Many experienced, successful internal auditors owe a debt of gratitude to a mentor who helped shape their professional development. That person may have been an immediate supervisor, a peer, a leader in another department, or a trusted friend. Regardless, the mentoring experience can be a key tool for meeting professional challenges — particularly those encountered early in one’s career.
For today’s new auditors, the challenges can be especially daunting. Factors such as emerging technology, growing client expectations, accelerated change, and an ever-expanding risk universe complicate their career journey. With so many headwinds facing these professionals, it is imperative that we pass on our knowledge and help shape the next generation of internal auditors.
Those who seek information to further their career will find no shortage of materials to draw from. Global professional institutions provide an abundance of audit literature, methodologies, and other resources that are essential to internal auditors. But new entrants to the profession need much more. Real-world auditing involves nuance and context that can’t possibly be captured or explained by objective guidance alone. Experienced auditors have successfully navigated difficult situations and accumulated considerable knowledge through years of “living” the profession. They just may not always realize how valuable sharing that expertise can be to someone else.
I recall many situations where a mentor helped me overcome an obstacle or solve a problem. Several times early in my career, I participated in discussions with the audit committee that turned stormy but then recovered because of a mentor’s input and direction. In other instances, strict mathematical analysis led me to conclude that certain engagements couldn’t be completed with existing resources. But just as I had given up, one of my mentors would present a solution, drawing on his or her experience, and explain how we could best serve the client within our constraints. Not only did these experiences enhance my problem-solving skills, but having the benefit of a mentor’s perspective opened my eyes to new ways of thinking.
The IIA’s Mission of Internal Audit asserts that audit functions “enhance and protect organizational value by providing risk-based and objective assurance, advice, and insight.” Living up to that mission requires knowledge that can’t be obtained only by downloading audit literature, performing a Google search, or completing audit checklists.
For new practitioners to truly absorb important concepts and develop the skills to succeed, they require the deep industry knowledge, technological understanding, and interpersonal skills that often can only be imparted by a mentor. If we want to see the profession continue to succeed and grow, experienced practitioners must hand over the baton of experience and know-how to early-career practitioners.