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Do you remember the moment you decided what you were going to be?
Somewhere down the line, whether it was at age 8 or 18, you made a series of choices and have subsequently found yourself in a job.
Now if you’re lucky, you love that job! Or maybe if you’re like me, you don’t.
Maybe once you saw how the sausage was made you realized that this industry isn’t for you after all. This particular realization can be hard to stomach and is often accompanied by a side of bitterness and resentment.
What is harder, however, is deciding what is next.
At a certain point in my career path pivot (after I confirmed that “inheritor of a small island with unimaginable riches” was unavailable), I had to confront the inevitable question: “If not this, then what?”
What is it that I want to do? What do I like? What am I good at? Can I make those things a job?
After I decided to pull a professional audible I realized quickly that I don’t actually understand a) all of the different types of jobs that are out there, and b) what said jobs actually entail.
Moving forward, how am I supposed to know what I want and what I don’t want if I don’t even know what’s out there or what it all means?
In order to figure it out I’ve been asking around. I’ve quite literally been accosting strangers, friends, role models and anyone else that will listen (including the lady that provides me my Brazilian Wax) to answer age the old question: “What the fuck do you actually do?!”.
Below I have transcribed the first of my interviews (which I recorded, so maybe “bad ass journalist” isn’t out of the question?). If it tickles your fancy, I implore you to read on!
Victoria: Oh shit this is an interview. Let’s restart.
Okay, so maybe we cross “bad ass journalist” off the list?
Victoria: Hi Leah. Let’s start with the basics: what is your job title and how did you end up in that industry? Also, isn’t it cool that I actually prepared questions for this?
FYI – Leah is my best friend from college and does not really think anything I do is cool.
Leah: I am not really impressed you prepared questions, no. You take this blog more seriously than your real job.
Leah: Anyways, I am a Federal Audit Associate. I got here because I went to college, hit up a career fair, dabbled with an internship, and banged out the CPA. Now I’m here, at a Big 4. Oh, I’m 23 and live in Washington, D.C. where rent is very expensive and people fucking love brunch.
I’ve known this girl for 6 years and still her syntax never ceases to amaze me.
Victoria: What does your day to day look like? Don’t bullshit me, I want the truth.
Leah: I grind a lot and put in my time. It’s a fuck ton of hours when we’re in busy season because the government is demanding.
My day starts around 7AM. I wake up, chug a pitcher of water, and go to whatever client site I’m on. Most of my work is out of D.C., but sometimes I’m at corporate clients, so I have a lot of hotel points and often drink in bars alone.
When I get to the office I scroll through Outlook (I’m a year and a half in and I still get giddy every time an email comes in), and then I audit.
What auditing means is this: I look at a company’s numbers from last year and then do it again with this years numbers and pray that everything balances out. If it doesn’t, it’s like a puzzle I need to figure out. Luckily, I’m a big fan of puzzles. It’s a fuck ton of spreadsheets and even more PDFs. I sit at a desk all day and my eyes get very very tired.
Victoria: How is work-life balance?
Leah: It’s extremely seasonal. Busy season is busy as hell. That means no weekends, no nights off, and no sleep because you’re stress dreaming about work. Slow season is SO slow, though. In my opinion it balances out, but that’s because I like the grind of the busy season. When you’re not busy, all you’ve got is free time, so that’s cool too. I usually take PTO and travel places.
Victoria: So you wouldn’t really call it your traditional 9-5?
Leah: No, if you want like a clock-in, clock-out 9-5 this isn’t for you.
Victoria: What do you hate about your job?
Leah: I hate that I’m just a goddamn number. As long as I’m chargeable, they don’t care where I have to be or how long I have to be there. I see the benefits of working at a smaller firm, they probably care about you more. But at the Big Four we get good training and they have solid on-boarding programs, so I guess that’s the trade off?
Victoria: Is the money good?
Leah: Not too shabby, but there is always more somewhere else. People are constantly trying to seduce me into more money at another firm on LinkedIn. I’m playing the game by staying, so I can be strategic when I leave.
Victoria: Do you feel fulfilled in your job?
Leah: No. But I never cared about feeling fulfilled. I want to work hard, make money, and have experiences outside of work. People that want to feel passionate about the cause they work for should not do this.
Victoria: Where do you see yourself in 5 years professionally?
Leah: Not at this company. Abroad maybe? In a new city for sure. I think of this job as the launching pad for me to have the opportunity to do more cool stuff. I know some people that want to stay in audit forever, which blows my mind. I’m super antsy, so every day I think I want to do something new.
Victoria: Ya, you’re not alone in that. I think our friends that have seen us go into super corporate jobs assume we’re going to be in them forever.
Leah: They don’t realize that we are being smart now so we can mess around later.
Victoria: Is that what we are doing?
Leah: I think so. Aren’t you and I going to buy a bar one day with all the consulting money we make?
Victoria: Yes, when we are millionaires. Okay next question. Have you ever dipped your pen in the company ink?
Leah: Ya, last holiday party. You hate to see it, but hey…open bar. I see him every once in a while and ignore him. It’s dope.
Victoria: What do you wear to work?
Leah: Business professional. I wear a lot of pencil skirts and blazers. The associate guys wear business professional too. In the government it’s all very stuffy and best to just blend in. We all look like a less attractive J. Crew catalogue if I’m honest.
Victoria: I despise pencil skirts on a deep, personal level.
Leah: I know.
Victoria: Okay, last question – if someone came up to you on the street and told you they wanted to be in Federal Audit, what are 3 tips you would give them?
Leah: 1) If the people you end up working with suck, get out of the project ASAP, 2) If you don’t like socializing, the Big 4 is probably not for you because you often have to share desks and sit at really tiny conference tables with a lot of other associates, 3) If you hate travel, don’t audit, do taxes or something else.
Victoria: Okay, this is the real last question. Do you think I would be good in your job? Should I look into accounting?
Leah: I think you would be good, for sure. You are bright and have social skills…you would be baffled by how many accountants don’t.
I swear I didn’t pay her to say that.
BUT, do I recommend it for you? Absolutely not my friend. You are an ideas girl (I am not FYI), and here, nobody gives a shit about your ideas, wants to hear about your ideas, or has any intention of implementing your ideas (although they say that they do).
Like I said, this is a place where you grind. If you do it well then people love you, but if you try and fuck with the gears as a low level staff, people won’t have it. Wait until you’re manager to change the game, for now just play the one that is already there. Therefore, don’t go into accounting. You would be suffocated here, and we can’t have that.
Victoria: Any last thoughts?
Leah: Going down this track is safe, but it’s also smart. You have to be willing to take a certain amount of corporate bullshit. If you’re in this job, the best thing to do is make your life outside of work fun. Go out, join sports leagues, do whatever you can to make yourself happy, then go sit behind your desk and get paid. Also, go to networking events – always go to networking events.
So there you have it folks, the life of a 23 year old Federal Audit Associate. Special thanks to Leah in D.C. (She’s single, by the way.)
I don’t know why, but somehow this conversation was fun. Not as fun as my interview with the waxer that rips the pubic hair from my body once a month, but close.
I don’t think I want to be an accountant, but I do think I’m one step closer to whittling down the list, and that’s something – isn’t it?
I think I’ll interview a pastry chef next..