An accountant and an insurance agent walk into a bar.
I know, it sounds like a setup for a bad joke (with a punchline about how everyone else was so bored with their conversation that they fell asleep). In my case, though, it’s an intro to a conversation that I had earlier this week.
We have in the accounting world what some wonks are calling an impending crisis. No, not that Donald Trump is going to put us out of business. It’s that we’ll have nobody to pass the accounting torch onto when we go.
Here’s my theory: our idealistic teachers teach their sponge-brained students how important it is to follow your dreams in your career. In all my life, I’ve met exactly one person who wanted to grow up and be and accountant, and it sure wasn’t me.
You gotta do what you love, right? Otherwise you’ll spend 40 years of your life being bored and unfulfilled as you peck away at your 10-key staring out the window waiting for the clock to tick down to five.
Here’s the thing, though. That’s utter bull. While I’m not going to argue that being an office drone is amazing, that it’s just one step below “Superhero.” The problem is that we’re focusing on the wrong thing here.
The real question you need to ask yourself when looking for a career is not if you think the job is sexy, or if you’re going to find the meaning of life in your 9 to 5. What you need to ask is if your job helps you find what you’re really after.
It’s (Almost) All About the Money
Why do you want to work?
If you’re in the workforce to change the world, accounting is not the way to go. Chances are no accountant is going to discover some new way to put numbers together that will blow a hole through space-time. If you’re looking for recognition outside of the accounting world, you’ll probably only get it if hand the wrong envelope to the guy announcing the Oscars. Accounting keeps the business world running, but it’s about as exciting as tap water.
If, however, you don’t want your world to be your work, accounting is not a bad way to go. You get paid enough to live well when you clock out at the end of the day. Then you can pursue your real passion, whatever that is. Rock climbing, coding, playing video games, running marathons. Or be like me and just spend time with your family.
Will you get crazy rich doing this? Not likely. But you can certainly live well (which sounds like an ad slogan from a health insurance company).
Let’s Talk About Job Security
I remember watching a King of the Hill where Bobby receives great career advice. I can’t find the exact quote, but it’s something like, “Do something nobody else wants to do.” Everybody needs an accountant. Very few want to do accounting.
A little over a year ago, I had to change jobs for family reasons (a.k.a. a stupid health insurance system that idiotically ties insurance to your employment). It took me about five seconds to find a new job that had the insurance I needed and only added about 30 seconds to my commute.
It’s not always going to work out that well, but there’s definitely comfort in knowing that I could go to basically any city in the US and get a job. There’s demand for accounting in Denver just like there is in Cincinnati just like there is in Houston and Miami and Maui. Not all positions will pay the same, and if I were determined to specialize it would definitely limit my options. But the point is that there’s open accounting jobs everywhere, any one of which can help me do what I really want in life.
It’s (Likely) Only Going To Get Better
I once had a boss tell me that on his first day at his accounting firm, he and all the new hires were taken into a room and told that the weakest among them would be picked off one by one and fired by the end of the year.
It’s not like that anymore. There’s a shortage of staff, and it’s looking only to get worse from the firm’s perspective. That means it’s better for you, dear Job Seeker. More competition for your services means more pay and more perks. The older generation likes to grumble about those dang Millennials asking for more Work Life Balance and other “crazy” things. But that’s because the younger generation, at least in this field, no longer has to be cutthroat to get what they want.
Of Course It’s Not Perfect
I’m more than write about the enormous list of problems with becoming accountant. It’s not sexy. Your friends know what you do NOT want to hear more (unless you can help them with their taxes). We’re almost always portrayed by bumbling idiots in popular movies (thank goodness for The Accountant to put a temporary hold on that cliche).
That’s not to say there aren’t some legitimately fun things in the job, too. But those can wait for another day.
My point of all this is that accounting is almost never going to be what you’re indoctrinated to want to do in school. It’s not exciting. It’s not STEM. It’s not any of those things we’re told to want as kids.
It is, however, a good job that will allow you to live your actual life. Just make sure to hang up the green visor and 10-key when you go home at the end of the day. Otherwise, you’ll put everyone in the bar to sleep. Except the insurance agent.