Think like an immigrant

Thomas Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer prize winning journalist who works with the New York Times. He was in Australia recently and gave a speech in Melbourne. Without getting bogged down into the details of the speech, Thomas used a wonderful analogy of 3 ways in which people, should be thinking about their work & professional lives. Upon reflection, these 3 ways provide a useful framework for accountants engaged in professional practice to keep their sense of meaning, purpose and effectiveness razor sharp.

The first way is to think like an immigrant.

An immigrant, by definition, is a stranger in a new land. By and large an immigrant has no local knowledge, network of relationships and is owed nothing by anyone. What does it mean to think like an immigrant? It means that you have to make it happen – no one is going to do it for you. As a professional accountant this is a great mindset to have – taking nothing for granted and expecting that you are only as good as your current game. I’ve met way too many Accounting Partners, Directors, Senior Managers, Managers and even some Graduates whom for some reason operate their professional lives with a sense of entitlement. Be it a big client that they won a few years ago, extra post-grad education they have gained or a glowing performance review too many people are caught up in an expectation bubble that they are doing just fine and their firm/peers and even clients owe them a living.

In this post-GFC era, losing a valued client or being asked by your firm to pull up stumps and move on may only be an email, phone call or a quick meeting away.

By thinking like an immigrant, and taking on the fresh challenge every so often of proving yourself to those around you is a good discipline for any professional.

Tune into the next couple of posts to see what other characters you need to think like!

All my best,

James E