When I took an economics class my senior year, it was then that I realized that the person who understood the money was the most powerful person in the room. In my high school, accounting was taught using a practice set where students were the accountant/bookkeeper for a fictional company. We analyzed checks, looked at cash receipts and cash disbursements, and the entire accounting cycle, and it really opened my eyes to the importance of understanding how money moves and the decisions and the controls around it.

Why Students Should Study Accounting

It’s important to reach kids early about all careers. Think about how many shows there are about lawyers and doctors. And so those films and shows are showing you those professions’ work, presentation skills, and their impact. Think about police officers and firefighters. You hear little kids that say, “I want to be a firefighter,” and it’s because they were exposed to that on a professional day in elementary school. These influences impact kids at a very early age, and so accounting is something that they need to be exposed to early on.

Many kids decide they want to be a doctor, because they’ve been exposed to the medical field early. They understand what a doctor does and how a doctor interacts with patients because kids have firsthand experiences with doctors that they can relate to. Kids also have firsthand experience with business, so introducing the importance of accounting isn’t as hard as you might think.

Accounting is a good foundational major for university students—everybody needs an accountant. Everybody. Everyone needs to understand how money moves, how transactions work, and how the numbers are impacted by whatever trends the company’s vertical is experiencing. As an accountant, you can pick any industry you want to work in. A lot of times, students miss the fact that accountants support every industry, whether it’s movies, music, sports, cooking, or anything else.

Find Your Niche

My piece of advice is to figure out how you can find your niche in the traditional things that everybody does. For example, merging filmmaking with accounting, as I did to produce and direct All the Queen’s Horses, might seem like an unexpected combination, but if you made a list of every major crime show, most lead back to the numbers. The story is about accounting—the controls that weren’t in place or red flags that were overlooked.

Surround Yourself with Mentors

Early in my career, I had a great mentor, and I still have a really great group of mentors, so I always felt like I got advice that I needed. I surrounded myself with a board of directors for my life, if you will. I have one mentor for higher education, another for academic research questions, another for higher education administrative questions, and another for dealing with corporate clients; I have at least seven people in whom I confide that will push back and answer questions from me when I have them. Make sure that you have people you can bounce ideas off of and find people you know will say no, not those who will always be in agreement with you because that’s not helpful. It’s people who will give you an honest critique that you need to seek out as mentors.

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