My Story

IMG_4518One year ago today my life changed. Well, maybe not everything, but something very important known as my future career. This is a story that is is difficult for me to share, but here goes nothing…

I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to graduate from the University of Florida and then follow my dream of going to law school. When I was applying to UF, I had to declare a major. I could have done Political Science or Criminology or Economics, but I worried that if for some reason law school didn’t happen, I would end up with a worthless degree and no job. So, I decided to choose a “smart” major. A “practical” major. I chose Accounting. Did I know anything about Accounting? No. Did I have a secret dream of being an Accountant? Heck no (and who does anyway?). I knew that with this major, however, there is high job security even in a crappy economy. Halfway through undergrad, I knew that law school wasn’t in the cards for me anymore, so I focused my energy on making Accounting work.

I hated it. I hated it from the very first class I ever took. I had to retake my first Accounting class because I didn’t get a high enough grade. Should I have changed my major then? Probably. But, for some reason, that option made me seem like a quitter. I wasn’t going to let Accounting beat me, so I made a commitment to stick with it no matter how challenging it became.

Junior year I went to Career Showcase, which is essentially a huge career fair where 300+ employers come to recruit students for internships and jobs. I went more on a whim to get experience talking to recruiters, never expecting any internship or job offers. A week later, I received an email from a Big 4 Accounting firm, inviting me to a social. For all you non-Accounting nerds, there are 4 main Accounting firms in the U.S., thus dubbed the Big 4.

It’s basically every Accounting major’s dream to work for one of the Big 4 firms. Big 4 firms offer better pay, better clients, better benefits, and more opportunity for advancement than a lot of the smaller firms. I was thrilled to be invited to a social, and that social turned into an interview that turned into an office visit that turned into an internship offer that turned into a full-time job offer.

I loved my internship experience, and I have never been more thrilled than the day I received a full-time offer from the partner of the firm. I had proven to myself that I could be successful in this career path, besides hating all my classes. And that was the problem. I wasn’t doing well in my classes and that was clearly reflected on my transcripts that the firm reviewed before extending me an offer. With my offer, I had to sign a contract saying I would get at least a certain grade in the remainder of my Accounting classes. For example, I had to get at least a “B-” in X class for the offer to stand.

Unfortunately, the classes continued to get harder and I was barely passing them. Every exam was a struggle, despite hours of studying. I was in the bottom percentage of the class, and that was incredibly disheartening. I was the Salutatorian of my high school. I had never made a “B” until Senior Year. I didn’t fail at anything. I was smart, and my family and friends identified me as being smart and capable. Failing exam after exam in my Accounting classes was debilitating. I was frustrated with myself and had horrible test-taking anxiety.

The firm was not happy with my grades, but they said they would give me a chance to redeem myself during my last semester. I had one last Accounting class to conquer. A class that I had to get a “B-” in or I would lose my job offer and I would not receive my Accounting degree. The final exam for that class was on a Friday. I graduated the next day, walking across the stage in cap and gown, grinning from ear to ear. I really couldn’t believe that I had actually made it that far.

The following Monday was a day that I probably won’t ever forget. I received an email from my Accounting professor saying that final exam and final grades had been posted. I was a little nervous to see my grade, but I knew that I did well enough to clench the “B-”. I pulled it up and there it was… C+. Despite feeling sick to my stomach, I knew it had to have been some sort of a mistake. I calculated and recalculated my final grade, only to find that I was less than one percentage point away from the grade I needed. The grade I needed to receive my Accounting degree and the grade I needed to keep my job offer.

I begged my Accounting professor for the remainder of the night to regrade my materials or find it in his heart to give me one more point. Before, I had never argued about a final grade or asked a professor for anything more than I deserved. I told him that my future career was riding on this, but he said no. He said no. And that was that.

The next few days were a blur. There was speechlessness and crying. A whole lot of crying. How was I going to tell my family? How was I going to tell the firm? How would I ever recover from a failure so massive?

I remember sitting in my room, realizing that after 4 years, I had no degree and I was going to have no job. I had to change my major to Business Administration, but thankfully I only needed one class to obtain that degree to the credit of the wonderful Business School advisors I worked with during my college career. I couldn’t comprehend how I had walked across the stage and graduated, yet none of that counted for anything.

The Accounting staff were unsympathetic. I didn’t expect them to accept my groveling or change anything, but the heartlessness was sobering. They offered to award me a minor in Accounting, since technically I met those requirements. After all that work and tears and late nights and group projects, I was offered a minor certification.

I emailed the firm telling them what happened, and one of the staff told me the partner would be giving me a call in the next couple of days.

I remember feeling so nauseous the morning of that call. Scott and I were leaving to go on a cruise that day, so I had such a mix of emotions. I wanted to feel excited, but I felt such dread at what was to come.

The partner called and we made brief small talk. And then it happened: “Danielle, unfortunately, we have decided to revoke your offer. We don’t believe you can be successful here.”

It was one of those out-of-body experience moments, where I felt like I was watching myself slowly deflate. I wanted to comfort myself and tell myself that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t cry at first. I just sat there, hoping if I pinched myself this nightmare would be over. I would wake up and everything I knew would go back to normal.

