Success as an internal audit professional starts with understanding the basics: risk, controls, planning, testing, interviewing, documentation, reporting, etc.
It also requires soft skills such as communication, business acumen, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. But for the internal auditor who is looking to provide real added value and make a positive impact, those are only table stakes — the bare minimum for getting into the game without being ignored, dismissed, or pigeon-holed as the kind of auditor no one wants to know.
Any internal auditor who wants to be a part of a successful audit future — as well as the future of his or her organization — would do well to follow three rules, listed in reverse order of importance.
Make Them Care.
We often believe the value of our work is self-evident. That does not mean our clients understand or agree. It is our responsibility to learn what they care about and align our objectives with those needs. Through that alignment, we need to ensure everyone is working toward the same successes. And an important corollary: If we do not care about our product, organization, or department, then we will fail. How is the client supposed to care when we don't?
Be a Marketer.
Every internal auditor is in marketing. We are selling the audit, the issues, the report, the need for time with us, the value of our department, and ourselves. Everything we do must include a focus on how we promote our services, the profession, the department, and us, the professional internal auditors.
Have Fun. Enjoying the work should be our No. 1 priority. I have seen too many internal auditors — skilled, talented, effective internal auditors — who fail because they have lost their internal audit joie de vivre (or perhaps it's joie de l'audit). If you are not having fun — if you cannot be excited about what you are doing — you cannot do your best work. In fact, you probably can't even do good work. Not every minute must be rainbows and unicorns. But every task, project, and opportunity should contain at least a glimmer of possibilities, of excitement — of fun. If we cannot do that, it does not make us bad people, but it probably makes us bad auditors.
And one final note — these recommendations are for every single internal auditor, from those cracking open their first audit program to those who remember working with cuneiform characters on clay tablets. We need to know them when we're first starting out, and we need to be reminded of them every day we work in the profession. We are at our best when we care, when we market, and when we have fun.