part of life. I would say that typically I would call working 9 -6:30 a "good" client and my two worst jobs in busy season, I'll typically be doing 9 - 9 for weeks at a time and often working at home when I get back on top of that.

On top of this, there is an expectation by the firm that you will be doing extra stuff on top of all these other commitments so that you look good when it comes to annual ratings eg. industry networking events, community volunteering, organising group socials etc. It's up to you how important this is for you personally though, the bonuses in audit are so paltry that the extra work just really doesn't justify the reward and if you're set on leaving as soon as you qualify then it makes even less sense to do all these things on top as every employee from a big 4 receives a generic reference with no explanation of how they actually performed whilst at the company.
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Simonthegreat
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Honest answer - it is a struggle (second year Big 4 in London).

The need to study for ACA means that the majority of your first two years you are spending weekends/evenings studying which eats into your life. As you get more senior, you tend to work longer hours as there is a tendency for work to be pushed downwards and you'll almost always be juggling multiple engagements at the same time. Working on jobs you are not booked on currently as there are a number of annoying admin tasks (particularly in audit) is a very common part of life. I would say that typically I would call working 9 -6:30 a "good" client and my two worst jobs in busy season, I'll typically be doing 9 - 9 for weeks at a time and often working at home when I get back on top of that.

On top of this, there is an expectation by the firm that you will be doing extra stuff on top of all these other commitments so that you look good when it comes to annual ratings eg. industry networking events, community volunteering, organising group socials etc. It's up to you how important this is for you personally though, the bonuses in audit are so paltry that the extra work just really doesn't justify the reward and if you're set on leaving as soon as you qualify then it makes even less sense to do all these things on top as every employee from a big 4 receives a generic reference with no explanation of how they actually performed whilst at the company.
Cheers. That is really very helpful. Are you in Audit? Why do they just give generic references? That doesn't sound fair to me. It should reflect a persons performance and committment. Are you going to stay with them for your career do you think?
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Chapeau Rouge
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Yes I am in audit, not planning on staying as industry seems a lot more interesting and the big 4 culture really doesn't suit my personality or life aspirations. Generic references are a must really as your don't have a boss in the traditional sense as you work for so many different people.
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hellodave5
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Honest answer - it is a struggle (second year Big 4 in London).

The need to study for ACA means that the majority of your first two years you are spending weekends/evenings studying which eats into your life. As you get more senior, you tend to work longer hours as there is a tendency for work to be pushed downwards and you'll almost always be juggling multiple engagements at the same time. Working on jobs you are not booked on currently as there are a number of annoying admin tasks (particularly in audit) is a very common part of life. I would say that typically I would call working 9 -6:30 a "good" client and my two worst jobs in busy season, I'll typically be doing 9 - 9 for weeks at a time and often working at home when I get back on top of that.

On top of this, there is an expectation by the firm that you will be doing extra stuff on top of all these other commitments so that you look good when it comes to annual ratings eg. industry networking events, community volunteering, organising group socials etc. It's up to you how important this is for you personally though, the bonuses in audit are so paltry that the extra work just really doesn't justify the reward and if you're set on leaving as soon as you qualify then it makes even less sense to do all these things on top as every employee from a big 4 receives a generic reference with no explanation of how they actually performed whilst at the company.
Wow. Why would you do that to yourself? D:
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Simonthegreat
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(Original post by hellodave5)
Wow. Why would you do that to yourself? D:

That is a good question.
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Simonthegreat
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Yes I am in audit, not planning on staying as industry seems a lot more interesting and the big 4 culture really doesn't suit my personality or life aspirations. Generic references are a must really as your don't have a boss in the traditional sense as you work for so many different people.
That is not good. Nothing to show for all your hard work. There must be a way they can still give a decent reference. Do these companies support people in balancing work and life?
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Chapeau Rouge
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(Original post by hellodave5)
Wow. Why would you do that to yourself? D:
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left uni and this was a good job with decent career prospects! You get an ACA qualification which sets you up for life – qualification salary after 3 years is £44k in London and you can expect more if you move to industry.


(Original post by Simonthegreat)
That is not good. Nothing to show for all your hard work. There must be a way they can still give a decent reference. Do these companies support people in balancing work and life?
No way unfortunately, it is company policy. Also lol, course not!
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hellodave5
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left uni and this was a good job with decent career prospects! You get an ACA qualification which sets you up for life – qualification salary after 3 years is £44k in London and you can expect more if you move to industry.




No way unfortunately, it is company policy. Also lol, course not!
But you're working simply for numbers, for ridiculously long hours. :/
I would feel really unhappy working just for the money. Unless you find the job really enjoyable of course!
What qualification is that? Sounds specific
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Chapeau Rouge
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(Original post by Sulpha)
Even with those benefits it still wouldn't appeal to me.

As you said above, my personality wouldn't match that sector at all either.

What are you planning to move onto after you leave ?
Planning on moving to industry in the short term, I think it will be a much more casual/laid back environment and a better work/life balance!
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Chapeau Rouge
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(Original post by hellodave5)
But you're working simply for numbers, for ridiculously long hours. :/
I would feel really unhappy working just for the money. Unless you find the job really enjoyable of course!
What qualification is that? Sounds specific
Well, I enjoy some aspects of the job - the variety of jobs, option to work with some big names but have found I value a less stressful life more! Not surprisingly they don't hype up the long hours and stress on the job advert! It is to become a chartered accountant.
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muhammedk
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Well, I enjoy some aspects of the job - the variety of jobs, option to work with some big names but have found I value a less stressful life more! Not surprisingly they don't hype up the long hours and stress on the job advert! It is to become a chartered accountant.
If I I could ask, what was your career into big 4? What uni did you come from and was it straight onto a grad scheme?

