Will Being Jewish Affect My Accounting Career?


From the mailbag:

Good Evening Sir,

Thank you for some of your recent posts. I have read a few of them and have found some helpful information. I would appreciate any general thoughts or advice you may have for me and where I am holding on a somewhat unique situation.

I currently work for a large bank in a sales role and am looking to move into accounting. I am 30 right now. I recently went back to school to take a number of accounting courses [gpa for those is a 3.4]. I will now be attending a MAcc program part-time at a pretty well known school [that is recruited at] while continuing to work during the day [I have bills and what to pay, so can’t quit the dayjob]. Overall my experience has been good and I have gone to some networking events [PICPA, IMA, etc…] and met a few of the recruiters as well.

My somewhat unique situation will be in the fact that I am an orthodox jew. Now that really won’t be a problem for most things but two parts will be: vacation time and leaving early on Fridays. There are a number of biblical holidays [Passover, Rosh Hashana, etc…] during the year in which a jew is forbidden to work. Now, I usually just use my vacation time and it hasn’t been too much of a thing. That said, these days usually Fall out in March/April and Sept./Oct., which are usually blackout busy seasons… The second part, leaving early on Friday, is for the jewish day of rest, Shabbos. In the Summer I have no problem working until 6pm or so, but in the  Wintertime [say 3 mos.] I need to leave work around 3pm. I have no problem working extra late other days or even on Sundays.

How would you best position/approach the time needed conversation during the interview process and what? Would I be best served by  aiming for a small local [read: flexible] firm or something in industry? Or would it still be possible to aim for a national/big 4? I would appreciate any thoughts you may have.

Have a great weekend,

Bean Contador

Not being Jewish myself I did quite a bit of research with Jewish friends of mine who have works at Big 4 firms, small accounting firms, and private companies.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Big 4 and larger accounting firms are almost all very accepting of different lifestyles. Because of their size, they usually have a big focus on diversity, and hire people from all religious and cultural backgrounds.

The biggest piece of advice I can tell you is to go through the interview process as any normal candidate would. Being Jewish won’t negatively effect your accounting career, especially if you approach it the right way. Yes, you have something very unique to you. You need some special privileges that most employees don’t get for religious reasons. That’s fine. But wait until you receive the offer before bringing up those privileges.

From all the contacts I spoke with, the key thing they mentioned was communication. However, the interview process is not the time to ask questions. Once you have an offer in hand, you should discuss what accommodations will be needed. I have personally seen the Big 4 and other large firms  make accommodations for colleagues of yours that was Orthodox Jewish who didn’t work on Saturdays or Jewish holidays. You can do it too. Once you receive the offer from the firm, schedule a call with HR to discuss the overview of privileges you want to discuss, and send an email right after the call outlining each privilege and what it requires.

If I were in your shoes, I would give the firm chance to consider if they can accommodate your lifestyle (even though legally you probably don’t have to) and there will no doubt be a negotiation process up front, and with each team you work with at the firm.

The good news is from the comments you made above:

“I have no problem working extra late other days or even on Sundays.”

This is a great attitude to have. I will tell you that you want to work just as much as every other employee at the firm to avoid any colleauge or supervisors resenting the privileges you may be granted.

You want them to say:

“Ya, he leaves early. But he clearly is the most productive member of the team even with his time off.”

Remember, these people are responsible for whether you’re working in town, or out of town. Whether you receive a high or low rating. What your bonus will be. How much your raise will be. And when you will be promoted. You want them happy. So be ready to compromise and work even harder to prove yourself if you want to be one of the most successful employees at the firm.

The other option I would advise you to consider is to find a smaller niche accounting firm run by Orthodox Jews such as yourself.

For two reasons:

  1. First as a backup plan if you don’t find a position at a larger firm
  2. Second because you may feel that the personal fit is better because they understand you

You should be able to find a few firms by asking around your community, you may know a few already. Try and apply to at least 3-5 of those firms to give yourself a full picture of the options available to you!

  • Jacob Fults

    I work at PwC and am also orthodox. It is not a problem at all. I agree with all of Andrew’s suggestions. I brought it up after my offer. These firms figure out a way to make it work. They never make you feel uncomfortable. I have many friends at my firm and others and nobody has an issue. In fact, they are overly accomodating.

    • http://www.thebeancounter.com TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks for the reply Jacob! I spoke to the guy who sent me the original question, he said your comment helped!