Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recruiting Boot Camp: Building & Updating Your College Resume


     Now that I've officially made my internship decision, I'm so excited to transition this blog from a means of reflection to an educational resource (+ a dash of lifestyle content). With that being said, here we go with the first post of the my "recruiting boot camp" series!  The goal of this series is to help people use summer down-time to get prepped for fall recruiting so you can minimize stress later on. With any luck, after this series you'll be head into the fall semester ready to rock the internship/job search while still fully devoting your attention to new classes instead of scrambling to get ready for career fairs. Let's get this started!

     Your resume is critical to the recruiting process and will grow/evolve over the course of your career. As a college student, even if you're not actively looking for a job, it's important to have a resume put together just in case you stumble upon something. Many awards and scholarships require a resume as part of the application packet, so it's good practice just to have a basic resume saved somewhere so you can whip it out if you need it!

     I know there are a million different schools of thought when it comes to how you should format your resume, so by no means is the method I'm about to share with you the "right" way to create and subsequently tweak your resume. It's a pretty basic/traditional structure, and this format is intended for college students, hence why the "education" section is so detailed and there's a section for "leadership roles/activities". Once you've started working at your first job after graduation, that "education" section will become a lot smaller, the "experience" section will grow, and that "activities" section will take a hike, but that's a post for another time. With all of that in mind, though, this method has been pretty successful for me-- this is exactly how I developed the resume that I sent to the Big Four firms that I applied to (and subsequently received internship offers from!), and the method was also successful in winning me a scholarship this past spring. Whether you're building your resume from the ground up or just refining one you already have, read on and see how my method can help you. At the end of the post, I'm going to link a downloadable template that you can use to build your own resume if you so choose.

     My resume building and editing process involves two steps: building a master "generic" resume and then parsing it down to a super-focused one page of relevant information for each opportunity I pursue. It sounds sort of weird but I promise it'll make more sense once I start explaining.

Building Your Master "Generic" Resume from Scratch

The formatting got a little wonky in the screenshot but I promise it's correct on the downloadable version :)
     Above is a screenshot of the template that I'll be linking for download. The basic idea of your master/generic resume is to list ALL of your experiences, activities, etc. By doing this, you're creating a record of all of your accomplishments and endeavours because you never know what might be relevant to a position you want to apply to. To build your generic resume, you would begin by filling out this entire template, or find a format that works for you that includes the same information. All sections are going to have information listed in descending order, so that the most recent item is listed first. Seriously, list EVERYTHING you can think of; this master resume is just for you so don't be shy. Let's break this down by section.

  1. Contact Info // Keep it simple here. Name, email address, phone number. I don't like to bother with a physical mailing address because it's too complicated for college students when you take into account home vs. school addresses, and potential employers will ask you for that information if they really need it anyways. 
  2. Education // I feel like this part is self explanatory. List your school's name; if you transferred schools, duplicate this section and list your newer school first. List your degree type-- abbreviations are fine here (i.e. B.B.A for Bachelor's of Business Administration)-- followed by your major(s)/minor(s). For your GPA, you want to list whichever of the following is higher: your cumulative GPA or your major GPA. It's all about presenting yourself in the best light, after all. You can list your high school and your high school GPA if you feel that information helps, but after your sophomore year of college, all high school information should be removed from your resume.
  3. Experience // Experience may include formal jobs, competitions, volunteering, etc. List supervisor contact information if applicable. Use action verbs to describe what you were responsible for and/or what you accomplished, but don't use up too many lines describing every little detail of your summer job walking dogs.
  4. Honors/Awards // Here you can list scholarships, honor societies, etc. Don't list anything that's too outdated, though-- my general rule of thumb is that if an award is more than two years old, I probably shouldn't be listing it, unless of course it was a BIG honor. 
  5. Activities/Leadership // Another pretty self-explanatory section. I only include descriptions for major leadership roles. 
  6. Skills/Certifications // This section can get a little tricky because in the olden days, things like "typing" were considered a skill and people would probably list how many words per minute they could type. Nice try, but that's not really something use millennials can count as a special skill. If you have knowledge of a language or software, though, employers will be interested in what you can offer.
     Once you've filled ALL of that information in, you're all set for now! This document may be several pages long, but that's okay. Save this file as your master resume and just sit back until you've got a career fair or application due date coming up.

Refining Your Resume for a Specific Opportunity

     'I don't know Alex, this doesn't look right,' you're probably thinking to yourself at this point. 'I thought resumes are only supposed to be one page?'

     Now, I'm not going to get into the debate about resume length for working professionals, but as a college student, there is no reason your resume should be longer than one page. Seriously, I promise that no matter how successful of a student you are, you don't have enough experience to merit a multi-page resume, and employers don't want to have to sift through a list of all 50 clubs you're marginally involved with.

    So what the heck are you supposed to do with this massive master resume you just built up? Whenever you're presented with a new opportunity, create a new document, copy & paste in the information from your master resume, and then pare it down until you have one page filled with the items most relevant to the opportunity you're pursuing. An "opportunity" could be anything from a job fair to a specific firm's application; the basic idea here is that you're going to be using different resumes in different instances so that you're always presenting the most targeted summary of your experiences and qualifications. For example, you wouldn't want to bring the same resume to a generalized job fair that you sent to a Big Four firm, because these potential employers are probably not looking for the exact same set of skills.

