The Perks of being a Consultant Part I: It’s all started here…

You might be sharing a similar experience with me, assuring yourself get a decent bachelor degree from reputable university, oh oh one more, don’t forget a good GPA really matter too, whether it is cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude is even better. After putting all of your effort on this degree, now it is time for you to make a return from it. What do you want to do? Start your own business? or become one of those insurance agents or multilevel marketeer? or… if you’re lucky and born rich, your parents want you to become the successor of their business. Wait… but you’re not one of those guys, because when you’re talking about getting a return, it means that you want to hit the Job Market and become one of those so-called “Salaryman”, Why? Because you like to have secure feeling by earning a regular income to your bank account. “Safe and Sound” remember that Capital City’s song?

Good old Son called the “Auditors”

As one of those finance and accounting students, your lecturer might be told you one of their profound story about Enron and their financial auditors, Arthur Andersen. Let me recall mine, in brief, Enron Corporation was an American energy, and services company based in Houston, Texas, and has become a well-known example of willful corporate fraud and corruption, on the other hand, Arthur Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron, resulting in the Enron scandal. If you like to know more about it, I’d recommend you to watch “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”. I got to admit, the very first time I heard about it, I was imagining how cool it is if I can become an Auditor. It seemed like you become a top Wallstreet executive, where you’ll be wearing professional attire with wet-look and perfectly combed hair to attend meetings from one client to another, and you’ll be valued not only from your decent look but from your brain as well. Wait a moment, you were not the only one amazed by such thing, you started to look your surrounding and come to notice like literally all of your classmates paid attention to this (or… it is just you). Then, you reflected back to yourself and thinking, you are not even on the top of your class, so here goes nothing…

Stoney path to “Big Four”

Graduated! It’s totally okay even if you are not a top notch, do remember that you just need to be within minimum requirement for the recruitment process. For some of you who already knew, Big Four Firms have been very selective in acquiring new talents, so your next task would be “How to impress the Big Four?”. Let’s run through the A to Z list for you to ACE the hiring process:

1. A not-too low GPA, normally they require you to have at least 3.00 of 4.00 to be included among the list (What if your GPA is lower than that? you might want to start from a second tier accounting firm other than Big Four, earned yourself either CA or CPA and pitch your luck again to Big Four as experienced professional → I know some guys who passed it through this way);

2. The hiring manager has included you as their candidate, informed you on the upcoming Technical, English and Stress test. Ou wow,! you passed it all?! Congratulation! you’re shortlisted. Wait a minute… don’t get excited too fast, you still need to get over the interview, if you were applying for associate, you just need to pass one time interview, however if you applied for senior or managerial level, they require you to pass another two interviewers, Manager/Director and Director/Partner;

3. The interview can be very gruesome for some people, but if you have interview experience, it’ll be just another day. They might ask you a lil’ technical question *finger-crossed* and others might just asking what you want to do with your life in the next five years, your strength and weakness, or they might just want to know you more.

You made it! You ACE the interview and they offered you a job, hang on… is that all? No, they will put you into probation where each Indonesian Big Four firm has different term in determining the probation period. As for example, if you are a new associate, my first Big Four firm will require you to have one year contract prior to another trial and one more business english test. How about the other Big Four? They’ll put you a 3 or 6 months probation top, which can be quite tricky as well… Why? Cause they put such a high expectation on you. So if you are lucky enough to have an easygoing boss and they are not putting you in this kind pressure, be grateful. Some many others who are not as lucky as you are, they’ll be truly deeply assessed to determine whether they are “Job Fit” (believe me! they really love to use this term, it is softer, more human, they say, but for me, no offence, you’re still losing the job), so if suddenly you hear this word come out from your senior, it might an obvious sign that you need to find another job soon. BUT, if you somehow manage to survive, the career path in Big Four can be very attractive, they have what they called a progressive career path which can be depicted as follow:

  • 2–2.5 years as associate → IDR 5.0 up to 6 million*
  • 3–4 years as senior associate → IDR 7 up to 19 million*
  • 3–5 years as Assistant Manager to Manager → IDR 22 up to 35 million*
  • 3 years as Senior Manager → IDR 35 to 50 million*
  • 3 years as Director → IDR 90 up to 170 million*
  • Junior Partner — Equity Partner — Managing Partner — Name Partner → IDR 200 million up to 2 billion*

NOTE: The estimated monthly salary figures above are based on monthly basis for assurance division of Indonesian Big Four firms, the figures still subject for multiplied overtime hours, meal, transportation allowance and other components (only apply for Associate to Assistant Manager level) [Please do treat these salaries range only just for your benchmark, it is a rough estimation, I won’t jump to more detail on this because every Big Four firm has different consideration to this matter].

Did you make the count on how long you should stay until at least becoming a Junior Partner? Yupe, 14 to 18 years… This is the average time you need to invest on (Jeez, I just realised that no wonder some of them started losing his/her hair or significant others because of it ← aside from DNA effect and unhealthy lifestyle), is it possible to fast track your career? Well, the fastest time for a person to reach Junior Partner level that I ever know was within 12.5 years. However, don’t be misconceived, there are a bunch of Managers to Directors who already spent more than 15+ or even 20+ years on this profession still striving for this “Hot Seat”, on the other hand as well, there are plenty of them just fed up, quit the job either becoming the counterpart (client side), changing career, pursuing another degree or just becoming a good housewife. The cause? It can be a stagnant career, long working hours, family matter or don’t be surprised if one of the reason is they can’t find their love life (Can you connect the dot? Long working hours? Too tired to find one). This is why, the employee turnover of the firms are relatively high compared to other industries.

“Right man on the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time.”

This was a piece of advice that I got from one of my Director, which I can relate. Based on what I learnt, only less than 5% of professionals are able to reach the “Hot Seat” and like every “Hot Seat”, it’ll be very depend on your firm scale, if your firm is getting bigger, such as increase of manpower (if I can recall, do correct me if I’m wrong, one of my Partner ever mentioned that the ideal odd is 1 to 100, it means one partner should be leading around 100 professionals), number of clients, able to generate extra revenue (you’re not expecting donation from other partners, are you?), pass the Interfirm Quality Review and the most crucial aspect, able to bring an excellent business case to be presented to other Partners which may include your Regional Partner outside Indonesia. If you can pass through it all then for sure you’ll get the key to “Hot Seat”. Hey wait… Partner remember? Don’t forget to pay your equity contribution, no worries, instalment available.

Let me share you a bit tips to be the RIGHT one:

  • A true “Dedication”
  • Just “A bit Smart”
  • An excellent “Think on Your Feet” skill
  • A “PEOPLE” person
  • A very good “HEALTH
  • A big portion of “LUCK

I’m sorry… did I say “Excellent” business case? I think the most appropriate word is an “Acceptable” business case (Why “Acceptable”? I’ll cover it on “The perks of being a Consultant Part II: How to be the RIGHT one”) where I’ll share the tips and tricks as well

So… end of words, this what I quoted from Vince Lombardi (A famous American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League).

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile — Vince Lombardi

Thank you for spending some time reading this.