• Career Center

    I Am a Millennial Accountant, and I Hate Accounting

    By | January 21, 2016

    Remember six months ago when I introduced my concept of the Accountapocalypse? We talked about offshoring, and the Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant. Your comments were both hilarious and thought provoking.

    I haven’t written in-depth about Millennials as factor in the Accountapocalypse. Maybe it’s because Dennis Nally of PwC has done the talking for me, or that talking about Millennials is becoming as cliché as cloud accounting. I actually hate the word, and sweeping generalizations about generations. Or, perhaps it’s because as a Millennial, I am in denial that Tim Urban is right and I am an unhappy yuppy.

    Ten years ago, I was 19 and had just started accounting at college. Since then I have accomplished some things in this profession; at least that’s what the rational part of my brain says. Despite this, I am miserable. Why? Because my expectations are irrational. I should be a billionaire like Zucks, I should own a basketball team like Cuban, but I’m not and I don’t, so I suck.

    I remember when our firm won the Australian Accounting Award for Innovation. I was not expecting to win; we were toe-to-toe with KPMG and PwC. But we did, and after about five minutes of elation, I was thinking:

    Okay that’s good Chris, but it’s not a GLOBAL innovation award. Australia is a small country, you can do better. Get back to work.

    Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it does push me to keep moving forward. However, I worry that when I achieve some of my huge goals like getting Accodex to over 1,000 staff I will be as equally ambivalent as I was at the last career milestone.

    I have also seen this phenomena work out in less productive ways for my friends in the accounting profession. As they don’t have clear expectations or clear sense of purpose, they end up depressed and see the profession as the source of their misery. Think about it. Did you choose accounting because it was a respectable, secure decision, or did you choose it because it was your calling in life? Once again Tim Urban nailed it:

    Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time.  The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.


    Honestly, I have not met many young accountants that are legitimately passionate about their work. Most are just going through the motions because that’s the responsible thing to do.

    My early 20s were dedicated to finding meaning in the work I was doing:

    I am so glad I have found a sense of purpose, it made a huge difference in my life. That said, I’m always going to be an unhappy yuppy, whose expectations will never be met. Because I’m a Millennial.

    So forget the what all the reports and companies are saying. Fuck your casual work environment, hip open plan offices, and flex time. None of that shit matters. Most Millennials are looking for meaning, and that’s what we as a profession must try and find.

    • Point and Clique

      “Honestly, I have not met many young accountants that are legitimately
      passionate about their work. Most are just going through the motions
      because that’s the responsible thing to do.”

      Do what you love-ism is anti-labor bullshit: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/in-the-name-of-love/

      Trashes this attitude. There will never be much meaning in certain jobs that are essential for society to function. Encouraging people to “follow their dream and sacrifice” is code for “work more and get paid less”, because the intrinsic meaning of your job makes it nonetheless rewarding. Yeah right. Accounting will never be meaningful. All my job does is help Company X sell bullshit Widget Y to customer Z so the C-suite can collect money. I am not here to be passionate. “Passion” belongs up there with “learning opportunity” and “growth experience”, i.e. exploitation in the pursuit of imagined, meaningless laurels.

      “Okay that’s good Chris, but it’s not a GLOBAL innovation award. Australia is a small country, you can do better. Get back to work.”

      Ew. So you’re THAT senior. Do your associates still think you’re Elon Musk when you’re keeping them until 3 AM so you can win some utter horse-shit award for pushing paper?

      • “Do what you love-ism is anti-labor bullshit:”

        Labor sucks.

        • Quixote’s BFF

          True Dat, Brutha!

      • Another exKPMGer

        Didn’t you hear? Chris’s firm is all about technology and shit. So he’s winning awards for using a computer for something other than porn. Which, by the way, is a waste of good porn watching time.

      • I’m the only one working till 3am tonight. If/when the guys pull weekend or late nights they have to get approval from HR as they get paid penalty rates between 150% to 250%, which I am reluctant to cough up.

        Industrial relations law in Australia is crazy, you guys should immigrate.

        Equity partners work as hard as they want to earn and grow their fee base.

    • SmallFry

      every young accountant at one point said how much they love accounting and tax and how they want an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. That was most likely during their first couple of interviews- and it’s mostly BS.

      my “meaning” in accounting is to do good work, get paid decent money to fund my (hopefully) meaningful life outside of the office.

      I stopped looking for meaning in the actual accounting or workplace- really, we’re not saving lives here or ending world hunger or sending someone to space. We’re staring at and talking about numbers on a screen/paper to help fuel the machine.

      how is that going to give your life meaning compared to the things you can do for yourself and family and friends.

