The question on all of your lips…. “Grant Thornton or the ‘Big Four’?”

As a Grant Thornton trainee at a careers event, the one question that I can guarantee I will be asked is ‘why Grant Thornton over a Big 4 firm’?. I was asking myself exactly the same question when I was at uni and thinking about my career. Choosing the firm that I started my career with was a big decision and one which I needed to carefully consider.

I remember when I was making my decision that the Big Four firms had so many perceived benefits. They offer early specialisation, a large graduate intake (often 800 to 1,000 trainees) and they were highly recognised by my peers due to the amount of time they spent on my campus. These benefits were difficult to ignore when other friends from university were starting to land jobs with members of the Big 4.

The reason I applied to Grant Thornton was the opportunity to work on a wide variety of clients, obtain a well-rounded experience and also work in a firm where I felt I could make a real impact. My first experience of Grant Thornton was having a chat with a few of the people representing them at the careers fair. I was impressed with the people I spoke to and they seemed genuinely enthused about the firm, as opposed to just trying to give me a free pen! After this I researched Grant Thornton in more depth and was surprised at the amount of people that had heard of them and how well respected they were within the profession. I then found that a family friend had been with the firm for a number of years and she was full of praise for the training she received and the people orientated culture that she said was in place.

I found that I would be able to work on a wide variety of clients, including innovative and quick growing AIM listed clients. In addition to this I could obtain a well-rounded experience, not have to specialise in a particular industry so early in my career and be offered excellent career progression.

I knew there were a lot of differences between Grant Thornton and Big 4 but only since joining have I realised there are actually some similarities too. The majority receive exactly the same technical training provided by the same external provider. Another factor which I was not aware of was the level of recognition and prestige that Grant Thornton holds among fellow professionals. The perceived gap between the Big Four and Grant Thornton at student level is much higher than the actual gap in the professional arena. We actually audit one of the Big 4 so their perception of us cannot be that bad!

After much deliberation I chose to work for Grant Thornton. I decided I wanted to work for a leader in their own marketplace, an employer who provided extensive support and in a firm where I could make a difference. In the last 18 months at Grant Thornton I have worked on a wide breadth of clients, had an active involvement in client meetings, had the opportunity to design and maintain a website, interviewed the CEO, and obtained a professional qualification already. It has been a great experience so far and working at Grant Thornton has given me the opportunity to make an impression and stand out from the crowd.

So back to the question of which route you should take. It is a very difficult question to answer and one that does not have a ‘one fits all’ response. As everybody is different, my best advice would be to chose an employer that you like the ‘feel’ of and one where you can relate to their values.

I am extremely happy with the decision I made and would make the same one again every time.

Are any of you currently tackling this dilemma or have any thoughts on the issue?

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