A Professional Certificate in Accounting was just the boost she needed!

By Jeff Nazzaro

After years of treading water as a substitute teacher and tutor, Diana Parsons parlayed UCR University Extension’s Professional Certificate in Accounting into a career change, a new job, and a whole new lease on life.

UCR University Extension alumna Diana Parsons “I had been looking for a teaching job for about four years, and I just couldn’t land anything,” said Diana, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Politics from New York University, and has secondary education credentials in English and history. “I was working as a sub, I was super-broke, and I just kept going to these job fairs and interviews where I was competing against 50 other people for a job, and I just finally said, ‘I have to do something different.’”

“I was working as a sub, I was super broke and had to do something different.”

Her first move was a call to the Inland Empire Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, where she was set up with a career counselor. Together, they went over what Diana was interested in, what she could go back to school for, and what would lead to a future career. They settled on accounting.

She started with Principles of Accounting at Riverside City College, but found the extremely large class and lack of access to the instructor off-putting. Then, a friend of hers from church, who was working as an accountant, told her he had gone through the professional certificate program at UCR University Extension, and recommended she give it a try. Her first class, Principles of Accounting, had fewer than 10 students, and Diana loved how the instructor, Derek Sloan, was always available.

“The good thing about UCR’s program is that it’s so straightforward.”

“Derek was great,” Diana said, “and he taught us just what we needed to know. The good thing about the program is that it’s so straightforward. You can just take classes, there are no extra fees. I like that the classes were exactly what I needed.”

Sixteen months later, professional certificate in hand, Diana went looking for a job. Unfortunately, she had the same luck she had when looking for a teaching position. So, she went back to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The prescription this time was simple: find an internship. Diana turned again to the network that had led her to the program at UCR University Extension.

“There was another woman at my church who was an accountant, and I called her and told her, ‘I’m looking for an internship, can you help me out?’ And she said, ‘I’ll ask my boss,’ and two hours later, I had an internship. I didn’t interview, I didn’t do anything, they just hired me.”

It was only twice a week, it was unpaid, and she had to commute to Orange County, but it was a new job in a new career, working as an intern for the tax firm SK Enterprises. Then, about two weeks in, the pandemic struck.

“I was really enjoying it, and then COVID hit, and they closed the office the day after St. Patrick’s Day, 2020. My boss said, ‘If you keep working for us through this, I’ll start paying you on Tax Day.’ I said, ‘Sounds perfect.’”

“This February will mark two years that Diana has been working as an accountant with SK Enterprises.”

After configuring a home office and getting up to speed on the technological aspects of working from home, Diana settled nicely into her new work digs. A year later, she was promoted to Junior Staff Accountant, and this February will mark two years that she’s been with SK Enterprises. She currently works three days a week at home and two in the office. She loves the arrangement and the company, and has no plans to leave.

“Honestly, I’m much happier with this job than I ever was with teaching,” Diana said. “I feel more useful, and I just enjoy it a lot more. I’m really happy with this company. I have always heard that networking is the way to go, but it really is now. It was a lot of work, and I literally worked my way from the bottom up. I was a part-time, unpaid intern, then they paid me, but I was still part-time, and they gradually increased my hours until about eight months into the job I was full-time, and I’ve gotten a couple of raises along the way.”

“I love my new career so much that I see myself climbing the ladder and working my way up to management.”

Guidance from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation got Diana going, finding the right educational program at UCR University Extension prepared her, and networking set her up—this perfect trifecta of support empowering her to change her life and land her dream job. “In fact, I love my new career so much that I see myself sticking around with my company, climbing the ladder, and eventually working my way up to management. Never be afraid to change direction, you might be surprised by the happiness waiting around the corner,” explained Diana.