Journalism to ... accountancy? | AccountingWEB

Journalism to ... accountancy?

This question has been posed to me in nearly every job interview. The question is usually asked in one of three ways:

1.    How?
2.    Why?
3.    Both!
The answers have become routine. But in this forum, I can describe a bit more of the “How and the Why”.
·         Why journalism?
I was a sports fanatic. As an undergraduate, I spent as much time reading newspapers and at student-run radio stations as I had spent on schoolwork. A person at one of the stations suggested to me that if I majored in journalism, I could actually be “paid” to attend sporting events. What a great idea! The person forgot to mention that few people could make a living as journalists, and this was at a time when ESPN was in its infancy and sports radio was limited to a couple of hours per day in select markets.
·         Why continue forward?
Though the person was correct, I wanted to prove him wrong and be one of the few and the proud. After graduation, it took me more than a year to find regular free-lance work, and another year to land a job - as a part-time sportswriter with a weekly newspaper chain near my hometown in Chicagoland.
·         Why did I succeed?
My goal focused on landing a job at a daily newspaper, preferably at one of the two major Chicago dailies. But to get there, I would need daily experience. That meant moving, and for me that meant the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As part of the move, I spent much of my time as a sports copy editor, where I edited stories, wrote headlines and photo captions, and prepared the sports section for press. After two years in Mississippi, and more than seven years in Tennessee, I arrived in Central Ohio. Two years into the job, I met the person who I would eventually marry.
·         Why did I switch?
 My wife and I were not yet engaged. She worked first shift at the newspaper, I worked second shift. One day she stopped by my desk and said, “You look as if you are just going through the motions.” I didn’t say a word, but she was right. She also knew I was always good with numbers, and posed the following: “You have always threatened to take an accounting course. What’s the worst that can happen?”  My response: “But I really don’t know anything about accounting!”
·         Why didn’t I know?
1.    Didn’t ask
2.    Assumed accounting and bookkeeping were one and the same.
3.    Too many people I knew dropped out of their first accounting class.
·         How was Accounting 101?
I learned in the first two days that all my perceptions were wrong. The instructor put it simply: “If you can tell your left from your right, you’ll do just fine.” I was nervous about the outcome of the first exam because I hadn’t been in school for a long, long time. The maximum score was 125; my score was 124. There also was a note at the top. “Good job, please see me.” After class, I met with the instructor. “You are in accounting, aren’t you?” he said.  “Yes,” I replied. “Good,” he said. “We need good accountants.”
·         How has the transition been?
After receiving my license in 2003, I attended a luncheon for new CPAs. The speaker, a national officer in the AICPA, touched on many subjects. One of them really hit home as he discussed his time in school. “Remember when you were in Accounting 101,” he asked the audience, “and you found it to be so easy, you couldn’t understand what the big deal was?” When everyone laughed, I realized I had made the right choice.


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Alan is a sole practitioner based in Central Ohio. He made a career change at 40 after working as a journalist for more than 15 years. Alan started his practice in May 2010 and currently focuses on not-for-profit organizations, individuals and small businesses. He has helped a number of nonprofits obtain their tax-exempt status and assisted others with their audit, compliance and tax needs. Alan has overcome many obstacles, and has spent the past 11 years primarily as an auditor. He also has worked on audits of financial institutions, closely-held businesses and began his second career as an ABL field examiner.

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