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Top 5 Do’s and DON’TS of your Big 4 Internship


It’s that time of year again. Sun’s coming out, you’re changing like the leaves from pasty printer paper to a lobster, and millions of interns are stampeding (while texting) through crowded streets like it’s their University quad.

For those interns about to get lost going to EY, PWC, KPMG, Deloitte, or other professional service firms, the days leading up to your first day can be really stressful!

But take a deep breath, look up while you walk, because interning at a big 4 (EY) was one of my funnest (yes funnest) summers to date. It was my first summer of real work, and as much as I dreaded waking up at 5 every morning, it was totally worth it.

You meet lifetime friends, learn key personal and professional habits, and get paid serious money (secret: they also take you on an awesome trip at the end..shh).

I know the week before my internship I was a nervous wreck, which is why I’ve posted my top 5 Do’s and Don’ts I wish I knew heading into it.



1. Wear Business Casual on Day 1

They seem to play a guess what to wear game the first week, but don’t stress, everyone’s in the dark. Most likely it will be business casual. That means nice pants and nice button down top. No tie, and a jacket is optional. I personally recommend a jacket with no tie, but have a tie in your pocket just in case.

I honestly think this was taken at a Big 4:

big 4 do and don't 1

2. Bring a notepad

You will learn more in the first 5 days than your last 5 years. Between expensing, tracking time, billable hours, and every acronym known to man, you’ll fill a notebook before you even get into what auditing is.

Sidenote: I never received the “official” EY notebooks, so just in case bring your own.

3. Get coffee

You probably have that weird middle school/ high school/ college phobia of asking people to do something whether it be the movies, a date, etc. Let alone asking sober. But DON’T, because seniors, managers, and partners are ecstatic at the thought of leaving the office for an “expensed” coffee. In fact, they’ll be impressed to see you take initiative.

The email or “ping” goes something like: “Hi X, I’m interested in Y, could we get coffee when you’re free so we can meet and I can gather advice?”

The response will be something like this: “Yes. How does (time) sound”.

Also, coffee is a staple to accounting. It will be your best friend and bring you happiness equivalent to a puppy.

big 4 do and don't coffee

4. Ask

I know you don’t want to sound stupid or be annoying, but managers literally look at you like a lost puppy. You’re going to mess up, you’re going to feel completely lost, but don’t be afraid to ask.

I learned real fast the power of asking when I assumed I was taking the right action in uploading files into the master system after working offline. While waiting for that big gold sticker and a pat on the back from my manager, I received an email from our team in India, alerting me that I deleted all the work they had done the day before. Better yet, when the US is sleeping, India is working, so I deleted a good 12 hours of work. YIKES! Don’t be me, ask.

5. Do everything!

Every activity, volunteer event, after-hours social event, make it a point to be there. Want to know a little secret…it’s not exactly how “good” you are at auditing, tax, etc., it’s more about how involved you are.

My commute was 2 hours both ways, but I volunteered twice and joined what were the “Entrepreneur Games”. I had a blast and met some really cool people. It was also an awesome chance to talk to and meet higher-ups in a fun atmosphere.

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1. Ignore the 150, They are serious

I can tell you from personal experience get the 150. I had a unique situation, I played division 1 athletics and was limited to reaching it, and there were no exceptions. Even if I had passed the CPA (You can take and pass the CPA after 120), EY still wouldn’t let me work until I gained the 150.  My options were to either rescind my offer or go to grad school the next year and start working the following summer.

2. Bill Overtime

Yes you probably will be paid overtime. NO you most likely won’t be using that overtime unless you’re a winter intern. If you do, make sure it’s strictly advised and not your own choice.

There was a myth during my internship that a kid slept over and billed the time. Let’s just say I didn’t see him after that.

Don’t be this Cartman.

big 4 do and don't 4

3. Be Shy

I know accountants aren’t seen as the stereotypical social butterflies, but recruiting wants you to be and you can make some really cool friends. You will have plenty of opportunities, as most offices are full of kids your age. Between the actual work, events, and happy hours you should create at least 50 connections.

4. Go Crazy Expensing

As cool as you feel with an AMEX with your name on it, it’s a test of your discipline. Use it when seniors/ managers advise you to, but don’t go showing off your new AMEX by buying the rounds on Friday night.

This ISN’T you:

big 4 do and don't 6

5. Stress

Do NOT stress. One, they don’t expect you to know anything, and two, no other intern knows anything. They “throw you into the fire” but 9 times out of ten provide a hand along the way.

That’s it! Just show up on time (mostly), keep your phone away (mostly), and this will be you when your full time offer is in hand!


Editor’s note: Matt originally wrote this article on Linkedin and graciously allowed us to share it with you here. He is a former Big 4 intern standout with EY, and is currently pursuing his MBA at Babson while working on a number of entrepreneurial initiatives.

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