A couple of years ago when I decided to make the leap from journalism to accounting, you could practically see the heads swivel. “Wow, that’s a huge change,” fellow journalists would say. Or the more math-phobic among them would utter, “What on earth made you want to do that?” Indeed, it could be hard to see the crossover. Editing and accounting do share an emphasis on details and accuracy, but it was undeniably a 180-degree shift.
Lately, though, I’ve backed off a bit on that thinking as I’ve begun to realize there are more commonalities than I could have foreseen as I was shedding my previous identity as a newspaper assignment editor.
In a newsroom, a story faces numerous revisions before readers see it, often carried out just between the reporter and her immediate editor but sometimes with a bigger contingent of editors. The more significant the story – say, a long, in-depth Sunday piece – the more drafts and the more fine-tuning it will undergo before it sees print and goes online. The revisions can seem endless; there can always be one more update to make, one more wording change, one more fact to double-check, one more interview to conduct and a quote to add. And a change in one section of the story can require altering another part to make sure it still flows smoothly and fairly represents various viewpoints. Revisions layer upon revision after revision.
Now you’re probably wondering: What does that have to do with accounting?
Well, quite a bit, I’ve discovered. The careful reviews we do in corporate accounting of monthly financial statements are extremely reminiscent of editing. There is much fine-tuning before we distribute statements: double-checking figures, of course; ensuring that formats are consistent; and making sure that if we recategorize an expense that we adjust any other affected expense categories. And sometimes, post-distribution, questions come up about the accuracy of a certain figure, in which case we’ll review the affected accounts and adjust if necessary. It reminds me of when newspaper readers would call or e-mail with questions after stories were published. If a review of the facts turned up a problem, we would print a correction.
And in accounting, it’s often a matter of peeling back the layers to resolve a problem, such as going back through months of trial balances in an effort to figure out why an intercompany account that had been in balance suddenly was not so.
So, yes, accounting does embrace editing. This realization has been a comforting one, a bridge of sorts between my old world and the one I now inhabit. For anyone contemplating a career change, it’s confirmation that the phrase “transferable skills” is a reality. (For a look at another 180-degree career shift, click here.)