Audit Advice from my Future Self
Now, I’ve been working in and around audit for more years than I care to remember, and I’ll readily admit to starting my career in a previous century! So, you might wonder if my recollections of a younger auditing self are still relevant today. When CareersinAudit.com asked me to pen a letter of advice to my fledgling self, I did question the extent of how the world and auditing have changed in the space of a couple of decades. But on closer reflection and recollection, the lessons and advice are astonishingly timeless. In fact, you might say: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, so here goes.
Dear Carol (age 22),
First up, you are going to love audit! The sheer variety of assignments and projects, the diversity of people and organisations, the multitude of new skills you will learn and use, this will prove to be the stimulating and stretching career you have long been looking for! But don’t be too cautious; when those opportunities come up to work on the less conventional projects, the sabbaticals to clients or secondments to other offices, the chance to work with different departments and sectors, be ready to raise your hand. As you get older, more experienced and more specialised, that breadth of early career diversity and stretch will recede further from your grasp. Be bold, seize the opportunity, or be prepared to make it happen… be proactive. Don’t be afraid of that career stretch – you really do not have to have mastery of the new technical challenges or different competencies and skills in advance, but be ready to face up to where you are lacking and get out there and learn. Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone, go back to the basics and learn on the job. This ‘Lifelong Learning’, humility and resilience will stay with you for life, and the sooner you start to face your fears, the sooner you can benefit from it.
The world is going to change, and it will keep on changing, and while you won’t be able to prepare yourself career-wise for the unknown, you will need to learn to live with dealing with the unexpected and leaning into the ambiguity and complexity around you. Accept the unexpected, in fact, expect it – never rely on the status quo – whether that is with regards to your organisation, stability in your job role, or volatility in the environment around you. In reality, while that means getting the most out of your day-to-day life and work, it also means preparing for your future – in terms of career strategy, transferable skills and being well prepared for forthcoming technical developments. The pace of change is fast, so again your resilience and thirst for learning will stand you in good stead.
At the start of your career, you will be pleased and proud of your growing salary package and get used to regular and frequent promotions up the career ladder. But career success and personal fulfilment is much more than this. You need to understand your personal values – what is most important to you in life, and what drives and motivates you. This is vital as you change jobs and organisations, and will protect you against making decisions based purely on monetary reward. If you don’t agree with the organisation’s values or you are not in tune with the culture and the people who work around you, the salary boost alone will not be enough to make you happy. Think holistically and don’t be seduced by the financial measures and heady titles.
You’re going to really hone your analytical skills and demand proof and evidence as a matter of course across your life, as well as developing a natural professional scepticism. These are great competencies which will prove highly marketable and form the bedrock of your transferable skills. But… don’t forget to trust your gut instinct too. If something doesn’t feel right, whether at work, in life or as part of an audit assignment, let yourself be led by your gut and do your due diligence to confirm or allay your concerns. This is the human part of the job, and the vital essence that you will always be able to add no matter what the AI implores.
And in the same spirit, don’t overthink. Planning and preparation are core audit competences, and you will likely apply these to the rest of your life, but sometimes you should just be prepared to go with the flow and take a chance. Particularly with career decisions, moving employers or roles, you can’t possibly know everything and anticipate all the specifics. Don’t let this hold you back from making your career moves or moving into the unknown. There will be career blips, but you can learn from them, and you will be able to course correct.
And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s for technical advice or support, workload or wellbeing, you will be surprised how accommodating people can be. You don’t necessarily have to seek support within your organisation – but its always worth looking at what might be available first, either through the line management pathway or independently. But there are also tonnes of outside agencies to help and support you from coaches and counsellors to tutors and mentors – and of course, CareersinAudit.com itself; that’s what our Audit Agony Aunt Q&A pages are for! You are not alone in the audit profession, and I can promise you that your worries are not unique, your many ready confidantes will have seen it before!
And don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Audit is Ace, that’s why Auditors are Super Heroes!
Carol (from 2022)