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January 31, 2023

Falling Off the Corporate Ladder (Literally): An Alternative Path to a Career in Accounting

I’ll admit it – I’m a liberal arts refugee. I have a degree in English, and I found my way to the corporate accounting ladder by – quite literally – falling off of one. I became an English major with dreams of becoming the next Charles Bukowski (not realizing that I was still twenty years, a drinking problem, and a world away from becoming the late great CB). So after college I, like most liberal arts majors, had no job prospects other than an illustrious retail management position unloading Christmas trees and cases of bottled water off the back of a truck while the snow blew in sideways through an open stockroom door.

I was pretty good at managing a retail store, and I was fast tracked for promotion, riches, and power (all the things that come with world domination). I was set to get another promotion within ninety days. With the big promotion coming, I’d pretty much relegated myself to working retail forever, at least for the foreseeable future.

Life had other plans.

One late night at work, I fell off a 12 foot stock ladder and snapped my right foot in half. It took three reconstructive foot surgeries, 68 staples, several screws, seven months in a walker, and two years of physical therapy before I could walk again. I lost the promotion, my physical mobility, and my ability to drive. I couldn’t even grocery shop on my own. The doctor told me that I’d probably never walk right again and that the key for me was to find a job that didn’t require the use of my feet.

While I was relearning to walk and move my toes I needed something to kill the time, so I enrolled in some business and accounting classes at the local community college. I liked accounting immediately – the order of things, the rules. I liked that most questions had an answer and that everything balanced. This was much different than literary analysis. The professor took me under his certified public accounting wing.

As it turns out, my professor's wife had broken her foot just a few weeks before, and like me, she had to relearn to walk. The professor encouraged me to finish up the prerequisites and then pursue a graduate degree in accounting. I changed career paths on day two of credits vs. debits. I spent the next couple years (while my foot was healing and re-healing) taking classes, earning a Master’s degree, finding a public accounting job, and passing the CPA exam.

My foot never did fully heal – one of my toes is still completely paralyzed, but thankfully I can walk just fine. Thanks to my CPA license, my job is not dependent on whether or not I can stand for ten hours and in fact, not standing for ten hours is a plus in this line of work.

Now I’m cruising the blight-infested ruins of Detroit – from Mexicantown to Hamtramck – in my sweet ride with 24” rims and plastic spinners that my public accounting position has afforded me, and I’ll never have to unload another case of Aquafina off the back of a truck as long as I live.

I know a lot of people who’ve gotten into accounting through a roundabout way. I’ve met so far two chemists, a banker, a real estate agent, a stay-at-home mom, and a vocal music major who’ve all made the career switch to CPA. How did you get your start, and why did you make the switch?
 

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