    • dumpus

      I’m not too sure that many people in general are legitimately passionate about their work anywhere past the first couple of months or years. The novelty of doing something new, of engaging a different portion of your brain, of the endless possibilities of a budding opportunity – all that shit eventually wears off.

      Chances are, if you’re not hanging a shingle and running your own firm (doing anything…accounting firm, selling golf clubs, coffee shop, etc) or you aren’t doing something incredibly rare (pediatric cardio surgeon or something), there isn’t any real meaning in work from a standpoint of “personal satisfaction of pursuing one’s passion” or “grand contributions to society” or whatever. We’re largely stuck in assembly-line work, performing our tasks, repeating our programming, doing our part. There just can’t be any passion in that if you aren’t a general sociopath. The passion comes from the things that the fruits of your labor enables you to accomplish.

      Insert whatever line from “Fight Club” here to close this comment out, at your discretion.

      • “The passion comes from the things that the fruits of your labor enables you to accomplish.”

        I totally get that. We have a bunch of roles in the company are assembly line stuff with no career progression at all. Our HR engagement strategy and employee value proposition is literally, “Make the job suck as little as possible.” Most of these staff have meaning outside of work, hobbies and families, so we deploy worklife balance initiatives.

        Conversely we have a slice of staffers (Our corporate team, and partners) that want to put in the work and give up the best years of their life to help build Accodex into a great company. They are offered rapid career progression, diverse work and equity upside. They the EVP here is one of purpose. We need to deploy work life integration strategy here because work is their life.

      • SmallFry

        never talk about fight club

    • Another exKPMGer

      I agree with the other comments that you need to draw passion from somewhere other than your work. All this can be blamed on our baby-boomer parents who told us we could do anything, that the sky’s the limit, and that we’re special little unicorns who shit rainbows and eat chocolate cake all day. Somehow, our generation translated that to “You’re too special to do something that you aren’t passionate about, so you clearly must be passionate about your work!” Fuck you, mom. I’m not as special as you told me. Why did you lie to me for all those years? Hell, you still lie to me about the great things I’ve accomplished and how proud you are when I talk to you on the phone. I should get an AP rec that I signed off on framed for her to put on the wall. Maybe I could put some rainbow magic unicorn shit on it? Face it people, our parents lied to us. You can’t be anything you want to be, and the sky may be the limit but I can only jump about a foot in the air so I’m fucked. Anyone who wants to pursue passion in their job certainly can. I’ll keep my passions outside the work-place, right where I feel they belong. Now if I could just get my mom excited that I took two strokes off my handicap last year.

      • dumpus

        ^ i would buy this load by the dump truck if i could. +1

        as a yoot, i thought adults had everything all figured out. as an adult, i realize that they were goddamn champs for keeping that charade going as long as they did.

        i don’t blame their message, per se. i blame their premise. it should be quite evident that their generation’s passion was the accumulation of material goods, immediate gratification, and wanton greed. our generation simply interpreted their message differently than they intended. at this point, we just want to survive with most of our things intact.

        but even then, it’s difficult for us to feed our own passions when we’re too busy clocking hours to keep feeding theirs…

        • LikeABoss

          but even then, it’s difficult for us to feed our own passions when we’re too busy clocking hours to keep feeding theirs…”

          well fucking put…

        • N.E.R.D.

          “our generation simply interpreted their message differently than they intended. at this point, we just want to survive with most of our things intact.”


          As adults, millennials are now seeing the adult-world fallout from the baby boomer values; national debt levels that threaten national security and have been left for future generations to pay off, nasty divorces where the key focus is coming up with 51%+ of marital assets, a national first in that a generation is leaving America worse than when they inherited it, and the real economic consequences (and strangely, little criminal consequences) of when Wall Street crashes the homeloan derivatives market and by extension the entire economy.

          I can go on, but I don’t think we “misinterpreted.” We’re simply becoming aware of how the world is very much different from the boomer narrative that we bought because we were younger and more trusting.

