Archives for posts with tag: Education

A lot gets written about the importance for young people in business to work or live abroad for a period of time. Years ago, an international assignment was very unusual and not often a good career move due to the uncertainty of what job might be available when you returned to the U.S. Companies often had trouble reintegrating an expatriate or recognizing the increased value of their employee. This was especially true in large firms with rigid job categories and inflexible pay scales. Fortunately this is changing.

Nowadays many of the young professional I advise are looking forward to and planning on an international assignment. This is very possible in the consulting field but also workable in many businesses. The timing can vary but it is often in your late twenties or early thirties after you have made several moves and/or promotions in the domestic business. I always strongly urge these “clients” of mine to push internally to get an international assignment. The young people I know used to lean to Western Europe but now the focus is on Australia or Asia.

Why is this international experience so important? I wrote earlier in my blogs about developing  “an International frame of mind”. This is much easier for many young people outside the U.S. Other countries study English for years and young people long to visit and be educated in our country. We are still a very U.S. centric focused country. But this is changing. And it better change as we are truly a global marketplace.

I was personally fortunate to spend a lot of my earlier years with Donn Corporation working with our businesses outside the U.S. I was often in both Canada and Europe six times in year and every few years in Asia. Many of the experiences I write about in The Business Zoo relate directly to these international involvements and the great people I was fortunate to get to know. Here are a couple examples and stories from the book.

Dining with Europeans. These are some of the most sophisticated people in the world. They have made the art of dining  an essential and integral aspect of both business and life. Much can be learned by mastering their skills.

Learning the nuance of language and words. From Donn’s European Controllers I learned that the word Yes means different things depending on your country and its culture. To the French, Yes meant I heard you and I will consider (not always do) what you said. To the Germans, it meant Yes, I will follow it in great detail and they would then ask a dozen questions to clarify what i meant. The Asian countries bring their own unique cultures to this.

So if you work for an organization where you can get International work, go for it. If you work for an organization that does not have the kind of International involvements that you want , find another organization!

Chicago’s weekly newspaper, Crains, just had a headline story called, “The Hottest Job Sector”. It was about my original profession, Accountants. The article explains that local accounting graduates at downtown Depaul University are averaging $55,000 starting salaries with an 88% hire rate. The nearby University of Illinois accounting class had 98% get jobs!

Does this surprise me? Not really. As any of my blog readers know, I spent considerable time advising, for free, young people on their job searches and careers. Some are accountants or finance people but others are from more general business backgrounds or even other non-business fields.

The easiest “clients” I deal with are accounting graduates. This is true both if they are right out of school or, even easier, if they have been working for a while. Why is this? Because accounting graduates have a very marketable skill that organizations want. Big public firms, smaller private firms and even not for profits, all need accountants. Accountants are useful to analyze, and make sense of, the ever increasing mounds of data, or as we say now, Big Data, that all organizations seem to generate.

The hardest “clients” to work with are from very general business programs like Marketing or, even worse, Communications (which was my wife, Tricia’s, background). Why is that? Because, other than the fact they have a college degree, they have No immediate marketable skills! I get emotional sometimes when I meet with these young people and try to explain to them that cold-calling for an investment firm or an advertising firm may be the best and only option they have for a first job. After they do that for six months to a year in a major city like Chicago they can move into something better, but will still not make what the Accounting graduates make.

What about Finance majors? Isn’t that the same as Accounting? NO, or I would have titled this blog differently. Finance sounds like Accounting but it is more theoretical and less useful directly out of school. Accounting.

Sometimes young people tell me they can not major in Accounting because they struggle with math. When I received my undergraduate degree, I only took one math class in college, which is now being taught to my grandkids in the sixth grade! Accounting is about solving a puzzle and understanding some concepts, like debits equal credits and assets equal liabilities plus capital. For many bright young people, Accounting can be learned.

So for those entering college, think about it. Do you want to be in the group of graduates where 90% plus get jobs with pay above the average graduate? And parents please tell your children or for some of us our grandkids that Accountants Rule!

One of the young men, we will call him Bob, that I have been advising on his career asked me an interesting question about advanced degrees or certifications.  Bob recently received a M.B.A. from a good school in Ohio. Bob is currently employed with a small, private firm as a combined Office Manager and Controller.  In trying to change jobs and upgrade his position and pay, Bob was finding that the M.B.A. alone was not providing him with much of an edge. So his question was, what about working on a CPA (certified public accountant) or a CMA (certified management accountant). Although his question was rather specific, it reminded me of the countless times I have been asked about advanced degrees or certifications by young business people.

About the same time this occurred, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about how prospective M.B.A.s are unhappy with the “strings-attached tuition reimbursement” that many organizations require. The article describes how young people do not always want to remain with their employer for several years to qualify for the full cost reimbursement of these programs. At many of the top prestigious schools, a regular M.B.A. costs $100,000 and an Executive M.B.A. can now run to $175,000. That is a lot of money! Especially to pay on your own with no help from your employer.

So, as a seasoned (read old) recruiter and mentor to many young financial people, what are my thoughts on all this?

First, an M.B.A. for most young people, who want to advance in business today, is a must. An M.B.A. to this generation is like a Bachelors degree was 25 years ago. If you can qualify and afford to attend a top school, either with your own resources or your employer’s help, do it. But for most young people the M.B.A. title is more important than the school. For example, in Chicago, for full-time programs,  you can spend $110,000 at Northwestern or the University of Chicago or you can spend about half that at DePaul University or the University of Illinois. And even less at many other area schools. The prestigious school may help you move faster in your career initially, but twenty years down the road, the key will be that you have an M.B.A.

The  CPA certificate is great and is required if you intend to work in auditing or tax for a long time. Also a CPA is very good for a public company Controller position, dealing with the SEC and accounting rules. In most of general industry, however, the CPA sounds good but doesn’t really bring much to most jobs. If you would like a shot at a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) role someday, I believe a CPA does have value and practical use as well. As a CFO/CPA, I never felt totally lost even in very technical conversations with my Controller or our outside CPA firm.

The CMA is a newer certification and is viewed by most recruiters and Human Resources people as below a CPA, but still a major accomplishment. For most financial people working in industry, the CMA is a good alternative to consider.

In conclusion, all advanced degrees like the M.B.A. and certifications like the CPA or CMA certificates are good for your resume and can, in many cases, actually help you on the job. But, again, for young people in business, your best bet is to get an M.B.A. from somewhere that fits into your budget and life plan not from the highest ranking (and expensive) school you could attend.

Good luck in your continued education!