insight magazine

GEN NEXT: Authenticity: The Key to Making an Impact

By blending your personal experiences, passions, and career, it’s possible to bring your whole self to work. By Kiara R. Schuh, CPA | Spring 2024

If you're anything like me, you planned out your whole adult life by high school. You dreamt of what college you were going to, what profession you’d have, and where you were going to live after college. For example, I knew I wanted to go to the University of Illinois, earn my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting, obtain my CPA, and work for a Big Four firm in Chicago. Then, suddenly, all of that happened: I was a 22-year-old who accomplished all my dreams. What next?

Post-graduation, I started asking myself deeper questions. Who am I? What do I care about? What do I want my mark on this world to be? Then, of course, my favorite question: What’s my why? Meaning, why do I want to do what I do?

To help navigate these questions, I took inspiration from the person in my life that I’ve admired the most—my mother. She has always inspired me to follow my own life path, independent of what society thinks is “traditional” or “normal.” She was a single mother who conceived me and my brother using a donor. I was always proud of our family story and the fact that my mom pursued her dreams of becoming a mother all on her own. Therefore, I decided to write a book and share my experiences to help redefine society’s notion of what a traditional family is and the word “traditional” as a whole. After three years of writing, editing, and navigating the publishing process, I published my first book, “Chosen Family,” which details my upbringing and journey to redefining the meaning of family.

Through this journey, I was able to more clearly see how my unique, personal story could be the catalyst to finding my why. By sharing my story, I realized that I could make an impact on the community and inspire others to live their most authentic lives.

Beyond continuing to share my story, I also started to get involved with causes that are important to me. With Deloitte, I co-lead the firm’s Chicago Social Impact Community to create social impact through skills-based volunteering programs. Outside of work, I’m involved with the Court Appointed Special Advocate of Cook County, an organization that advances advocacy for foster care children and aids in transitioning foster care youth into permanent homes. I also serve as a young professionals board member for Hope Chicago, a nonprofit that focuses on removing financial and systemic barriers that limit access to higher education for first-generation college students and their parents.

Admittedly, it can be a struggle to find the perfect work-life balance in our profession, but I’ve found that if you can find a way to blend your personal experiences, passions, and career together, it’s possible to find true fulfillment.

Take it from me: Everyone has a unique story to tell, a special gift, and the ability to make an impact on this world. If you lean into authenticity and follow your heart, you can truly bring your whole self to work and, ultimately, make the greatest impact on others and yourself.

Kiara R. Schuh, CPA, is a senior consultant at Deloitte LLP in Chicago and the recipient of the Illinois CPA Society’s 2023 Young Professionals Leadership Award.

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