- Akansha Jain studied for 6 years to become an Accountant.
- Jain worked as an accountant for 10 years before quitting for a passion.
- He now freelances as a soft skills trainer.
This essay is based on a conversation Akansha Jain, a 38-year-old Chartered Accountant turned soft skills training freelancer based in the National Capital Region of India. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.
Studying to become a chartered accountant was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
The journey began after high school and continued for six years. I worked hard throughout the process, studying for eight to nine hours every day. The course required intelligence and a lot of perseverance.
I finally became a chartered accountant in 2009. For the next 10 years, I worked in internal audit departments of real estate companies and audit firms.
I was working in Delhi and had a 9 to 5 job. But my commute, which lasted from 90 minutes to two hours, extended the working hours considerably. I left home at 8 in the morning and usually returned only at 7 in the evening. I had no time to come home and take care of my daughter.
While I was doing all these things, something was missing in my life.
Recognizing a passion
Over time, I realized that I have a passion for talking to people and communicating with people. Even before I quit, friends came to me and shared their problems with me, and I felt that I could really help them.
In 2018, I heard about a soft-skills course from a cousin who was a software developer while I was still working as an accountant. I gathered all my courage and decided to go after him.
It took me a year to complete the program because I was juggling it with a full-time job and a young family. I would attend private lessons twice a week after work.
I had my second daughter in 2020, and I knew that with two children, maintaining a work-life balance would be even more difficult. That year I decided to quit my job and started a career in soft skills with the hope of starting my own business. Being my own boss and having the flexibility to manage my kids became a priority.
A completely different career path
I first worked with a great soft skills coach to learn the field.
It was a tough ride. There is no correlation between being an accountant and being a soft skills trainer. One was about numbers and auditing. Another focuses on public speaking, communication skills and body language.
I started my own business called Inner Spark in 2023 after working with a master soft skills coach for a while. I specialize in behavioral training and work with corporations to develop and conduct workshops on leadership, interpersonal skills and communication. One of my favorite topics is emotional intelligence, which I think is the most important element required today and still lacking in many corporations today.
There are still long days, but I love the flexibility
Building my own business came with many challenges. It was also difficult to go from a fixed monthly salary to not knowing when a new client would arrive and whether I would earn anything this month.
Despite the setbacks, my work-life balance has improved a lot — I don’t have to go to the office every day and I can spend more time with the kids. Some days work is three to four hours a day of self study to update myself about the industry. I have long days where I have to meet with a client at work, but it’s now down to one or two days a week.
I am currently the only employee of the company, but hope to hire more trainers as the business grows.
Looking back on my own career transition, I don’t think one is more important than the other when it comes to hard skills versus soft skills. Hard skills are important to break into an industry, but for lasting success and satisfaction, you need soft skills and the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions.