So You Want To Be An Auditor?

So, you want to be an auditor?  I am currently writing this post from the San Fransisco airport.  I am waiting for my red eye flight back to Toronto tonight.  I have been in San Fransisco for just over 48 hours now and I haven’t seen much more that the hotel, the client’s site and the airport.  This is actually pretty typical.  What is unusual is when I take a little extra time to sight-see.

If you want the life of a professional auditor, be prepared!  Know what you are getting yourself into.

The upside:  I really enjoy my work.  The people, the exposure to so many interesting things, plus loads of other things.  But that’s not my focus right now.

The downside:  The travel and the schedule.  Time is money, literally.  With auditing become more and more cut throat, the rates are getting lower, but the expectations are getting higher.  Which means you have to become more efficient.  I am actually one of the lucky ones.  I work as a sub contractor and consultant, so I have complete control of schedule and a steady stream of work (knock on wood).  Some auditors work as full time employees, so they don’t have control of their schedules, they go where they are told.

The travel:  Oh, isn’t it exciting to go on business travel.  Sure, the first few times in my early 20s.  I actually still like to travel, I like to visit new places, I just don’t like the process of getting there anymore.  Business travel doesn’t mean that you get to be one of those lucky people up in business class.  I wish!  No client wants to pay for that.  I sit in economy class, with the rest of the world.  Oh, you can work on the plane!  Have you ever tried to open up a laptop on one of those fold out trays these days?  Especially when the person in front of you decides to recline and doesn’t have the decency to give you notice.  I can’t even get my screen open enough to be able to see it at that point.  Oh, you get to see new places!  Sure, I get to thoroughly see my client’s site.  But then that covers business hours.  Then there is dinner, checking emails, and sleep.  Not much time for sight seeing.  You can stay an extra day or two, that’s if you employer and/or schedule allows.  Sure, but all of those extra costs are my own.  And it’s just not as fun to see the sights on your own, by yourself.  I’ve done it, usually when it is my first visit to a new place.  But now, as I have a family, I just miss them more.  I usually just try to get extra work done, so I have more free time when I get home.  And depending on what type of work you do, you may not actually go any place interesting enough to make it worth seeing the sights.  Usually you just end up hoping for a comfortable, clean hotel room, and a decent place to eat.  Oh, you get to eat out and try new foods!  I gained 15 pounds in my first 6 months of auditing as a full time job.  I now crave, simple, home cooking types of meals.  And when I get home, it takes every ounce of my being to not scream when my husband asks to go out to dinner.

The schedule:  The audit is the big money, and your schedule reflects that.  What usually isn’t reflected is all of the non-audit time.  What else is there?  Well, for every audit there is the pre-audit work and the post-audit work.  And that has to be done around the audit.  If you are lucky, you build in the allowance for administrative time.  But for the majority of us, administrative time is not usually “billable” and therefore is done whenever we can fit it in inbetween audits.  When is that?  Usually nights and weekends.  Be careful, you willl find yourself a workaholic.

So take heed.  I don’t post this to discourage you from becoming an auditor.  Because it actually is a great line of work, its interesting, challenging and engaging.  I am always learning something new.  It’s after I leave the audit client that reality hits me.  So take this as a lesson learned, because we auditors are all about continual improvement, and make your choices well.  I have.  I have chosen to work hard, and now I have earned my break.  I am heading home from my last audit before I take my vacation (4 weeks!).  I will be back in September with renewed vigor and a fresh perspective and my burn out brushed off.  (As soon as I can get these last reports done, records filed and invoices sent.)

Have a great summer!