Emmet’s Story – Ireland to New York – Overseas Accountancy Jobs

We recently caught up with Emmet who attended a Think Global Recruitment Worldwide presentation back in 2004.  At the time he wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted to go, but after the presentation realised that the USA was a location that he was really interested in.

Before Emmet knew it, he had secured a position with a Big Four firm in New York as a Senior Associate.  Just over 8 years later, he had worked his way up to became a partner and says:People in New York

“I arrived with just a bag on my back; I now have a wife, five kids and a house in the suburbs… I’m living the dream”

That’s not to say it was easy, Emmet worked incredibly hard to get to where he is today.  We asked him to tell us more about his move and career so that others can have an insight into the world out there… Here is what he said.

Did you have any concerns with your move?

“When I first moved to New York, I had never been to the States.  The first time I arrived in New York I was with my contract in my hand and my bag on my back so of course, I was full of concerns – as you would expect, having moved 3,500 miles away from home.

On the other hand, I knew that if there was a chance that it wouldn’t work out, there would have been plenty of other options for me.  My qualifications are like a safety net, having these would have given me the opportunity/freedom to apply to other firms or move back to Ireland (in a worse case scenario).

It takes a lot of bravery to step out of your comfort zone but this is what has made me successful.”

When you arrived in New York, how long did it take you to settle in?

“Given that I made the move ten years ago, it’s quite hard to say!  It probably didn’t take that long…  I lived in corporate housing for a month, after which, I really had no choice but to settle in and find an apartment and make a new home.

You have to have the right mental attitude or you’ll never settle, you have to be all or nothing and overcome the homesickness that you’ll get.

When you move to a new country, the best way to enjoy it is to embrace everything about it, enjoy the new culture and surround yourself with people who have been in the same situation as you.  It’s great to go out and start new activities, keeping yourself busy so that you don’t start to feel homesick.

I’m quite lucky in New York, there is an area which has a heavily Irish population.  I don’t really see the point in spending my time there; I came here to experience something new.  But it’s still comforting to know that if I ever do get homesick I can visit the area and the shops and pick up some home comforts.”

Did your move meet your original expectations and how?

“What I thought and what the experience turned out to be were significantly different and it has evolved over time.

I originally planned to pop across to New York for two years or until my first visa ran out, just to get exposure and gain some international experience and do something different with my career.

I originally expected it to be a tough environment because it’s 3,500 miles away from home, and it was, I worked long days and weeks.

Now I can change my job and do different things within the firm so it’s always interesting… My move has exceeded my expectations.  I would consider myself to be less Irish as the time goes on and more American because I’ve integrated so well into the new culture.”

What was the biggest benefit of moving?

“Moving to New York gave me so many more opportunities.  I don’t think I would have made partner as fast back in Dublin, or even at all…

Everything is a lot closer together in New York, I can visit three clients in one day!

There is also the reputation of working in New York, so close to Wall Street.  People know that you have worked hard to get to where you are.”

Do you feel that it has improved your standard of living?


To get to where I am in my career… Being part-owner in one of the largest professional services in the world… There is now way that this would have happened back in Dublin.

I arrived in New York with only my bag; I now have a wife, five kids and a lovely house in the suburbs with a pool.  I am living the dream.

That isn’t to say it was easy, though, I had to put a lot of work in to get to where I am but if you do it, if you can work hard, you will get the rewards.”

What are the highlights of New York?

“The career acceleration in New York is second to none.  The opportunities are endless and every day is an adventure.  With my firm, I have visited the likes of; Brazil, Japan, Europe, Singapore – all over the world.

Knowing that my kids and their kids down the line will be so much better off than I was growing up is really comforting.

New York is a very highly aggressive, tough, place to work – you have to be a stellar performer, you have to be willing to work 14/15 hour days, six days a week, if you want to advance in your career.  When you do all of that, then you can have the perks and bonuses, to get to where I am has been a solid ten years of hard work.”

Does/did anything disappoint you?

“The ex-pat lifestyle can be quite difficult sometimes.  If you have a problem or you need help with something, people have to do you a favour to help you, for example, if you need someone to babysit the kids – you can ask a neighbour or a friend but then you owe them.  They are doing you a favour.  Back home you can ask your family to do this and they are obligated to, family are there to help you out in times of need.

Life is very expensive in the USA; the system is very much based on capitalism, expenses, commuting, health insurance etc.”

Are there any cultural difference?

“The way New Yorkers work is very unique.  The US approach is a lot more black and white, there is a right and wrong way of doing things here.  There’s not really an in between, the Irish approach tends to be more grey, more ambiguous.

There is also a social factor to take into consideration.  In Ireland on a Friday night, the new guys would all be hanging out at the local bar, getting to know each other.  In New York – it is so vast that these people live quite far away from each other, they have more things going on, different commitments.  New York is very vast compared to Ireland.

There’s also things like the US school system, the different ‘grades’ etc.  It’s all different to back home and with things like this, it kind of gets to the point that unless you grew up in the USA, you’ll never really understand.”

What advice would you offer to other accountants that are thinking about making a move?

“Having an accountancy qualification is like a safety net.

If you move overseas for a job and it doesn’t work out, there will always be another firm that you can work at, qualifications are the key.

I would do the experience all over again and recommend it to anyone.  You learn nothing from being inside your comfort zone.  You need to get out, test your resilience and build the skills and experience you need to advance in your career.

If you work hard, there will be rewards but if you’re just looking to take it easy, there’s no point because it’s not going to be easy.  You’re going to miss births, deaths and marriages because it’s too difficult to make it back home.  This is something that you will have to be at peace with or it’s not going to work.  You need to embrace and recognise the ex-pat lifestyle.

By embracing this experience you will be giving yourself huge development opportunities, you really are elevating the ceiling on your career.

There will be huge development opportunities if you choose to take this route and work hard with your career.”

What are the advantages of applying for a job through Think Global Recruitment?

Think Global Recruitment gave me access to top tier opportunities that I might not have had if I applied on my own.

“I would never have thought of applying to my firm in New York if Think Global Recruitment had not presented the opportunity.

They checked how I was getting on in my new role a few months after I started and offered assistance at all levels.  During this time they were always interested in finding out about my new experience, about how I was settling, not just the office side of things.

There is a human connection there, Think Global Recruitment told me all the things that people who are moving overseas actually want to know.  For example, how many people work in the office, what the culture is like, the cost of living, things to do when I get there etc.  All the information they provided me with gave me a vision of what to expect on my arrival.”

Is there anything you would like to add?

“There are so many opportunities to connect with people.  We made a connection ten years ago and look, we’re in touch again now.

You never know who you’re going to meet and how you can work with each other in the future, every connection you make is vital.”

We would like to wish Emmet all the best in the future and thank him for his time. 

Please get in touch with us here if you would like to discuss moving overseas with one of our advisors.