Ninni’s story: a difficult decision made me find my place

I never had a dream job as a child or young person. For a moment, I was not quite sure whether to continue to general upper secondary school or vocational school after basic education. I have always liked handicrafts, so eventually I ended up studying in the arts and crafts sector in order to become an artisan. I simultaneously completed the Finnish matriculation examination.

However, there did not seem to be that many employment opportunities in the clothing and sewing industry, so I worked as a nanny and school assistant for a while and tried to figure out what I would like to do as a grown up. During my studies, I had worked in a fast-food restaurant, so after those jobs I applied for work at a nearby grill.

At the beginning of 2013, I took maternity leave with my first child. I remember reading a magazine article with a list of professions of which there will be a shortage in the future. Accountant was one of the professions on the list. However, studying didn’t seem relevant at the time, so I returned to part-time work at the grill.

My second child was born in spring 2015. At that point, I really started thinking about what I wanted to do in the future. The magazine article I had read earlier came back to me, and I began to wonder whether I’d find my calling in financial administration. At the end of my parental leave, I ended up applying to both a university of applied sciences and a vocational school. I tried to have an attitude that it didn’t matter which one accepted me, as long as I got a study place. However, when the results from the university of applied sciences arrived, it bothered me that I was 0.75 points short of being accepted. My studies in business and administration began in autumn 2016 at Salpaus Further Education, which, in hindsight, was actually a lucky accident.

As my studies progressed, the idea that accounting could be my thing was confirmed – it was actually love at first sight. At first, I completed a demonstration of proficiency in customer service by working in a clothing shop at the beginning of 2017. In the spring, I was able to move on to ledgers, and I started as a trainee in a financial team of a bus factory. There, I was mainly responsible for managing the accounts payable: circulating invoices and recording them in the accounting programme. I also had an opportunity to work with payment transactions and accounts receivable.

I fell in love with the hectic nature of the accounting world

After this, I started looking for a traineeship where I could complete the study modules of payroll services, accounting and financial statements. Sometimes the search seemed a little desperate, as the common answer was that there was no need for a trainee. Sometimes I did not receive any response at all. Then someone, who had first not replied at all, called me back. We set up an interview, after which I got the placement I needed. During the academic term of 2017–2018, I had a traineeship in an accounting firm, where I started with payroll and then moved on to accountancy and financial statements. Although I was positively surprised by my training in payroll, I noticed that accounting was still closer to my heart. I fell in love with the hectic nature of the accounting world and the fact that there was always something new to learn. At the end of the practical training, we started thinking about my future, and luckily I was hired as an accountant after the traineeship.

At first, I was meant to be more involved with ledgers, and gradually include more accounting tasks in my work. However, the situation changed very quickly, and the ledgers were mostly replaced by accounting. I had a chance to do the bookkeeping of various companies of different sizes. I also came across various corporate acquisitions and arrangements, and had an opportunity to consider the related accounting issues.

During my traineeship, I had already set the KLT accounting examination as my future goal. At first, this was a so-called long-term plan, but in early 2020, a coffee table discussion focused on the years of experience, and I realised that my experience would already meet the requirements. After some consideration and encouragement from a colleague, I decided to apply straight away. I have always been bad at reading for exams, as my focus strays and it is hard to study at all. A KLT training course in accounting offered by my employer came to my rescue, in which the exam topics were discussed in lectures and assignments. It also helped that I had a diverse customer portfolio and that I had been working with various accounting problems. I passed the exam on the first attempt.

This was a blessing in disguise: if I had been accepted to the university of applied sciences, I would probably not have reached the point in my career where I was in autumn 2020. Instead of completing the KLT examination, I would probably only have been about to graduate from the university. I feel lucky in other ways, too. I was in the right place at the right time and there were people around me who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my skills, although I didn’t have that many years of experience yet.