Also, sorry if I seem like I'm intruding or whatever and you don't have to answer at all, but if you don't mind, could I ask what your stats are? Your GCSE's and a levels? Thanks

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Chapeau Rouge
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(Original post by muhammedk)
If I I could ask, what was your career into big 4? What uni did you come from and was it straight onto a grad scheme?

Also, sorry if I seem like I'm intruding or whatever and you don't have to answer at all, but if you don't mind, could I ask what your stats are? Your GCSE's and a levels? Thanks

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I don't like to go into too much detail but came in from a northern redbrick uni, having taken a gap year where I worked in a non-accounting related job. Did a degree in a non-related subject and got a First, above 300 UCAs points at A level and good GCSEs (not that they care about GCSEs!). I wouldn't really read too much into this though, a good degree and 300 UCAs points is enough to get you in, provided you do a good telephone interview and assessment centre - the Big 4 doesn't care for target unis per se as I see people seem to throw around this forum for investment banking. And you most definitely don't need to spend 10k on a masters to get in. Some work experience/internship will always help, not that I did one though, I was in a minority when I started though.
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anonwinner
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
As you get more senior, you tend to work longer hours as there is a tendency for work to be pushed downwards
This seems kind of contradictory...
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muhammedk
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
I don't like to go into too much detail but came in from a northern redbrick uni, having taken a gap year where I worked in a non-accounting related job. Did a degree in a non-related subject and got a First, above 300 UCAs points at A level and good GCSEs (not that they care about GCSEs!). I wouldn't really read too much into this though, a good degree and 300 UCAs points is enough to get you in, provided you do a good telephone interview and assessment centre - the Big 4 doesn't care for target unis per se as I see people seem to throw around this forum for investment banking. And you most definitely don't need to spend 10k on a masters to get in. Some work experience/internship will always help, not that I did one though, I was in a minority when I started though.
Ah cool thanks man. Hope it works out for you. Currently in Year 12 and haven't got a clear idea as to what I want to go into. Did relatively well for GCSE's and keeping my options quite open.

Thanks again!
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Chapeau Rouge
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(Original post by anonwinner)
This seems kind of contradictory...
Will clarify. Around 3rd and 4th year at the firm, work gets pushed down from a manager level so there are more manager tasks to complete by people at that level such as early in charging of jobs, reviewing more and more of juniors work, tedious admin etc. you also find work that you have tried to push down can't be done by juniors so it ends up falling back onto you in a sort of **** sandwich. Understandably this grade has the highest turnover. My firm actively encourages this work push down with some fancy jargon someone far removed from the process dreamt up!
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hellodave5
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Well, I enjoy some aspects of the job - the variety of jobs, option to work with some big names but have found I value a less stressful life more! Not surprisingly they don't hype up the long hours and stress on the job advert! It is to become a chartered accountant.
Glad you're enjoying it and doing very well. Great job. I'm terrible with numbers unfortunately, need people like you

Just remember that you're only human. We think we're smart, but more often than not we lose track of what really matters and forget about our own mortality (this sounds far too flowery).

Just trying to say: don't spend your life trying to accumulate 'credits' like some people do, and completely forget to enjoy what they have. See it far too often. Enjoy yourself and be happy.
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kka25
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
Honest answer - it is a struggle (second year Big 4 in London).

The need to study for ACA means that the majority of your first two years you are spending weekends/evenings studying which eats into your life. As you get more senior, you tend to work longer hours as there is a tendency for work to be pushed downwards and you'll almost always be juggling multiple engagements at the same time. Working on jobs you are not booked on currently as there are a number of annoying admin tasks (particularly in audit) is a very common part of life. I would say that typically I would call working 9 -6:30 a "good" client and my two worst jobs in busy season, I'll typically be doing 9 - 9 for weeks at a time and often working at home when I get back on top of that.

On top of this, there is an expectation by the firm that you will be doing extra stuff on top of all these other commitments so that you look good when it comes to annual ratings eg. industry networking events, community volunteering, organising group socials etc. It's up to you how important this is for you personally though, the bonuses in audit are so paltry that the extra work just really doesn't justify the reward and if you're set on leaving as soon as you qualify then it makes even less sense to do all these things on top as every employee from a big 4 receives a generic reference with no explanation of how they actually performed whilst at the company.
I'd have left within a year really; I think my life expectancy would have cut shorter if I'd stayed longer.
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Simonthegreat
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(Original post by Chapeau Rouge)
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left uni and this was a good job with decent career prospects! You get an ACA qualification which sets you up for life – qualification salary after 3 years is £44k in London and you can expect more if you move to industry.




No way unfortunately, it is company policy. Also lol, course not!

I am sure I have seen somewhere that they say that the value their staff and give help with balancing work and life with various schemes and flexible working:confused: Is is just a ploy
to lure people in ? This kind of truth is never exposed.
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Simonthegreat
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(Original post by kka25)
I'd have left within a year really; I think my life expectancy would have cut shorter if I'd stayed longer.
Agreed
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