We are all at an inflection point. John O’Leary, author of “ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life,” defines this as a moment in life that changes everything that comes after it. These moments can be caused by almost any event, including a chance encounter, or a global pandemic. And one of the outcomes of the pandemic, is it’s causing us to evaluate our careers. In fact, depending on the survey, almost half of Americans are contemplating changing their jobs and this expected wave of career shifting has been coined “The Great Resignation.”
Why is this happening? Well, some of us are exhausted, burned out, and disconnected from our passion. Many people have been operating out of fear or necessity, and now they are lifting their heads up and saying, “What is it I really want to do?” As knowledge workers, we can’t look at a pile of widgets to feel we accomplished something that day. An attorney friend recently said to me, “Cases are coming to my desk faster than I can clear them. I get to the end of my day and ask, ‘What did I really do?’” Accounting and advisory professionals have been battling this same fire and may be asking the same question.
It is time to reignite our passion! To feel a strong, driving conviction for what we do, instead of going through the motions. The daily grind of tasks can keep us so busy we lose sight of the contributions we make, and we need to step back and reflect on our purpose.
Start with Your Why
Start with revisiting what drew you into the field of accounting or consulting. Simon Sinek would ask, “What is your Why?” There are many careers you can have with the unique skills you possess as an accountant, so what inspires you to work in public accounting? Maybe is it the:
- continual challenge and learning
- difference you make in the lives of your clients
- diverse group of people you work with
- the cool technology you get to use
- ability to own your own firm some day and the promise of a lucrative income
There is no right answer. A wrong answer is just for the paycheck or because that’s what you majored in. Compensation is very important and may be your top motivator, but there are many things you can do to earn a paycheck. Ask yourself why accounting, and then share your “why” with colleagues and peers and ask them to share theirs.
When others know your why they can assist you in finding projects and a pathway to foster things you’re passionate about. They can help you identify developmental opportunities that will allow you to spend more time doing what you really love in accounting, and to hold you accountable when you start taking on projects that aren’t in your passion areas, or spreading yourself too thin. A good coach and mentor can help you center on what will feed your passion instead of getting overwhelmed and burned out on things that don’t help you fulfill your purpose.
Identify What is Draining You
Though we would all dream of a job where we get to only do things we love, that is not quite reality. However, we can, and should, step back and assess which parts of our job do we really detest doing. Too many processes and policies exist because “it is the way we have always done it.” Someone has to break those molds to create innovations and advancements. That could be you.
Over the last 18 months, we had to reengineer many ways we work and interact. We were forced to try new things and make changes. Let us retain this receptivity to innovating. Innovation doesn’t have to come from an outside force, but from our own desire to improve and create the next better.
Ask the following questions about the portions of your job that drain your energy:
- Why is this task still required? Why are we still doing this -- because of legacy systems or beliefs?
- Who is more skilled at the task than I am? What could I learn techniques from them to make it less painful? What is the likelihood that the task could move to that person?
- How likely is it that this process is broken and in what ways? Who owns fixing it?
- What knowledge would help me complete the project or task with confidence? What training could I take to improve my knowledge, or who could mentor me on a similar project to learn from their experience?
- How could we automate the process? What are the current technologies and are they being underutilized? Or, what new technologies exist to automate the work further?
The key is to not resign yourself to thinking all the parts of your job you dislike are fixed and unchangeable. Someone can explore improvements and that someone can be you. Use your passionate dislike for the task to drive you to develop a better alternative.
Enthusiasm is Contagious
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
If you are finding you are feeling negative and uninspired, look at the people you are spending the most time with. Are you interacting with others who are complaining or those who are being unstoppable? Enthusiasm, passion, and positivity are all infectious. Just by changing up the people you surround yourself with, you can change your outlook and mindset. These can be colleagues in your firm, an association, a peer group, family… Be purposeful in finding ways to interact with them.
My best friends don’t live anywhere near me, so we have a weekly date on Sunday night to meet virtually to discuss the Bible, life, our goals. We hold each other accountable to monthly goals, professional or personal. These are women I respect and lift my spirits. What can you do to identify your group of passionate individuals?
Perspective and mindset are critical to overcoming burnout and finding a path forward. Often, our environment and circumstances don’t have to change, but we have to take a fresh view or adopt a new perspective. Who could you talk to that will help you develop a new frame of mind?
Passion is more than a nice to have, it is a key leadership attribute. Passion is contagious, motivational and inspirational. Take 100% responsibility for your happiness and success. Reignite your passion and your career.