     For a generalized job fair, I'd recommend listing a variety of activities/experiences that showcase your versatility and general ability to work in a professional environment. For industry-specific job fairs or applications to specific employers, you want to focus on listing activities/experiences relevant to that industry.

The Method in Action
     So how does this method work in a practical example. Let's pretend Betsy Beancounter (fun name, huh?) is majoring in accounting but also has a strong academic interest in history. Betsy sees an application for an accounting firm's summer leadership program on her school's career site and wants to apply. She sits down with her big, messy master resume and starts to cut it down to one page. Although Betsy has taken dozens of history classes and is involved in several history-related clubs at school, she also has a lot of activities and classes related to accounting. Since she's applying to an accounting opportunity, she leaves the history classes and activities off her resume so she has more room to list experiences that demonstrate her suitability for an accounting program.

         Here we can see that Betsy focused on listing her business classes, an accounting-related case competition, a leadership position in an accounting club, and her business-related certifications and proficiencies.

     Obviously, your activities aren't always going to line up perfectly with an opportunity. In that case, though, you can tailor your activity descriptions to describe outcomes which would help you succeed in the position you're pursuing. Resumes are all about framing, so just focus on communicating how your experiences have prepared you succeed in the role you want!

Updating Your Master Resume
     Finally, I want to talk about how I keep my master resume up-to-date. At the beginning of each semester, I like to sit down and go through the following basic checklist to make sure all of the information I have listed is still accurate:

  1. Has my major and/or GPA changed since last semester?
  2. Have I participated in any new experiences? Did I leave an old job or start a new one?
  3. Are any of these awards from over two years ago now?
  4. Have I taken on any new leadership positions or transitioned out of any leadership roles?
  5. Do I have any new certifications? Did any of my old certifications expire?
     Using that checklist, I'll go through and update/delete/add information as necessary so that I'm all ready for the next time I need to create a custom resume. 

Phew! That was a lot of information, but I promise it's worth it to take the time now during summer and prep your resume so you don't have to worry about it once classes start; if you follow this method, all you'll have to do is cut your information down once you decide what recruitment opportunities you want to pursue. 

     Here's the downloadable link to my template! Just open it up, download it as a Word document, fill in your info/delete the red text, and you're all set :) If you try out my method, let me know what you think! I'd love to get some feedback in the comments. Be sure to comment any resume tips of your own, too!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why I Turned Down "the World's Best Accounting Firm"


     I'm really excited to be able to share my decision post with you guys ahead of my self-prescribed schedule. Writing my reflection post really helped solidify my feelings about the decision I was headed towards, and after I published the post, I also got a really sweet message from one of my freshman year orientation aides giving me some advice about the decision process and telling me why she picked to the firm that she's starting with, which just so happened to be the one I had basically already set my heart on at that point. Getting that message was just another in the string of "signs" I've been getting ever since my last externship. I'm not really a superstitious person-- I enjoy logic and reason (even if I'm not always logical or reasonable)-- but something about these instances just made me feel like a higher power was trying to nudge me in the right direction. As I drove home from my last externship with PwC feeling super conflicted, a radio announcement let me know that Deloitte happened to be sponsoring the National Public Radio program I was listening to. Sitting in the golf pro shop where I'm working this summer, I was bombarded by constant adds letting me know that Deloitte was sponsoring the US Open which took place last week. It seems really silly to be thinking of advertisements as signs now that I'm typing this out, but I talked it out with my dad, who told me that even if they weren't really "signs", the fact that I had interpreted them that way was probably telling.

     So, you've probably realized which firm I went with by now. I'm very happy to announce that I signed my offer letter with Deloitte this morning and will officially be interning with the firm in Summer 2018 :)

     In the end, I think I knew I'd pick Deloitte, and so did most of my friends/family/acquaintances I met at the externships. I really did enjoy my time with PwC, but if I'm being honest with myself, I got too caught up in rankings and was trying to convince myself that that was where I belonged. I wanted to click with PwC-- how cool would it be if you just so happened to click with the #1 accounting firm in the world?!-- but that just didn't happen. The people were nice. Their clients seemed interesting. Their firm is very structured and well-run. But I just didn't get that same gut feeling that I got whenever I spent time with Deloitte (read about my externship with Deloitte here and my externship with PwC here). The awkward, silence-filled conversations at PwC Elevate stand in stark contrast to the easy rapport that formed almost instantly with every Deloitte professional I've met.

     Don't get me wrong, I really do love PwC and think it's an amazing firm. A little piece of me will always wonder what could have been if I chose to work for them instead. PwC has the largest audit practice in the world, which is one of the factors that made me feel conflicted. Deloitte often gets flack for focusing too much on its consulting practice instead of accounting, but considering the fact that PwC recently acquired Booze & Co in an attempt to beef up its own consulting arm, I think that Deloitte is in a great position to grow its audit practice as the other Big Four scramble to catch up in the realm of consulting. Perhaps proving my hypothesis, Deloitte lead the Big Four in the number of new SEC clients acquired in quarter 1 of 2017 (and many of these clients were ones they took from other Big Four firms). Ultimately, I think the level of comfort I feel with Deloitte outweighs the marginal career advantage I'd gain at a firm with a larger audit practice. I'd also say that bigger isn't always better. As someone who attends a relatively small college (~6,500 undergraduate students), I think I'm going to enjoy Deloitte Audit's slightly more approachable feel as compared to PwC's beast of an audit practice.