The next few months were difficult. I completed the class for the Business degree and received my diploma. I still haven’t opened it. While it’s still a very respectable degree from the University of Florida, it wasn’t the degree that I worked for. So for the time being, it’s going to remain in the tube until I can accept it.

I repeated the story to so many family and friends that I’ve lost count. Very few got all of the details, because it became too hard to share everything. Everyone was very supportive, but shocked as well. How could Danielle, the shining student, let this happen?

Everyday is still a struggle. Not a day has gone by since that happened that I haven’t thought about what my life could be like. For so many mornings, I would be getting ready in my apartment in Gainesville thinking that I could be getting ready in my apartment in Atlanta going to my amazing job at an amazing company.

I hope that one day I will recover. Rejection and defeat is a hard blow to the spirit. My confidence and self-esteem have been debilitated, but I am slowly starting to rebuild. The only reason I have peace is because I know this happened for a reason. And not the “everything happens for a reason” motto; the “God has a plan for my life, and this wasn’t it” reason. Maybe I wouldn’t have liked my job there or maybe Atlanta wouldn’t have been safe for me or maybe Scott and I would have broken up or maybe I was meant to stay in Gainesville so I could start this blog.

No matter the reason, I have finally accepted that it wasn’t in God’s plan for me to go. Was I angry at God? Yes, beyond measure. How could He lead me this far just to forsake me right at the end when it mattered? I now know that He didn’t leave me. Last May, at the lowest point in my entire life, He picked my weeping and weak body off the ground and He carried me.

Sometimes, we think we are immune from struggles. Our lives seem so perfect, and there isn’t anything that can get in the way of our success. I was knocked down from the highest rung of the ladder. My life was planned out perfectly, but it was my plan, not God’s.

If you are going through something similar or struggling or questioning, I encourage you to have faith. The storm will not last forever. In the moment, that’s the hardest thing to accept. I was convinced I was never going to be successful again. I was convinced I would never get out of the depression. This was a storm for me and a very rough one at that. As much as I tried to prepare, I lost what I thought was everything. But just like actual storms, you may lose a roof or belongings or things, but those things are replaceable. A job is replaceable.

I may never know why this happened, or why it happened to me, but it has become part of my story. While difficult to share, writing this out has been so helpful and revealing. I know that I have something offer, and I can’t wait to take on this world. <3

6 Comments

M

about 4 years ago

Hi Danielle, I definitely feel sympathy with your experience getting through your program. You seem like an excellent student who feels like you are in the wrong place. My observation is that your anxiety and pressure from having that job offer actually made you perform worse (Does that make sense?). Anxiety can really hinder anyone's ability to perform successfully. My situation is almost similar, but with some different results. I got enticed into accounting for some of the same reasons with job security and the challenges of running a company. It was a safe bet during recessions, although I was very hesitant to get into the program. Nonetheless, I chose it officially junior year. I had a great run and did well in the classes up to auditing where I got a lower grade than my others. At that, point I was far in the program, but the interest was starting to wane and turn into discontent. I just finished my last accounting class with a good grade and basically can't stand it! End of junior year was probably about the time for me to start looking at internships. But... I started to realize that all these internships and jobs were with the local Big 4 and a few small ones (this is here in Portland). From some of the professors and attending a meet-up at one of the firm's, I started to get the real truth with those jobs. I discovered the horrors of 80 hour work weeks and students going in on a Saturday at 4 am to finish work on some kind of audit. One accounting professor told a story about an Associate who didn't finish work on an audit over the weekend. The Associate came back on a Monday and was fired, which he stated rather bluntly. This is all I'm seeing at the moment. All these accounting jobs seem to open up with Big 4, which is what I am hoping to avoid. I mean, hard work is great and all, but we have one life on this planet and I was really hoping there were other doors beside this public route, which is really just audit or tax. All this searching for jobs has landed me here at this website. I am basically in a position where I'm not sure what to do. All I know is that I need to find some experience or get some kind of job. It sucks to have invested the energy into something that in reality, would slowly destroy my soul for decades out. I still have optimism though (there are other careers out there). You should be glad that Big 4 offer didn't go through. It would just mean more stress, so be glad that it never turned out! That is one thing to be thankful for at the moment. Why would you want to be a partner grinding out 90 hours during busy season? Anyway, I hope you can find some value with my experience. Maybe you'll respond back? Thanks for sharing your experience.

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Danielle McRae

about 4 years ago

Thank you for your comment, M. I definitely think the pressure of the job offer contributed to me performing poorly. I was overly nervous for every assignment, exam, and group project. I am glad to hear that you are doing well, but I completely understand that just because you're good at something, doesn't mean you're passionate about it. The Accounting world is a tough place to be. Big 4 firms are cutthroat, and smaller firms often require tons of traveling with average pay. You are at a crossroads: Either utilize your degree at an Accounting firm or do something else entirely. Keep in mind, though, even if you aren't directly using your Accounting knowledge, you have gained so many other skills from the program (critical thinking, attention to detail, working in groups, etc.) You can always work in the Accounting or Finance department of a corporation, or you could work at a startup. Even if you work at a Big 4 firm, you aren't trapped there forever. You have many options, so don't limit yourself! Don't live the life you think you're supposed to live or the life your professors are pressuring you to live- do what feels right for you. Hope this helps!

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