The meaningfulness of work, which previously served as a resource, started to turn into a burden

I was surprised at how passionate and emotional my attitude towards my own work and career had become – earlier, I had always thought that work was just work, and you did not have to enjoy it. However, I quickly noticed that this was no longer the case. I genuinely enjoyed my work and I had a burning desire to learn more and improve. I was mostly inspired by learning new things and realised that I could cope even in situations of which I did not necessarily have previous experience. There is no better feeling than noticing your own success and receiving good feedback for things that have sometimes felt a little desperate. What seemed completely impossible a moment ago, will work out very easily the next time.

The versatility and hectic nature of the accounting world suited me. At some point, however, I noticed that the meaningfulness of work, which previously served as a resource, started to become a burden. The wonderful hecticness had gradually turned into a hurry that did not seem to go away. The combined effect of many small things meant that the workload seemed to increase, no matter how flexible I tried to be and stretch the working day. “After I’ve finished this, things will get easier” became a mantra that never seemed to come true. When it finally materialised, there was only endless fatigue left. After the summer holidays, I came to the conclusion that I must start from a clean slate in order to recover completely. I pushed aside all the emotions and said goodbye to my beloved customers who had given me so much. I then moved on to another accounting firm.

The decision to change jobs was difficult. It felt bad, and I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision. In the end, it was the only right decision. In the new place, I remembered why I had fallen in love with accounting firms and bookkeeping in my time, and noticed that the relentless fatigue started to ease. However, there was some fear in the back of my mind, and I noticed that I was trying to take a sensible rather than an emotional approach to work, while still enjoying working.

In early 2022, my phone beeped with a message from an old friend. “Would you be interested in working for us?” This was a moment when my emotions took over and made a decision before I even had a chance to think about it rationally. I had not thought about changing jobs again, but the opportunity I had been offered was one that I could not, and did not want to, refuse. In the spring, I said goodbye to the world of accounting firms and became an in-house accountant. I realise that work has gained a completely new meaning. I have an opportunity to work with something I love without it having a negative impact on my energy levels.

The last few years have taught me to be aware of my limits

When the decision to change jobs came about, I looked around to see what else was available and noticed that I had one shortcoming – I did not have a university degree. This limited many interesting options away. Even though changing jobs was not relevant at the time, I decided to try once more whether the doors would open to a university of applied sciences. If a situation were to arise later on in which changing jobs would be relevant, the missing higher education degree would not be an obstacle. And even if a job search didn’t become relevant, the degree would certainly provide a lot of additional resources for my current job. This time, luck was on my side, and I got accepted.

The last few years have taught me to be aware of my limits, even though I enjoy my work and am prepared to be flexible about it. I noticed that I struggled to say no before. This made it easy for people to come and ask if I could do something extra, or help with something because I usually agreed. I have been forced to learn how to say ‘no’, ‘I cannot’, or ‘I don’t have enough time’, when I already have enough on my plate. You can always cope with hurry and stress for a short while at a time, but when the urgency and stress are continuous, they start to affect your energy levels. Nowadays, I am better at recognising these symptoms and situations, and I no longer try to cope through willpower alone. Instead, I can, and dare to, ask for help and say when I cannot do something or do not have the energy to do something.

In my spare time, I like to exercise a lot, either alone or with the children. Exercise is good for clearing your mind. For the past few years, I have been bouldering, sometimes regularly, sometimes irregularly. Recently, I have discovered cycling and skiing to complement basic jogging. I also like to do handicrafts: I crochet and knit. I get excited about crafts projects every now and then. When inspiration strikes, I may do something for many weeks in a row, and sometimes I take a break of several months.

I would advise you all to believe in yourselves and your own activities – this will take you far. Dare to make difficult decisions. Things tend to work out even at times when everything seems a bit desperate. For me, making a difficult decision ultimately opened the door to something that I could not have believed in my wildest dreams. Had I not decided to change jobs, I would not be where I am now.

Ninni Leppäsalo