Archives for posts with tag: Careers

Just when I thought I had heard almost everything, a group of over 40 year olds are suing Price Waterhouse Coppers for not hiring older workers! The lawsuit alleges that PWC discriminates against older applicants by focusing on college campus recruiting and trying to create a workplace “where youth is highly valued”, according to news articles.

Having grown up in business in what we now call a Big 4 CPA firm, I do have a couple thoughts to offer these disadvantaged older workers:

Although you may be attracted to the initial starting salary of up to $60,000, you better be prepared to work your behind off! CPA firms still average 70 to 80 hours a week, especially in the “busy” season from late fall until spring. Some CPA consultants work these long hours year round depending on the client and projects to which they are assigned. If you take the $60,000 and divide it by sixty plus hours a week you are really earning closer to $35-40,000 a year. And you have very little personal time! It is common to work late at night and six day weeks.

Starting jobs in the professions such as accounting and law have always been like this. There has been some effort, in recent years, to make them less exhausting and more family friendly, but based on the chat sites I reviewed, things have not improved much. This is why these starting positions are a young person’s game. Right out of college, with no spouse, and no family, this makes sense.

CPA and law firms also have very strict hiring criteria. The better firms only hire the best  people from the best colleges. And, yes, they are mostly all young, recent college or MBA graduates. And they all report to young, bright people who may be in their mid 20’s who report to young, bright people who are in their late 20’s. This is the age old formula and it works. By the time a young professional hits age 30, most have left public accounting for a more stable, and family friendly job. The few that remain into their 30s and 40s have been well indoctrinated into the firm’s culture, which is also very hard to do with an older worker starting out.

So, believe me when I tell the older workers, you do not want a starting job with a CPA firm! The money may sound good but it is not a lifestyle that works for those over age 40!


Linkedin just had an article about the best places to work today. The usual suspects are listed: Google,  Facebook and Amazon and some newer, and surprising  ones to me,  Uber (lots of bad press and legal issues)  and Tesla (who makes no profits and may run out of money, not gas.)

But was really struck me was how few of the top companies even existed 25 let alone 10 years ago! The ones that remain have changed a lot: Time Warner (magazines to cable), JPMorgan (a dozen mergers later started as Chemical Bank) and Disney which looks like it may be around forever and never age like Mickey Mouse!

Fortune magazine had an article that stated that 88% of their 500 largest firms from the 1950’s are gone and predicted that 40% of today’s largest firms will be gone in 10 years.

Since I constantly advise graduates and young people where to work, this got me thinking. People used to get a job right out of college and then retire there 40 years later with a good pension. None of this is true today for millennials.

In my book, I stressed that as one moves up in their careers, they needed to study beforehand the leadership and culture of the next company they wanted to work for to try to gauge their personal fit and thus improve the chance to succeed. Now I believe that even graduates and young working people need to do this plus reading all they can about their targeted potential employer. What is their overall strategy, how sophisticated are they on technology and social media, are they well financed? And is their own business model sustainable or will they be the next industry subject to what we increasingly call disruptive innovation, like Uber to taxicabs?

Even though young graduates may work for a half dozen or more organizations in their career, they need to try to look down the road to try to figure out if their next employer will even be around! I believe this new group of millennials are better equipped and more comfortable, than my generation ever was, to research and analyze all the available, on-line information that now.  After all it is their future world. This may also be one of those few areas where most well meaning parents are just not able to help. Looking for your first job or your next job has always been difficult and in this rapidly changing world it just got harder!

Most of this blog’s readers know that I am an Accountant. Trained in school as one, practiced as a CPA, and willing to proudly explain, at the drop of a hat or visor, the difference between finance people and accountants (which ranges from golf skills to dealing with details).

Over the years, my blog has touched on various aspects of accountancy. These have included the need for accountants to become more strategic and big picture oriented. And the fact that accountants get hired out of college at a much higher rate than general marketing or communication majors. I even advise young people going to college to consider accounting as a career.

But now there is a major crisis! The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a major shortage of accountants for firms to hire. Obviously the young people going to school have not been listening to me. Companies, such as Johnson and Johnson, took a year to fill a junior accounting position. The unemployment rate for experienced accountants and auditors is listed at 2.5%, about half of the unemployment rate for all workers.

But the news is not all grim. Schools, not just me, are pushing accounting as a career and recently the number of accounting graduates hit a record level, which was up 7% from a few years ago. Major accounting firms like PwC are encouraging high school students to enter college accounting programs. PwC probably has a couple job openings due to their “performance” at the Academy Awards this year!

But, in all seriousness, accounting is a great career for any young person to consider. Some people ask me, don’t you need to be great at math? Answer, no. Accounting is more about understanding concepts and how to view numbers, than it is to work with numbers. And, as I have said before, all businesses need accountants-small, private ones; big, public ones; even government and not-for-profits. All organizations have budgets, financial records and reports and thus need accountants.

