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Answer Me These Questions Three

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jan 26, 2021

I've mentored more than a couple of people out of internal audit roles.

In some instances they were, quite simply, not good employees. But in others, they were good employees — in fact quite excellent in other jobs — but lacked the special skills required to be a good internal auditor. Some recognized the mismatch before I did. For others, let's just say that, again, they had to be mentored out.

Since it is a new year (though the first month of it has nearly slipped through our grasp), it is as good a time as any to take a close look at what we are doing for a living, compare that to what we want to do, and determine if the chasm is too wide to bridge. It's a good time to determine if we should mentor ourselves out of our current roles. (And, for those of you who may not be internal auditors, this applies to anything in life. So, join our ride.)

We're going to ask three questions.

Question 1: Do you like what you do?

This is not a question about the quality of the boss, of the department, or even the organization. This is simply the basic question about whether or not you like the tasks, assignments, responsibilities, and duties that are an integral part of being an internal auditor. Do you have fun doing the kind of work internal auditors do? Do you like the testing, the risk assessments, the report writing, the interviews, the critical thinking, the meetings (no, wait, not the meetings — no one likes the meetings), the give and take and work that makes up the job of being an internal auditor?

If you cannot answer yes, then there is a good chance you are in the wrong profession. And it is probably a good time to start exploring options — to mentor yourself into something new — before someone mentors you someplace you don't want to be.

Question 2: Do you like the environment in which you work?

There is a lot encompassed in this simple question. First, do you like the kind of work that is being done by the department? You may like doing internal audit work, but you know the department is mired in Sarbanes-Oxley and compliance, it is focusing on low-risk areas (like petty cash), or it does the same audits over and over. In this case, your distaste for the job may have nothing to do with what it means to be an internal auditor, but what you perceive as an approach that hinders your ability to do quality, valuable work.

Second, do you like working with this team/manager/director/associate vice president? Is this a team that works well together or a dysfunctional nightmare where there is no honesty, no openness, and no trust? Or maybe it is a nice group of people that cannot accomplish anything because it is mired in incompetence, avoidance, and a lack of leadership. Once again, you like the work, but now it is the team that hinders your ability to do quality, valuable work.

Finally, do you like the organization? You like the work, you like the department, but the organization is siloed, disorganized, or unethical. The department cannot break through the politics, dysfunction, and/or miasma to do work that would help the organization succeed. Not only does the situation hinder your ability to do quality, valuable work, but it quashes any similar attempts by the department.

Note that any of the above may not be a deal breaker. Depending on your position and your situation, you might be able to help change what is occurring at the department level or within the organization. After all, that is a part of what internal audit is all about, changing things to make them better. But it may be that the continued application of your head against a brick wall as you try to smash your way forward has become more than you (or your aching head) can take. It is time to move on — time to mentor yourself into a new organization.

And now the final and most important question.

Question 3: Do you have a passion to make a difference through the work you do in internal audit?

Not to be too maudlin about the whole thing, but does your work come from the heart? Do you do the job because you want to get paid, or because it was the only thing you found after you graduated, or because someone "mentored" you into it, or because the magic 8-ball indicated it was a good place to be, or because your ex-father-in-law told you it was a way to get rich (whoops, that one hit a little too close to home), or because of any reasons that have to do with job, duty, or "cause I hafta"? Or do you do it because you have no choice, something within drives you to find the issues, find the answers, and help others succeed.

And, to be honest, this is the part where I should provide paragraphs and paragraphs of flowery prose talking about the promise of the profession and the need for people to understand, believe, and proselytize that promise — partly by talking about it, but partly by showing that passion in everything you do.

But I can't think what purpose it would serve. And that was part of the mentoring I did with people. The passion, once you have worked in internal audit for a bit, comes without your bidding. There is no cajoling and whining and nudzhing such desire, it is just something you want to do/must do, and nothing else gives you quite the same feeling of satisfaction.

And a postscript. I never questioned my answers to question one and three. Yes, I liked the work and, perhaps most importantly, yes, I was passionate about the work I was doing.

Thirty-something years in the profession and that is why I'm still here.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.