          • dumpus

            i agree wholeheartedly, and perhaps “misinterpreted” was the incorrect choice of words on my part. i’d say for the fair majority of millenials, we are generally self-aware enough in ways that our parents were not (either by chance or by choice) of our collective actions and the impact imparted on our surroundings, and we are generally not willing to scorch the earth for a lousy $0.01 bump in EPS. our passions generally lie outside of ourselves, in trying to improve the human condition. those concepts to a baby boomer might as well be greek.

            case in point; i just sold my house FSBO a few months ago. broke off negotiations with 3 different baby boomer buyers who saw an opportunity to try and bend me over a barrel after the home inspections because they felt that they had me in a leveraged position; 2 of them refused direct communication at all and insisted on communicating only though an attorney. i ended up selling the house to a dude in his late 20’s to early 30’s, and we hammered out the inspection settlement with advice from a local contractor from down the street over a few beers on my front porch. i put the house up for a fair price, he put in a fair bid, and we both walked away feeling like we closed a fair deal in the middle given what the house needed. i honestly feel that due to our age, and perhaps the values of our generation, he didn’t feel like he needed to try and screw me simply because he saw an opportunity of a few thousand here or there to exploit.

            the sooner the boomers are gone the better. i just hope their poison hasn’t corrupted too many of us.

            • N.E.R.D.

              I think the concept of exploiting somebody for personal gain does not sit particularly well with us as a generation, mostly because we’ve been exploited on the whole as a generation by our predecessors.

            • Bloviator

              Unless you move to a communist society, you’ll be exploiting kids within 20 years whether you realize it or not.

            • N.E.R.D.

              I can exploit people now if I desired. I have the capacity, but I don’t desire to do so. I don’t imagine my future self will desire to either.

              To me exploiting a person is shoving a raw deal down their throat while they have no say or are never able to fairly represent themselves at the bargaining table.

            • TheSeer

              I would like to think that this poison will not corrupt me, but I currently do not wield power/wealth.

              I think the Millennial generation believes that our morals/values will always hold strong if we obtain power/wealth. Is this the case? Or is it going to be a vicious cycle? I think George Orwell had a theory on this.

              When you take a look at the CEO’s that are Millennials, what do you see? That is the true test of character. A company that works B2B will never escape the poison; they pass the cup during meetings. The company that works B2C has a chance to change.

          • liEYr

            Just read this. Excellent. You and I are not so far apart oh NERDLY one!

      • That being said, I grew up in a house hold where your work defined you as a person. I think I have been desperately searching for meaning from my work since I was a kid. I started working for my dad on 8 hours weekends about age 6. Paper route 20 hours a week from at 11, Safeway warehouse at from 15 for 40 hours a week.

        I too was told “I could be anything” though it was followed by the caveat, “If you work hard enough.” [Translate work until your eyeballs bleed].

        I suppose I figured if I was going to work till my eyeballs bleed, it needed to be something I actually gave a shit about.

      • SmallFry

        “You can’t be anything you want to be, and the sky may be the limit but I can only jump about a foot in the air so I’m fucked. ” – absolutely loved this

    • liEYr

      Sometimes I feel like a racoon in a cage knawing on a twinkie. Oh yeah, they love twinkies.

    • The Horniest Partner

      I hate accounting too. Fortunately I have millennials to do all the work and the internets to keep me busy.

      • N.E.R.D.

        They’re on the internets too.

    • Chevy

      Same shit, different corral. Perception is a nasty lying bitch.

    • EXB4ANON

      I’m not sure where this identity crisis came from. Maybe too many gold star driven kids that find their value in their work? It’s possible. Lately I’ve heard so many people complaining about work not being “fulfilling.” They want to do something “meaningful.” Good Lord! Then go do it! My motivation is me. My identity is found in ME. I have hobbies, good friends, and family. I know, I know… “but if you’re going to be doing something for 8+ hours a day, you should be doing something meaningful and fulfilling.” If work were meant to be so meaningful and fulfilling, then you wouldn’t appreciate your time off. These same people that find their identity in the work they do, are the same people who generally don’t want to go home to their spouse, or do fun things on the weekend or after work. So, what’s my goal? Make as much money as possible as quick as possible, while still being able to enjoy what that money provides. On another note, having taken an aptitude test before I would note that maybe accounting, or any number of careers is not where you possess an aptitude, and thus, you hate what you are doing, and you have to work harder at it to get results. Just because someone is good at math, doesnt mean they possess the structural visualization talent necessary to be a talented engineer or architect.

    • Hot Assets

      KPMG recently had a campaign for employees to create posters to show off the “higher purpose” of their work. My poster was a photo of a wet steamy dump after getting ecoli from eating dinner at chipotle every night during busy season.

      • InternsAreDumb

        ….. I hated that campaign. Much forced. Such Dumb.

    • Why Can’t I Post as a Guest?