     Deloitte has made me feel at home ever since I started participating a firm-sponsored case competition with them in October 2016. The fact that a high-profile partner drove down to our school every other week and scheduled frequent phone calls to help out our team really stood out to me, and as I met more professionals on our journey that took us all the way to nationals, I was always impressed by how smart but sociable everyone was. Attending Deloitte Envision was like the cherry on top, confirming everything I already liked about the firm and expanding my knowledge about the type of work its auditors do. The fact that my mentor from the program has kept in touch with me for this whole month since the program took place is yet another reason that Deloitte already feels like family to me. Although getting hung up on rankings made me feel conflicted for a bit (click here to read why looking at rankings is useless), I know that in the end I've made the right decision for myself.

     So there you have it, the decision process is done and I'm officially going to be an intern in DC next summer!! Although I'll miss the Ritz-Carlton stays and fancy meals that recruiting entails, I'm so excited to have found the firm that fits me best. As Summer 2018 approaches, I'll keep blogging about the road to interning, especially about my industry preferences-- right now I'm thinking I'd like to audit financial services or aerospace & defense (A&D) clients, so we'll see where that takes me. In the mean time, here's what's coming down the blog pipeline in the near future: a Preppy Bean Counter blog/Instagram feature courtesy of an organization at my school (they contacted me this morning!), integrating Pinterest into the blog, and a post series to help you spend some time this summer prepping for fall recruiting.


From the Audit Innovation Campus incoming Audit Intern! (I may feel obligated to wear the scarf again now)

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Brief Reflection on the Recruiting Process (Plus Tips)


     Although I now have until October 31 to make my big internship decision, I'm getting a little antsy. One of my friends from school officially committed to PwC last week, and just yesterday I got a text from a friend I met through the extern process who decided to go with Deloitte. Regardless of their decisions, I feel like my preference is becoming clearer every day, so I'm hoping that maybe I'll have an answer to share with everyone by the end of June/beginning of July. On a quick side note, thanks to everyone who read my post "Knowing Your Rights as a Student Recruit" last week-- in under a day, it blew my record for views per post out of the water! Makes me feel like I'm (hopefully) doing something right and I can't wait to bring you guys some more content that's relevant to college students in general :)

     In that vain, as I get closer to deciding which Big Four firm I want to intern with and eventually work for, I've done a lot of thinking. Making decisions has never come easily to me. As a military brat, I'm used to being dragged around the country without much choice and expected to grin and bear it. Throughout elementary/middle/high school, I bounced between activities, dabbling in piano, cheerleading, theater, ballet, softball, track, and field hockey, never really committing to anything.  When it came time to pick a college, there were two schools I liked significantly better than the other four I had applied to; my family couldn't quite afford to send me to my top choice school, so I went with my second choice school that I also really loved/turned out to be a better fit anyways. In group projects, I'm quick to provide options but reluctant to share opinions. Decisions scare me a lot. Heading into the Big Four recruiting process, I expected a lot of fear and anxiety. After all, deciding where you want to work for a least a couple of years is a pretty big decision; probably the biggest decision I've had to make at this point in my life.

     The good news? It really hasn't been as scary as I expected. Yes, I spent around a week intensely consumed by the Deloitte vs. PwC decision going back and forth approximately every hour (not healthy). But I think I created a lot of that stress for myself by overthinking and occasionally resisting my gut feeling (I'll explain more in my decision post). That brief anxious period aside, I had a wonderful recruitment experience, and not just because I've gotten to stay at the Ritz-Carlton twice in the past two months (although that definitely didn't hurt). I've met dozens of kind, driven people and I've learned enough to feel like I'm making the most informed decision possible.

An Unlikely Analogy? // Big Four Recruiting and Sorority Recruitment
     Okay, hear me out on this one because the similarities really struck me-- there are a ton of parallels between Big Four recruitment and sorority recruitment. In both cases, the groups you're considering offer largely the same product; for accounting, you'll be doing the same work at any Big Four firm and the benefits provided to employees by the companies are largely the same, and Panhellenic sororities all offer similar experiences in terms of sisterhood, philanthropy activities, and social events. Because they all essentially offer the same thing, your decision is going to be largely based on people/culture. In both cases, there are stereotypes and "rankings" which vary widely based on the criteria examined. You shouldn't let these things influence your individual decision because they're not indicative of how comfortable or happy you'll be with a particular firm or sorority. After experiencing these two recruitment processes, I can firmly say that perhaps the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to approach the experience with an open mind; I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised. Take note of the opinions of your loved ones, but remember this decision is about you.

