“So, are you going audit or tax??”
If you’ve recently decided to pursue a career in accounting, this is probably a question that everyone loves to ask you, and one that you – understandably – have a tough time answering! If you’re wondering what it would be like to work as an Audit Associate at Peterson Sullivan, or what auditing even is, then this article is for you.
In the Office (about 50% of your time)
As an Audit Associate you will be in the office about 50% of the time. When you are in the office, you will be working on a large variety of tasks, both big and small:
- Attend a planning meeting. The planning meeting usually happens about 1-2 months before fieldwork. 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. As an Associate, the planning meeting is a great opportunity for you to get a more in-depth understanding of our clients and audit processes.
- 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.
- Catch up with coworkers. As cheesy as it sounds, most (probably all) of us believe that the best thing about PS are the people! I always look forward to being able to spend some time with my awesome coworkers, whether that means just talking between the cubes, or grabbing coffee or lunch.
- Attend trainings: PS offers a large variety of in-house trainings throughout the year that allow us to continuously improve as professionals and earn the CPE hours needed for our (future) CPA licenses. My personal favorite class is “Communicating in Color”, where we learn about the personalities of the people at our firm, and how those influence how we interact with each other in the work environment.
- 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. If we’re lucky, sometimes we get enough information back from our clients to get a jump-start on next week’s audit!
- See how you can lend a helping hand.If you are all caught up on your work from last week and there is nothing to do to prepare for the coming audit, stop by some Managers’ and Seniors’ desks to see if there is anything they could use some help with. You also can send an email to the Associates, Seniors, and Managers, and ask if they have any work for you. **Clue** they usually DO, and are very thankful for your willingness to help out and learn something new. You might be asked to prepare a board presentation, draft an engagement letter, do some audit planning, or conduct industry analysis.
At the Client (about 50% of your time):
As an Audit Associate you will be out at a client’s office about 50% of the time. As a mid-sized firm, most of our audits are scheduled to last about 1 week. One of my favorite things about working as an auditor is that every week brings something completely new, and provides the opportunity to see how a different business operates from the inside.
- Get to know your client. Saying “Hi” and chatting for a bit is a great way to start the week. At PS, we are lucky enough to work with a lot of really interesting and inspiring clients! You will typically stay on the same jobs from year-to-year, so getting to know the people that you will be working with annually is a great idea. It will also make the job more enjoyable for everyone involved.
- Set up. We have these neat portable screens that pair with our laptops – 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 with you, 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. It can be a lot less confusing that way, for both you and the client – trust me.
- Ask the Manager or 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. There is so much to learn about auditing, and our experienced staff are a great resource.
- 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 and Manager 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 soccer, beach volleyball, kickball, and THREE whole softball teams. We take our softball very seriously….or rather just seriously enough. 🙂
- Assist with firm recruiting events, such as presenting at an on-campus Beta Alpha Psi meeting or attending our annual Summer Leadership event where we get to know high quality candidates (such as yourself) over a Mariners game and some yummy food.
- Attend a firm-sponsored event, like our annual golf tournament, holiday party, or monthly firm happy hour!
- 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 are so many reasons to love being a part of the team at Peterson Sullivan. If you are at all curious about learning more, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.