Densmore Blog


Returning to the Office (in Industry) as an Experienced Writer

On August 1, 2016

Offices are offices and people are people. That can make for some awkward moments when you return to the office as an unsuccessful (experienced) writer. Some of those moments may be funny and others probably not so much.


All candidates go through a process similar to grieving when they do not pass the CFE. There is disbelief/denial, anger, avoidance, and acceptance before productively moving ahead. The sooner you break through the grieving, the better off you will be. 


There is every expectation that you are going to eventually pass both parts of the CFE. There are no real CFE statistics yet on industry versus public practice results and it will take a few years to develop flow-through results (writing and eventually passing). All that you need to know now is that you will eventually pass both parts of the CFE, so project a positive attitude as you work your way through that process.


You are not alone as the only candidate who did not pass the CFE this year but you may, or may not, be the only writer in your office. If there are CPA, CAs in your office, you may have a number of quiet conversations, with people who may surprise you, about how it works as an experienced writer.


You may be in an office where becoming a CPA is considered your own personal endeavor and nobody really cares one way or the other. That makes it easier as an experienced writer and you can control what conversations you have and with whom. In this scenario, your bigger concern is about getting the necessary time off for your next CFE attempt.


There may be some initial awkwardness with successful candidates, and the CPA candidates coming behind you, if there are multiple writers in your office. That normally wears off quickly and things usually get back to normal within a day or so. Not passing is probably going to be a much bigger deal to you than most of your co-workers or fellow writers, so try and keep some perspective. Most of the interactions you will get will be supportive, with people trying to be helpful.


You might want to have a stock answer in place to address the inevitable questions about “What happened?” and “What do you plan to do?”  Something like, “I am going to look at my CFE results to figure out what went wrong and then plot a strategy.”  Or “I only have to rewrite (insert Day I, or Days 2 and 3), so once I figure out what was missing I will create a specific study plan to get it this time.” By responding with an action plan, it will make you look pro-active and in control. It will also get people off your back because it looks like you have some plan or strategy in place.


It may really hurt that you did not pass some part, or both parts, of the CFE. However, eventually you are going to be expected to pick yourself up and start moving forward. The sooner you get to that stage, or are at least faking it well, the better off you will likely be perceived in any work environment.


Consider that your results do not define you as a person; rather, they reflect your performance during a mere 13-hour sliver of your career. How you react and rebound from the hit you have taken will be what ultimately defines you.

(Bruce Densmore – August 1, 2016)

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