Millennials are disrupters, except in the accounting industry


Young people today are in a more advanced position than their forefathers were at their age. The advantage is in their access to and familiarity with technology. The Millennial generation of today are digital natives and have had smartphones in their hands since they were kids.

With all kinds of information at the press of a button, the Millennials are probably the most radical generation in history. At the threshold of adulthood, or as young adults, they are making significant changes in traditions and norms because the existing “system” conflicts with their perspective on life. As poet Mildred Barthel said, “Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.”

However, and strangely too, accounting is probably one industry that Millennials are agreeable to be part of, leaving the core of it the way it is. And accounting is known as a dull and boring industry, good only for those with a passion for numbers.

People who have studied accounting, come to realize that accounting is to business, what language is to writing a book. Business magnate Richard Branson, once said, “Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the lifeblood of business.”

Nevertheless, public accounting is considered of the “most stressful and intensive professions”, requiring a patient disposition and commitment. It also appears that clients expect more services from Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) than mere number crunching. People tend to categorize CPAs as public tax professionals. Yet most accountants who work in corporates, have a gamut of responsibilities beyond taxes, like financial planning, analysis, forecasting, internal controls and decision support According to the recent first ever tally of CPAs in the US, done by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), there are over half a million actively licensed CPAs around. The study reveals that although CPA exam pass rate has increased steadily, the number of CPAs has increased only slightly. This could also be a result of CPA students having more schooling requirements and facing more difficult CPA exams than peers in earlier generations.

According to projected figures of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a steady growth rate  of 11% demand for accountants and auditors up to 2024. This is probably one of the most positive of job growth projected nationally across careers. The prospect of landing a job on the heels of graduation, and the job security projected, offers both stability and growth to millennials shouldering an enormous burden of student debt.

Once the pomp and ceremony of graduation is done, students face sizable regular payments to be made on student loans. This is a reason why many young graduates are living at home with their parents. The Pew Research Center, in a recent study, found that, for the first time in modern history, more 18-34 year olds are living with parents today than earlier. Unlike previous generations, Millennials are not ready to live on their own, and high up on their list of priorities, is to get a decent paying job as soon as possible. And accounting is seen as a reliable career prospect that can secure a job for a young person before even before graduation. Therefore, courses with discounts, like CPA course discounts, are a boon to students.

Millennials are known to be impatient and demand instant gratification because they are so used to getting all the information they need immediately. This could, at various times, be frustrating to all concerned. However, the positive factor that arises from this characteristic is that Millennials are essentially time-sensitive, and that quality is a major asset for businesses in their day-to-day business decision making.

Millennials stand out from previous generations because they focus on solving issues. They do this by questioning the status quo. Being tech-savvy, they know shortcuts and different tools and apps that would help them perform the required tasks faster and more efficiently, and, consequently, probably save their companies thousands of dollars. So, when a millennial, as a new employee is told to “see what they did last year,” he or she is expected spend many hours copying from the previous year’s papers. However, the millennial way is to ask questions to draw out the reasoning behind the action. By questioning, for instance, why a particular deduction is done or why a set of numbers are added together, and not another set, the novice quickly learns the ropes, and with the help of technology, will do it faster than others have done before.

Therefore, even as millennials are changing dress codes and other work place policies through their desire for flexibility, trust, appreciation and work/life balance, they are being welcomed in companies for the efficiency and timeliness they bring to their work, and their tech-savviness. A recent Microsoft survey of 1000 millennials found that 93% of them believed that having access to appropriate technology is important when choosing an employer.

Unlike in other industries, accounting has basic principles that are perennial and millennials absorb them and extend their skills to influence other areas of business. They analyze data and identify new revenue sources, or combine redundancies to bring down costs. Other millennials would brainstorm with management teams and help guide product decisions, acquisitions, overhead costs and the like.

Therefore, accounting exposes millennials to different areas of a business, providing opportunity to sharpen their skills in entrepreneurship to reach higher levels of achievement as they mature into experienced professionals.

As American business consultant Terri Tierney Clark said, “Instead of trying to find a path to follow, today’s most successful professionals seek to acquire the right skills to set themselves up for advancement.”

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