"The People" 
     Ask any person why they picked the firm they're at and I can guarantee that their answer will be "the people". For a student weighing multiple options, that's the single most annoying answer imaginable because it's simultaneously obvious and incredibly vague. After going through the externship process, though, I think I've finally figured out what this means. You're going to spend A LOT of time with the people you work with, so you shouldn't just have to tolerate them. Find the firm where you click with people effortlessly.

Tips for Deciding Between Potential Career Options
     Even though I haven't firmly decided yet, I feel fairly confident giving tips about weighing different career offers; fingers crossed that I'm a better teacher than practitioner! I'm giving you my top five tips in the hope that they'll be helpful to anyone who's considering one or more offers from potential employers.

  1. Take notes of your interactions with each potential employer early and often //  I know this sounds pretty OCD but this is something I did throughout my recruitment process that I've been really grateful for later on. Pick a notebook or create a Word document, make a little section for each potential employer, and jot down thoughts each time you interact with them, be it through email, at an on-campus event, or during an office visit. These notes don't need to be super detailed-- just add as much detail as you think you'll need to jog your memory later on (such as "pre-interview reception" or "email from recruiter about XYZ"), make sure to write down and names of people you might have met, and most importantly, write down how that interaction made you feel. Later on, looking at your emotional trends-- for example, whether you felt comfortable or got a snobbish vibe-- will be helpful.
  2. Ask questions!!! // The three exclamation points are to communicate how important this tip is. In general, people are going to be very friendly if you're interested in their place of work and believe me, they want to help you out. If there are factors that'll make or break your decision but you don't have the information, ASK. There's no substitute for being informed and asking questions can create discussion that'll reveal things you didn't think to ask about in the first place.
  3. Realize that recruiting is a business // Recruiting is vital the survival of any business, so naturally companies are going to do whatever it takes to recruit you. That often includes lavish meals and skewed information. A healthy amount of skepticism can help you sift through the BS and the fluff. 
  4.  Know your rights as a student recruit // See linked post for elaboration.
  5. Trust your instincts // As sappy as it sounds, at the end of the day, I think most people will know what to do when the time is right. If something just feels off after multiple interactions, there's probably a legitimate reason things aren't working out. And if you're getting a warm fuzzy feeling from a potential employer, it's probably safe to say that you've found a good home for yourself.
     The post is pretty ramble-y, and honestly one of its main purposes is to help me think about this crazy process as a whole as it finally starts to come to a close. But rambles aside, I hope some of you will find these tips useful as you make your own career decisions. Stay tuned for an official decision post within the next few weeks!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knowing Your Rights as a Student Recruit


     The last time I posted, I was majorly freaking out about the June 22 deadline for my Deloitte offer letter. As of this morning, that deadline has shifted back to October 31 and I'm feeling a lot more calm. How did this happen? Basically, I found out Deloitte was violating my school's on-campus recruiting policy, either mistakenly or intentionally. I referred them to the policy, asked for an extension, and got it. I'll explain more below about my accounting-specific situation below, but the information I found in the process is applicable to any college student going through the internship/job search process and hopefully some of you will find it useful as you go through your own search process. I'm hoping this post will help other people identify potential issues sooner than I did.

My Situation
     As I explained in my last recap, I received my official Deloitte offer letter last week and was surprised to find that the decision deadline was June 22, 2017. That left me with roughly two weeks to decide if I wanted to intern (and ultimately accept a job) with Deloitte in Summer 2018. Naturally, I was freaking out. My KPMG offer letter, which I had received back in April, had an October 31 deadline, and I hadn't even received my official PwC offer letter yet. How was I going to make a decision that quickly?!

     Yesterday, I got a call from my PwC recruiter letting me know that I'd be receiving my official offer letter soon. Additionally, she mentioned that the decision deadline for that offer would be October 31 "in compliance with (my school's name) policy" and to reach out to my school's career center if any other firms had given me an early deadline/making me feel pressured. Um, yes!! The specificity of what she said makes me think that another student had tipped her off about the Deloitte situation. Although I'm sure PwC was trying to capitalize on the other firm's mistake, I still appreciated the information and this seems in line with the honesty and strong ethical standards that PwC has been delivering throughout my recruitment process.

     That phone call catalyzed a series of email exchanges. First, I emailed the staff member in charge of recruiting at my school's career center (coincidentally, my old boss), asking if there really was a policy in place, and if so, how I should go about bringing it to Deloitte's attention. I got a prompt response that there was indeed a policy-- according the to guidelines on the career center site, which firms agree to by nature of participating in on-campus recruiting, "interns or externs who have received offers of full-time employment or to return next summer to their internship will have until October 31st  to respond to those employers". Yikes, Deloitte, you missed the mark by about four months. The staff member also gave me some tips for negotiating an extension based on the policy and asked which firm it was so she could reach out to them personally and correct the situation for other students who weren't aware of the rule. I emailed the Deloitte recruiter and they're supposed to be sending me a corrected offer letter with the appropriate deadline. 

     Now, I do know that Deloitte transitioned recruiters for my school this spring, so maybe information about my school's deadline was miscommunicated. But in my opinion, I think this may have been done intentionally. Recruitment is handled by a team of professionals, and only one of them transitioned recently. Additionally, after talking to a number of other Big Four recruiters, I found out that my college's deadline is actually notorious among recruiters because it's significantly later than the deadlines required by other colleges. Deloitte has been participating in on-campus recruiting for years at my school, so I find it hard to believe that they were unaware of the policy. I'll probably never find out whether or not this was an honest mistake or a blatant violation designed to create pressure to accept an offer, but I have my suspicions. 

