I’m in the middle of my first busy season as an auditor at a big four firm. Exciting times.
For some auditors, busy season is winding down about now. It usually goes from about the second week of January, when companies with 12/31 fiscal year-ends are closing their books for the year, until the last week of February or the first week of March, when companies release press releases and file their financial statements.
I’m one of the lucky auditors whose schedule was somehow filled with busy-season hours all the way through the end of March.
As a new associate navigating busy season for the first time, I’ve recognized it has its pros and cons. Here they are:
The 3 Main Cons to Busy Season
1 – Long hours: The expectation is at least 10 or 11 hours per day. The reality is often more, depending on the assignment, the deadlines, the budget, the senior’s or manager’s preferences, etc. I’ve arrived home as early as 6pm on a Friday, so I have no room to complain.
2 – Pressure: Auditors must meet deadlines. The auditor who says “I’ll do it later” to a public company client (or any client, for that matter) is an auditor without a repeat engagement. Oh, and there’s a budget of hours to work with. Going over that budget is stressful to senior associates and managers, which means there’s pressure to finish your assigned testing quickly. But quickly and thoroughly aren’t always the easiest balance.
3 – Life Passing You By: The obvious result of working long hours is missing out on life. Coming home at 8pm every day leaves very little time to spend with family and friends, or to pursue hobbies and interests. When I get home, I have time to eat, do the dishes, discuss the day with TheFieryOne, and go to bed. I have to “make” time for anything else, which means not getting enough sleep. Like tonight.
Busy Season Has Its Pros, Too
1 -Accelerated Learning: They say it takes about 10,000 hours, or 10 years, to become an expert at any one thing. If every season was busy season, I’d be an expert auditor in less than 4 years.
2 – Network: One of the best parts about working is building relationships with coworkers. Busy season offers plenty of time for teams to get to know each other better. Just today, I learned a coworker of mine spent a semester abroad in London. So did I! Busy season is also a time when new associates get to work more with higher-ups such as managers and partners when they come out to review the audit work performed.
3 – Exposure to Clients, Industries, and Job Roles: Busy season is generally busy for clients, too, so you have a lot of people bustling about, trying to get things done, and auditors are in a unique position to see the inner workings of all sorts of companies. In addition to getting to know your client’s industry and business, as an auditor you get to know client personnel and observe them in their various job roles. If you ever jump ship, you’ll have a good idea what you might want to do.
4 – Free Dinner: When you work late, you can generally order in or get take-out. I’d rather eat dinner at home with TheFieryOne, no doubt. I could just as easily call her TheGoodCook. But every now and again it’s just nice to get a free meal.
5 – Work Experience – Big four firms tend to judge your audit experience upon how many busy seasons you’ve worked. You’re not considered an “experienced” associate until you’ve worked at least one busy season.