Discovering the do’s and don’ts for your Big 4 internship is essential. You don’t want to make any of the common internship mistakes, because if you do, you’ll reduce the likelihood of landing a job offer at the end!
For those interns about to get lost going to EY, PWC, KPMG, Deloitte, or other professional service firms, the days leading up to your first day can be stressful!
But take a deep breath and look up while you walk, because interning at a Big 4 (EY) was one of my most fun summers to date. It was my first summer of real work, and as much as I dreaded waking up at 5 every morning, it was totally worth it.
During your internship, you meet lifetime friends, learn key personal and professional habits, and get paid serious money.
I know the week before my internship I was a nervous wreck, which is why I’ve posted my top 5 Do’s and Don’ts. You’ll want to know these from day 1 and remember them every day after that.
DO’s and Don’ts for Your Big 4 Internship
1. Do Wear Business Casual on Day 1
Most likely, you’ll want to come dressed in business casual. That means nice pants and a nice button-down top. No tie and a jacket is optional. I personally recommend a jacket with no tie but have a tie in your pocket just in case. And for women, a nice sweater, blouse, skirt, and/or pants are perfectly fine.
I honestly think this photo was taken at a Big 4:
2. Do Bring a notepad
You will learn more in the first 5 days than in your last 5 years. Between expensing, tracking time, billable hours, and every acronym known to man, you’ll fill a notebook before you even get into what auditing or taxation is about.
Sidenote: I never received the “official” EY notebooks, so just in case, bring your own.
3. Do Get coffee (or Tea, Soda, or Other Caffeine Source)
You probably have that weird middle school/high school/college phobia of asking people to do something with you, whether it be the movies, a date, etc. But DON’T, because seniors, managers, and partners are ecstatic at the thought of leaving the office for an “expensed” coffee. In fact, they’ll be impressed to see you take the initiative.
The email or “ping” goes something like this: “Hi X, I’m interested in Y, could we get coffee when you’re free so we can meet, and I can gather advice?”
The response will be something like this: “Yes. How does (time) sound.”
Also, coffee is a staple of accounting. It will be your best friend and bring you happiness equivalent to a puppy.
4. Do Ask Questions
I know you don’t want to sound stupid or annoying, but managers literally look at you like a lost puppy. You’re going to mess up, you’re going to feel completely lost, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I learned real fast the power of asking when I assumed I was taking the right action in uploading files into the master system after working offline. While waiting for that big gold sticker and a pat on the back from my manager, I received an email from our team in India, alerting me that I deleted all the work they had done the day before. Better yet, when the US is sleeping, India is working, so I deleted a good 12 hours of work. YIKES! Don’t be me — ask first!
5. Do everything!
For every activity, volunteer event, and after-hours social event, make it a point to be there. Want to know a little secret? It’s not exactly how “good” you are at auditing, tax, etc. Instead, it’s more about how involved you are.
My commute was 2 hours both ways, but I volunteered twice and joined what was called the “Entrepreneur Games.” I had a blast and met some really cool people. It was also an excellent chance to talk to and meet higher-ups in a fun atmosphere.
1. Don’t Ignore the 150 Credit Hour Rule
I can tell you from personal experience that you HAVE to get 150 credit hours to become a CPA. I had a unique situation: I played Division 1 athletics and was limited to reaching 150 hours, and there were no exceptions. Even if I had passed the CPA Exam (you can take and pass the CPA Exam after 120 credit hours in some states), EY still wouldn’t let me work until I gained the 150. So, my options were to either rescind my offer or go to grad school the next year and start working the following summer.
2. Don’t Bill Overtime
Yes, you probably will be paid overtime. NO, you most likely won’t be using that overtime unless you’re a winter intern. If you do, make sure it’s strictly advised, and preferably in writing by a senior or higher.
There was a myth during my internship that a kid slept over and billed the time. Let’s just say I didn’t see him after that.
3. Don’t Be Shy
I know accountants aren’t seen as social butterflies, but recruiting managers want you to make some cool friends. You will have plenty of opportunities to meet people, as most offices schedule lots of events and opportunities to socialize. Between the actual work, events, and happy hours, you should create at least 50 connections.
4. Don’t Go Crazy Expensing
As cool as you feel with an AMEX that has your name on it, it’s a test of your discipline. Use it when seniors/ managers advise you to but don’t go showing off your new AMEX by buying the rounds on Friday night.
This ISN’T you:
5. Don’t Stress
Do NOT stress. First, your seniors, managers, and partners don’t expect you to know anything. Second, no other intern knows anything, either. They “throw you into the fire,” but 9 times out of 10, they’ll provide a hand along the way.
That’s it! Just show up on time (mostly), keep your phone away (mostly), and this will be you when your full-time offer is in hand!
Editor’s note: Matt originally wrote this article on Linkedin and graciously allowed us to share it with you here. He is a former Big 4 intern standout with EY and is currently pursuing his MBA at Babson while working on a number of entrepreneurial initiatives.