Congratulations! You’ve landed your first job as an internal auditor, either as a young person starting your career in an exciting profession or as someone who is transitioning into internal audit from elsewhere in the organization. Either way, you are about to embark on an interesting and rewarding journey.
As a newly appointed internal auditor, you might find yourself a tad bit lost. It’s not an easy job and working with experienced colleagues might be a little intimidating. There is so much to learn. You will find, however, that you have so much to offer too, and with a little training and perspective you will soon be making an impact on the organization.
There’s no need to panic. Start preparing yourself for the job. There is no profession like it, and there are so many benefits to being an internal auditor. (See, “Five Reasons Talented Candidates Choose Internal Audit.”)
Here are ten basic things that as a new auditor you should expect and follow when that first assignment comes your way:
1. Know Your Organization Well
Knowledge of the business is of utmost importance. As an internal auditor, you will work on various risk management assignments that require you to asses the efficiency of current operations. In order to form opinions, you need to be aware of the organization and your scope of work. Read and grasp what’s written in the internal audit charter and the company’s manuals. Ensure that you understand the policies as they are documented and have a firm grasp of the company’s strategy. Ask people from across the organization to join you for lunch and sit in on any meeting you can. This knowledge will not only make you a more confident internal auditor, but your efforts will equally be noticed.
2. Observe People and the Culture
Look around and notice what people do and how they do it. If getting to know the organization is important, knowing its employees and the corporate culture is equally imperative. As an internal auditor, you should have a keen eye on how people behave during work and in specific circumstances. Get an idea of the company’s culture and who are the central figures, even if they are informal leaders. How is culture communicated to employees and how do they react to such communications? If you observe something wrong, inform the supervisor or manager.
3. Ask Lots of Questions
Begin asking questions from day one and make it a habit. As an internal auditor, this will be one of the many jobs that you will be expected to perform. Asking questions is among the top communication tools and helps in evaluation. Ask them what they like about their jobs, ask them what are the barriers to achieving their goals, and ask about their challenges and their success. Even questioning someone casually of how their day was, can lead to a lot of information that can inform audits, uncover problems, and build valuable relationships with those throughout the company.
4. Bring an Innovator’s Mentality
Not everything you have studied is applicable to the organization you work for. Thinking out of the box and using creativity is an essential part of being an internal auditor. Think and contribute. There is no single way of performing a job. Experiment, embrace change and suggest new ways of doing things when appropriate.
5. Keep Your Cool
Some days interacting with other departments or with the audit clients that you are working for might not go so well. People tend to resist being questioned and some might complain or push back. As much as we like to think that internal audit has turned the page on the old stereotypes of the “gottcha” function, in some circles, there is still some resistance to being audited and to internal auditors in general. In such situations, it is important to keep your cool and remind yourself and the other party that its your job and is essential for the organization. Be an ambassador for internal audit and focus on the ways it can help business units to run better and solve problems.
6. Be Open to Criticism
As a new employee or a new member of the internal audit team, you will make mistakes. It is important, however, that you move past them and don’t let mistakes get you down. Listen to feedback and, yes, criticism that comes your way and make sure you don’t repeat mistakes. As internal auditors, our accountability is of utmost importance and it’s essential to show improvement with time. Seek out constructive criticism and learn from it, but also don’t take negative feedback personally or let detractors distract you from your goals.
7. Make Friends, But Keep Your Independence and Objectivity
It is great to make friends at work, as long as your job is not influenced by it. According to the Code of Ethics, internal auditor should practice confidentiality. Sharing information on assignments outside the department, irrespective of how great you are bonding with your co-workers, is against the profession. You should also never let personal relationships at work cloud your independence and objectivity. Your friends will always understand that you have a job to do and shouldn’t pressure you to look the other way or influence your audit improperly.
8. Learn the Jargon
Like just about every function, internal audit has its own terms and language. Make sure you learn the jargon. Audit language isn’t tough and a lot of it is part of the coursework most young professionals go through to prepare for a career in internal audit. Audit reports will require you to have a grip on key terms, hence it will be a good idea to use internal audit terms with your colleagues on a daily basis so that you get used to them. Read previous audit reports to know how auditors communicate results.
9. Stay Relevant and Learn on Your Own
Make a habit of reading and learning. Take continuing education and training courses in internal audit to advance your skills and remain relevant. During downtime, read internal audit periodicals, articles, and research on internal audit topics, including those provided by the Institute of Internal Auditors, Internal Audit 360°, and many others. With advancements in technology, the profession of internal audit is also evolving very quickly. Don’t always rely on your managers to provide reading material, or continued internal audit learning. It is very important for auditors to update themselves with changes around them. So it will be a good idea to accustom yourself with the habit of learning and applying your knowledge to your work.
10. Accept Hectic Days and Make the Most of Downtime
The internal audit profession can indeed be hectic. Schedules are often filled and the pace can be fast. Your working hours can essentially be increased if required. Dive into the profession to give your all and learn from all the opportunities that are provided irrespective of how much time they require. Remember your goals and give your best. Also, take your vacation days and do your best to turn the office off on those vacations and during non-working hours. While we are often never really off the clock these days, be sure to set boundaries between work and personal life.
Follow these tips and embrace the profession and you will soon find that you will love being an internal auditor and will thrive at it.
Iffa Munir is a senior audit officer at an education company based in Lahore, Pakistan.