Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Freedom or Face?

I will be perfectly honest. There have been so many times where I’ve contemplated leaving, and just decided to stick on for a little while longer. I’m a relatively young guy, and to be honest, I face the same dilemma, I’m sure a lot of you do.

I am a young ambitious person. Throughout my university career, I always knew accounting wasn’t really what I wanted to do. However, I stuck around, and I’m still around, wondering when I should make the move.

I think a lot of our readers face a dilemma of freedom vs. face.

A lot of us want freedom, but we don’t want to lose face.

We want to quit our jobs, but we don’t want to face the embarrassment.

We’ve built a sort of pride that we don’t want to lose. We got the 40K co-op jobs while our friends were making $12 an hour at Mcdonalds. When we graduated, we got the 60K senior staff accountant Big 4 job, when our other graduating friends were still struggling for work. Our friends and parents respected us and we didn’t want to lose that respect.

Our parents brag to their friends about us. We’re Big 4 Prodigies. My son is making 60K. Your son doesn’t have a job. Etc., Etc. I mean, what kind of 21 to 22 year old has a 60K job in another field?

We’ve built ourselves into our trap.

Deep down, we also know, that if we weren’t in accounting, we wouldn’t command the 60K senior starting salary, and the respect of our high school friends and parents.

Do we have the skills to even get an 40K job?

We’d be regular graduating Joes like everyone else.

We are on the inside and know it’s not that great. But because, the people on the outside don’t know, even if we secretly resent our jobs, we choose to be stubborn, and play the appearance game.

After all, it does feel good to blow your peers out of the water in terms of comparison.

No there is nothing wrong with you if you’re young and you hate accounting and your job. If you ever considered quitting, but felt something was holding you back, I truly believe it’s a matter of not wanting to lose face.


  1. Wow, I'd say this post is spot on with so much of what's wrong with this profession. Based on my internship this summer in audit, I saw this exact same mentality.

    As a junior in college, I am also seeing this mentality among Accounting majors. After my summer internship, I knew this wasn't what I wanted to do, so I promptly switched majors, and I cannot tell you the amount of crap I got from my classmates for not being able to "handle accounting", etc. I just know I'll be the one laughing when they're stuck in their crappy accounting jobs validating receipts and invoices because they cannot see past the horribleness of accounting.

    It's quite sad.

  2. Personally, I like accounting and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. However, I have a lot of classmates and friends who don't. Even my sister and cousin, who are accountants, admitted that they don't like accounting. I've often wondered why they took this course if they don't like it. Your post reminded me of the time I asked my sister and my cousin. The answer was that it is the most practical to take because there are always jobs (or so it seemed) for accountants. So the practicality won over what they really wanted to take.

    Big Tuna, you're lucky to be able to switch into something you really like. Congratulations.

  3. But is private accounting any better? What's the real distinction?

  4. I agree with this post, but I also agree with emievil. I think it's wrong to assume that everyone is going to hate accounting. My girlfriend is studying gastroenterology and spends her days in front of a computer analyzing statistical data - more or less locked in what seems like the equivalent to the role of a junior auditor, but for years. However, she loves it and always has. There was no confusion on her part when it came to choosing careers. She always had a knack and curiosity for numbers.

    However, I must admit that I've met far too many people who have gotten into accounting for all the wrong reasons. They tell themselves that everyone needs accountants. Every industry on the planet! think of all the doors it will open!!! But honestly, do you really want that many possible doors to walk through? Wouldn't it be faster to get to where you REALLY want to go by just taking the first step, instead of putting it off until you have your letters? People fear the consequences of following their heart, and all the nonsensical fears of failure and "what will my parents say?" But ultimately people fear that they may actually succeed. First you have to try.

    I just read a book called "the war of art" by Steven Pressfield. I actually found out about it on another accountant's blog - LYF. It's really worth reading for anyone considering a career change. Or just needing a kick in the butt in order to just get on with it. But an important point that I got out of his book that i'll quote is about the definition of a hack:

    "A hack is a person who second guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn't ask himself what's in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for. The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he's superior to them. The truth is, he's scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of doing something that he really feels or believes, what he himself things is interesting. He's afraid it won't sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market wants, then gives it to them. In other words, the hack writes what he imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask himself, what do I myself want to do? What do I myself think is important? The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes a position."

    I've met some people who are really and truly enchanted with the investigative art of audit, and all the strategy and business training gained therin. But don't underestimate passion. If I went on with accounting, I'd be a hack.

  5. The CA is definitely a good designation and leads to a respectable career path, but I think you haven't been exposed to other lucrative careers such as finance (investment banking, sales & trading, hedge funds, equity research) and even engineering. A new grad engineer easily clears 60-80k. Investment bankers get paid 65 base in Big5 Canadian banks and around 70-95 base for bulge brackets (Merrill, Credit Suisse, Goldman etc). They also have a bonus of around 50%-100% which comps over 100k as a 22 year old. So yes there are many fields that blow the CA away.

  6. Suck my software engineering cock you wage slave

  7. 60k? isn't that below poverty? i've yet to see someone's parents brag about their "Big 4 prodigy" son/daughter. That's such a contradictory statement. It's like saying I have the biggest 2 inch dick in the world.

  8. While I understand the position of the post and can definitely sympathize I think its wrong to characterize the CA experience as being the only one where a lot of people are not really into it. You definitely did not say that explicitly but the post has the implication of that.

    I tend to think that most young graduates of any discipline have doubts about what they really want to do. Be they Business, economics, science, math, engineering, etc., etc. you will more likely than not find people who experience the same doubts and fears as described above. Really, I've found it to be exceptional when I meet someone who really knows what they want and was studying for it. That's great for them but most people are not like that. The CA doubt experience is really not much different.