Typical Day – Audit

Here is an example of what a typical day could look like for a first year audit staff.

You arrive at the client around 8:45am and proceed to the audit room, which at this particular client is a conference room where your entire team sits.  While your computer is booting up you stop by the office kitchen to load up on complimentary coffee and then briefly say hello to your colleagues in the audit room and any employees from the client that you may pass in the halls.

Now that your computer is up and running you immediately open Microsoft Outlook and find that you have half a dozen new emails, three of which are of higher importance.  The first email is from the AP manager you emailed before leaving last night to request support for a liability account you are responsible for testing.  The AP manager does not understand your request and in a curt tone has asked you to please be more specific about what you need.

Emails like these bothered you the first few times you received them.  You used to wonder why it was so difficult for some people to be pleasant and what in the world ever happened to basic courtesy.  By now you have learned that emails like this are nothing personal and are usually just a result of people being busy and not wanting to have to engage in long back and forth conversations to accomplish the task at hand.  You realize that most of the time it is not your fault and you just need to keep moving forward with your job.  Nevertheless you have become much more careful with the wording and specificity of your emails, so you are surprised at the AP manager´s reaction and will have to reread your email from last night and then stop by their office to clarify your request.

The next email is from your Associate/Senior (the appropriate term depends on the firm you are at) reminding you yet again to please finish documenting your conclusions on some workpapers so they can begin reviewing your work.  You completely forgot to finish this task last night after the Associate/Senior interrupted you and reminded you to make sure to send a request to the AP manager so you would have enough to work on the next day.  Thankfully the Associate/Senior remembers what it was like to be in your position and is always understanding and helpful.  You are still getting used to juggling many tasks and to-dos simultaneously.  Even though you feel completely capable of most tasks that are given to you, they become more challenging in the fast-paced environment in which you are working.

It seems that every new instruction from your Associate/Senior comes when you are only halfway done with the previous task.  Though this can be difficult at times, it also makes for an exciting and interesting work environment.  On top of that, every time you try to start a new task it is never as easy as sending the client a single email and then getting started.  Often times there is confusion over your request, and at times you aren’t even certain of exactly what you need.  The constant interaction with the client and balancing a challenging workload are all part of the demands and expectations of a job in public accounting.

Next you quickly stop by the AP manager’s office to clarify your request, and after a brief and productive conversation she now understands what you need and assures you that her staff will give it to you this afternoon.  Pleased to be back on good terms with the AP manager and to have cleared something off your to-do list you walk back to the audit room feeling better about things.  An hour later you have finished your documentation on the workpapers and as you hand them over to the Associate/Senior you feel both a sense of relief and satisfaction.

Your day so far is a microcosm of how life often goes in public accounting.  No day is ever as good or as bad as it seems.  One day might be especially difficult and you will feel frustrated and maybe even stressed, wondering why things are not going your way and if you are really cut out for this.  The very next day you might have a great day, where you finish multiple pending jobs, have an exciting interaction with a high ranking employee at the client, and then receive praise from your Associate/Senior that makes you feel like you can take on the world.

You’re feeling a bit of this elation now as your Associate/Senior thanks you for your hard work and comments that at first glance the documentation looks really good as he begins to flip through your work.  Smiling you turn back to your computer and finally get to the third email that has been pending since you arrived.

The email is from your Manager who wants you to call him.  Had you known the request that was in the email it would have been the very first thing you did this morning.  Cursing to yourself you make another mental note to stop getting so flustered when your to-do list grows at an alarming rate and instead to take a moment to prioritize your tasks before you dive in.

As you dial your Manager´s number your heart is pounding and you hope he won´t be too upset that it is almost lunch time and you´re just now calling.  To your great relief your Manager answers the phone pleasantly and asks how you are doing.  It is clear he has been very busy all morning at his other client and he seems to only half-listen to your explanation of why you´re calling a little late.

Your Manager reviewed your test of control work over some contracts, but is concerned the client might not be following the required procedures correctly.  He wants your opinion on the situation and asks for your assessment of how the staff-level employees at the company are carrying out this work based on your observations from working with them during your testing.  It feels great to be included as part of the team in an important conversation and you’re also thrilled with how much you feel like you learned from your Manager, regardless of how brief the conversation may have been.

You then head to lunch with your team feeling like the morning was a success, despite dodging a few bullets and dealing with a few bumps in the road.  When you and the team return from lunch you find your Partner waiting for you.  His afternoon freed up so he stopped by to see how things were going and to review a few documents.

You keep your head down and work hard in order to make the best impression possible on the Partner.  Though you are primarily focused on your work you get to hear some very interesting comments from the Partner as she talks about challenges the team is facing with your Senior Manager.  The highlight of the afternoon is when the CFO of the company stops by the room and tells the Partner about a major initiative the company is working on that has not been announced to the public.  You also get to hear both the Partner and the CFO discuss some of the accounting implications on the matter, giving you great insight into how executives think through a situation like this.

By the time you pack up your things to head home you are pretty tired as it has been a long day.  Dealing with an uncooperative client or juggling several tasks that all seem to need to be finished simultaneously can add some stress and difficulty to life.  However, you feel these issues were far outweighed by what you learned for today, the unique experiences you had with engagement and client executives, and the personal satisfaction you received from a job well done on a difficult task.  As you walk out the door to the audit room you c