Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you…how I became and an accountant when I said I never would.
When I was a kid, one of my dreams was to become a comic book creator. I loved comics. A majority of my free time would be spent reading, drawing, and writing my own comic book stories.
Word count: 2800
Read time: 15 mins
BIG DREAMS ABANDONED
I’ll never forget the day that dream was shattered. I was drawing one afternoon and my mom stops and looks at my drawing and says “why are you always drawing?” I tell her I want to be a comic book creator when I grow up. “A comic book creator? Why do you want to do that? There’s no money in that. You’ll never find work and will struggle to make money. Don’t do that!” Thanks for the vote of confidence mom.
There are a few things that make me upset in life and one of them is telling me what I can’t do. Why this bugs me so much I’m not sure, but maybe that’s for another post. I don’t think it’s because of what my mom said but somewhere along the line I abandoned that dream. Maybe what she said stuck in the back of my mind, who knows.
My dad on the other hand was an accountant and never missed an opportunity to try to get me to do the same. I remember saying to him once when I was very young
“I’ll never be an accountant, it’s so boring!”
Maybe that was the nail in the coffin, I just didn’t know it yet.
So where to start.
THE EARLY CAREER PATH
Growing up it was always impressed upon my sister and I that we go to school, get good grades, go to college and get a stable steady job. This is what my parents implanted into our heads over, and over, and over again. I can’t blame them for it though. It’s what they were taught and part of the era they were from. The thing they never had was stability, so of course they would want their kids to have what they never did. A topic for another day though I digress.
With that in my head from an early age the goal was to get good grades, get into college and get a good job after. What would I do exactly? Who knows I’d figure it out as I went a long I thought. Getting good grades for myself was fairly straightforward until Gr.9. That’s when it all went downhill.
I blame the school system for picking a handful of the top gr. 8 students to participate in an experimental math program where they tried to teach gr.9 and gr. 10 math in one year. The program was a big bust in my opinion (maybe I’m just bitter) as over half the class including myself ended up having to take gr. 10 math again the following year. That and they let some of us bypass science 10 and go straight to chemistry, physics or biology 11. I chose chemistry 11 and had to retake that course as well. If I just stayed at the regular pace I think I would have done so much better in math and sciences.
On the other hand maybe I just sucked at them. English was always a strong subject for me. It just made sense to me and I enjoyed it. Sciences and math are where the careers are though right? With my average grades I wasn’t good enough to get into business school at college but I did get into the arts program. The goal was to transfer to business once I got my GPA high enough.
PLANS NEVER GO THE WAY YOU WANT
Long story short I couldn’t get my GPA high enough to get into the business school so I was stuck in arts. What do all business school rejects do? Major in Economics of course, and that’s what I did.
During university I worked part-time and during summer to pay for my education. The smart thing to do was to do co-op work experience where you work for a semester as part of a school work program. It gave you great related work experience to your career, a lot of people in the program were hired by the company’s they co-op for as well. My GPA was never high enough to get into co-op and by the time it was I was no longer eligible as I was graduating soon.
Close but no quite good enough. See a trend here?
Instead I took the old-fashioned route and worked at what ever job I could get. You would think a university student could get some kind of decent job right? My first real job was a dishwasher at a pancake house. Washing dishes, mopping the floor and cleaning the kitchen and toilets every weekend. In time I moved on to cook and stayed there for at least a year. I was happy to make some money and I also learned how to cook a mean breakfast.
I definitely did not want to work in a restaurant after I left the pancake job. It just wasn’t for me. Over the rest of my college career I did A LOT of temporary jobs.
STARVING STUDENT FOR HIRE
Counting checks that came to banks and sorting them at night. Scanning boatloads of boxes that came through customs. Folding clothes at the Gap during holiday season. Receiver in a nail warehouse for a summer. Care helper to a person with MS. Bird sanctuary lands keeper (quite an interesting job, actually, dissecting owl pellets, clearing fields with large scythes of weed, building bird houses etc) You name it I did it. There was nothing I wouldn’t do. I needed to pay for school and these were the jobs I could get. At the end of the day a job is a job and there’s something you can learn from any job.
