Saw this on our Twitter timeline, thought I’d throw it to the sharks and see if anyone has some thoughts:
Accounting industry. We all agree there numerous issues & major changes are needed. The ultimate question is even with all the issues, why are ppl not willing to overcome all of them & either enter or stay in the profession? Its about the industry as a whole. WTF am I missing?
And a follow up thought to that:
For example, is the industry not dynamic enough or ppl don’t see the opportunities? Are they being scared away or driven away? Why isn’t the goal for the industry to tell ppl it’s worth it?
— KeithKauffman (@KeithSKauffman) June 15, 2022
A few thoughts:
Sunk cost can sometimes make people endure situations they should have removed themselves from long ago; 13 years circling the profession like a evening news traffic copter looking for a crash has taught me that unhappy, underpaid, overworked accountants are not anything new. Go up to any current or inactive CPA over the age of 65 and mention how many hours you worked this past busy season, guarantee he (and it is most likely a he) will blow your ears out with stories of even longer hours under far more hostile conditions than we enjoy today. But it’s like some of you just end up here almost by accident and don’t ever consider walking away because change is hard or something. You accept that it sucks because you’ve been told it just does, end of story, oh well, guess this is my life now.
On a related subject, have any of you spoken to a CPA today? Or in the last 20 years? Of the hundreds or maybe thousands of you I have met since 2007 not a one of you exudes happiness. OK that’s not true, Tom Hood comes off as genuinely happy. Everyone else though… In other words, accountants are not very good billboards for accounting. Firms can use as many stock photos of young people paragliding across nondescript scenic landscapes as they want in recruitment brochures, we all know the “exciting world of public accounting firm travel” is hotel after hotel in such exotic destinations as Omaha and maybe upstate New York if you’re lucky, and anyone other than recruiters at Meet the Firms will tell you this. Where’s the draw? Where’s the thing that makes young people sit up and think to themselves “ooh, I wanna do THAT!”? Because we know it’s not the money.
I won’t even get into the money because it’s been done to death. OK, I’m going to get into it briefly. The accounting profession has a critical value proposition problem — it has consistently failed year after year to demonstrate that it offers enough perks to make up for the downsides. The profession asks students to commit five years of their life plus however long it takes to study for a difficult professional licensing exam oh and also you’re going to be doing 70 hour weeks in a good week while living with four roommates for the first couple years but don’t worry, one day you’ll make some good scratch. You just have to get through a very unpleasant gauntlet first. If you express any discomfort about this process, you’re labeled a punk who can’t hack it in public by people who also can’t hack it because no one can but they do it anyway and say nothing because their university professor told them if they don’t shut up and take it they’ll be marked unemployable for the remainder of their career.
The profession set up a giant sausage grinder to run accounting graduates through and then wonders why no one wants to get ground up? And then people who do decide to go through said grinder anyway get spit out and end up writing stuff like this:
To anyone thinking about joining big 4, DO NOT. I ignored warnings for years thinking if people were so unhappy they should just leave and stop complaining. Do not ignore this. They will fuck you in the ass then toss you in the dumpster with a checklist of things to complete before they haul you away to the fucking landfill.
Tldr: FUCK BIG 4. I worked myself to death, I worked through deaths in the family, I was ignored, bullied, and thrown away. If you are recruiting, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. You are nothing to them. You are a number. They will grind you up and spit you out. We’re all just another brick in the fucking wall. Fuck your [colored shape].
See that? I protected the identity of the grinder in question. Y’all know who it is anyway.
To directly answer Keith’s question: “Why isn’t the goal for the industry to tell ppl it’s worth it?” BECAUSE PEOPLE CAN SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES IT IS NOT. Accounting is in direct competition with better paying industries (tech), more prestigious industries (medicine, law), and better work-life balanced industries (grave digging, government work, any minimum wage job that caps you at 32 hours a week so they don’t have to pay for your health insurance). As it stands, the profession has not sufficiently demonstrated to students that it is worth it both literally and figuratively. Simply telling them “no but it is” is an ineffective strategy as we can see. Making shinier brochures and forcing smiles on exhausted faces is not going to fix the problem. Fix the value proposition problem and you might get somewhere.
Anyway, just my $0.02.
Looks like Keith has been collecting some good responses so far. If you’re on Twitter go over there and give him your own. Or drop them in the comments below, whatever.
Follow up on why, here is what I have heard so far:
Comp to low for skills
Work/life bal sucks
Can’t see Opportunities
Accting Ed not aligning with real world
Churn & Burn still
I am sure there are many others
Now, for the next question:
— KeithKauffman (@KeithSKauffman) June 15, 2022
Update: r/accounting had a lively discussion about this article, you should check it out. Shout-out to this person in particular:
This is the most ignorant and poorly written pseudo-antiwork article on the accounting profession I’ve ever seen.
Just doing my best here buddy, thanks for noticing.
Also going to add a bit of related reading: What Exactly Is the Profession’s ‘Pipeline Problem’ and Why Should You Care? published here July 2021.