What's your job about?
I work at RSM which is an accounting firm with offices Australia-wide as well as across the globe. In Melbourne, the largest division is External Audit, which is what I do. Simply, external audit involves working through the financial accounts of an entity ensuring that the information that the entity presents in its financial statements provides a true and fair representation of their operations. A lot of the work involves gaining assurance over what is on an entity’s balance sheet and profit/loss statement via testing and sampling. Audit is largely about asking questions and gaining an understanding of the various functions and processes within a business. In doing this, the audit team is able to form an opinion on whether the financial statements are not materially misstated.
What's your background?
I grew up in inner Melbourne and went to Melbourne Grammar School. Once I graduated from there I took a gap year working at a preparatory school in Oxford, England, where I coached cricket and soccer while also assisting in Mathematics and English classes for younger students. Having just left school myself, this presented an awesome opportunity to develop my independence having been thrust into a totally unfamiliar environment. Aside from the work, I also got the opportunity to travel Europe during the school’s holidays. When I returned, I began my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. For the first couple of years of my degree, I was unsure of what I wanted to do beyond university. Applying for internships and vacationer programs was a pretty daunting task and something that I struggled with initially. It’s a process that appears very unrewarding because most (if not all) of the rejections you face are via a generic email. I found that it was important to view it as a learning experience, figuring out what employers are looking for as it is very easy to fall into the trap of putting your life story on your resume. The whole process was sobering in a way because you became more aware of things that you need to work on but at the same time, what you’re really good at. Looking back on the application process now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Apart from an understanding of accounting, working in audit is accessible to people from all kinds of backgrounds. From my brief time working at RSM, I’ve noticed that within the audit division we have such a broad range of personalities. Some are better at the more technical side of accounting/audit whereas others thrive off the interaction with the client and winning work (relevant to those in more senior roles). Not only this, but due to RSM’s global presence, we have a large number of employees from overseas who were originally on a short-term secondment in Melbourne.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
Through my short time at RSM, I’ve worked on clients across a broad range of industries, this being one of the main reasons why I chose audit. I’ve had an opportunity to learn how different businesses/companies operate and the processes behind their accounting and financial reporting systems. Not only this, audit is a very team-oriented job and it is very rare for you to be working on a client by yourself. This gives you an opportunity to develop your soft skills like teamwork, communication and presentation which are important attributes to have as you progress through your career.
What are the limitations of your job?
As audit is very client-oriented, a lot of what you do and when you do it, is dependent on the client. For example, earlier in the year I had to supervise a stocktake on a Saturday morning because this is when the client was performing it. As you are providing a service, it’s not up to you to say, “Can we do it Friday instead?” This comes down to the nature of audit, in that it can be really busy around 30 June each year, as this is the end of the financial year. By the same token, there can be some quieter times which is really good!
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...
First, don’t rush through university. There’s no point racing through your degree as you might get there and not be sure what you want to do. Get to as many graduate career fairs as you can and talk to people already in the workforce.
Secondly, you can never submit too many applications. Even though I was unsuccessful in applying for vacationer roles, I was able to develop my application skills and able to fine tune my responses. In the end I was successful, but there is no doubt that I wouldn’t have been had I only applied to a handful of vacant positions.
Finally, have fun!