4 Life Lessons I've Learned as an Auditor

4 Life Lessons I’ve Learned as an Auditor

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My Last Working Day

The day had finally arrived. 31st October 2018 was my last working day after muddling through an audit life for more than 7 years. It was just another day with unfailing regularity. I grabbed a cup of coffee before kick-starting my day at the office. Staring at the laptop screen, unconsciously flashback of the “good” old days throughout my career kept playing in my mind. It randomly hit my mind that perhaps it’s a good idea to pen down my thoughts. And here are the 4 life lessons I’ve learned as an auditor.

1. Find Your Purpose at Work. Work is More Than Just a Job.

Find your purpose at work
How to make the most of your 20s? Find your purpose at work!

Barely sleep, barely eat and work. Day after day. I guess auditors most, if not all, have been through the same routine. Dog-tired and bone-weary, I was lying on my couch. “Why am I doing this?” I asked myself. After pondering for a while, I realized that it was just a choice that I’ve made.

Most people see audit as an excellent stepping stone. So do I. My purpose at work was pretty straightforward. I invested a great deal of time and effort in exchange for knowledge and experience in audit. I’ve gained invaluable business knowledge through understanding different audit clients in all sort of specialized industries. Not to also mention the experience of dealing with clients with different characters as well as those from C-Suite level.

A person can lose everything in life, money and relationship. But not knowledge and experience, the only elements that can help you breakthrough in life.

Of course, some people may have different thoughts. Certainly, it’s not difficult to get a 9-5 accounting job as an accounting graduate. Again, it’s a choice…Always find your purpose at work! That’s the most important lesson that I have learned as an auditor.

Work is more than just a job if you have a purpose at work. Ask yourself. “What do you want to achieve?” “How to make the most of your 20s?”

2. Know Your Limits. No One is Irreplaceable at Work.

Knowing your own limit is an essential survival skill to be sustainable in a working environment with extreme stress. It’s easier say than done. “Why do you sacrifice all your sleep and time at work? It’s not going to be doomsday!” My friends asked.

There are obvious reasons. Meeting client’s expectations, to impress the bosses or to outperform the others. But more importantly, not to disappoint those who have trusted me.

In earlier years, I had never shied away from work. The more work I delivered, the more it piled up. Compliments, praises and fast track promotions were not helping the situation. I kept stretching my limits, over and over again. Finally, I burned-out. It had deleterious effects on me. Soon I realized that it was my egoism that drove me to a dead end. I was just too scared to fail.

You may be thrust into the limelight because of your outstanding performance. Or countless awards bestowed upon you along the way. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how much you have proved yourself to be an invaluable asset to the organization.

At the end of the day, you are still a loser if you never manage to finish the race.

You will never win without finishing a race!
You will never win without finishing a race!

No one is irreplaceable at work. Whenever someone leaves, it creates an opportunity for the others. Know your limits and be sustainable! A lesson that I have learned the hard way.

3. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. The Only Competitor is Your Own Self.

For the past 7 years, I had been working with different teammates in various assignments. The working environment was very dynamic. It’s particularly inherent in audit industry with unusual high attrition rates as compared to other industries. As a result, I dealt with countless colleagues with different personalities.

Like it or not, politics exist everywhere at the workplace. And it’s usually worse when you are working with extremely competitive people. Interestingly, I met a “friend” who was unusually competitive at work. Other than blowing his own trumpet, he habitually compared himself to his peers and belittled them in front of others.

Things turned ugly. Not only had he failed to achieve a fast track promotion, his relationship with his teams turned sour because of his behaviour. Eventually he left the firm in sorrow.

The only competitor is your own self
The only competitor is your own self

Based on my personal experience, my only advice is always focus on your own growth. That’s the simple path that I’ve taken. I wouldn’t say my career was smooth sailing. But it’s definitely satisfactory for me!

Always take the higher road and ignore those who play office politics against you. Stop comparing yourself to others. Identify your own weaknesses and strive for continuous self-development.

The only competitor is your own self. You can capitalize on the opportunities only when you are ready.

4. Self-Awareness: The Essence of Being a Great Leader

Self awareness is the essence of great leadership
Self awareness is the essence of great leadership

“Leadership is about the heart count, not the head count” – Simon Sinek.

The inspirational talk given by Simon Sinek has since changed my perspective about leadership. It also changed the way I manage my teams. The quote is still now deep-rooted in my mind.

Through the years, I had reported to many different superiors. Of which my experience was a total nightmare when I was working with two particular superiors. Both had very different working and communication styles. One of them is an autocratic person, another is a passive-aggressive person. And I had a pretty torrid time working with them.

I came to a conclusion that both are essentially lack of self-awareness. Leaders who lack of self-awareness have low emotional intelligence. These leaders rarely reflect upon themselves to identify their own strengths, weaknesses and personalities. Also, they fail to understand that an ignorant action or verbal remarks that they make could impact their subordinates significantly. Or at worst, impact their entire career.

Self-awareness is the essence of great leadership. Always put yourself in others’ shoes! You’ll be surprised with the outcome when your followers devote their effort willingly to give their best to deliver if you’ve charismatic leadership. They deliver because they want to, not because they have to.

Power does not come with the position that you hold. But rather, it comes with the people who are willing to follow your lead.

Final Thoughts

Audit profession is commonly perceived as a dull and lifeless job. Albeit it’s every accounting graduate’s dream to join one of the renowned Big Four accounting firms.

Frankly speaking, I’ve no regrets. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful that I had joined audit as my very first job in life. There were great people who crossed my path especially those who supported me through thick and thin. My auditing journey wasn’t comparatively long. Nonetheless, it shaped my character and made me who I’m today.

More importantly, it prepared me to embrace the challenges in my next stage of life. For those who are contemplating whether to choose auditing as your career path or not, here is what I’m going to tell you. “Staying in audit for 3 years is good, 5 years would be excellent. Each year you stay on thereafter benefits you, not the organization”.

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