Monday, September 26, 2011
I just saw this post from Accountant by Day and I winced when I read the post. You see it’s all about one’s (messy or clean) workspace. As I was reading it, I glanced at my desk and realized that it looked like it was hit by a hurricane! I’m not kidding. There are papers, ball pens, notebooks, books, checkbooks, folders, etc., etc. on top of my desk. And I don’t even have my laptop on it, there’s a separate space for that!
But then again, I’m cleaning up for my turn over to whoever will replace me as the accountant of my clients and I can’t really clean up everything in a day. So I have a perfectly good excuse (LOL) for having a cluttered desk.
The post, however, reminded me of my time in the auditing firm. As a junior, we didn’t really have any permanent desks, so we have to learn how to manage our workspace very well. But when I was a senior and a manager, we were given a, more or less, permanent workspace. And that’s when trouble (I mean clutter) began.
Actually, during the lean season, my desk was relatively clean. It was just a bunch of working papers, my writing materials and my laptop on top of my desk. So, no problem about de – cluttering it as I had time to clean up everything before the end of the day (or the week).
But when busy season hits, all clutter breaks loose. Papers started to pile up, working papers started to be shoved to the side (and not in their proper places), note pads and Post It notes were stuck everywhere. There were overnight bags under my desk, an extra pair of shoes and even sandals (for overnight work)! During the last 15 days of the season, my workspace (not just my desk) looked like a mini – house with me literally living in it!
Fortunately for me, I never seem to lose anything. Any paper I’m looking for, I could easily find even with all the clutter. Unfortunately for my staff, they could not wade through all my clutter to find out what they’re looking for so they leave my desk alone and just wait for me to find it for them.
By the last day of the busy season, I had what I call a de – cluttering binge. I’m a fast cleaner. In 2 hours’ time, my desk is squeaky clean, anything that should be filed I gave to my staff (poor them), anything I need to throw away, I gave to the one who’s going to shred them, anything that can be re – used, I put them in their proper places.
At the end of that day, my desk (and my workspace, in general) was so clean that some of my staff and the seniors would ask me if I resigned and it was my last day in the office, that was how free my workspace was from any clutter!
And I’m not the only one who had a messy workspace. One of my former boss’ workspace was really cluttered (and this is all – year round, not just during the busy season). The papers and books were piled so high on his desk that I sometimes joke that I couldn’t see him when I took the seat in front of his desk. Fortunately, the mess on his desk did not affect his work. He’s one of the most intelligent partners I know and our expert in the accounting standards. So having a messy desk or workspace does not exactly translate to a messy, confusing mind (I hope).
So how about you? Do you have a messy desk?
Well, this has been a long blog in the making. I received the question (or questions) like a couple of months ago but it is only now that I’m writing something about it (my apologies to the one who asked these questions).
What the sender basically wanted to know is how he / she should act or what he or she should do when he / she is new in the Big 4. So I decided to write a post about things one should remember when one is a new junior in audit (I use audit because I was in audit or the assurance division when I was still working in a big accounting firm).
So here are the things you should remember:
The permanent file is…not just a file. It is something that should be taken out of the storage room every year to be read by the members of the auditing team. If you want to learn and learn fast about the company you are auditing, the first file you should look into is the permanent file. It contains (or it should contain) documents that are there to provide any member of the audit team (new or old) valuable background information about the company being audited. So if you’re a new member of the team, the first thing you should look for is the permanent file.
Last year’s working papers are…just a guide. Do not always assume that the things (procedures, schedules, etc.) you see in last year’s working papers are what you should follow in this year’s audit. Every audit year is different. Take last year’s working papers as a guide only. But don’t make the mistake of ignoring them either, some working papers you can carry over in the next year, saving you valuable time in your work.
Trainings are fine, trainings are very good for you…but you are the one in – charge of expanding your knowledge on the job. Read the files, listen carefully during the trainings, ask the right questions, look up to the right people, read sources and references and read, read, read about your clients – these are just some of the things I can think of to further your training in your chosen career. Feel free to think of more ways to learn.
Can you charge all your time to billable hours? Not likely. When you’re new, you’re still basically learning your way through so you are not yet at your most efficient self at this point in time. Be honest and assess whether you should charge all your hours to your client or charge them somewhere else (your senior or manager will be able to point you to the right charge code). This is not just the manager trying to control chargeable hours within the audit budget, this is you recognizing that you are still making your way towards conducting an efficient audit and your time sheet should reflect this recognition.
Now if you are in a tight deadline and you need to do everything ASAP, manage your time well and, yes, do overtime so that you can finish your job. And charge those overtime hours, please, especially if you know you earned every minute of it.
I don’t recommend skipping lunch and working through lunch. I’ve tried it, I’ve seen others do it and let me tell you, it is not productive.
It’s not a crime to ask questions…although you should assess whether it is the right time to ask these questions and whether the audit files already have the answers you are looking for. This goes for your senior / manager and your client. Try to set up a certain time of the day when you can ask them your questions and make sure you are prepared by this time. These people are busy, too, and let’s face it, they will expect you to look at last year’s working papers (and the permanent file) first to see if the answers you are looking for are in these files. So do your research first before approaching them for the answers.
It is also not a crime to make mistakes. Hey you’re new on the job, even managers (and yes, sometimes, even partners) make mistakes. So don’t feel it is the end of the world if you make one. Own up to it, make amends as soon as possible and try to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Now if your senior or manager or partner gets really, really mad at you, accept their anger, take everything with a grain of salt and wait until their anger subsides, then you can make amends.
Well, I hope the above are sufficient answers for the sender’s questions. Good luck with your job in the Big 4!