Stuck with an Awful Audit Senior: What to Do?

awful-audit-seniorIt is 3 am. You don’t know what the heck you are doing. All they told you is to look at last year’s papers and follow what they did last year. That makes you feel like you are just pushing papers. On top of that, you have been working late every night and have no idea why.

The “they”, of course, are your seniors.

You want to quit so bad. But should you? Could you? Here are your options.

7 Ways to “Manage” Your Audit Senior

1. Backing Out?

You can always choose to leave the firm, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

First, you have worked hard at school and at the recruiting process to get this job. Why give up everything because of this person you despise? You owe it to yourself to create opportunities for you. Besides, 5 different seniors will senior you 5 different ways. Don’t let one bad apple ruin the orchard.

2. Talk to Your Peers or a Mentor

Ask peers you trust about their experience. Don’t complain or spill your guts. Just throw out questions on how they receive feedback from their seniors. At the very least it gives you a realistic expectation of a typical audit senior.

If you don’t really trust anyone in the firm, see if you can talk to ex-colleagues or friends outside the firm. Then ask for their honest opinion.

3. Take a Step Back

Now, analyze the situation and identify the root of the problem. Is it due to one particular senior? If so, speak up to your counselor and HR contact. Unless you say something, people don’t know that you are unhappy and struggling.

You may say that client doesn’t fit your interest and you want to move into a different industry. In my opinion, it is best to tell the truth – that you feel like you are not getting enough training. I understand that it could be an awkward conversation, but as long as you present it professionally and matter-of-factly, it is fine.

If the issue is lack of job satisfaction, try looking at the overall audit and its purpose. Spend some time in understanding your client, their operations, and their challenges. This will make you a much better auditor down the road.

If the issue is that you dislike everyone in the firm, or that your learning style doesn’t fit in with the team’s, then maybe it’s time to move on…

4. Aim to Last Longer than Your Senior

Assuming that one particular audit senior is the issue, I suggest that you wait after the busy season. Your senior is probably on his way out after that. His apparent lack of interest in you (and possibly in his job) indicates that he may be looking for opportunities elsewhere.

5. Vent It Out!

In the meantime, if you are still angry, vent it out to people you trust, or do this anonymously at forums, or in the comment section below 🙂

6. Build a Relationship with Your Client

At the same time, start building a good relationship with your client. It echoes the third point on understanding your client: people appreciate your effort, and practically, it makes your life as an auditor much easier. For example, you could ask them for all sorts of supporting schedules late at night and they wouldn’t get upset.

In the long run, you earn yourself an option to work for this client, and do a great job because you understand their operations so well.

7. Figure out Your End Goal

Where do you want to end up in your career? This is an important question because it determines how long you need to stay.

If you don’t even know what you want to do yet, staying in public accounting isn’t going to hurt anything. It will end up helping you in the long run.

Specifically, try and stick it out for 2-3 years (and YOU become senior), then leave if you are still unhappy. You will then realize the name on the resume is invaluable and very helpful when you leave.

Question: Should I Request Changing Audit Team?

Yes, but think carefully before proceeding. Here are the reasons:

First, you might end up with another crappy senior. Another request for change might be met with eye rolls at a minimum or a rep for being flaky and demanding.

Second, even if the above isn’t true, you still have limited options to change. Once you take steps to change team, expect to stay there for a while. You can only request changes a limited amount of times before people assume there is an issue with you.

My Thoughts

If you work in Big 4 long enough, you’d see seniors come and go. Hang in there!

Auditing is by no means a glorious job, and what you are experiencing happens on every team, in every office, in every state. But you need to just take things in stride and give it your best.

About the Author Stephanie

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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