Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Return or Not to Return – That is the Question

This week I got a call from one of my former officemates in the auditing firm I used to work with. She is actually a close friend of mine and I still keep in touch with her (just so I can get the latest scoop on my former employer LOL). She was actually asking me when I will return to that firm. Apparently, some of our former (experienced) officemates (who were working in other countries or companies hit by the financial crisis) have already returned, giving them the hope that I would do the same.

First stop, I told her my answer is still no (hell, no!), same answer I always gave whenever I’m asked the same thing for the last two years now.

Second, I was surprised with what I’ve heard (although, come to think of it, I don’t think I should be). Yeah, I know we have the crisis right now and the auditing firms (especially the Big 4) have been letting go of juniors or offering flexi-time or shorter working days, etc. But from experience, I should have seen this coming.

Auditing firms almost always welcome ‘returnees’ or what they call ‘experienced hires’. My boss – partner is one example. He left the firm two times, the last time he was gone for almost 10 years, working as an operations manager in a private company. When he returned, he became a partner in less than 5 years! I, myself, was also a ‘returnee’ like 10 years ago and so are some of my former officemates in the same firm. So I know it happens.

This brings me back to those who returned. Why would they return? I mean, if you have already experienced what it’s like outside, have gone through less (even no) overtime hours, have more time for yourself and for your family and, generally, have more money, why would you want to return and to work for the Big 4 or for an auditing firm where the opposite of these may become true?

Unfortunately, I do not know how to get in touch with these former officemates of mine so I can just speculate why they returned (you’re welcome to add on to my speculations).

For one, the crisis is so severe that they could not find any other work so they chose to return (back to the fold, so to speak). Anyway, they know that the firm will always welcome them because they are experienced auditors and will just fit right in.

Or, for those who are working in other countries, the crisis is so severe in that country and they were the first to be laid off so they have no choice but to come home. Since they don’t want to go through all the trouble to look for another local job, it’s easier for them to contact our former employer and to return to the firm. These may be the people who will just bide their time when they will get another (more lucrative) jobs, either here or in other countries. Doesn’t paint a nice picture, does it?

Or, now here’s the catch, they truly miss working for the firm and they found out that this is where they really want to stay. I know, I know, this begs the question of why again (why would you want to work in the firm?). But then again, these are the people who became so immersed in the auditing firm’s culture and the kind of life they led when they were still there that, honestly speaking; they can no longer imagine their lives outside of the firm (we have a term for this – FF or For the Firm)! They already ‘escaped’ from that kind of life but in the end, they didn’t really want to ‘escape’ so they returned. And mind you, these are the people who said they will never (ever!) return to the firm.

Or, some really persuasive people managed to convince them to return to the firm, even though they already swore to high heavens that this is something they will never (ever!) do.

Whatever their reasons are for returning, there’s always the thought that they will not really stay for good. I mean, they already left, so there’s a possibility that they will leave again. But since the firm lacks experienced auditors, the firm is always after these experienced hires. Now, if you are in the place of these former auditors, will you still return to your former auditing firm?


  1. This is an interesting topic. I can see why some may miss the public accounting lifestyle - different clients and issues, smart co-workers, stimulating work environment. However, those pros are often accompanied with some hefty negatives such as politics, overtime and low compensation when you take into account OT and stress levels.

    I can never go back. It's just not worth it to me.

  2. Same here but I guess for some, going back is part of their destiny and their choice. We may be surprised by their choice (some of these people, when they resigned, also promised that they will never go back) but they have their own reasons for doing so.

  3. This might be a little off-topic, but are there any differences between the "Big 4"? From all the other entries I've read, Big 4 has always been considered sort of like a single company. Although they are probably very similar firms, but are there any advantages/disadvantages to work for one over the others?

  4. what about midsized firms such as grantthornton

  5. I'm in the same boat, exited the Big 4 but recently given an offer from another Big 4 firm to go back in another specialized practice. Still debating whether or not it's worth it...right now it's tilting towards "not worth it".

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