As I’m sure you know, there is only so much midnight oil one can burn.
If you are a finance professional who has had her fair share of all-nighters working for clients at a public accountancy firm and wish to settle down now, internal audit can be a good career path for you. There are many advantages for a working mom serving as an internal auditor for a single employer compared to serving as an external auditor for many clients. Let’s discuss those advantages so you can decide if you’d like to make the switch to internal auditing.
The Definition of Internal Audit
The internal audit function basically seeks to improve an organization’s processes through risk management and the identification of potential system weaknesses. Furthermore, internal auditors aim to enhance regulatory compliance and reduce the likelihood of deficiencies occurring in internal control. Therefore, you can add value to an organization by strengthening its controls.
The Internal Audit Career Compared to the External Audit Career
Life as an external auditor can be really hectic. It usually involves long hours, high pressure, and a race to meet tough deadlines. During articleship and/or training, you’ll gain exposure to many external audit assignments. Therefore, you have to deal with a lot of stress and little opportunity for flexible work arrangements. And, you’ll soon find that this lack of flexibility is not conducive to raising children. For example, if your child fell sick on the day the partner was expecting to initial your client’s financial statements, you would be in a real bind. On the other hand, internal audit professionals have a much better work-life balance. So, being there for your kids wouldn’t be so hard in this position.
The Scope of Internal Audit as a Career
Internal auditors are under the payroll of the organizations they are auditing. For this reason, they are not as independent as external auditors. Additionally, the scope of an internal auditor’s responsibilities is not restricted to just the audit of financial statements. Non-financial areas like building audit, security audit, IT audit, etc., are also roles that fall within their ambit. Thus, you can experience a lot of diverse exposure as an internal auditor since your typical day at work will involve understanding systems and finding areas of improvement. Getting access to internal documents is also not that big of a deal.
Pre-requisites for a Career in Internal Audit
Good news: if you have a background in external audit at an accountancy firm, you already have a great foundation for making the switch to a career in internal audit. Additionally, an accounting or finance degree and a professional accounting certification like the Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), etc. also supply a solid start. What’s more, becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) can further equip you with customized skills for an internal audit role. And finally, holding other professional credentials like the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which provides experience in financial forensics, or the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which distinguishes you as an information systems expert, can also prepare you for specialized internal audit sub-roles.
Internal Audit Reporting
Internal auditors make an internal audit plan for a given area of their organization. Then, they typically report their findings to the board audit committee via the Chief Internal Auditor/ head of internal audit. So, because you are not always looking at financial data, the work is not as monotonous as that of external audits. However, you might need to complete a lot of research and testing in order to reach conclusions. Moreover, you need to have good people skills to effectively extract the information you require from other employees.
Internal Auditors in the Eyes of Other Departments
Most people don’t like to have their mistakes pointed out to them. So, in this new role, you better be ready to smooth some ruffled feathers. As an internal auditor, it will be part of your job to find weaknesses in existing systems. Much like in the past, other departments within an organization saw internal auditors as the police. For this reason, internal auditors have had to deal with some hostility. But nowadays, people have become more aware of the value-add an effective internal audit function can bring. Furthermore, finding and correcting a mistake internally produces less embarrassment and potential financial loss than being exposed to a public scandal.
FAQs for Future Internal Auditors
Q: Why do individuals who start their careers in internal audit progress quicker compared to those with no prior experience?
A: Individuals who start their careers in internal audit progress quicker compared to those with no prior experience because they gain a broad understanding of the organization’s operations, processes, and financial functions. This knowledge and experience make them well-equipped to transition into other finance roles with a ready-made internal network and a comprehensive understanding of the business.
Q: How does internal audit make individuals more effective partners throughout their careers?
A: Internal audit makes individuals more effective partners throughout their careers by providing them with a greater business understanding. Understanding how each team impacts business performance and processes is a powerful skill set that enables individuals to collaborate effectively and make informed decisions in their future roles.
Q: How does working in internal audit provide a great grounding in all areas of finance?
A: Working in internal audit provides a great grounding in all areas of finance as it involves interacting with various stakeholders from different finance units. This exposure allows individuals to gain a comprehensive understanding of financial processes, controls, and their impact on business performance.
Q: How does internal audit drive real change within the organization?
A: Internal audit drives real change within the organization by identifying areas for improvement and implementing effective strategies to address them. They play a crucial role in identifying inefficiencies, risks, and opportunities for process enhancements, ultimately driving positive change throughout the organization.
