We have a great guest post from Go Finance Yourself!
Our guest blogger started Go Finance Yourself as a way to keep himself accountable to his financial goals and pass on the knowledge that has helped him grow his wealth and onto the path to FIRE. He fully believes that money does not lead to happiness, but it does lead to more control over your life, which creates happiness. He’s a big advocate of working hard because no one owes you anything. He believes that luck, or at least what others perceive to be luck, comes to those who work the hardest.
Don’t Burn Bridges
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Mustard Seed for giving me an opportunity to do a guest post on his blog. Mustard Seed Money will always hold a special place in my heart as he was the very first person to leave a comment on my blog. As a new blogger, it’s a great thrill when you receive your first comment. In some aspects, you feel legitimized because someone took the time to recognize your post and leave a comment. So for that, Thank You Mustard Seed! Now onto the post.
My initial job out of college was working as an auditor at a large CPA firm. It’s a great experience as you’re basically forced to drink from a fire hose when you first start and are thrown into the fire. It’s also a highly intense and stressful working environment with a very high turnover rate. Because of this, tensions can run high.
There was one partner that I spent a large amount of time working with. We’ll call her Amy. Working with Amy could be difficult at times as she was easily stressed out and was not very mature considering her experience and status within the company. Amy was also very passive aggressive. She would never tell you to your face if she had a problem with you. But she would tell everyone else behind your back.
I managed to stay on Amy’s good side throughout the first three years of my career. Then, my fourth year was a bit more difficult. This just so happened to coincide with when our business began to be impacted by the Great Recession. It was also a difficult year for me as I was trying to take on more responsibility in order to get promoted to manager a year early. To do this, I was taking on any manager jobs I could.
Here’s a quick overview for those of you who have not been introduced to the world of public accounting. The senior is running the day-to-day operations of the audit at the client’s site and overseeing a staff of 2-3 newbies. The manager is in more of a review position and therefore isn’t required to be at the client’s site throughout the entire engagement.
One of my worst two week experiences as a professional came during that year. Due to another manager saying she would do one thing and then doing another, I was stuck with an impossible situation. In one week I was scheduled to be in Chicago at training. I also had an audit engagement that I was managing that week, and another engagement that I was the senior on.
Suck it Up
There is no sympathy in the world of public accounting. I just had to make it work. So while everyone else was going out for drinks in Chicago after a full day of training, I headed back to my hotel room to work on both engagements into the wee hours of the morning. Nothing, however, was good enough for Amy. It was a stressful year in our business and she took that stress out on the people around her. In this case, I was her whipping boy. At the end of the week, while she was reviewing the engagement that I was the senior on, she made a wrong call that resulted in us (by us I mean me) having to do three more days’ worth of testing. I knew it was incorrect, and made my case. But in the end, she was the partner and won out.
At the end of the engagement, we had a second partner from another office review because it was a high risk engagement. We were all sitting in a conference room at the client’s office. When he got to the section of the audit where I had performed three days’ worth of additional testing, he blurted out, “Why in the hell did we do all this testing?” Amy didn’t say a word, and I looked like the fool who didn’t know what he was doing.
There were many difficult situations like this one throughout the year. But, in spite of it all, I had what I thought was a really good year. Every single one of my evaluations was very good, and I had spent the year working on the company’s most complex audit engagements. I felt for sure that I was in line for an early promotion to manager.
Then, Amy inexplicably trashed me during the annual review process at the end of the year. Again, not to my face but to the other people in the firm that carry big sticks. My career advisor at the time, another partner, was shocked. When we met he said, “I don’t understand it. All your reviews were great. I hadn’t heard one single bad thing all year.”
My yearly evaluation came back as just average, and there was no early promotion in line for me. I was pissed! I had been working by butt off to take on more responsibility and was always assigned to the most complex engagements. My job evaluations were great and I believed I would be promoted. Wrong!
I thought about leaving. Why should I bust my ass trying to make her life easier when she was just going to hold me down? In the end, I decided to stay. I had set a goal to make manager, and I wasn’t going to let one petty person stop me from doing it. The following year, I was promoted and we ended up having a decent working relationship after that.
Keeping The Bridge Intact
When I finally left the world of public accounting after nine years, I continued to stay in touch with Amy. Shortly after leaving, she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in any opportunities she had come across. I wasn’t looking, and by no means wanted to get back into the interview game. Then she mentioned that one of her client’s was looking for a CFO. Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?! This would be a huge jump in my career to earn a CFO position at the age of 33.
Three months and eight rounds of interviews later, I was offered the job. It has turned out to be even better than I originally anticipated. As I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, I’m lucky to work for a company that is a true meritocracy. There is no petty BS to hold you down. No office politics to deal with. None! Show up, leave the drama behind, get your work done, create value for the company, and in turn create value for yourself.
I think back to that rough year I had working with Amy quite often. My working life was a living hell and it spilled into my personal life as well. I vented plenty on my wife after long days of dealing with BS. I often think about just how close I was to phoning it in. Taking the easy route of quitting, telling her to F off, and going somewhere else. But I stuck it out, met with her face to face, and talked through our issues like adults. And it earned me a shot at my dream job, which I was able to nail down. Without her recommendation, I would have never gotten my foot in the door.
- Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you might need to cross that bridge in the future.
- Be an adult. If someone has a problem with you, or you with them, talk about it face to face like grownups. Often times, there are plenty of misunderstandings along the way that can easily be cleared up through a conversation in person.
- Don’t let someone else keep you down. I could have taken the easy road and left the company. Had I done that, who knows where I would be today? Definitely not in the position I am now. Be resilient, and don’t let others hold you back.