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​5 Steps to Extinguish Internal Audit Career Burnout

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Let's face it. We all hit the wall occasionally when it comes to generating the energy and enthusiasm that make us great internal auditors. Maybe we have just been assigned our third audit of the same business unit; it may be because we have been traveling for three weeks straight, or simply because it is Monday!

In most cases, the lull is short-lived, and we soon find the motivation and energy to deliver another great audit. But, what if we find ourselves in career doldrums that are more prolonged or severe? What should we do if we dread the thought of going to work day after day, week after week?

Change is inherent to business, and the best internal auditors lead and embrace change. In my mind, this constant flux and imagine-the-possibilities outlook is what makes our profession exhilarating. At the same time, the pressures placed on modern internal auditors to constantly stay at the top on their game, in dynamic conditions, with constrained resources, can create challenges and stresses that lead to burnout.

This can be particularly challenging for internal auditors who have been in their roles for several years. Going through the motions or falling into the perceived safety of a dull routine can imperil not just your organization but your career, as well. I am a firm believer that the enemy of sustained excellence is complacency.

Be particularly cognizant about the factors that sap your energies, recognize the symptoms of burnout, and be aware of the resources that can help reinvigorate your career. Here are five important tips to help avoid burnout and re-energize your internal audit career.

1. Recognize What Is Going on

It is easy to lose your edge and not even recognize it. For the most part, routine is what makes life tolerable. Knowing you have a steady income and a stable home environment provides comfort. But it can also mask dissatisfaction at work. The Mayo Clinic offers a list of questions that can help.

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches, or other physical complaints?

If you answer yes to any of the foregoing, you may be burned out in your job, and the remaining tips on this post become even more critical.

2. Take Some Time off

Getting away from work can help you clear your head. I recommend a minimum of two weeks. In a recent article for Inc. online, J.T. O'Donnell, founder and CEO of, suggests science supports this theory.

According to O'Donnell, "Research shows that getting out of your routine, and in particular, going on an excursion is a powerful way to wake up your brain. In fact, these studies show new sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain."

3. Undertake a Career Vision Gap Analysis

In simplest terms, a career vision gap analysis looks at the differences between the competencies needed to achieve your career goals versus your current skills. Part of your job frustrations may relate to not getting ahead. But if you don't know where your weaknesses lie, how will you ever know if job competency is what is holding you back?

Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee Hall-of-Fame catcher and master of clever quotes, put this into perspective when he said, "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."

4. Forge a Strategy to Redirect Your Career

Once you've determined where you stand in terms of your skills, make a plan. Your plan may include going back to school, gaining a professional certification such as the CIA, moving into a specialized area of auditing that interests you, or even (gulp) leaving the profession. Before finalizing your plan, seek out a trusted mentor or co-worker who can provide a fresh perspective.

Whatever direction you decide to go, make sure you have a strategy that is well-informed and realistic.

5. Be Bold, Be Decisive, Be Brave

 Taking an honest, critical look at your career is a daunting exercise. As I mentioned earlier, there is comfort in routine and job security. But you ultimately are in charge of your career, not your current employer. O'Donnell offers an important insight in her Inc. article when she writes, "Satisfaction is a state of mind, and the person with the mind is the one with the ability to improve it."

People by nature are afraid of change, but don't let that stop you from being courageous, even audacious, in your career plans. This may require that your feet do the talking. Sometimes, walking away from a job, even a high-paying, high-profile one, can be the right career move. As I wrote in an earlier blog, sometimes you may just need a change of scenery.​​

As always, I look forward to your comments.

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