A year in the life of an auditor

Don’t miss the Accountant By Day one-year anniversary give away! Your first chance to win $25 is on Monday! Entries for this week close at midnight EST on Friday, so check out the contest rules and enter!


This month not only marks the one-year anniversary of Accountant by Day (join in the giveaway fun - win prizes all month!), but it has also been one year since I started working in public accounting. Actually this is also the sixth anniversary of my US citizenship too. (Which reminds me, I need to change my voting address…)

Thank you everyone for reading, and I hope to continue to provide more and better content for you this year!

This year was the first year I hadn’t attended school as a full-time student since I was five. I learned as much, and probably retained more, than in college, but it felt like the hardest lessons were not about how to do the work. Rather, the tough lessons were about how to get the work done when you have 3 managers wanting you to get their project finished first. They were about knowing when to ask questions, and how to really try to figure it out on your own first.

I can’t help but look ahead to the year that lies before me, thinking of how much there is to do, and hoping to do it so much better this year. However, I think a moment of reflection is in order now, before jumping ahead to the next thing. It is too easy to move ahead without appreciating the path left behind.

In the past year: I moved to the biggest city I’ve ever lived in; I flew to another state and back in one day (inventory counts); I worked on 7 audit clients, and several other reviews and compilations; I completed an uncounted number of tax returns (it felt like hundreds, I think it was 20 - 30?); I wrote 91 blog posts; my net worth changed from negative to almost $10,000 positive.

Here are some points I’d like to remember, and maybe you’ll find them useful, even if you don’t work in public accounting, but are just starting out after college.

  • Money doesn't go as far as I thought it would. I have been very focused on money this year, which I don't think is a good thing, but I feel like I need to build saving and budgeting skills, and really get comfortable with using what I am making. I'm making plenty, I just need to get comfortable with the best way to manage it and put it to the right things in my life.
  • Impressing your direct managers on a day to day basis is much more important than impressing the partners. Maybe you have a "big boss" and then you have the bosses in between you and the big boss. Sure, if you make witty banter when you get a chance to chat with zir at a company outing, that's all good. But if you consistently turn good work into your direct managers, they will be eager to give you more work, get you on their jobs, and this is what the partner will notice.
  • Being polite and friendly to people will always serve you well. When a manager gets fed up with you for making the same mistake twice, being condescending and angry about it is not going to make the mistake-maker any better at their job. This is a point I really want to retain and carry forward as I get more reponsibility and work with new staff. If you're scary, staff won't want to come with you with questions and issues until the little issues turn into big problems.
  • Making time for my own life is up to me. I had a lot of days where I think I could have left earlier, but since everyone around me was working late, I didn't work as efficiently as I could, and would end up staying as late as everyone else to complete stuff. I think it's okay to leave at 6:00 even if some other people are staying 'til 8:00, as long as I'm working efficiently in the time I am there, and still getting lots done.
  • Stay away from comparing yourself to other people. If you work hard and turn in good work, there's not much benefit to get from comparing yourself to your coworker equivalents who are leaving 2 hours before you each day. You will just get upset when you see that they are pretty much being rewarded (financially) the same as you. It takes a few years of hard work to really distinguish yourself from these people, so just forget about them, and work in a way you need to to turn in work that you know you put your best effort into.
  • Don't tell people at work anything you don't want repeated. It will be repeated.
  • If you're out of work to do, be flexible about offering out your services. If your direct boss/manager doesn't have any work for you, see if you can make yourself useful to another team or department. I've met a lot of great partners over the last year, and have more people who will think to offer me work to do now.

What did you learn from your first job after college? What did you learn this year? Are you starting your first year of work now? What are your concerns?

Kellen Cooper avatar
About Kellen Cooper
Kellen Cooper is a CPA.