insight magazine

GEN NEXT: How I Built a Career by Embracing My Childhood Dreams

My childhood desire was to be a teacher, speaker, and writer—and as a CPA, I’ve created a career for myself that aligns with both my youthful vision and distinctive talents. By Charlene Rhinehart, CPA | Spring 2021

I’ll never forget the day that my teacher popped the big question: What do you want to be when you grow up? At seven, I boldly declared my desire to be a teacher, speaker, and writer. As leadership consultant David Whyte once said, “The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” I will always remember that big childhood question, and I have never stopped thinking about what my first, sincere answer truly revealed. It was actually the key to unlocking my own unique value proposition in the workplace.

At 19, I began my journey with a Big Four accounting firm as a learning and education intern. I worked my way up to performing audits for banks, real estate investment trusts, investment funds, and other financial market players. I quickly gained one of the most powerful gifts that experience can provide: clarity about my own value. With each executive interview I led and every audit that I performed, I became more attuned to my strengths as well as the areas where I could grow.

When I landed a position in a financial analyst leadership development program at a major bank, I was immediately drawn to the roles that my peers dreaded: reviewing the 10Q, 10K, regulatory reporting, and press releases. I would go home and double-check hundreds of pages of 10K data, compose accounting memos, develop technical manuals, and unravel the requirements for regulatory reporting so that I could train others. Looking back, I realize that I created a role for myself doing exactly what the seven-year-old version of me wanted to do: teaching, speaking, and writing.

Today, I work with major publications to ensure the data integrity of accounting and finance information online. I am a member of Investopedia’s Financial Review Board, an editor for various publications, and a writer for top-ranked financial platforms. I’ve also published three books on Amazon and serve as the editor-in-chief of The Dividend InvestHER premium subscription. Those days of auditing financial statements and breaking down technical accounting information put me on a path that aligned perfectly with my skills and fulfilled my childhood dream.

To anyone who is unsatisfied in their career or wondering what their next step should be, always remember this: There is no one-size-fits-all path to achieve your goals. Think back to your earliest answer to the big question of what you want to do with your life and consider how your unique skills and experiences connect to that. When you’re able to leverage your unique gifts and passions, the value you bring to the table will be undeniable.

ICPAS member Charlene Rhinehart, CPA, is the founder of Wealthy Women Daily and a best-selling author. She also serves as the chairperson of the Illinois CPA Society Individual Tax Committee.

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