Outside the Big Four public accounting firms
However, there are a good number of non-Big Four opportunities available to new college graduates, including positions in private industry and government. According to one campus career counselor, these opportunities, while generally fewer in number, still require the same qualities in their new hires as the Big Four. In some cases, says this counselor, these positions require stronger skills and abilities than the Big Four -- since the company does not have the same level of training available at the Big Four, it wants its new hires to come in with the strongest possible credentials.
Some of these job opportunities are available via the same on-campus recruiting processes you would use to seek Big Four positions. Expect their presentations to have a more comparative than informative tone, telling you all the reasons why you should come work for them rather than a Big Four firm. In the view of one recent accounting graduate, these smaller firms' presentations and personnel had a more intimate, "down-to-earth" feel, giving the impression that you would be able to make more of an immediate impact at their smaller firms than at the Big Four.
If you don't find them on campus, you'll have to do a little more legwork. Realize that virtually every company -- private or public, profit or non-profit -- and government agency has some kind of accounting function. So, the encouraging thing is that virtually every organization in the country might have a position for you. A useful first step is to make a list of companies you'd be interested in based on your own criteria (e.g., industry, geographic location, etc.). Then, do what you can to become familiar with what each company does and the types of opportunities it has available. These days, most corporate web sites have career information, including some sort of job search functionality, and should give you a very specific idea of the kinds of positions available and their requirements. Many will even allow you to apply online. However, before you cut-and-paste that resume onto the web site, you should exhaust your networking abilities to try to find a reference inside the company you've targeted. Having a professional contact refer you and present your resume is much more effective than an anonymous e-mail or Web posting. According to an accounting recruiter at one large company, resumes presented by current employees are almost always evaluated in short order, while unsolicited e-mails have a higher tendency to sit unread in a bin with dozens of other resumes.
The important thing to remember is that you are selling yourself. On campus, the companies, to some degree, are looking for you and are trying to sell themselves to you. When the tables are turned and you are pursuing the company, you absolutely must be prepared and persistent, and you should also be prepared to face what most likely will be a higher rejection rate. But don't get discouraged. While these jobs might take more work to get, they also could ultimately be more fulfilling.