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Making the transition: Part 1 – Failure to Launch

Ed. note: it appears this bold soul is the first to audition to be Going Concern's next big thing. Let's be gentle.

“What are your three strengths and three weaknesses?” asked the interviewing partner from Deloitte. I will always remember this question as my biggest interviewing bobble to date. Who the fuck asks for three?! During my meticulous preparation for interviews and anticipation of such a question, I had one personal strength and one weakness lined up plus a story for each, and I winged the rest. I couldn’t fly that day. I ended up crashing and burning. I honestly don’t even remember how the rest of the interview went other than that pit of failure in my stomach as I walked out. Hell, I don’t remember the rest of how that day went, other than I had clicked with one interviewing partner earlier in the day and he was subsequently the one who brought me onto my first tax accounting job right out of school at a prestigious (so I thought) second tier firm. In hindsight, I guess that day wasn’t so bad.

I’m sure my story isn’t novel in how it begins, but I’m not trying to blaze a new trail to get into the accounting industry. I took the beaten trail. Everybody goes through recruiting. Everybody goes through interviews round one, round two, and the angst-ridden waiting period thereafter to see if you have been deemed good enough to join the Big 4, BDO, GT, McGladrey, et al. I’m not interested in giving tips on how to get into the Big 4, mainly because I never made it to the Big 4 (second tier, remember?). I want to share what I learned on my journey so that other bright-eyed hopefuls can get an on-the-ground report in full NSFW view from an average Joe; the guy who interviewed at the Big 4 but was not offered employment; the guy whose resume was solid, but not Big 4 golden. I want to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and my own jaded biases about the accounting industry from the bottom of the totem pole.

Immediately after I received my first and only employment offer from the abovementioned second tier firm to begin work during July, I was ecstatic. Life couldn’t get much better. I had a job in my pocket and a whole spring semester left of my master’s program to fuck around before I started a real job.

I’m not sure if it was the haze of Mary Jane or just the sheer lack of fucks I gave during my last semester of my graduate program, but summer came quick. Before I could finish wrapping my head around partnership §754 basis adjustments and FAS 109 concepts, I was already moving away from school and closer to the office. I was about to make bank, live in the city, and life was just peachy.

My first two weeks were at this new firm were very familiar. I had worked in a small office before, and this office was everything I had imagined a larger office would be; amenities in the break room, lots of important looking people roaming around, and many, many cube warriors. Assimilation will be easy I assured myself.

After I completed my second 40 hour week of watching lame corporate HR sexual harassment videos (or whatever) with built in quizzes to “keep” your attention, my first busy season was upon me and I was ready to go. It’s cool that they didn’t train me on how to do the actual job, I’ll figure it out. Nobody showed me around any of the software or anything, but I’m a smart guy and I’d learn on the job no problem. I already knew how to NOT sexually harass people, how much harder could tax work be? Let the 60 hour quota weeks begin!

Well, this was one of my first professional failures of many. I began my first busy season so ill-equipped and over confident that I sunk like a lead balloon. My second failure of that busy season was to not be aware of the politicking in the office. I was immediately blacklisted by the seniors because I couldn’t do the projects having never seen any of this shit before, and I soon had no work coming my way. The seniors with whom I did work with and tried to hold my hand through the season had all quit or been forced out by the end of the season, and I should have seen the writing on the wall myself. My third failure of that season was to live in denial. “One more season” I told myself. “I’ll do better next time”.

There was no next time. I was shortly asked to leave by the very same partner that brought me in on the day of the next season. How embarrassing. In hindsight it’s almost comical how events turned out for me, but during the moment I remember that feeling of failure slapping me so hard in the face tears and snot were running down onto my shirt when I got home. I couldn’t even face my SO of the time. I felt very disgraced and disappointed. My ego was shattered, and my entire last few years’ work felt like it had been slapped down to irrelevance. “Where do I go from here?” was the only thing I kept asking myself. Despite my high GPA coupled with years of working experience and a masters’ degree in tax to boot, I had indeed failed to launch.

But N.E.R.D. where are you now? How can I not fail like you? That’s all for next time.