Finding Courage Through Career Change
Change is a large part of life. Some people are terrified of it while others embrace it. A year ago, one of Salo’s Business Development Director’s Cory Johnson had a choice to make; continue with the familiar or delve into something new.
Cory started his career within Boulay’s assurance practice. However, after nearly seven years of audit specialization, he knew it was time for a change.
Fast forward to March of 2017, Cory celebrated his one year anniversary with Salo where he is making a significant impact within the Search team. How, in such a short period of time, was Cory able to become successful within an unfamiliar division of finance and accounting? We sat down to talk with him and learn more about his professional journey.
Was finance and accounting something you always envisioned yourself getting into?
I’ve always been drawn to understanding how a business operates. I majored in accounting with a minor in finance because I felt like having a blend of the two would set me up for the best career in business.
Why did you decide to leave your audit position at Boulay and join Salo as a Business Development Director?
I got to a stage in public accounting where I knew I wanted something different. I eventually decided I didn’t want to be a partner within the firm, and the compliance side of the career wasn’t a passion of mine. I tried to figure out what drove me professionally. One recruiter asked me if I had ever considered being a recruiter within the finance industry. Not once had the thought of recruiting or talent acquisition crossed my mind. I initially said I wasn’t interested, but later, I reached out to him to ask more questions. I had always wanted to work with people, and the thought of constantly developing business and relationships began to excite me. Helping people navigate their careers and organizations build solid, functional departments also became extremely compelling. After walking through the door at Salo, I discovered that genuine passion I was searching for in my career.
What fears did you have during the process of making a major career change?
My decision to leave Boulay was definitely a risk. My intuition led me to take this experience and continue down a different path. My experience at Boulay was unbelievable, and I felt that I was setup to succeed. As for fears, I was concerned about leaving a great team culture at Boulay, but that quickly vanished after I met the Salo team. I needed to follow what felt right for me, and that was this path.
Being a former collegiate athlete, what role has athletics played in your professional career?
Like most athletes will tell you, sports played a big role in my personal development. It’s always felt natural for me to translate my work ethic, drive, and attention to detail into various aspects of my life. I have always taken great pride in my work ethic, a lot of which comes from my parents. I was always held accountable and had to balance my time appropriately, which compelled me to work hard at a young age. My underlying drive to do well, coupled with my diligence to do things right the first time, has always helped me stand apart. It especially helped during my public accounting years when I was often pushed to the limit of my professional capabilities.
What do you like most about being on the sales side of finance & accounting?
The energy and the relationships with clients and candidates is the most enjoyable part of the job. It is fun to work with my clients in a different way: I used to help companies make sound business decisions by auditing their financial statements, now, I help them make business decisions by aligning the right talent. On a daily basis, I have found myself engaging conversations with senior level business leaders across multiple industries. It is exciting to work with some of the top financial leaders in the Twin Cities and have them look to me for guidance on finding the right talent for their teams.
From a candidate standpoint, I enjoy learning what motivates people. I understand what it’s like when people are questioning what they want to do next in their careers. They might be looking for new opportunities or wanting to take that next step in their career. It’s all about navigating through their underlining wants and needs to best position them moving forward. Sometimes it is almost more about determining what you don’t want to do before you decide where you really want to do.
Do you have any regrets about the choices you’ve made in your professional career?
I really don’t have any regrets because I feel that it takes away from spending your time effectively. You obviously need to learn from your past, but I feel that all the decisions that I’ve made helped me get to where I am today. I feel that a lot of professionals, as they try and climb the ladder and grow in their careers, make a lot of sacrifices, whether it be family, friends, or passions. That can turn into a possible regret. Like most people, I had to make sacrifices in my public accounting years, but in the long run, it got me where I am today. I made the decision to leave public accounting because it felt right. We don’t always know what will happen, but there’s all an element of timing. I knew that it was the right time in my situation.
What advice would you give to people who are thinking about making a major career change?
Take a step back and focus on what drives or motivates you. It’s difficult to do, especially when you have a traditional path that you are looking to follow. But we all change over time, and our careers change at different stages of our lives. Personalities and passions are always changing, and it’s important to try and align them with where you are spending your time, both professionally and personally. Just because you’ve been doing something for a while doesn’t mean that you always need to do it. Continue to learn from past experiences and leverage them to step into a role that you’re passionate about.
Cory Johnson is a Business Development Director in our Minneapolis office.
Connect with Cory and learn more about his story here.