“Marketing is better than accounting… they don’t have the creativity we have, plus it’s boring”;
“Accounting is superior; marketing people don’t have the intellectual capacity to look at numbers, that’s why they only look at the top line and can’t sift through the expenses to get to the bottom line”;
“Finance is superior; the ability to optimize capital structure, raise funds while minimizing the cost of capital requires intellectual superiority”.
Bah. Sounds like school yard taunts; the ol’ “my lunchbox is better than your lunchbox”. Well guess what? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. People making these glib comparisons need to be reminded that folks who went into their chosen professions, went into them because they LIKED doing that work. It’s the entire reason why you have a plethora of people working in a multitude of professions. Saying one line of work is better than another is not an objective statement.
That’s right. The doctor became a doctor because that’s what he likes, that’s what he wanted to do, and the accountant became an accountant because that’s what he wanted to be. It’s the sort of work that we all like to do, that compels us to pursue careers that excite us. So a marketing person may find accounting to be very boring but that is only true for her and herself alone. Some people find accounting very exciting and marketing to be tedious.
Somebody might prefer to work alone in a cubicle, researching, analyzing or coming up with the next big idea, and somebody else might be more of a people’s person, who likes to engage with lots of people on the job rather than read pages of a report. I remember when I was studying taxation in my undergrad: I loved it so much that I just wanted to be a tax accountant while others found it to be boring and I couldn’t understand why. A very recent and interesting incident that I came across, last term, which made me ponder over the difference in individual preferences was when we were doing our Investments assignments, and after putting in hours of blood, sweat and tears a friend of mine humorously says “Dear lord, never put me in a job that requires me to do all this”. Meanwhile I kept thinking how much I missed making models in Excel. I, on the other hand, actually WISH that I would be put in a position that would require me to make funds, back test them and make complex models, the likes of which ordinary mortals would never understand.
So it’s not a question about which profession is better because that is pertinent to you alone. But you might argue, “What of those accountants who say their work is boring? Or doctors who don’t like to practice medicine?” Well, sure, there are some people who went into their respective lines of work for the wrong reasons. And as a result, their motivation fizzled out pretty soon. That’s how accountants leave their practice and pursue other options or doctors leave their practice and pursue marketing in pharmaceuticals or marketing people leave to become something else. I once attended a talk given at NUS by Mr. Tsun-yan Hsieh, who had worked for 30 years at McKinsey and he mentioned one example of a French partner at McKinsey who told him that he wanted to quit and become an artist. Now the profile of an aspiring artist is not what you’d usually find at a place like McKinsey but the guy left and Mr. Hsieh recalled meeting him after a few years, and the person was very happy as a stage performer working in French theatre. The guy had gotten in McKinsey for the wrong reasons (and probably stolen my spot) and so, after a few years, his motivation died and therein we see the telltale signs of people finding other venues.
So I guess the lesson is that it’s not about which profession is better, that comparison is just bonkers. No career is intrinsically “better” than another. That’s just your preference talking. It’s about introspection; reflecting back on what you are good at, what you love to do and then making the choice for yourself. Because if you get into a career for the wrong reasons, you’ll find your impetus kaput pretty soon and you’ll find yourself talking nonsense like ‘ABC’ career is better than ‘XYZ’, without analyzing the fact that it was just your individual preference talking.