Every budding CA has to, at one time or another, face the prospect of taking the bold step of moving out of the auditing profession.
There’s a big wide world out there and the transition can look look quite daunting.
But it need not be so.
If you really consider the number of skills that you have developed in your auditing career, you might be astounded to discover how much real fundamental management skill you have accumulated – skill that will stand you in good stead ‘out there’.
Presenting these skills in your CV is vitally important for two reasons:
- It gives you an opportunity to frame your value as a hit-the-ground-runningprospective employee;
- It allows you the space to connect with your fundamental skill-set and helps you see that your abilities beyond the technical IFRS related stuff and home in on your essential value-add.
Hitting the ground running is a wonderful selling point when applying for a job especially if you can present yourself it in such away that you can ‘just get on with it’ with the least amount of maintenance.
Put another way, as an employer your best buy is to take on a person who can pick up on the job and just produce from day one!
Of course! So where do we start?
Usually the beginning of this process is understanding that your prospective employer is not the CFO you are used to dealing with as an audit manager. Rather it is another kind of person known as an HR consultant. Relating to such a person is a totally different dynamic and, if you are unprepared, you will land up feeling very frustrated and despondent.
HR people usually do not understand what makes you tick. They work strictly to a job spec that has usually been poorly drafted by their employing executive. It is up to you to throw light on your abilities rather than expecting them to discover your talents!
So, consider the following in line with your value-offering:
- MANAGEMENT SKILLS:
As an audit supervisor/manager you ran a team. Some of you ran big teams maybe even as large as 20 people. The skill required to run a team, especially a large one, is a skill that is essential to win as a manager in commerce. Think of some of the issues:
- Properly staffing the audit team (sometimes the hardest part!)
- Dealing with unresponsive staff
- Ensuring that deadlines are met
- Allocating work in line with skill
- Planning the logistics to ensure that there are adequate facilities at the client when your team arrives
- Ensuring that budgets are properly met
- Running a number of audits simultaneously
- Running the overs/unders schedule and discussing same with the client
- CLIENT LIAISON
An important part of running an audit assignment is liaising with the client. There are two components to this:
- Dealing with the up-line, being the CEO/CFO and other senior executives;
- Dealing with the down-line, being the clients staff – the ones required to supply audit information.
Now don’t undermine the value of these skills – if you have it, then life will be easier out their. But if you don’t that is also okay because you will learn. Some people need to mature a little more before this part runs smoothly (a discussion for another article).
- DEADLINES AND HARD WORK
There is no doubt that the designation CA(SA) has a big message. It tells a story of perseverance, hard work, strong character and determination. This is especially apparent when you have been with one of the bigger auditing firms. Note that I have deliberately avoided using the term ‘The Big4’ because all of the medium sized firms are also included. Why? Because long hours are pretty much standard especially when you are doing the audits of listed companies with tight deadlines. In other words it’s about stay-power – the ability to burn the midnight oil.
- ATTENTION TO DETAIL
One of the most important traits of a good financial person is attention to detail. You cannot survive in the auditing environment, especially as a manager, unless close attention is paid to the detail. According to a recent survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, attention to detail was one of the most important expectations from financial managers – meeting deadlines was the other.
- REVIEW AND UNDERSTANDING OF COMPLICATED SYSTEMS
Working in the corporate environment requires the implementation and maintenance of financial systems. As an auditor system assessments is fundamental to the process. Although the emphasis might be different (efficiency and cost saving being a major focus), your training as an auditor gives you an excellent grounding.
- LEGAL DOCUMENTATION
Working as an audit senior/manager you are often required to peruse and assess complicated legal documents. These might include banker agreements, property leases, session agreements or purchase/sale agreements. This gives you a good foundation in understanding of ‘Legalese’ which will be needed time and time again even if it is simply to review a photostat machine maintenance agreement.
- UNDERSTANDING RISK
One of the more important focus of financial executives is identifying and managing risk. The auditor’s main planning tool is risk identification. This experience will help you add value in this area almost immediately especially with companies that are still in the throws of implementing King III.
- ERP (IT) ASSESSMENT AND REVIEW
Again here is an area that auditors have a varied experience. Due to the fact that you visit different clients and are exposed to a variety of systems, you should be able to find your way around most systems quite easily. Furthermore because of your varied experience you should be able to add value almost immediately.
- UNDERSTANDING STATUTORY FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
As basic as this might sound it is a value-add in the corporate context. Management accounts are not prepared on this basis and the conversion of the usual monthly reporting into the statutory financial statements will require your expertise.
Some of the things you still have to learn:
Working with lower level people who are much more experienced and knowledgeable than you.
- This could take some adjustment but it is important that you step into the leadership role. Don’t kid yourself. You are under the microscope from the minute you walk in. They will feel you out and see how far they can push the boundaries. Some will attempt to curry favour whilst others will feel threatened and might even be aggressive and uncooperative. Just remember, no matter what, you’re the boss. So act like one!
Knowing when to take action when staff cross the line.
- This is one area where a number of people get it wrong. In terms of the Labour Act there is a remedial process which allows you to take action against non-performing staff members. Do not hesitate to use this when necessary.Just remember to ALWAYS consult Human Resources before doing anything. Failure to do this could land the company in a lot of hot water. Follow due process but let it be known that, when the need arises, you will take action.
Assessing risk from a different perspective.
- The concept of materiality does not applyIn the auditing context materiality plays a major role is accessing risk. In the commercial context everything counts. I’m not suggesting that you should account for every last cent, but be aware that you cannot easily disregard issues that appear to be immaterial. There could be other issues embedded in your finding and it is always better to get your boss to concur with you before you make these kinds of decisions (without being petty!). Be aware that in terms of the new Companies Act you could be held personally liable for some of your decisions. So tread cautiously.
Of course there are many more issues to be considered but the above are just some of the more important ones to help you to in touch with your true value. This should make empower you when you go for a job interview.