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Interested in a Career in Accounting? Don't Let These Myths Stop You.

by Anthony Villiotti, CPA | on 29 November 2020

Key Points:

  • Investment decisions, capital allocation decisions and even M&A decisions are based on data, and that data would not be made available to finance professionals without accountants.

  • In a profession where constant improvement is the goal, diversity of ideas and perspectives are highly sought after.

  • The unique challenges and complex scenarios encountered on a daily basis by accounting professionals require immense amounts of judgment and interpretation only made available by diversity of perspective.

The accounting profession is certainly preceded by its reputation. Whenever I tell people I work in accounting, the most common reaction is “oh, really?” with a sort of sympathetic look to accompany. To an outsider, the accounting profession is widely regarded as “boring” or “traditional” with little excitement and diversity. Even Drake managed to take a jab at the profession in Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2 comparing his success to those “classmates, [that] went on to be chartered accountants."

These preconceived notions were at the forefront of my initial hesitation to join the profession. All through college my plan was to work in finance at a record label. I applied to all the big names: Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group - interning at the latter. However, as the big accounting firms started coming on campus and holding information sessions, I decided to attend a few to find out what the fuss was all about.
It was the best decision I ever made. I was drawn immediately to the profession for its diversity in terms of professionals but also in the experiences availed to you as a member of a global multifaceted firm.

Since then, I have been on a career-long mission to debunk the myths and stereotypes that many associate with the profession.

Myth #1: Accounting is Boring

We’ve all seen the movies. We’ve all seen The Office. When you think of accountants, you think of uptight sticks in the mud who live simple nine-to-five lives and wake up every morning to track down every last penny. What is not as widely broadcast is the massively vast variety of complex challenges and business matters that are often rooted in accounting and financial reporting. Our counterparts in finance often get the credit and are considered to have sexy careers. But guess whose numbers finance professionals use? Ours.
Investment decisions, capital allocation decisions and even M&A decisions are based on data, and that data would not be made available to them without us. Further, in terms of public accounting, working with clients to help them navigate through transactions and challenges unique to their business is something you will do from day one. So when you think your career in accounting will turn you into Kevin Malone, fear not. Walmart’s CFO, Brett Biggs, was an auditor at PwC. 

Myth #2: Accounting is Antisocial 

This could not be further from the truth. Five years into my career in accounting I can confidently say that I am rarely sitting around crunching numbers. My day largely consists of communicating and interacting with others - stakeholders, my team at EY, my clients, my clients’ service providers even. A special thing to note is that interacting with your client oftentimes does not mean that you are solely interacting with fellow accounting professionals.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with my clients’ FP&A functions, marketing teams, customer success professionals and so many other groups (supply chain, manufacturing, human resources, legal, etc.). What’s more is that these cross-functional conversations is where I find myself learning the most.
I cannot learn about marketing initiatives, inventory build strategies, and customer service KPIs in the FASB Accounting Standards Codification. This is all incremental to the natural social environment of professional service firms, which is often the biggest draw, and for me, the biggest reason to return to the profession.
Myth #3: Accounting is Exclusive

What I mean by this is that many think you need to fit a certain mold or be a certain way to 'fit in'. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feared the inherent nuances of my character would not be appreciated, or even accepted, in the accounting profession. This could not be further from the truth. I have found what makes me different is exactly what makes me valuable. In a profession where constant improvement is the goal, diversity of ideas and perspectives are highly sought after.
Time and time again we’re told to bring our whole selves to work, and in accounting this is extremely encouraged and viewed as an unmatched value-add. Accounting and diversity don’t go hand-in-hand just by accident. While many consider accounting to be 'black and white,' the reality is that the unique challenges and complex scenarios encountered on a daily basis require immense amounts of judgment and interpretation, and the best way to judge and interpret is by employing a holistic mindset considering each and every alternative. Without diversity of perspectives, this would not be possible. 

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