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Help! Leaving co-op employer (Big 4) for competitor

  • Last Updated:
  • Mar 27th, 2017 3:29 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Mar 18, 2017
3 posts

Help! Leaving co-op employer (Big 4) for competitor

Hello everyone,

I'm in a tricky scenario, and it would be great to get some advice.

The situation:
  • 12 months of experience at my current employer (Big 4 firm)
  • I've worked in a particular service line - I enjoyed it at first, but realized that there isn't a lot of longevity for me in it
  • As such, I've thought about transferring to another service I'm more interested in - I reached out to HR last summer about this and they literally ignored me
  • Applied for full-time jobs for all the Big 4 firms in the service line I want to work in (last September)
  • Ended up getting an offer at a competitor, which I accepted shortly after

Since September, I've thought a lot and decided that I want to leave my current employer, and take my new offer for a few different reasons.

My dilemma is I don't know how to tell my current firm that I'm leaving. Some other facts:
  • I've worked on one engagement during my entire co-op experience, and I get on well with everyone on my team
  • Lately, I've told several people on my team that I'd accept an offer to come back (the Partner, Senior Managers, Managers) because they've asked me. More specifically, when they've asked if I want to come back, I've said something weird like "Welllllll....if I get an offer" and immediately change the subject
  • As such, I feel like I'm betraying them - they've trained me for 12 months in a very niche-y area.

Based on my situation...
  1. When I do break the news to people, should I tell them that I will be going to a competitor? Or do I tell them I'm looking for a job? [I'm worried about them potentially offering to refer me to people in the service line I want to work in - I want out of my current firm. I'm also worried about the backlash for going to a competitor.]
  2. When should I do this? My last week? My last day? As a co-op student, I have a specific "end date" so I'm guessing the 2-week notice thing doesn't apply, right?
  3. If I ask people for reference letters this week, would it look sketchy?
  4. I know I can Google tips for sparking conversations to have with my superiors, but does anyone have any personal tips they can give me for my "I quit" conversation? (Especially with the Partner!)

Thanks guys, any help is very much appreciated!
5 replies
Jr. Member
Apr 13, 2010
109 posts
25 upvotes
Welcome to RFD. The fact that you joined this forum to make this your only post suggests to me that this is causing you some sleepless nights. Fair enough, I don't think I can resonate since I'm alittle older but I do have experience at a big 4.

For one, I'm aittle confused on how a 12 month tenure with a big 4 is considered a co-op phase. Do you mean you were hired originally as a co-op, then put you in an analyst/accountant role? I'm just unaware of a co-op period that lasts for a year but I could be wrong.

Anyway, here's my thoughts.
Moving from one big 4 to another big 4 is a very common theme. A partner, senior manager, or manager that put backlash at a co-op who decides to leave would be quite strange to me given their understanding and industry experience. The exception is if you're in a very high niche area (e.g. blockchain, robotics) that they're pushing to get specialized talent. From what I see, you haven't committed to coming back, and your response has given far more information to the partners and senior managers about your intent. If you had been committed to return, the straight forward answer would be to return. So tell them straight up you're going to a competitor. Outline your reasons why.

The reality of it is that this game of being played, where you're hoping, praying, wishing that you don't burn any bridges is a lost cause when you demonstrated that the firm hasn't given you opportunities to switch to a service line through your conversations with HR. However, one thing that is a bit disingenuous is that you didn't go to the senior managers and managers (you should've also had a coach at a big4 firm) to tell them your intentions about your service line. That way, they can use what they can to change service line. They try to keep employees happy if they can; I'm puzzled as to why HR was your first point of contact. You're going to need to explain that.
Member
Jun 9, 2011
389 posts
107 upvotes
My 5 cents:
- HR's only role in this would've been validating that you are eligible to switch roles (typically you are after 1 year in a role) and then supporting formal interview process with another service line and making sure you tell your current boss that you are planning to switch at a certain time prescribed by policy
- HR would only get involved once _you_ have started the formal process (either as a result of applying to internal postings, or working your connections in other service lines)
- ATrac is bang on with his coach/career counselor question - this is literally the first person who you should've gone to with this issue
- No issues with moving the firms, you don't need "reference letters" (who does them these days anyway? and it is likely against the policy for anyone to do a letter for you) - just need to have contacts of a few friendly superiors, who you can use as your references going forward
- Lastly, I agree with ATrac that it is better for you to be transparent about your direction/motives (because no one will feel cheated once they learn you moved to a competitor afterwards), but you may be shown the door on the spot as a result (not an issue again, just make sure you are prepared - i.e. saved all your paychecks, removed your personal data if you had any, etc.)

Edit: I just re-read your post... looks like you are on a 12 month co-op and you don't even have an offer from your current firm?? Well, if this is the case, then there is nothing you have to do right now really. If (and only if) your current firm extends you an offer, you can tell them you have a different one and may try to negotiate - but I don't think you'll have any leverage in your service line requests. If anything, you should've networked with other service lines to see if you can get offers from them during your co-op term. So... enjoy the remainder of your time there, try to identify "friendlies" to use as potential references later this year or later down the line, and don't stress over this too much.
[OP]
Newbie
Mar 18, 2017
3 posts
ATrac wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 7:10 am
Welcome to RFD. The fact that you joined this forum to make this your only post suggests to me that this is causing you some sleepless nights. Fair enough, I don't think I can resonate since I'm alittle older but I do have experience at a big 4.

