Each year around this time, I engage in discussions with soon-to-be and newly qualified accountants. As they celebrate the significant achievement of clearing their demanding professional exams, they’re at an exciting juncture. During their training contract, many have also worked tirelessly for three years in external audit. With this foundation and considering the vast range of job opportunities out there, it’s not uncommon for many to contemplate branching out from audit.
In my conversations with these early-stage finance professionals, many briefly consider but often dismiss the idea of transitioning from external to internal audit. Yet, based on my interactions and experiences over the years, this shift has substantial merits. It can truly propel careers and open new avenues. I urge more consideration, and here’s why:
In a robust internal audit team, you aren’t merely checking boxes, as might be the perception for some junior external auditors. You evolve into a central figure in steering the company’s strategy and vision. Your insights? They’re not just acknowledged – they’re actively sought after by leaders. Instead of being perceived as an outsider, you’re recognised as an integral team member whose contributions are highly valued.
Opting for internal audit provides a unique and comprehensive view of a business’s operations, spanning across multiple departments. This journey naturally fosters connections with key company figures, enhancing your professional stature, network, and knowledge.
A stint in internal audit doesn’t limit your horizons. In fact, the skills acquired here are in high demand. Should you choose to pivot later, internal audit offers a solid foundation for venturing into diverse areas – from finance and tech to compliance and risk. And remember, some leading internal audit teams are at the cutting edge of business innovation. Participating in such transformative efforts can be a game-changer for your professional journey.
Of late, I’ve had numerous conversations with individuals keen on ESG roles. While ESG is undoubtedly a burgeoning sector, it’s also intensely competitive. Based on my observations, many newly created ESG roles are often secured by individuals already within the organisation, rather than by external hires. With the uptick in ESG reporting, internal audit’s scope is broadening to encompass these tasks. For those thinking about ESG roles, starting with internal audit could be a strategic move.
To early career accountants evaluating their next steps, it is worth giving due consideration to internal audit. It offers a distinct experience compared to the external audit roles you might have found challenging during your training contract. Considering this option could lead to significant professional growth and pave the way for endless future possibilities.
* Full disclosure: In my role as a recruiter, I have the privilege of partnering with exceptional organisations who are on the lookout for talent in both internal and external audit. Both paths offer tremendous growth opportunities, as do roles that diverge from audit altogether. I’d love to hear from auditors out there if you’d like to share, challenge, or corroborate my view. Your insights are invaluable.