The Best Places to Launch a Career in 2009

This week’s (Sept 14) cover story of BusinessWeek magazine highlights their results of the 2009 edition of “the Best Places to Launch a Career”…and $10 says you won’t be able to guess who it is. I’ll give you a hint. I know this company better than ANY other one in the world.

First, a caveat. This article is heavily biased towards the U.S. job market, and while most of the companies on the list are MNCs (multi-national corporations), some of the specifics that are mentioned in the article apply only to certain U.S. office locations, and not necessary to what is happening in all countries of the same company. Secondly, the article’s perspective is from the eyes of an undergraduate student, not necessairly MBAs or other more seasoned professionals, although I believe many of the arguments made in the article could be applied to Master’s students as well.

Now, to add a little credibility to the article, here’s a quick excerpt of how they compiled the rankings (in their words):

To compile this ranking, BusinessWeek polled 60 college career services directors across the country; collected data from a survey of 60,000 U.S. undergrads by Universum USA, a Philadelphia research company; and required employers to submit statistics on everything from pay and benefits to training programs and retention.

60,000 may not seem like a lot, but I wouldn’t say that’s an extremely small sample size of say just a 1,000 people. So who’s at the top? Well, the top 4 companies are all from the same industry and are often collectively known as the “Big 4”. Yep, you know who I’m talking about now, right? Ernst & Young (E&Y), Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG. And the winner for
2009…where I spent almost all of my professional life at…Deloitte.

With decent pay, variety and generally a strong culture of growing and grooming fresh graduates into fairly seasoned business professionals, I can see why the Big 4 dominate the list. Some of the training programs offered are also a big attractive point to students, and the fairly large and collegial group of other young professionals at these firms definitely helps.

Now, I know many of you are probably shaking your head right now and are extremely skeptical, but remember the title of the article. It’s the best place to LAUNCH a career, not necessary the best place to work for the rest of your life. The days of a fresh grad joining the Big 4 as an analyst and staying their entire career until they reach Partner/Principal are virtually over. But whether you’re in the Accounting side or the Advisory / Consulting side, working in the Big 4 definitely opens your eyes up to a wide variety of industries; you learn like you’ve never learnt before, mainly because of the situations you’re put into (and perhaps the lack of expertise on your team), and you definitely develop your soft skills, as you’re mostly always in front of clients.

Of course, even at Deloitte, there are some not so good things, and many things that could be improved. Pay yes is okay…but some may say that’s over-stating things. Compared to the actual hours you have to work at times, the pay probably doesn’t look so hot, but from a macro perspective, as a new fresh graduate, 21 – 23yrs old, you’re not starving, that’s for sure. If you want to know more specifics about Deloitte or the Big 4, feel free to leave a comment below. There are also some good sources of insider information from sites such as the Vault. You can learn quite a bit from following the company-specific forums where insiders post, but take all comments with a grain of salt. The insiders contributing on the forums are generally those that are most disgruntled 😛

The other point to highlight from the article is around the amount of responsibility young new graduates will be getting in their jobs today. With graduate hiring down significantly at most companies, and many places have trimmed down their workforce, those graduates lucky enough to have jobs will find that they will have to take on multiple responsibilities at one time and fill the shoes of those that are no longer with the company. So, the glass may be half empty to you, but to some, it’s definitely half full.

You should be able to find this specific issue of BusinessWeek magazine on store shelves now. (Always wanted to say that)

Here’s a link to the online story.


  1. Jake September 27, 2009 1:03 am 

    I definitely agree . . . . I’ve been out of the Big 4 for almost a year, but its opened my eyes to different industries / company cultures and allowed me to make some great contacts! (who, continue to try and hire me away from my current company) Sure, no one wants to audit forever – but a great place to start.

  2. JK October 7, 2009 5:20 pm 

    Thanks for your comment Jake. Glad that your Big 4 experience has helped you out. Like you, many young new graduates also like the variety and the challenge you get. These firms probably aren’t a place you’re going to stay on in for your entire career, but a great place to learn and get started.

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