Monday, August 19, 2013

Challenge your Career Fears

I'm afraid of heights.  In the pictures above, I'm 50+ feet in the air at an extreme ropes course.  The course had four levels.  My plan was to go through the first couple levels with my daughter and nephews, then climb down. 
But, I missed the signs to exit at the 3rd and 4th level.  So, I found myself at the hanging upside down and pulling myself across the rope.  Then, climbing higher and getting across the same divide by maneuvering through swinging ropes.  I was scared! 
After I was done, I was amazed that I made it through all four levels.  I didn't panic, but rose to the occasion, even though when I started I didn't think I could do it.
Interesting, maybe, but what does this have to do with a career in accounting? 
As I look back on my career, I had many fears and still do.  Giving into those fears would limit my career options.  I had to (and still do) make the conscious choice to move past those fears. 

Here are a few examples: 
3 Hour Presentation as a Staff Accountant!
As a staff accountant, I was asked me to help prepare a three hour presentation for a client workshop.  I didn't know much about the industry and had never presented to a large group.  I was scared to death of public speaking.  But I accepted the assignment and did my best.  I wasn't the most polished but had good feedback from my bosses and the participants.  Since then, I have improved and found I love to teach, educate, facilitate and have even spoken at a conference in front of 250 people.  My fear could have stopped me from taking on that first challenge.  I'm glad I didn't let it. Public speaking has opened up great opportunities for me with the CPA industry and helped lead me to the career I have today.
Networking Events
Staff accountants at J&R are expected attend networking events and build relationships with referral sources.  As a new staff accountant, I was shy, reserved and nervous talking to people I didn't know.  The thought of walking into a networking event with 50 people was frightening.  But, it was part of my job, so I did it.  Before my first event, I spent some time preparing questions and my elevator speech with the help of our marketing director.  I went to the event with a plan.  I'm sure I was awkward and visibly nervous, but I did it. And, kept doing it.  Although not my favorite thing to do, I'm comfortable walking into a new situation and being able to make connections.  Those connections have opened doors to me throughout my career and gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people.

Taking on Champion of the Advisory Services Niche
I started my career as a traditional CPA, learning assurance and tax work.  I loved working with a variety of client industries and tackling the technical accounting work.  Six years into my career, the firm asked me to be the "champion" for the advisory services niche.  I had been assisting shareholders with projects over the years, but most were related to the financial aspects of the business which was comfortable to me.  Advisory services has and accounting piece but primarily deals with business coaching, team development, marketing & sales, products, culture, client conflict, planning and more.  I was afraid that I might not have the skills to make this work, but I was willing to try.  The first few years there were a lot of fearful moments: will I understand the new services; how will I present the service to clients; how will I teach others inside the firm about these services; how do I lead a client meeting when the owners have conflict. I stuck with it and found that advisory services is my passion.  I love helping clients figure out what they need to do to succeed, then developing and implementing a plan. Fear could have held me back.

I couldn't have predicted what my career would look like.  I am fortunate to have found a firm and career path that keeps me excited and interested every day. 

I wouldn't have found this path if I gave into my Career Fears.  I challenge you to pay attention to the things that scare you.  Is there an opportunity there?  A challenge?  Does it excite you a little bit? 

Don't let your fear hold you back.  Take the challenge and enjoy the rewards of zipping through the trees when you overcome your fear!

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