      If you find your meaning in tax or audit, I don’t want to hang out with you. I also don’t want to work with you. I also don’t want to work for you. I also don’t want you to work for me. You suck, you stupid boomer hippie. We want your career meaning even less than we wanted your participation trophy.

      • liEYr

        Bingo! Your self awareness has earned you a trophy my friend!

    • SteveR

      Get a few years experience at a large public firm, find a start-up in an industry that should see some growth, get yourself some options and cash those bitches out. No one likes being a an accountant – but it’s a steady job with decent pay. If you want to be fulfilled, swing by the rub-and-tug twice a week.

      • Chevy

        ^ ^ ^ Wisdom, my children.

    • Hey guys, I’ve been catching up on comments. TBH I was kind of scared to look at them in fear of the hate I might incite, but I’ve actually learnt a shitload from the comments so thank you. Keep them coming.

      This shit is really important for me personally.

      I love accountants (you guys), I hate the profession.

      Not pointing fingers, but I am pretty sure boomers fucked it. In all fairness, they were probably treated the same the generation before them, and so the cycle continues.

      I want to break the cycle. I have committed a lot of headspace into “Engagement” and we continue to work on it. I’ve posted an extract from our employee engagement analytics console with some annotations explaining key peaks and troughs.

      I actually spoke about Workforce Engagement at Pecha Kucha as early as 2012. It’s worth watching for:
      1) Australian accent is HILARIOUS!
      2) I was 20kg heavier

      • Another exKPMGer

        Can you convert that kg crap to something we understand? I refuse to Google conversions for any of that metric shit. ‘Murica!

        Also, as soon as you say “Stand up, hands up” I immediately thought “DON’T SHOOT!”

    • Joseph B

      I am a baby boomer who started with a “Big 8” firm in 1979. I believed the recruiting brochures that the “Big 8′ was an exciting career. I found the environment to be high pressure with many focussed solely on their precious budget and squeezing the assistants to look good for the Partners. I hated it and was the only one in my group to speak out. The rest played along and would say how much they loved it only to leave after two years.

      I don’t think too much has changed. I doubt accounting will ever be a truly exciting profession although the work gets more interesting as you progress and deal with clients instead of debits and credits. For me, it was a means to an end. I chose accounting because it did provide a secure income and I had strong analytic skills.

      I don’t think the millennials are too much different from the baby boomers. My generation grew up during the Vietnam war and was quite radical when they were young believing they were going to change the world. There was a generation gap with our parents generation who went through the depression and WWII. Baby boomers were once young and idealistic. Now many have become just like their parents generation, very conservative. I believe the millennials will probably wind up the same when they start having families and grow old.

      • N.E.R.D.

        “My generation grew up during the Vietnam war and was quite radical when they were young believing they were going to change the world.”

        Millennials are growing up realizing that the Baby Boomers did change the world…and now we have to pay back their tab.

        • Joseph B

          A fair comment, I must agree my generation was quite spoiled and selfish compared to other generations, although not all of us were that way. I think too many of my generation wants the government to take care of them but are not willing to pay the appropriate level of taxes.

          Having said all that I think there are also stages people go through at different phases in their life. The millennials, boomers, and WWII’s are no different. My generation, the boomers, thought our conservative parents were responsible for the vietnam war, racism, and all sorts of problems. I can guarantee when the millennials grow old and have children, their children’s generation will accuse them of screwing things up.

    • cpanum31

      I have a hard time understanding this, unless I analyze it carefully.
      I enjoy accounting and tax, I could easily loose myself in the work for eight to twelve hours a day. I just can’t stand the people in Public Accounting firms and most other accountants. What I consider the real professions of Lawyers, Engineers, Doctors, major faith pastors, no problems as I think they have great people aboard. Public Accountants, never met one I could put up with for more than an hour. Then there are their clients…

      • InternsAreDumb

        Real profession….Major faith pastors??

        • cpanum31

          Off topic but many of those people are well worth detailed investigative biographies. Many are “interesting” people.

        • Why Can’t I Post as a Guest?

          If you google “major faith pastors” this page is the only result.

          Congratulations cpanum31! You have invented a new “real profession.”

      • herman

        I agree about the accountants. But there are just as many issues with lawyers, engineers, doctors, pastors, etc. Do you not know people in these groups? Public accountants on this website like to pretend that their jobs are the only ones with dysfunctional people. Once you get out of your bubble you should realize that every other job is also full of the same bozos and assholes. Any sort of job or profession worship is a waste of time.