Four Steps to the (Second) Best Decision I�ve Ever Made

Four Steps to the (Second) Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

Four Steps to the (Second) Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

Every moment in life requires you to make a decision, so naturally, I have made my fair share of mistakes.Sometimes the consequences are short-lived, like the few times I had orchestral conductors turn to me in the middle of a performance, wide-eyed with rage at my musical mistakes or missing my flight on my first ever business-trip as a summer intern.But decisions with life-altering stakes, like career or education, require careful consideration. If you knew me before my senior year at the University of Michigan (Michigan), you might guess that I’d end up in an orchestra hall or doing research in a lab, but never that I’d be a CPA candidate.And yet, here I am, one month into my career as an Audit Associate, and I’m confident that choosing this career path is the (second) best decision I’ve ever made.My improbable path can be broken down into four steps that can be helpful for anyone making a big decision:

1.Explore Everything: I’ve been playing French horn since age nine. I attended Michigan with a performance scholarship, graduating from its rigorous Bachelor of Music Performance program. 
I chose Michigan instead of a music-only conservatory, seeking a college where I could explore any field. I even dabbled in ecology courses and research, working in an insect lab in Jerusalem and writing a paper on a mammal called the Brazilian tapir that was published on the University’s Animal Diversity Web. When you search “Brazilian tapir” online, my paper is one of the first search results to appear. 
Even in my last semester, I knew it wasn’t too late to explore. So, on a whim, I signed up for an accounting course and fell in love.

2.Forge Your Own Path: Conventional wisdom for new graduates is that it’s time to either get a job or go to graduate school. Forget that. I loved accounting, and with only one introductory course under my belt, I needed more undergraduate credits to get into a graduate program to earn my 150 credits. I took the courses, studied for the GMAT, and was thrilled to be accepted to Michigan’s Masters of Accounting program.I “went my own way” once again when it was time to select a job offer. Nearly all of my classmates accepted offers from large firms where they interned, but I declined mine. Choosing a more niche-oriented firm gave me the friendliest culture, the nicest colleagues, and more responsibility from day one.

3.Follow Love and Family:My father is a CPA. His encouragement, and passing down the accounting gene, helped me realize that no matter how long I spent trying to ignore his career advice, following in his footsteps could be a good idea after all.Plus, I took my first accounting course with my now husband. It was fun to sit next to him in class every day, and that definitely contributed to my positive feelings about accounting. (Remember how I said that my career is the second best choice I’ve ever made? Marrying my husband is the first.)

4.Understand WhyA lot of non-accountants don’t understand my enthusiasm for the field. I think they imagine that we just add numbers all day for no particular reason. Fortunately, the accounting faculty at Michigan emphasized the purpose and importance of accounting. As an auditor, I’m energized to know that I am responsible for keeping clients honest and rule-abiding. We serve an essential role for society.
Nothing is more motivational than understanding the big picture of why you do what you do. Now, as I spend nights and weekends cramming for my third CPA exam (I passed my first and am anxiously awaiting the results of the second), I remind myself that every minute spent studying is a step closer to concretizing the career that I’m so excited about. Samantha Gilson is an Associate at Johnson Lambert, LLP

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