By: Rea M
I graduated university three years ago, and then articled at a public accounting firm to obtain my CPA designation. It’s been almost a year since I obtained by designation (time flies!). This is my advice for those looking to start their careers:
1. Invest in yourself
You are your best investment — start wherever you are, with whatever you’ve got.
Invest in your mental and physical health. A healthy, optimistic, and hopeful mindset has a better pay-off than self-doubt, fear, and stress. You can’t just tell someone to stop being stressed, though. The best strategies differ for each person. For me, the solution was investing in a martial arts membership when I was studying for my CPA exams. Regular, consistent, and fun exercise taught me how to manage my stress and manage my mood in inexplicable ways. It’s an important part of my life that I now prioritize.
Your life can’t only be about work. Have fun doing things you enjoy each day and every week. This helps you take your mind off work, create boundaries, and avoid burnout.
Invest your money and time into your career development. Figure out your long-term interests and then develop the skills and knowledge to pursue them. This might be through pursuing relevant training, designations, degrees or building a business. Find a mountain worth climbing. Personally, I resolved to get my CPA when I left university. It was exciting to reach this milestone — and now I’m figuring out what’s next!
Invest your money and time in interests and hobbies. Your life can’t only be about work. Have fun doing things you enjoy each day and every week. This helps you take your mind off work, create boundaries, and avoid burnout. Try new things when you can, and don’t assume things about anything you’ve never tried before! I now organize my work schedule around my social activities, martial arts, improv classes and art projects.
2. Grades, Schools, Designations
In life, we have grades, jobs, and designations to define us. When I say I’m an accountant, people assume I calculate math and taxes (I don’t). People will use your GPA to assume something about your intelligence and work ethic. Certain characteristics are used to assess credibility and filter candidates in various applications — that goes without saying, but also where it starts and ends.
In an interview, no one’s going to ask about your GPA. Instead, the stories and experiences you have to tell will show how you can apply your skillset to solve an employer’s problems.
All I know for sure is that regardless of the labels that are placed upon us, smart, capable, and inspiring individuals are everywhere. They have high and low GPAs, they are at every school, and can be found in all jobs, with various qualifications. When you’re networking and interviewing, what really matters comes down to who you are. In an interview, no one’s going to ask about your GPA. Instead, the stories and experiences you have to tell will show how you can apply your skillset to solve an employer’s problems. When you’re networking, it’s your ability to connect that will make a lasting impression and build new relationships.
3. Figuring out what you want to do with your life
There are no right or best choices in life. With every option in front of you after graduation, there will always be different risks and benefits. There are different people to meet and work with, skills to learn, and ways to develop. My advice is to think about the big picture: think about what you’re naturally interested in and what you’re good at. There are likely many paths to do whatever you believe is interesting and fulfilling.
Still, you’ve got to buckle down and do the work. Network, volunteer, apply, hustle — do what it takes, because no option will be easy. Figure everything out as you go. You just need one opportunity after you graduate to run with.
The other side of uncertainty is opportunity.
There are lots of jobs I never knew existed until I got my CPA. There are opportunities out there that you don’t know exist – so do research! Attend networking and career events at your university. Find opportunities to ask questions from people in fields you’re interested in — see how they got to where they are.
I pursued accounting because I wanted to have a secure job. Fortunately, I came to learn that I really like professional services. For me, public accounting is engaging and enables me to develop certain skills in a fast-paced environment. I’m surrounded by driven and fun colleagues. In university, I wouldn’t have thought that the favourite part of my job would be on the project management side, but here I am. It turns out that I love thinking about effective planning, quality deliverables, excellent client service, and figuring out how to make it all happen within budget. I don’t make assumptions about what I like anymore – I’m welcome to being proven wrong, and I’m open to pursuing new opportunities outside of my comfort zone. The possibility that I could like something is worth exploring if I have the chance to do so.
The other side of uncertainty is opportunity. You’ve worked hard to get through your post-secondary education. Take time to be proud of your accomplishments! There are great things to come.
A part of Tips for Success Series
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