    Long story short, thank goodness I have more time to make a decision because things just keep getting murkier.

Your Rights as a Student Recruit
     Alright, so now we get into why you should care about my very specific story; I'm trying to help students avoid my mistake. I think anyone who's already started or about to start their career search, be it through externing/interning/applying for a full-time positions/etc, should get familiar with their school's recruiting policies. These policies exist to serve two purposes: to protect your right to options and to give you adequate time to consider them, and to prevent reneging (turning down an offer after having officially excepted it), which can reflect poorly on your school. The extra time afforded by school policies can be used to ask additional questions, network with other professionals from the company you're considering, and talk through your options with parents/guardians or a trusted professor so that you can make an informed decision. 

     As I've increasingly realized, job recruiting is a dog-eat-dog world. Companies are trying to convince you to work for them, often at any cost, and it can be hard to determine what's best for your personal career while trying to sift through all the BS being peddled to you. Early offer acceptance deadlines are set in an attempt to create artificial pressure which leads to snap decisions, benefiting the company at your expense. I realize that sounds a bit dramatic-- all companies aren't out to trick you, but you should realize that at the end of the day, recruiting is a business, and companies aren't always honest and they don't always play by the rules. The best way you can protect yourself is to get familiar with your rights as a student recruit so that you can address issues as soon as you see them. Knowing my school's recruiting policies ahead of time could've saved me a week of stressing about making a decision. And even if your school doesn't have strong recruiting policies, don't be afraid to ask for an extension for your decision. At the end of the day, choosing where to intern or work is a huge decision and you deserve adequate time to think things through. If you decide you want to know more about your school's policies, searching through your school's career site or sending a quick email to the staff member in charge of recruiting are both great ways to get started. 

     So there you have it, how learning about about my school's recruiting policies gave me four more months to consider my career options. I doubt I'll need that entire time span to make a decision, but I'm glad to have the option and I'll keep everyone posted :)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Recap: PwC Elevate, Washington Metro

     After finishing up my last externship, I spent the weekend on a beach/camping trip with my family, taking some much needed time away to process this summer's recruiting experience as a whole. Although I thought the trip had brought me some clarity regarding my final decision, I started doubting myself as soon as I got home and am right back where I started. How'd I get to this super conflicted point? Well, read below to find out how PwC's Elevate program went for me. As a reminder, I'm looking at the following as I discuss my extern experiences with three of the Big Four accounting firms:
  • Application/interview process
  • Pre-conference logistics
  • Program content

So, let's do this thing one last time!

Application/Interview Process
     I had interacted with PwC a few times before deciding to apply to their externship program, including an office visit freshman year (before I had even decided to change my major to accounting!), a one day "Explore" program in D.C., and a quick resume review. Although I found the resume review with the campus recruiter to be a little brusque, I had enjoyed my previous interactions with the firm so I decided to go through with applying. Nothing too crazy initially, just your standard firm application + application on your school's career website. Just like with KPMG, PwC held a reception the night before on-campus interviews which was a nice chance to get to known my interviewer, a tax partner, and talk to some different professionals who had attended my school. My on-campus interview was very relaxed; the partner interviewing me was very mellow and eager to make connections with my life experiences as I explained that I was a military brat.

     After two weeks, I got a call from my campus recruiter letting me know that I had made it to the next round of the interview process. For the second round, I had a Skype interview with a professional from the McLean office who was friendly and efficient-- the whole interview took less than 10 minutes. After waiting about another two weeks, I got another call from my campus recruiter letting me know that I was offered a position at Elevate. Although this interview process was a lot more drawn out, I felt really accomplished knowing I had made it through the vetting process.

Pre-conference Logistics
     PwC was very on the ball with all of the pre-conference logistics. The registration link was sent out in early April and included an option to request a hotel room for the night before the conference, which made registering a breeze for me. Starting a few weeks (maybe 5?) before the program, PwC began sending us weekly videos to gear up for Elevate which touched on topics such as corporate responsibility and introduced us to the partners who would be running the program. The week before the program, I got an email with all the conference logistics as well as an email from a professional who would be serving as my mentor for the program. I emailed her back with a quick question about her personal experience at the firm but that was about it. Mysteriously enough, the logistics email asked us all to bring athletic pants and tennis shoes to change into for an unnamed activity on the first day of the program.

     On Tuesday afternoon, still feeling pretty exhausted from KPMG Discover which had ended just four days prior, I hit the road for the last time and drove down to Tyson's Corner. Traffic was perhaps the worst on this trip, but I suffered through and was soon self-parking in the garage attached to the Ritz-Carlton. I feel obnoxious complaining but every other firm paid for valet parking so I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit annoyed as I lugged my bags up a flight of stairs and through the hotel lobby; thank goodness this was my last externship because I was obviously starting to feel a little too entitled! After dropping off my bags, I wandered down to the Tysons Galleria mall, which is attached to the hotel, to find dinner and do some window-shopping at stores that are wayyy out of my price range. I ate my first salad from SweetGreen for dinner, then snagged a piece of cake to eat back in my room because I can't be too healthy all at once and I needed a little motivation for getting homework done since I had multiple online assignments due the night before the externship.