For one, I'm aittle confused on how a 12 month tenure with a big 4 is considered a co-op phase. Do you mean you were hired originally as a co-op, then put you in an analyst/accountant role? I'm just unaware of a co-op period that lasts for a year but I could be wrong.

Anyway, here's my thoughts.
Moving from one big 4 to another big 4 is a very common theme. A partner, senior manager, or manager that put backlash at a co-op who decides to leave would be quite strange to me given their understanding and industry experience. The exception is if you're in a very high niche area (e.g. blockchain, robotics) that they're pushing to get specialized talent. From what I see, you haven't committed to coming back, and your response has given far more information to the partners and senior managers about your intent. If you had been committed to return, the straight forward answer would be to return. So tell them straight up you're going to a competitor. Outline your reasons why.

The reality of it is that this game of being played, where you're hoping, praying, wishing that you don't burn any bridges is a lost cause when you demonstrated that the firm hasn't given you opportunities to switch to a service line through your conversations with HR. However, one thing that is a bit disingenuous is that you didn't go to the senior managers and managers (you should've also had a coach at a big4 firm) to tell them your intentions about your service line. That way, they can use what they can to change service line. They try to keep employees happy if they can; I'm puzzled as to why HR was your first point of contact. You're going to need to explain that.
Thanks for this ATrac! Great advice.

Sorry, I should have been more clear - I am currently a co-op student and the 12 months I mentioned reflect co-op experience.

My intent was for HR (i.e. the Campus Recruiting Team in my case) to be the first point of contact, because as a co-op student, I was under the impression that they could help. I was already in talks with a member of the Campus Recruiting Team about my situation - but they left the firm. I just didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone in my service line because transferring out of that service line is highly discouraged - I didn't want to be talked into staying when I had already made a decision.

Thanks for the advice - I agree about being transparent and will do so when I tell everyone! It also helps for when I start fresh at my new place.
[OP]
Newbie
Mar 18, 2017
3 posts
akon1943 wrote:
Mar 20th, 2017 9:30 pm
My 5 cents:
- HR's only role in this would've been validating that you are eligible to switch roles (typically you are after 1 year in a role) and then supporting formal interview process with another service line and making sure you tell your current boss that you are planning to switch at a certain time prescribed by policy
- HR would only get involved once _you_ have started the formal process (either as a result of applying to internal postings, or working your connections in other service lines)
- ATrac is bang on with his coach/career counselor question - this is literally the first person who you should've gone to with this issue
- No issues with moving the firms, you don't need "reference letters" (who does them these days anyway? and it is likely against the policy for anyone to do a letter for you) - just need to have contacts of a few friendly superiors, who you can use as your references going forward
- Lastly, I agree with ATrac that it is better for you to be transparent about your direction/motives (because no one will feel cheated once they learn you moved to a competitor afterwards), but you may be shown the door on the spot as a result (not an issue again, just make sure you are prepared - i.e. saved all your paychecks, removed your personal data if you had any, etc.)

Edit: I just re-read your post... looks like you are on a 12 month co-op and you don't even have an offer from your current firm?? Well, if this is the case, then there is nothing you have to do right now really. If (and only if) your current firm extends you an offer, you can tell them you have a different one and may try to negotiate - but I don't think you'll have any leverage in your service line requests. If anything, you should've networked with other service lines to see if you can get offers from them during your co-op term. So... enjoy the remainder of your time there, try to identify "friendlies" to use as potential references later this year or later down the line, and don't stress over this too much.
Thanks for all of the advice! Yup, just finishing up a co-op term and there's no offer as of yet. Whoa, I didn't realize reference letters may go against policy - thanks for the tip on this.

you may be shown the door on the spot as a result
Awww man I wish! I need a break after that busy season craziness Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Smiling Eyes
Deal Addict
User avatar
Mar 31, 2005
3280 posts
258 upvotes
Calgary
A few concerns regarding these actions and your future in BIg-4

- Speaking with co-workers about leaving before it's final is unprofessional and risky.
- Speaking with management about how they can retain you or get you back is a great way to say "i'm only in it for the money" and will have you marked for the rest of your time there. No one like feeling like they've been pressured to keep someone. If you haven't left yet I'm confused as to why Partners would be asking if you'd come back. The only way this normally happens is if it's obvious that you have a talent in an area that the firm can't offer you.
- Leaving during co-op can show that you are unable to weather the hard short-term for the future benefit. Unless the service line you are in is completely wrong for you, it's probably best to suck it up knowing that you are there mainly to get experience to support a designation and not necessarily to stay there for life.
- Firms talk. The more you try and move around in the beginning the better chance you have at black-listing yourself. You appear to be far from stealthy.
- Leaving one firm for another is regular practice. If you leave for a better or different opportunity I wouldn't worry about how it is perceived. If you leave for the same position but for more money, then it can be seen as just a cash-grab.

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