IT's crunch time! As an accountant, perhaps at this time you are already questioning your career choice. With financial statements and income tax return filing deadlines around the corner, this period is exceptionally stressful. But everything will be worth the sleepless nights, the never-ending workload and long hours at the office. The things that you will learn about accounting, auditing, teamwork... are unmatched. If you have the knowledge and the right level of confidence to deal with clients, public practice is undoubtedly right for you.
As an external auditor for more than a decade, I am sharing here some tips to help new auditors not just to survive but to thrive during the busy work season.
1. Learn the basics of accounting and auditing
When you enter the world of external auditing, the minimum expectation from you is that you have the grips with the basics of accounting and auditing. Not only will that help you better understand the accounts and procedures that you will perform, but it will also give you the needed boost and confidence to carry on with the engagement.
2. Learn to take down notes
During the busy season, everyone is literally busy — from seniors up to the partner in-charge. You will be receiving reminders every now and then, and you must ensure that you understand the tasks assigned to you. However, you should also be aware that your heads, too, have their own work allocation, which includes managing clients. If you're the partner, it always helps to take notes of your staffs' concerns. Personally, I always encourage my team members to write down notes so there will be no repetition of explanations and reminders, and to ensure that they will not miss key information.
If paper and pen is not your thing, you may use Microsoft OneNote, a digital note-taking app that provides a single place for keeping all your notes, research, plans and information — everything that you need to remember and manage your work at the office or from home.
3. Ask questions if you must
When I was a junior auditor, I found it very difficult to ask questions, especially during the busy season because everyone is swamped with what they are doing. However, I came to realize that if I do not ask my seniors on highly technical, critical or sensitive issues, I will not know exactly what I am looking for or resolve them correctly.
Accounting is highly technical, and it's unlikely that a new auditor will be a financial statement or accounting expert in an instant. New auditors are often adamant on asking questions, but April 15 won't wait for you. Some accounting issues are sometimes beyond a new auditor's skill set, and the answer often is available from a more experienced senior or colleague. Partners and managers, on the other hand, should be sensitive to the reasons when a staff is hard up on completing tasks.
4. Do not aim for perfection
When you start doing your working papers or documentations, you can't help but wonder whether you are doing the right thing or not. You may want to constantly seek the advice of your senior or check if everything is good. This is the crucial point wherein you have to have a good understanding of your audit procedures. As long as you have followed everything according to the audit program, then your work is ready to be signed off.
Getting a lot of review comments on your work should not discourage you but rather encourage you to do better and improve the next time.
5. Take breaks when you can
Whenever you have the chance, do a quick break for water or coffee, or even a quick exercise or stretching. Just because everyone is so busy and doing late hours work doesn't mean you need to do the same. Working without a break for long hours will make it difficult for you to focus and is counterproductive.
6. Make it as fun as possible and celebrate
Busy season is busy but this should not hinder you from having fun at times. It does not have to always be about audit work. A few minutes of having a good laugh with your team or with the management will surely help everyone to loosen up and be revitalized.
And no matter how big or small your achievements are, celebrate it and recognize your accomplishments and efforts. A positive attitude does wonders to keep that passion burning and endure the tough requirements of a busy season.
It is indeed a tough time, there's no doubt about that, but if you follow the tips above, I'm sure you can survive the busy season. Plan, organize and prioritize... do not procrastinate. Good luck!
Cristina Joy D. Cancela, CPA, is a senior partner of Paguio, Dumayas & Associates, CPAs (PrimeGlobal Philippines) and a member of the Media Affairs Committee of the Association of CPAs in Public Practice (Acpapp). Her opinion does not reflect in any way those of these institutions.