How to Start your Career in Audit
There are a number of avenues into a career in audit. The first and arguably most traditional route is to start with one of the Big Four accounting firms following graduation. There you would get your grounding in risk advisory services running internal audits or join the assurance/financial audit function and complete your Chartered Accounting (CA) qualification and then look to move from financial to internal audit, should this be your chosen career path.
Whether you choose to work for a bank or large corporate or whether you get your start in external audit later moving internally or to another risk consulting service and develop your skillset within a consulting capacity before moving in-house; the most important thing is to choose the type of audit that is best suited to you.
How to make that decision early on is to take advantage of a summer internship, offered by the Big Four, banks and other organisations, which will give you a flavour for the area of audit you may like to pursue. Some UK universities, including Bath, Lancaster, Surrey, Loughborough and Aston, offer sandwich courses, during which you can integrate a year’s professional work experience into your studies. Either of these options will give you an advantage when it comes to getting a job in audit as they will make you a known quantity in that space and thus give you both useful contacts and proof of both experience and cultural integrity. Regardless, having either on your CV will alert hiring managers and employers to your willing to venture outside of your degree and to attain practical experience, which will always be a supremely valuable commodity.
Aim for variety in your work experience, gaining exposure across a range of areas within your internship period as this will strengthen your CV.
On the subject of contacts, the importance of who you know plays a huge role in your career progression. Thus, networking is an important skill to perfect. Within your network you may find access to great mentors whose experience and insights could prove invaluable both in navigating technical issues on the job and for furthering your career in audit. Many companies will have a proportion of “hidden jobs” that aren’t posted online but rather filled via personal referrals, so the bigger your network the more likely you are to be a candidate for one of those jobs.
While your bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone into your audit career, it is the further qualifications and certifications you obtain, such as the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor), that will enhance your credibility within the industry. As for skills, hiring managers are looking for candidates with good communication, strong stakeholder management, confidence, and individuals who are accessible and eager to listen to others. Critical thinking, as well as the ability to tackle complex problems and cast a helicopter view of the business without getting caught up in the details, is key. Also being able to empathise with the business and understand their situation is a highly valued trait, as being audited is not always a pleasurable experience so it helps to position yourself as an empathetic business partner.