  While I was doing my homework, my roommate arrived --she was super sweet and I stuck with her for the rest of the externship. After we both slogged through summer class assignments, it was bedtime for us.

Program Content
     Day one of Elevate touch place in a large ballroom in the Ritz. Each student was assigned randomly to a table, and as I found my seat with some catered breakfast in hand, there was a PwC professional already waiting to talk to me. Turns out he's a recruiter who went to the same college as me, and he did a great job of making me feel welcome before circulating to find the other students from my school. In addition to the other students, my mentor who had emailed me was seated at my table as well as another PwC professional who was also serving as a mentor. We started off talking about PwC's mission as a company-- their "what, why, and how"-- before diving into their description of the "PwC professional", a four-part profile which adds up to whole leadership. Having heard most of this before at the firm's Explore program, I still found myself inspired by their laser-focus on building and communicating the firm's vision. We did a quick activity that helped us establish our personality type as a "driver, analytical, amiable, or expressive" type and then discussed communicating across personality types, which was further illustrated by a clip from The Big Bang Theory. At this point, I was definitely enjoying the firm's nerdy vibe but was a little bit alarmed by what I was hearing from the professionals at our table about the work-life balance at PwC. My mentor, a first year associate, described to us how she had worked until midnight from November to April on a particularly challenging client, yikes! Obviously accountants work a lot, but that was crazy.

     Lunch focused on leadership as two different partners and a manager sat with us and answered questions. Although I appreciated their answers, the lunch was punctuated by long, awkward silences because the partners didn't seem to want to chat unless we had asked a specific question. After lunch, we had a session on "blind spots" which centered around PwC's commitment to diversity and inclusion which was really powerful. Following that, we spent the majority of the afternoon on a session titled "Escape!" where we had to complete a series of admittedly annoying tasks to "escape" a shipwreck situation. I know the activity was meant to foster teamwork but most of my table agreed that the tasks were trivial and irritating. We were all extremely relieved when the program directors released us to go change into our new Elevate t-shirts and athletic shorts to head down to the National Mall for an "amazing race" with our teams. An hour later, I was strolling around the monuments downtown with my mentor and two other students; we took a more leisurely interpretation of the "race" to find clues at different locations and it was nice to get to know my mentor better in a more intimate team setting. 

     The final clue of the amazing race led us to the Newseum, where we were directed to a rooftop patio with an amazing view of the Capitol building for a networking event. I wasn't really feeling up for networking after a surprisingly chilly 1.5 hour walk around downtown DC, so I chatted with another student from my school and another girl who I had seen at all three externship programs I attended. We all sat together at dinner inside along with a recruiter and an advisory professional. The advisory professional was really fun to talk to but not particularly helpful considering I'm planning on doing audit. Nevertheless, dinner was fun, but I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel at nearly 9 pm. However, waiting in the hotel room was a surprise that made bedtime a little sweeter.

     Day two took us to the PwC office in Tysons Corner. The building was beautiful and modern and I especially appreciated the electronic ticker that listed upcoming sports games in the lobby. Again, we ate breakfast at assigned tables but this time I was pleasantly surprised to be seated with a PwC advisory professional that I had already met at the Explore program in February. The breakfast was punctuated by a brief lecture about how a couple of kids had gotten too rowdy on the 18th floor the night before and that we always needed to remember that we're representatives of the firm. Now, I totally understand the importance of representing the firm well, but the fact that they specifically called out students staying on the 18th floor rubbed me the wrong way considering it seemed aimed at humiliating them even more. Moving on, though, we spent the morning in an audit panel that included the Washington National's VP Finance (PwC audits the Nats which is admittedly really cool). After that, we were given a case study which required us to make a PwC business proposal to a client AKA the professionals at our table which gave us an opportunity to show off what we had learned about the firm's different service lines. Lunch was followed by our corporate responsibility activity; PwC had us answering trivia questions as teams to earn Monopoly money to "shop" for school supplies to pack backpacks for underprivileged children. Once all the backpacks were upstairs, the program directors led us upstairs to one of PwC's floors of the buildings for the "program closing".

     Upstairs, in a mysteriously empty room, the audit partner who had been with everyone for the entire program said a few words before revealing that we were all being offered internship positions, complete with confetti cannons. It was a nice way to end the conference but a little surprisingly that they offered all 80-something of us an intern spot. After a quick office tour, I walked back to the Ritz with another student from my school and was soon on my way home, battling traffic up I-95 for the last time.

The Verdict
     In the end, I always thought it was going to come down to Deloitte and PwC, but I didn't realize how conflicted I would feel. PwC packed good information into this program and is the undisputed #1 accounting firm in the world. I enjoyed its nerdy vibe and love their clear mission focus but am a more than a little concerned that their work-life balance is the most unhealthy of the Big Four. Meanwhile, I've been cultivating a relationship with Deloitte all year and love their people but worry that the firm is so focused on consulting that their audit practice might be an afterthought.

