Surviving a Big 4 happy hour as an intern
If you haven’t realized by now, interning with the Big 4 has a tremendous amount of perks. Not only does this experience heighten your career and knowledge in public accounting, but it also helps you develop a whole new network of people to support you.
Granted everyone’s internship experience is different with respect to their designated service line, the location, and the firm. I have heard from peers that have had an exhausting workload and others who have simply completed trainings on the company laptops all day.
One commonality among all Big 4 internships is something I would call: “Interning off the Job” .
INTERNING OFF THE JOB
Recruiters and Partners of the firms take the time to plan weekly or bi-weekly activities in which interns can have fun together amongst themselves and with associates of the firms. These events are fully paid for and are usually after work hours or during the day of your internship. It really helps break the monotony (as well as stress) of the job, develop relationships among staff, and generally boost morale.
A common after work event firms like to do is Happy Hour. Personally, I always tried to avoid going to the Happy Hours as I could imagine so many things going wrong. Someone getting too drunk, spilling a drink on an important person, or being scrutinized for not drinking.
While these fears are all reasonable, do not adopt my fear… attend the Happy Hours with confidence – and here’s how!
Interns have actually lost job offers because of underage drinking.
First, if you are not 21 years old and you are invited to Happy Hour, it is okay to attend. Firms still want to see your involvement and get to know you, but under no circumstances should you be caught drinking.
Recruiters and others are usually well aware of who is 21. Coupled with this, the Big 4 firms all have a strict code of conduct/ethics policy. Participating in underage drinking is a clear ethical conflict and would not shed a positive light on you. To blend in with those drinking, simply get a juice or soda beverage. I am sure I don’t have to tell you, these are just as refreshing!
Now if you are 21, drink with caution. Know your limit and the golden rule: pre-game with protein. As you’re drinking, snack as well and drink lots of water. One tip if you don’t want to walk around with a water for a while is to get a water with no ice, and drink it all at the bar while you get your next drink. Try not to get too fancy with your drink options and order something very similar to the associates. Unless you are a very novice drinker, try and stay at or below the amount others (above you) are drinking. If they’ve only had 3 beers and you’re had 5 – you should slow down.
WHAT SHOULD I SAY?
Happy Hour is meant for conversation. While you’re there be actively involved in discussions and group chats. Establish and strengthen your personal relationships with associates of the firm by asking questions about their personal life or discussing trending news. If there is someone in the firm that you haven’t met, use this as an opportunity to make yourself known to them. It may be awkward or uncomfortable to start or join a conversation with someone you don’t know, but some common starters are:
“Hi, my name is _______, which service line do you work in?”
“What clients or industries do you work in?”
As is typical in every group outing, people will generally form circles or sit at tables together. Try to find someone you already know and say hello. Typically they will open up the circle and you are invited to the group, often leading to the person you know introducing them to the group. From there, just try not to be a weirdo and enjoy the conversation, all the while reminding yourself that you’re making your first professional impression on people..
These should be common sense, but lastly:
- Avoid being on your phone often. Social media can be very distracting, so do yourself a favor and keep it in your pocket!
- As they always say, avoid talking about religion, politics, and sex. It is important to not make others around you uncomfortable.
Recruiters and your peers will always remember that one person that said this, did that, or drank too much. They are evaluating you to see if you are someone that they would put in front of a client, representing the firm. Demonstrate the qualities you want people to remember, and qualities that will make people want you on their engagement team.