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The Institute of Internal Auditors North AmericaBreadcrumb SeparatorAbout UsBreadcrumb SeparatorAbout the ProfessionBreadcrumb SeparatorHow to Build a Strong Foundation for a Successful Career in Internal Audit

How to Build a Strong Foundation for a Successful Career in Internal Audit

Grace WuNick Geffers
By Grace Wu and Nick Geffers

The IIA would like to share some quick tips and articles to get your feet into the internal audit (IA) profession in the upcoming year.

Internal auditing is a disciplined profession that adheres to established professional standards and requires a number of core attributes, or as defined in IIA Standards, “professional proficiency.” In a 2013 blog article, “Professional Proficiency: What Does That Really Mean for Internal Auditors?” IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers summarized what “proficiency” means per Practice Advisory 1210-1:

  • The ability to apply internal audit knowledge appropriately without technical research or assistance.
  • Understanding of accounting principles and techniques (if we are conducting financial-related audits).
  • Ability to recognize the indicators of fraud.
  • Knowledge of key IT risks, controls, and technology-based audit techniques.
  • Familiarity with management principles and good business practices and the ability to apply that knowledge to recognize significant deviations and recommend reasonable solutions.
  • Human relations skills to maintain satisfactory relationships with clients.
  • Oral and written communication skills to clearly and effectively convey engagement objectives, evaluations, conclusions, and recommendations.

As a beginner internal auditor, it is always a good idea to self-check on these core attributes to identify development areas. Joining an Internal Audit Education Partnership (IAEP) program to study in related areas and obtaining the Certified Internal Auditor® (CIA®) designation can help you build and enhance your foundational knowledge and skills.

Set Up Your Own Toolbox

As a student straight out of college, you might be searching for the best tools and resources that can be readily used in your IA job, without knowing where exactly to find them. In his blog article, “Toolboxes for Building a Better Internal Auditor,” Mr. Chambers introduced “digital toolboxes” hyperlinked to dedicated IIA landing pages featuring abundant tools and resources that IA practitioners need today. These toolboxes, which include Artificial Intelligence, COSO, Culture, Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Fundamentals, Leadership Development, Talent Management, and Trusted Advisor, are what seasoned auditors have mastered or check frequently. Start with these toolboxes or customize your own to be better prepared for the job.

Develop Business Acumen

Many new internal auditors struggle to effectively develop business acumen and the underlying attributes. Paul McDonald’s article, “The Pursuit of Business Acumen,” referenced “7 Attributes of Highly Effective Internal Auditors,” a joint report by The IIA and Robert Half that defined the dimensions of business acumen as natural inquisitiveness; persuasiveness; change management proficiency; service orientation; ability to recognize and respond to diverse thinking styles, learning styles, and cultural qualities; and a global mindset. These attributes, as well as insights from subject matter experts and executives, can be exercised through on- or off-the-job training along with vast absorption of organizational news and cross-functional information. If you don’t know where to look for such information, 10-K and 10-Q forms, in addition to company websites, are always good places to start. More important, new internal auditors need to exercise their ability to analyze data and information gathered and think critically.

Find Your Mentor

Each year, Internal Auditor magazine recognizes young professionals as “Emerging Leaders,” most of whom recognize the value of mentorship. As a student, you may not know where to find a mentor or how to initiate a mentor-mentee relationship. A lot of mentorship relationships are formed organically. You may find a mentor at your school, from your job, or even through volunteering. Past Emerging Leader Bill Stahl’s article, “The Value of Mentorship,” may answer some questions you have, such as “What should I look for in a mentor?” and “Where can I find mentors?”

Network With a Purpose

Though people might recommend that you network, they rarely advise you to network with a purpose. The purpose of networking is to build a relationship for the long run. The key to successful networking is forging a quality, authentic connection. Your classmates, homework assignment teams, case competition partners, and interviewers can all be your potential business partners. Numerous students volunteer with The IIA, and this provides a great opportunity for networking professionally. Keep the goal in mind and invest time to cultivate relationships that will help you grow in the long term. Building new relationships is just like establishing a new plant in your garden; it takes effort and regular interaction that must be maintained. Eventually, the relationship will grow and be applicable to your future.

We hope these tips and articles inspired you. Best of luck in your future career as an internal auditor!