Contact that recruiter ▪ join that accounting society ▪ set up that coffee ▪ study for that test ▪ submit that application ▪ volunteer at that… wait a second – do I even WANT to do this??
If you are like Beau-the-junior-in-college, you committed to major in accounting without realizing what you were getting yourself into. Or maybe you are just curious about what AUDIT involves. Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the typical tasks of an Audit Associate at Peterson Sullivan.
In the Office (about 20% of your time): It’s Monday and you finished an audit last week. You are scheduled to be in the office this week before heading out on another audit next week. Oh, and the Seahawks won on Sunday.
- Attend a planning meeting. This is actually my favorite part of the audit process. Every audit has a planning meeting. It’s a chance for everyone scheduled on the audit (including Managers and Partners) to sit down and analyze the audit plan from a business strategy and risk standpoint. If you pay attention and ask questions, you can learn a lot during these meetings.
- Finish a workpaper from last week’s audit. All audit work is stored in something called a “binder” in our software. These binders are a collection of workpapers. As an Associate, you will be assigned several workpapers to complete for the audit.
- Clear ‘points’. What’s a point? A point is a note left on a workpaper (usually by your manager) indicating that something needs to be corrected. Clearing points is often one of the easier tasks you have, and you learn a lot from fixing your own mistakes.
- Hang out with your cubicle-neighbors. They go by many names: “cube-mates,” “cubbies,” “cube-lings,” but they will never let you down. (Don’t worry, we don’t use any of these names).
- Send out confirmations. Although we are nearly paperless, occasionally some documents need to be sent by snail mail. For example, a letter to a creditor confirming a client’s loan balance. Associates are the lucky ones who get to mail these off.
- Prepare for next week’s audit. Do some research online – find out who your client is and how their business works. Check our software to see if we received any documentation from the client. If not, ask the Senior on that job if there is anything you can do. They may give you something, or they may not. If not, see next step.
- Send out an ‘availability email’.If you are all caught up on your work from last week and there is nothing to do to prepare for the coming audit, send an email to the Associates, Seniors, and Managers, and ask if they have any work for you. **Clue** they usually DO. You might be asked to prepare a board presentation, draft an engagement letter, do some audit planning, or conduct industry analysis.
- Most importantly – drink coffee. The coffee at PS is quality. Not to mention all the other snacks and beverages. And the cheese (trust me – we used to have a whole fridge devoted to cheese. Ask us about it in your interview).
At the Client (about 80% of your time): It’s Monday, the first day of the audit at a client’s office. This audit is scheduled to last 1 week. Seattle morale is low – the Seahawks lost last Thursday and Richard Sherman was injured.
- Cheer up the client. They are probably bummed about Sherman getting injured, so you will have your work cut out for you, but saying “Hi” and chatting for a bit is a great way to start the week.
- Set up. We have these neat portable screens that pair with our laptops and if we’re feeling super hi-tech, we’ll bring a mobile WiFi. Chat for a moment with the Senior, Manager, and whoever else is out at the client, then get started on your work. You might be set up in a swanky skyscraper office, or you might be in a glorified closet – we PS’ers take what we can get.
- Tackle your assigned sections. We generally hit the hardest sections first, so that we can resolve any complex issues early in the audit. For an Associate, this section might be “Debt” – auditing a client’s notes payable. After you finished Debt, you might turn your attention to a simpler section such as “Cash”.
- Go to talk to the client (again). By this time, you have gathered an ample list of questions to ask the client. By the way, who is the ‘client’? The primary contact with the client is usually a Bookkeeper, Accounting Manager, or Controller/CFO. Some questions can be relayed electronically, but some things are better discussed face-to-face. Less confusing that way, trust me.
- Ask the Senior some questions. One thing that PS does well is “collaborative review” – a fancy term for talking face-to-face. It is very convenient to have your Senior and Manager out at the client with you – you can ask them questions whenever you get stuck. They are usually very helpful and it’s the best way to learn.
- Give a status report. Public accounting is somewhat unique – as an entry-level Associate, you are your own boss. Sure, you have Managers on each job, but YOU are responsible for managing your various projects and keeping track of deliverables. Before heading home, give the Senior a status update on your projects so they can accurately monitor the overall job status and keep the audit on schedule.
- Go to happy hour with your co-workers.
- Play on a firm sports team! We have basketball, volleyball, softball, kickball, and soccer.
- Firm recruiting events (we like to watch the Mariners and eat good food while wooing high quality candidates, such as yourself).
- Study for CPA exams – sad, but true. It doesn’t feel quite as terrible when all the Associates in the office are going through the same thing.
- Coaching program activities – one of the coolest parts of PS is how much time and energy the senior staff/management invest in the junior staff. It’s clear that they want you to succeed, and there are incredible opportunities for growth and mentorship.
There is so much more, but I don’t want to risk boring you. If you are at all curious about learning more, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.