I studied Accounting as an undergrad. My senior year I was all set to take the CPA exam and start the interview process. Big 5 … 4 … 3 here I come! You can read the formal bio on the About Me page … zero mentions of accounting. So, what happened?
Just after spring break I attended a small party at a friend’s house. Many of my friends, who graduated the year before, were in attendance. They looked exhausted. (In hindsight, it was the middle of tax season and I am shocked they could get away at all.) After listening to the stories of long hours and difficult clients, I came to the realization that becoming an accountant was a goal I pursued because of my friends and mentors; not one I created for myself. I had allowed the goals and desires of others to fully entrench themselves in my brain. I was now back at square one. What do I want to be when I grow up?
Unfortunately, I was already grown up and had a college degree to prove it! Now what? A few weeks later help arrived via the classified ads in the Sunday paper (yes, paper … a physical printed media delivered rain or shine to my parents’ front porch). Long story short I applied at, interviewed with, and ultimately worked for a terrific organization that taught me how to be a software tester, developer, and manager.
I worked at that organization for 8 years. During that time, I also earned my MBA and married the love of my life. Life was good. Until it wasn’t (at least career-wise).
While heads down working through the regression tests for an upcoming release I was called into a meeting. At that meeting, I learned that my job had been eliminated. I remember being more worried about finishing my testing for the release than what I would do for work in two weeks. A new chapter in my life was about to begin and I will forever be grateful to that organization for providing me with outplacement services that included one-on-one career coaching.
My coach helped me with my resume and job search techniques but the most important gift she gave me in those weeks was perspective. A coach’s role is all about perspective. Instead of telling me what to do, she asked questions that helped me dig into who I am and what I wanted to be in life. With her guidance, I started asking myself tough questions and pushed myself to think beyond the layoff to the future – my future.
It was then that I understood the difference between the guidance I received in college and the true role of a coach. A coach should never tell you what to do with your life.
A coach should:
Offer information to remove blind spots
Help you identify and consider possibilities
Suggest exercises to get you thinking
Provide positive and constructive feedback
Play devil’s advocate
Encourage you to try new things and consider diverse perspectives
Help you understand your talents and strengths
If you think about it, a career in software quality assurance isn’t all that far removed from accounting and auditing. In both cases you validate that what you expect to see is actually what you see. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how a love of numbers, affinity for details, and mad organization skills could align with a career in accounting. Especially for the accountant giving me the advice.
My career coach offered me perspective beyond accounting, or even software testing. She helped me understand what it meant to be an effective coach, mentor, and leader. She rekindled in me the willingness to ask for and to offer assistance. With this enhanced perspective, I was ready to move forward with my job search and my career.