Guest Blog – by Melissa Coussa-Charley CPA CA

Though we find ourselves on the cusp of new educational and career paths for the CPA profession, it remains to this day a requirement that all candidates must complete a 24-month professional training period. And like it or not, given a further specification for a minimum of 1,250 hours served in public accounting and auditing, most us start it in audit.

But if we didn’t have to, would we want to anyway? Should we want to?

And once we’re in, how long do we need to stay? Or rather again, how long should we want to stay?

One thing I’ve learned through my own seven years of experience in audit is that more likely than not – the answer to any question is it depends. And here is no different.

So yes it depends. But here’s what I think.

I think that audit work is work like any other. Through it, we learn about the importance of precision, of attention to detail, of corroborative evidence, of the reasonability of conclusions and of the exercise of professional judgment. We learn to build time management skills, relationship management skills and work-life balance management skills.

Someone once told me that audit is where you learn to learn. Someone else told me that it’s in fact where you learn to work. Either way there is a general consensus that it is where you learn the basics needed to develop into the well-rounded professional; ready and able to continue on in it, or to make the leap if so desired.

I agree, with all these conclusions. I have seen my own development, and that of my peers, from shy, unquestioning juniors, to confident, talkative, convincing powerhouses. It’s a pretty remarkable, and tangible, shift. While there is no doubt that our years of experience in LIFE have something to do with that personal growth as well, I think the fuel in the fire, is the work we had been called upon to do as auditors.

So then, we want to know how long does this fire burn. How many years is this learning curve? When is the right time to move on?  There’s no right answer.

But from what I’ve seen, it is our auditors, intermediates and seniors (now CPAs – we hope), with two to four years of experience on whom we rely for technical expertise. They are the ones with the fresh look. The ones with the technical knowledge taught to them in school, engrained in them during their studies for the UFE, and used daily in their work on the field.

When we hit a manager role in  audit, our focus becomes less about the technical prowess. We start to see the paperwork, billing, client management and well… the MANAGEMENT of it all. Our technical expertise is relied on to build on the issues raised by our seniors and to refine their facts and conclusions. In years five to seven we learn to review, we learn to delegate, to see the bigger picture. To assume the ultimate responsibility of a file, and client relationship. We become the most accessible trusted advisor to our clients. We aren’t auditors anymore. We are managers, and as such, the world of possibilities for what to do next just opened a new door.

I’ve been in audit for over seven years now. Why? Not sure. I think it’s because nothing is really missing in my career just yet. At this stage, we find ourselves surrounded by the most brilliant minds, learning from our staff and our partners every day.

  • Technical challenge – check,
  • Relationships with clients who trust us – check,
  • Teams who respect us and partners who appreciate that work – check,
  • New challenge and learning every day – check!

And with those, we have the incentive and the confidence in the work that we do and in the work we can offer, to develop a network of contacts that extends far further than we could ever imagine.

Seven years later, I’m still in a job I wouldn’t have thought I’d still be doing after those first 24 months. And I’m not the only one. I guess it’s because at the end of the day, it really isn’t that same job at all.

Find your strengths, find your challenges, and work from there – that’s where the answers will be.