Are you an auditor with plentiful audit experience and currently looking to move up to a top audit job internationally? Are you struggling to get noticed, despite your many applications and being a consistently high achiever?
Firstly, let me reassure you from the outset that if you have worked for a long time at a public sector institution and you are looking to move into a private sector business, then you won’t have committed ‘career suicide’ with your public sector experience. The secret is leveraging this to support your current career strategy.
There are two main areas that I would recommend you working on:
- How you are presenting yourself via your CV and other communications
- What you can do over and above ‘paper’ (or virtual) applications
Let’s start with presentation. You need a ‘master’ CV or biography which describes your Unique Selling Proposition (what you’ve got that other candidates haven’t), your skills, experience and your achievements. But this is only a master, consolidating everything in one place. Do not be tempted to use the master CV to apply to specific organisations or for specific jobs. Your master should then be tailored to the precise role for which you are applying, which means that you will be selective in deciding what to include and exclude. If you have been experiencing problems in this, perhaps it is because you are selling yourself as a generalist instead of looking for roles that allow you to leverage your specific experience for specific roles.
This is a prime opportunity to apply the maxim ‘less is more’. It’s a good discipline to keep your audit CV to just two sides of A4 paper (with moderate white space), as this will force you to be selective and really think hard about how your personal experiences align to the role for which you are applying. Quality beats quantity in this context, and quality means ensuring your CV reflects the words used in the job spec as well as responding to the demands specified. And don’t forget that your CV is a sales document, so you should be thinking about how it is perceived by the employer. In marketing-speak, take the employer's perspective and ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ which, in practice, translates as expressing your achievements as benefits to an organisation.
Once you've got your presentation sorted, it's time to move on to getting noticed for that international audit job.
If you are seeking a Big 4 role, but also failing to get a bite from corporates, recruiters or the public sector you will be wondering what it is you are doing wrong. If this is the case, then let’s assume that this is due to you applying for specific roles, but you can also start to seek roles more speculatively, as well as making more strategic forays into career development. The key to both of these approaches is to build and nurture relationships. In other words: it's about who you know and how they can help you.
As an experienced Auditor you will now know, have known, and have simply had contact with, a lot of other auditors through the full span of your career. If you have been in a mid tier firm, there will be plenty of alumni (past, present and future) not to mention contacts from your client portfolio who could be great contacts for you to get back in touch with to help you with your international audit job search.
LinkedIn is a great way to explore and develop this network. Look at your relationships, internal and external, and also consider friends, family and colleagues from outside your mainstay career (people you know through pursing hobbies, interests and community activities). This network will be huge and, once you have identified and plotted it, you can reach out and ask for help and support to fulfil your career ambitions.
Your request is simple: you are looking for introductions into Big 4 firms (or cast your net wider) and while you might not necessarily get a recommendation or direct referral, at the very least you will get some actual names who you can contact directly, as opposed to going through the anonymous application route. You might be lucky enough to get an informal meeting or even an interview, but your immediate goal should be about getting those names. These are then the contacts that you can tap for introductions, information and opportunities. The network you identify and build will be global, and even if you don't directly identify audit contacts in the international area you are looking for, you should be able to trace a path into that area. Remember the Big 4 and many other organisations are global and you can rest assured that there will be somebody in the UK (just as an example) who will have the right contacts in your target destination; you just need to be patient in tracing this path.
And patience is the key here. This is a longer game than the quick fix of direct applications but, together with making your CV smarter and savvier, by working up your network, you are building your own opportunities, taking control and giving yourself a great chance of making career progress in the direction you want.