I eventually ended up mucking my way through college with a degree in arts and major in economics. Lord knows how I passed those few last economic courses, I still think they made a mistake because I had no idea what I was doing on those tests..shhh. Afterwards I did what all economic graduates did and enrolled in a post-graduate accounting program.
PURSUING THE DESIGNATION
The plan now was to get my accounting designation. During this time there were 3 types of accounting designations, the CA, CMA, and CGA. The CA being considered the “elite” designation and hardest to obtain due to the fact that you needed to get hired by an accounting firm to qualify your work experience. Also their test and training were reputed to be the toughest of all designations.
My post-grad diploma in accounting was geared towards non accounting graduates looking to obtain their accounting designations. It was tailored to people pursuing their CA designation because of all the recruiting events they had with CA accounting firms.
The program was full-time at night and allowed you to work during the day. A lot of people in the program were already working in accounting jobs but looking to get their designation. I wanted to get a job with a firm so I could pursue my CA. That was the only reason I took the program. If I wanted the other designations I could have taken courses elsewhere and could have been well into getting the other designations years ago. In fact my friend did that, left college and he got his designation and had years of work experience by the time I was just starting this diploma program. My father had impressed on me to get a degree so I could my get my CA designation, so that’s what I tried to do.
APPLICATION AFTER APPLICATION
My goal was to get hired by a CA firm so that’s where 99% of my job applications were with at the time. The process went like this. You went through recruiting season where you would go to all these recruiting events firms put on. Try to meet the “important” people, get them to remember you so that they would hire you for the following year. There was a lot of schmoozing at these events. Think 15 people huddled around the “important” person trying to get noticed and exchange business cards etc.
I hated it. All the schmoozing, all the politics. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I did it, because you had to if you wanted to have a chance at getting a job.
In the meantime while looking for a job I worked during the day at a department store in the shoe section. Not exactly my dream job after university but money won’t make itself. Talk about hard work though, some people really love their shoes!
After the first round of recruiting I didn’t get hired. Crappy yes, but I had one more year to try. That year I went to all the recruiting events (even though I despised them) applied to every single firm I could, over 100 applications. Small firm, medium firm, large firm, it didn’t matter. If I could just get hired by any that’s all i needed to continue pursuing my CA designation.
CAN’T CATCH A BREAK
Nothing. After leaving the shoe department I did some entry-level accounting work with a temp agency for the rest of my time in the program to try to gain more experience in accounting. Accounts receivables and other entry-level type work. I hated accounts receivables. If anything I never wanted to work it again after that.
I graduated from my diploma in accounting program in fall of 2008. No job locked in. Financial crisis in full effect. Down economy. Perfect time to be a new graduate looking for work.
There was one last chance though. I could take the first module of the CA program. Pay costs out-of-pocket (firms usually covered these costs) and hope that this would make me more employable to the firms.
It sort of worked. My father knew one person who worked at one of the big 4 accounting firms in the city and they had an opening for temporary work during the tax season. Not as an accountant, but just as extra help in the office putting tax packages together. I got the job. This was it, my chance to make connections, meet people and maybe get hired by them after.
NEXT BEST THING
After my temporary assignment was over I tried applying with them for other accounting jobs but still no luck. With that, the hopes of getting my CA were done. Instead of wasting another year trying to get hired by a firm I had to pursue another designation instead. The CGA was the one that would work best so that’s what I did.
It was a tough pill to swallow. Especially because if I had just pursed the CGA from the start. I could have already been working with 5 years experience and have had my CGA a long time ago. Hindsight.
To make things even more salty, the only job I could get was of all things, an entry-level accounts receivable job. This had to be a joke right?
The one job I didn’t want to do again was the only one I could get. Sounds about right though, considering how everything else turned out.
A Bachelor’s degree in arts, with a major in economics. Certificate in Liberal arts. Diploma in accounting. Lots of work experience but not much in accounting. In an economy that was still in a deep slump from the crash. Here I was in my first real permanent accounting job, after all that schooling, making less than a whopping $30k a year. Talk about a reality check.
I stayed with that company for 5 years while completing my CGA. Thankfully I moved out of accounts receivable after a couple of years into a more senior role.
Shortly after I got my CGA, all accounting designations were combined to just one, the CPA. How’s that for irony.
IN THE END
I finally managed to get a job with my current employer as a tax auditor for the government. A position that I had been trying to get into since university. It may have taken me over 10 years to get it, but I finally did. Shortly after getting the job with the government I applied for the next level job and got it only after a year. In all my jobs I ever had, there was no better feeling than getting this job. None came close. All the work, all the studying, doing odd jobs, failing, trying, it just felt good to finally get something I really wanted for a change.
So that takes me to where I’m currently at. In a job that I’m happy to be in, and hopefully will continue to be in for a long time. I know I said I’d never become an accountant to my dad as it was “boring” but I was wrong. If anything I’m in the area of accounting that I enjoy the most, tax and audit. But wait, that’s not your dream job? What ever happened to being a comic book creator?
DREAMS LIVE ON
Did I give up the job and just settle for what came my way? No. Truth is I never was that great at drawing. I was OK but not quite good enough, according to my own self that is. My aspiration for a long time has been similar though. I love stories, so naturally I want to create them. Think of it as being a comic book creator sans the drawing, aka writer.
In the end I struggled a long time to get a job that I told my dad I would never do. In part I’ve done most of my career up to now in part to satisfy my parents. Some of you might understand that, some won’t. Where would I have been if I just did what I wanted? maybe a successful comic book creator, or maybe a struggling writer without a penny is his pocket. Who knows really.
What I do know is that I’m ready now to fully pursue my passion for the rest of my life. My current job affords me that freedom. I have stability, flexible work hours, no overtime and a defined benefits pension plan. Would I leave my job and write full-time if money wasn’t an issue? At the blink of an eye hell ya! For now though it’s perfect.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
- Never say never. You might think you won’t do something but you never know how things will turn out.
- Parents, be careful what you tell your kids especially when it comes to their dreams and aspirations. It can have a profound affect on them, for better or worse.
- Kids and adults too, don’t listen to anyone telling you what you can or can’t do or become, even if it’s your parents.
- Parents want the best for you. They are not always right, but they try their best to lead you down what they think is the best path.
- Your career expectations vs reality are almost never the same. As I mentioned before.
- Nothing feels more satisfying than getting a job you’ve been working so hard to land.
- Taking the long route builds character. In the end you’ll know it was all worth it and probably wouldn’t have done it any other way even if you could.
- There is no such thing as a job that is beneath you. Any job is an opportunity, whether it be mopping floors or selling shoes. There is always something to learn from them.
- Never look down on people because of their job. A job is a job. It has no bearing on who we are as a person. Who you are is not defined by what your job is.
- Doing something you never wanted to do can lead you to somewhere you never expected. Did I mention because of that job I eventually ended up meeting the love of my life? There’s a story there but I’ll save that for the next post!
That about wraps up this story. Whoa that was longer than I thought! I hope it didn’t bore you but I know there’s a lot of people reading who might be struggling in their career or just starting out. Hopefully you find this comforting or useful in some way. Thank you for reading and talk soon!
~ LET’S CHAT ~
You’ve heard me blab about my story now I want to hear yours. Did any of this resonate with you? How has your career progressed so far? If you’re currently in a job is it one you really wanted or is in an “in-between” job? Let me know in the comments below!
~ LET’S CONNECT! ~
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