Posted by: LYF | December 21, 2010

Q&A – Is accounting a calling?

“I guess what I want to ask is… in your opinion, is accounting something you’re kind of “called” to? Or is it the kind of job where if you keep at it, you’ll grow into it, and hopefully flourish from there (like most jobs, I suppose).”

No, it’s not.  I think I see where you’re coming from.  The harsh truth is that you’re so new; you can’t know anything about anything.  That’s not your fault though and everyone goes through the same thing.  Let me explain.

No one is “called” to be an accountant.  Doctor? Yes.  Lawyer?  Sometimes.  Accountant?  Are you serious?  It’s really too difficult to explain what accounting is like to a non-or would-be accountant.  So “called to” really isn’t fitting here.  Predisposed, could work?  I know a lot of people who have the perfect disposition to be successful accountants.

Really, I think you’re just nervous about starting a new job because you don’t know anything.  Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but expect to suck at your job for at least a year.  Fake it till’ you make it.  You’ll have to pretend that you know what you’re doing.

The successful new hires are the ones who can handle the stress of knowing they don’t know anything.  Those who can somehow muster up the confidence to get shit done, when they don’t know if their work makes sense.  Confidence and asking smart questions helps a lot too.  There was a three month period where I thought I was going to get fired every day because someone would find out I had no idea what I was doing.

And the work doesn’t get better either.  “You’ll probably want to quit after three months, but if you stick around.. you -probably- -might- want to stick around after six months.”  I know exactly what that manager is talking about.

Accounting work sucks, but you will get better at it and that will make it tolerable.  Doing something boring that you don’t really understand?  That’s horrible.  Doing something boring that you understand?  It still sucks, but you can deal with it.

The only real valuable thing about your first few years will be the UFE process.  You will learn so much in such a short time.  You will have to overcome ridiculous time management problems, deal with crushing stress – it will force you to learn and mature at a breakneck speed.

So why stick with it?  The people are generally good.  They’re smart and driven.  Your common misery will also draw you closer together.  You’ll learn a lot about finance and how companies work, which is extremely valuable knowledge.  And you’ll have access to a lot of cool opportunities.  Plus the money is good.  At the end of the day, it’s good cash for someone in their twenties with no real responsibilities yet.

Stick with it.  It sucks way less after the UFE.  Just make sure you know what you want to do once you get your letters.

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Responses

  1. Totally true. The first few months are the most horrible of your life (except for maybe taking the CPA exam). You feel as though you should know what you are doing. But you don’t. If you are very, very lucky, someone will remember what it was like then, and actually teach you something. Unfortunately, much of our profession is stuck on the term “billable hours” and will not take a newbie under his wing.

    So you are stuck reading auditing programs, and frantically scanning last year’s workpapers for a clue.

    It does get better. Somewhat.

    Good blog. Very realistic about life in the trenches.

    (Auditor for 13 years, now a Financial Officer at a not for profit).

  2. Good posting. No way accounting can be a calling. I find that for the first couple years a lot of people who enter it will wonder as to what value they really adding. After all accounting is important, but it is more of a function required for companies to operate, as opposed to something that allows them to be successful. This is even more true for auditors. When i was an auditor i know i did not add value. I just bugged the living hell out of clients (who thankfully were nice) and just did audit programs that had been done 100 times before and probably will be done a 100 times later.


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