GEN NEXT: Why: The Most Powerful Three-Letter Word
If you find yourself moving through your life and career with too many questions and too few answers, ask yourself “why.”
I was just a kid from Florida soaking up the sun and living the dream. I rarely stopped to think about where I’d be in the years ahead. I had great weather and a great tan, so why would I? Of course, time has a way of catching up to oneself. I blinked and high school was over. I walked across the stage to grab my diploma and seemingly woke up the next day to be confronted by the beginning of college. College was over in a flash. I had an accounting degree without a plan or roadmap telling me where to go next. It was terrifying. It felt like I was being forced to take a deep dive into an ocean ahead of me—and I wasn’t ready. But what I quickly came to realize is that while the ocean may be vast and full of unknowns, it’s also filled with endless answers.
A year after I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree, I accepted my first job as a staff accountant with a small, minority-owned firm in Chicago. I know what you’re thinking: Why would you move from Florida to Chicago? A few reasons: 1) I had an opportunity to work with people of the same ethnicity as me, 2) I desperately wanted to move out of my parents’ house, and 3) why not?
In the beginning, my leap of faith paid off. However, within two years of being on the job, I started to question myself again: Why did I choose accounting? Why can’t I find my niche? Why am I doing any of this? I shifted my journey of self-discovery into overdrive and, fortunately for me, the path forward was paved with people who wanted me to succeed. I had mentors who took time out of their days to answer my questions, provide advice, and just lend their ears when I needed them. They helped me start to answer my “whys.” It was like a switch flipped on, and it was then that I realized I can do the same for others.
Now, this didn’t happen overnight, but I was so excited and motivated that not long after, I dove right in and began to forge myself a parallel path within my profession. I joined my first professional association—the International Society of Filipinos in Finance and Accounting (ISFFA)—whose mission is to train and mentor minority professionals. With some encouragement, I began volunteering as the vice president of Student Relations. This felt like my first true step toward finding my why.
As time went on, it became more evident why I was doing what I was doing. For the first time, it felt like my future had a purpose—I’d make it my mission to help guide younger generations toward the accounting profession. As I continued to volunteer and grow, I eventually became president of ISFFA. I also joined the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) and its Young Leaders Advisory Council, where I have more opportunities to help guide young professionals and college students. Being able to help others—not only in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives—helps me to always keep a fresh perspective on life. I’ve learned that making a difference in other people’s lives is just as satisfying, if not more satisfying, than my own achievements.
Looking back, I’m glad I took that dive to try to find my why. Volunteering and mentorship have inspired me to delve deeper into who I am—and the accounting profession—each day. To every young professional and college student out there: challenge yourself, explore, reach out to others, find your passion, and never stop asking “why.” I can assure you, you won’t be alone on your journey, and you’ll find purpose in your life and profession.
ICPAS member Andrew Guerrero, CPA, is a manager at Adelfia LLC in Chicago. Currently, he serves as the president of ISFFA and is a member of ICPAS’ Young Leaders Advisory Council.