Go for it!



An area of business that has changed a lot is Investor Relations (IR). The main focus of the role is to work with the public company shareholders whether through their direct inquiries, in Security Exchange Commission (SEC) filings or the company’s Annual Report. A related, and often more important, role is to be the interface between the company and the various security analysts who follow their industry and make stock buy and sell recommendations.

Historically, this job also involved writing or assisting in writing press releases, SEC filings and, of course, the Annual Report. For this reason, people with Communication degrees would often get the job and then have to learn the financial side of the business. In some companies, the role of Public Relations and Investor Relations were either combined or at least reported to the same superior.

More recently, this job was often given to a young, up-and-coming person in the corporate finance group and carried a non-officer title like Manager or Director. Hopefully you would pick someone who could write and communicate well. The job would report to either the firm’s Treasurer or Chief Financial Officer. This is how my old firm, USG Corporation, handled it for many years. Investor Relations was also an area that a young financial man or woman could move into enabling them to gain valuable time with the senior officers-sometimes even the Chairman/CEO on regular trips to meet the financial Wizards in New York City. I would often suggest to young people that IR would be a very positive addition to a resume.

Nowadays, the job is more complicated than ever per a recent Wall Street Journal article. This is due to the volatile stock markets, shareholder activism and the SEC rules such as Regulation FD which requires fair and even disclosure to the public.

Today a fifth of large public firms employ former security analysts in this role. The theory is that they already know the company and how to explain it better than anyone. Many other public firms are now using more seasoned (that means older) financial people in the head IR role. In both these cases the title today would probably be Vice President.

But the Journal article goes even further. There is now a credential called the Investor Relation Charter that can be obtained with three years of direct experience and by passing a test which covers ten core subjects such as capital markets and regulatory compliance. This makes sense for a role which can impact a firm’s stock price. This also represents the latest swing from communication majors to financial professionals; a move which I also agree with. Investor Relations can still be a fine stepping stone in a financial career. The certification will only lend more creditability to the role.

Maybe someone can now come up with a way to test and certify Human Resource people!

I always look for trends, especially emerging or changing trends.

As I advise young people, a couple of my “clients” recently spoke about pursuing a career with the FBI. At first I thought it was just a coincidence. And, based on my own or my generation’s experiences, a very different choice. Then, a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, contains a supplement which shows the Most Attractive Employers based on a large survey of young people just entering the work force. The survey breaks down the 100 top choices for students graduating with degrees in five disciplines: business, engineering, computer sciences, natural sciences and the humanities.

The FBI is in the top ten of three of these categories of graduates and in the top twenty of the other two! For the business graduates, the FBI, at number 10, was above Amazon, Coke and a number of well known CPA firms, consulting firms and large banks. The CIA was also in the top 20 for three categories of graduates. A host of other government agencies were ranked in the top 100 most attractive employers and included: the State Department, the Armed Services, the EPA, Veterans Affairs, and the National Institutes of Health.

Now, I could easily understand a number of the graduates’ top choices, like Google, Apple, Disney or even Nike. But the FBI?

So, in  talking with a couple friends, I concluded a new trend may be occurring with this young group we call Millenniums. Many want what they consider to be more meaningful jobs that somehow contribute to the world rather than just making money. Many also want more balanced work and personal lives versus the seven day, twelve hours a day required by investment banking, giant law firms and consulting practices. Some may seek the attraction or thrill of intelligence work. My own generation and subsequent ones may have had some of these traits but not to this extent.

To those seeking a career with the FBI, I have a couple thoughts. Cleveland, Ohio, where I am from, is one of the FBI’s largest regional offices. Eliot Ness even spent a lot of time there. We have gotten to personally know a couple of agents there. They have certain qualities in common. They are of average height, thin, speak very little and you sense they are watching everyone most of the time. And they agilely move like a young Steve McQueen or today’s Jet Li. One of my young “clients” was recently at a group interview with a handful of FBI agents. He said they looked and acted just like this. So even the FBI has a leadership style and a unique culture which you need to consider and whether you would be a good fit. I am sure that the CIA and the other branches or agencies of our government also have their own characteristics and preferred profiles for people they like to recruit. So do your research on this just as you should to pursue a corporate job.

I also have some advice for our U.S. Government. Right now we have the lowest ratings ever for our elected officials in Congress and the Executive branch. The current presidential campaigns, for both parties, are not making our feelings toward Washington any better. BUT we have all kinds of young graduates who want to work for the FBI and a number of other parts of our government. So what if we recruit a lot more people for the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. We could make the country a bit safer and maybe develop some future leaders who people might actually like and respect. How do we pay for this in our tough Federal Budget crunch? We could start by cutting the pay, staff, travel expenses and free lifetime pensions and medical care we currently provide to a Congress that most people hold in low regard!

Now this could be a positive new trend!

P.S. My book, The Business Zoo, should be available by the end of September on Amazon and Kindle!