     So here I am, waiting for my official offer letter from PwC while the June 22 deadline for my Deloitte offer looms overhead, weighing pros and cons and generally feeling like I'm losing my mind. I have 11 days to pick what company I want to intern for next summer and probably work for after graduation, and I have no idea what to do. If you have any thoughts at all on the Deloitte vs. PwC debate, leave a comment below, shoot me a text, send me a carrier pigeon-- any form of communication would be appreciated!!
Monday, June 5, 2017

Recap: KPMG Discover, DC/Tysons

     I'm in the thick of externship season now and it's feeling pretty hectic. I got home from KPMG's program on Friday night and leave for PwC's program tomorrow afternoon; ontop of that, I conveniently have a deadline for each of my three online classes during the PwC program so I'm scrambling to get ahead on schoolwork. Looking back on last week, my departure for KPMG Discover was (almost) overshadowed by the fact that I got a call from Deloitte on Tuesday letting me know that I was receiving an internship offer!! Two externships down, two internship offers in the bag, although as I'll explain below, I got my intern offer from KPMG before their program. Nevertheless, it's a little surreal to think about the fact that I'm just one externship away from deciding where I want to intern and therefore where I want to work after I graduate -- no pressure though, right? Enough rambling from me though since I'm supposed to be recapping my program with KPMG.

     As a quick reminder, here's the criteria I'm using to describe/evaluate my externship experiences:

  • Application/interview process
  • Pre-conference logistics
  • Program content

Here we go!

Program: KPMG Discover, DC/Tysons

Application/Interview Process
     Unlike with Deloitte, I had no prior interaction with KPMG before the application process so I was interested to see what my interactions with them would be like throughout the application process. They hit it out of the park, though-- the first email I received was from their campus recruiter for my school, who was contacting me because although I had filled out their corporate externship application, I had forgotten to also complete the corresponding application on my school's career website so he wasn't able to schedule an interview for me using their software. Most other companies probably would've tossed my application in the trash at that point, but the campus recruiter was simply reaching out to schedule an interview with me personally since I wasn't in the school's interview scheduling system. Right off the bat, I was impressed with how nice the recruiter seemed, and promptly replied to schedule myself an interview while KPMG was at my school for on-campus recruiting.

    The night before the on-campus interviews were slated to take place, there was a reception with KPMG professionals so we could ask questions and get to know our interviewors. When I arrived, I was surprised to find out from the campus recruiter that I would be doing two interviews the next day because I was also being interviewed for an internship position for Summer 2018. Oops, must've missed that note on the application somewhere. Although that new information made me a little more nervous, I really enjoyed getting to meet KPMG professionals for the first time and both my interviewors seemed very relaxed and kind. The next day, I interviewed with a partner and a manager with the firm; both interviews were extremely relaxed and felt more like conversations than a Big Four interview, and both professioanls emailed me a few days later expressing how much they had enjoyed meeting me and offering to answer any questions I might have. Fast forward three weeks, and I got a call from another campus recruiter for KPMG informing me that I was being offered both a place at their summer leadership conference and an intern position for Summer 2018! All in all, KPMG's application process was honestly enjoyable rather than painful. 

Pre-Conference Logistics
     In early April, I received a link to formally register for the program. Again, I had to email the recruiter in charge of the program to request a hotel room for the night before the start date since I'd be traveling from New Jersey. Once I got that squared away, I didn't hear much until the week before the program, when I received an email with all of the conference logistics and additional congratulations/good luck emails from the manager who had interviewed me and a first year I had met up with for coffee during the spring semester. However, the email didn't have any mention about my hotel reservation for the night before the program, so I emailed the program coordinator to confirm that a room had been booked for me. I sent the email on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day and didn't hear back until late Tuesday afternoon (the day before I was driving down), which made me super anxious, especially when they said "just tell them you're with KPMG and they'll have a room!".

     Sure enough, when I arrived at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown D.C. on Wednesday evening, there was a problem with my reservation. Of course, I have no way of knowing if it was the hotel's fault or KPMG, and although it was briefly stressful, the hotel got me squared away in the end. After checking into my super spacious room, I explored the blocks around my hotel to find some dinner, although dinner was definitely overshadowed by the crepe shop I found. 

     After my yummy dessert, I relaxed in the hotel room alternating between watching The Devil Wears Prada and trying to get some astronomy homework done before going to bed.

Program Content
     This program was pretty different from Deloitte's. On Wednesday morning, we all met up in the hotel mezzanine and waited to walk over to KPMG's downtown D.C. office. Since KPMG didn't send us any sort of roster of who was attending the program, I had no idea if I would know anyone else there. I sat at a table with about 12 other students but quickly realized that most of them all went to the same school and didn't necessarily want to chat with me, oops. After 30 minutes of akward small talk, we walked over to KPMG's K Street office to get the program we kicked off. The managing partner for the D.C. office spoke and then showed us a video intended for Discover participants across the country which featured the firm's CEO. Looking around the room while taking that all in, I did some quick math and realized that there were about 100 students attending this program-- twice the amount that had been at the Deloitte program. All 100ish of us stood up and introduced ourselves individually, which was a painful process but it helped me identify the other students from my school at the program.

