Jonathan Ham, Senior Manager of Tax Services
How did I choose my career? I was going through college, freshman year, trying to find my way and I knew I was – wanted to get into business and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in business but I thought if I could do accounting then that would pretty much open doors to all types of industries. You know,really you could take it from there in any direction. You could stay local, you could go international, you could go manufacturing, tech, life-sciences, venture. Really, you could take it in any direction you wanted.
I went to UC Santa Barbara, got a major in business economics and accounting. As part of the accounting program there was an accounting association and basically we just talked about what kind of opportunities are out there and every week there’d be different speakers and different firms, partners from different firms. Just kind of telling us what it was all about and what the industry had to offer. And then that kind of led me into my internship.
The internship was a great experience. It basically gave me seven or eight weeks of exposure to all different types of accounting within the firm. They liked me I guess and gave me a full-time offer about halfway through my senior year. So that was great because senior year in college knowing that I had a full-time job as soon as I came out was a huge relief and not to mention all my hard work had paid off. So that was pretty huge at that time.
The general advice I would give to somebody who is starting high school is, realize that from freshman year on, the decisions you make are going to have a huge impact on your life. You know what you do from ninth grade, your freshman year in high school, until senior year in college basically determines which direction your life is going to take and things build off of that. So it kind of goes without saying that grades are kind of the most important part of it.
In the accounting industry you need about a 3.3, 3.4 to even sit for an interview. So they do look at these things and it’s important that you really set yourself apart. If you’re not going to go into accounting and you want to do just any other thing but you’re not exactly sure, I would just say, try to find something that interests you but also try to find something that has a job.
Go into college thinking the whole point of college is to get a job. We do have a lot of general education in college but the main focus should be, you’re spending all this time and energy, four years of your life, you’re studying like crazy, you’re trying to get A’s, you really want to take something away from it. You don’t have to pick what you’re going to do at that point but you know a general area and then you can really kind of hone in on what you want to do later on. Because in the first five years after college you’re really just trying to find out how to work, you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional figuring out what it takes to operate at a professional level and get a job done. And there’s really nothing like it until you do it.
And then after you get that first five years of experience you can go and do anything. Even after five years of that you can pivot. But you definitely need to set yourself up for success and not hope that something is just going to come about.