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September 23, 2023

Why Do People Become Auditors in the First Place?

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I recently decided to leave my position in a Big Four Advisory position after only working there for about a year. Long story short, I was naive when I graduated and I let a recruiter talk me into the IT practice in Advisory. My education and my work experience had all been in technical IT and business analysis up until that point. Like I said, I was naive. Turns out, IT consulting in the Big Four is just auditing with a fancy title and slightly better pay. I have nothing against auditing, I understand that plenty of people make informed decisions to get into that field. It was just very clear that I couldn't even muster a little interest in auditing. My honest question is this: what really draws someone to audit? And for those people with backgrounds like mine that end up at Big Four firms, why do you stay?
I've asked people at my current firm and all I get is a jumbled mess of buzzwords and the same tired, "looks great on your resume."
What do you all think? Again, I'm not trying to bash the profession, just wondering what you really enjoy about it? Especially for the people with IT backgrounds, what keeps you in IT Audit?
Glad to be done
Dear Glad to be done,
I can't give you a straight answer to your question about IT audit but I'll attempt to address the overall attraction to auditing question.
1. Hey! At least it's not tax. – I don't know how many auditors I spoke to over my public accounting career that absolutely abhor the idea of working in tax. Excuses were numerous from "The people are different" or "I've just always hated tax," the latter being code for "It's hard and I just don't want to do it." The former being some kind of unfounded observation by auditors that all the people in tax were unattractive and kept their nose in books the whole time. You could really chalk it up to "auditing is for the weak" but there are plenty of sharp people on both sides, so it's debatable as to which is more challenging (but I'll just tell you: it's tax). 
2. That somehow, by the grace of God, an audit career will turn into some sexy front office job. – Yes, delusions of grandeur are widespread amongst the audit community. The thought being that your auditing and accounting prowess will charm the pants off some MD at an investment bank, hedge fund, private equity fund, hell, take your pick and you'll wind up doing due diligence/financial analysis/M&A and making real decisions instead of simply reviewing and performing procedures that get you comfortable (but not that comfortable) with the client's financial statements. FLASH: Not happening. Get over it. Yes, occasionally, you'll hear about someone that worked with your cube neighbor's cousin who went from being a sad little SA at PwC to some BSD merger job at JP Morgan but situations like that are rare and there's always a catch (soul is sold, undesirable sexual favors, rich uncle gets involved). 
3. It's a means to something better. – Granted, I just shot down all the dreams of those want to be dealmakers but in all honestly, an audit career does give you options. Not very sexy options, but options nonetheless. There are plenty of great jobs with great companies out there that need people to track the numbers and – GUESS WHAT?! – they love people that have Big 4 auditing backgrounds. And for many, many people, job security is paramount to everything else. Sure, you could've been the next Javier Bardem but somebody's parents convinced them that they needed a real job because without steady income, you'd fall into booze, drugs, and an all around unhealthy lifestyle. 
4. Some people really love auditing. – It's true. I've met a few. They're lunatics. AVOID.
 If there are any IT audit types that can elaborate on that particular flavor, please jump in. And if you've got other reasons for taking up with the opiners, share them below.

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