     The rest of the morning was spent with various PowerPoints and Videos highlighting "KPMG by the numbers", information about the firm's internship program (after all, all the students in the room had internship offers), and information about employee benefits with the firm. Although the information was helpful I suppose, a lot of it was exactly the same as all the other Big Four's intern programs and employee benefits, so it wasn't necessarily helpful for those of us trying to decide between multiple Big Four firms. After talking to other students though, I found out that for many of them, KPMG was the only Big Four they were externing with, so I suppose that makes more sense. A few interesting things I did take note of? Firstly, KPMG is getting set to copy Deloitte University and build their own personal training facility in Florida (lol). Additionally, KPMG offers a unique "build your own internship" program where you can spend 5-6 weeks performing the core service line you're interested in and then 2-3 weeks in another service line, exposing you to, say, both audit and tax within the same summer. 

     After a catered lunch at the office, we settled back into the big conference room to learn about KPMG's service initiatives. The firm has an impressive array of national organizations and involvements all centered on youth and literacy,  but again, PowerPoints and videos were used to communicate the information. After getting the information, we had a competition to win baseball caps including trivia about what we had learned, racing with books on people's heads, book title pictionary, and building a tower out of books. Our table's team sucked at the challenges but luckily everyone was really fun and friendly so we still managed to have a good time. My biggest takeway was that KPMG gives every employee an extra 48 hours of paid vacation to use for volunteering which really shows the firm's commitment to making service a priority. As the last serious order of business, the firm put together an hour-long Q&A panel with professionals from each service line. As someone who's kind of shy, I didn't enjoy the big Q&A format and so I didn't feel comfortable asking questions; most of the information relayed by the professionals was stuff I had already heard before such as average hours worked during busy season (12 a day, yikes) and how long it takes to make each promotion level. 

     Dinner was the highlight of Day 1. KPMG bused us all to the Meridian House, a mansion/venue in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. that they rented out for our "barbecue soiree". Inside the house, there was food and a DJ; outside, there were drinks, lawn games, and dozens of KPMG professionals for us to network with. My new friends from my table made a beeline to the food with me before heading out to the patio to enjoy the beautiful weather and all the lawn games that had been set up. We networked a little bit, but to be honest, I wasn't super into the networking aspect of the evening. I felt like all of the professionals were extremely friendly but we just weren't quite clicking and I felt like I had run out of questions. Instead, I enjoyed getting to know other students at the program and enjoying the venue/attempting not to behead people with my awful frisbee-throwing while playing Kan Jam. At the end of the night, we boarded the bus back to the hotel. I explored a bit with some of my new friends, first poking around the hotel and then heading out into the city in search of late night milk and cookies before bed. 

Not too shabby for exploring, right?

     The next morning, we enjoyed a big breakfast back in the office before getting back down to business. First, we did a "day in the life" exercise where we had to prioritize and schedule typical activities that an associate might have to get done. As someone who's addicted to agendas and calendars, I loved this activity. Next, we did a brief case study using a fictionalized business problem and the tax code-- not to brag, but our table got the correct answer. I found these more interactive activities to be really engaging and helpful. Next, we had our service line "breakout" sessions, so I went along with the other future audit interns. The breakout session was helpful because I actually received my internship offer for federal audit specifically. Federal audit is unique to KPMG since they're the only Big Four with federal clients; federal auditors usually need security clearances but each clearance level comes with a nice $5,000 bonus to sweeten the pot. Among the high profile federal clients? The US Army, which is currently being audited for the first time in its history, and a number of intelligence agencies that KPMG can't specifically name. We learned about a number of federal and commercial clients from PowerPoints presented by people on that specific client's engagement team which was informative but a little dry compared to the client site visits we did at Deloitte's program. At the end, there was yet another Q&A panel but once more I felt like the format wasn't really conducive to asking questions openly.

     Finally, we headed to Sequoia, a well-known D.C. restaurant on the Georgetown Waterfront for our leadership lunch with KPMG managers and partners. I was seated next to the manager who interviewed me so it was a lot of fun catching up with her since she also happens to have attended the same college as me. The leadership lunch was awesome for asking questions casually and the two story floor to ceiling windows let in tons of sunlight and a view of kayakers and crew teams out on the Potomac. After a luxuriously long lunch, we headed back out to the bus, but not before some of my new friends and I could snag a picture in front of the fountain outside. 

Hit up "alexcountsbeans" on Instagram if you want to see more mediocre pictures!!

     After a quick wrap-up back at the office, the program was all done and (almost) all 100 of us were left to sprint back to hotel to beat the valet and checked bag lines. Leaving downtown D.C. at 4 pm on Friday presented yet another traffic nightmare

The Verdict
     This program was really different from my first externship with Deloitte and the format didn't necessarily wow me-- it felt a little impersonal. Still, I met some amazing other students at Discover and KPMG has a great lineup of clients here in the D.C. market. With one externship left, I'm starting to feel pretty nervous about having to make a decision about who I want to intern with but I'm looking forward to the day I can share that decision with you all! I'm excited to drive down to Tysons one last time tomorrow afternoon and see what PwC is all about.