Q: How does internal audit facilitate better communication between various finance units and operational business areas?
A: Internal audit facilitates better communication between various finance units and operational business areas by acting as a bridge. They use their broad exposure to different areas of the organization to facilitate dialogue and collaboration, ensuring that everyone is aligned toward common goals.
Q: How does internal audit add value to the wider finance team with increased transparency around numbers?
A: Internal audit adds value to the wider finance team by providing increased transparency around numbers. This transparency helps in better decision-making and understanding of the financial performance of the organization.
Q: How does internal audit deliver efficiencies and process changes?
A: Internal audit delivers efficiencies and process changes by using their breadth of exposure to facilitate better communication between various finance units and operational business areas. They get stakeholders to talk and deliver real change within the organization.
Q: What is the purpose of internal audit beyond checking through the accounts?
A: The purpose of internal audit goes beyond checking through the accounts. It is seen as a function responsible for delivering efficiencies and process changes, adding value to the wider finance team with increased transparency around numbers.
Internal Audit as a Career for Working Moms
A career as an external auditor in a service organization just isn’t very flexible. You must manage multiple clients and often have to travel. What’s more, June and December are the busiest times for external auditors. So, when your child has school during these months, you can’t easily opt to work from home. Nor can you go on unplanned leaves. Flex-timing arrangements are also difficult because of the need to match your client’s schedule.
On the other hand, an internal audit gives you more opportunities to plan your workday in advance. Additionally, if you plan your work well, you won’t often need to put in extra hours. You may have to travel sometimes, especially if your organization has multiple offices, but you will receive prior notice. And, you won’t have as many strict deadlines to meet unless you’re working for a listed company and have to present your internal audit findings in audit committee meetings. Finally, as there are no confidentiality/trust issues, telecommuting may be easier to manage with easy access to information.
Stressed Working Moms
In today’s society, it’s commonplace to compare parenting from one family to another. “Am I doing this right? It looks like they’re doing it all perfectly, and I’m messing everything up,” you tell yourself more often than you’d like. First, no one is doing it perfectly, so let’s clear that up. Everyone feels that way sometimes. Secondly, if you’re one of many moms who work for a living, why not make it a job that keeps your interest? Make it one you want to keep going to every day.
Working motherhood can be exhausting, that’s for sure. If you’re traveling too much, not only are you up for a serving of burnout, but you’re setting yourself up for some serious mom guilt, as well. Some people prefer a career where they can stay home more and possibly even work from home. It depends on your parenting style. Working from home can be wonderful as well as challenging. For example, when the kids forget you’re working and not just sitting in your office, looking at your computer. Much like anything else, it’s one of those pros/cons lists you’ll have to make.
Internal Audit Job Search
When searching for internal audit jobs, you’ll want to keep in mind your top demands. Primary on your list may be travel (or no travel). Secondary might be whether or not you work in the office or work from home. What else are you looking for? What company size would you prefer to work with? Additionally, for most people, salary is high on the list. You’ll want to set your salary requirements and know ahead of time what you’re willing to negotiate with and when you’re willing to walk away. Arguably the best jobs for moms returning to work are those who acknowledge the fact that everyone’s human. Everyone has a life outside of work, so let’s act like it! Moms and dads have things that come up now and again, but so does everyone else.
As an example of search topics, you might want to keep an eye out for work-life balance. More and more companies are promoting themselves as being family-friendly. You can talk to the hiring manager about such topics in a way that doesn’t say, “My kids are crazy and I’m just trying to pay the bills”. Moreover, if you come across companies advertising jobs looking for “incredibly strong multitasker who can handle anything”, know that you’re going to be very, very busy. If you can handle that, great. If not, keep looking. It’s helpful to know or get some help to decode what people mean in job descriptions.
Internal Audit as Your Career
If you are tired of always having to put the client first and sacrifice your personal time due to your client-facing role, you may find that becoming an internal auditor is the career move for you. Internal audit has good career advancement opportunities and offers a better work-life balance. I know this is critical for working moms with young kids in school. What’s more, you can also benefit from the great Certified Internal Auditor salary. Therefore, you should learn more about why you should become a CIA and how to become an internal auditor so you can make the switch soon. Plus, don’t forget to check out these CIA exam tips and the best CIA review courses too!