The Three Interesting Questions - Part II - Oh, the Things We Learn

In my last post I began answering some of the questions brought up by Wisnu Marbun’s reply to my post the previous week. On our plate now is the second question “How do I, as a junior auditor, convince my boss I can do the job if there is a concern about my technical experience?” The nice, quick, easy, answer is to look for opportunities to prove to your boss that, expertise or not, you are adaptable and learn quickly. Prove that you can handle any assignment given to you. Provide evidence that you have the skill sets necessary. 

As I said - that’s the nice, quick, easy answer. But, there’s a much deeper issue going on here. You see, there’s a good chance you’ve already blown your opportunity. Let’s put it a different way. There is a project coming up that you think you can do, but the boss doesn’t think you’ve got the skill set. What have you already done to show him you can do it? If it takes a certain expertise, can you show the boss that you made sure you already gained expertise in that area? How many on-line courses have you taken? How many books (you remember those don’t you) have you read on the subject? Rather than waiting for the company to help you out, have you taken the initiative to learn what you need to know? In other words, how have you set the stage to prove to the boss that, for future assignments, you are the one to turn to?
This really speaks to something that many people refer to as “lifelong learning”, but I call an insatiable curiosity to keep knowing more. The key to anyone’s success is to practice and evidence the need to learn. And I believe that finding someone with this desire is one of the most important aspects in identifying good potential auditors. It is next to impossible to teach. If you show me someone who doesn’t know the company and doesn’t know audit, but has researched it to hell and back, I’ll take that any day over the candidate who has worked in my industry and in audit, and is sitting waiting for me to tell him how we will make him better.
That is the problem I see today. (And this isn’t just an old guy rant telling those young auditors to get off his lawn – this is an issue I’ve seen in individuals of all ages.) I greatly enjoy asking people if they know about various things – topics such as Sacco and Vanzetti, Kitty Genovese, George of the Jungle, P. T. Barnum, Dr. Strangelove (I’ll tell you that story some other day), the Bering Strait, Ulysses (Greek or Joyce), Freakazoid, etc. Let me quickly note that these items were not chosen at random – they represent instances where a sizeable group of people of various ages with whom I was speaking did not know who or what these references represented.   And I am not picking on anyone for not knowing all of them. I know them all, because I selected them that way. I’m sure you could come up with a comprehensive list containing items I don’t know. However, this is not just a mish-mash of cultural (pop and otherwise) references. Behind each, there is a something important to know (yes, even Freakazoid.)
So, if I don’t really care if everyone knows who/what these are, why do I bother asking? Because I want to see how the people react when they don’t know what something is. I have little or no use for the ones who ask (with that little sneer we all know), “Why would I want to know that?” (Right now, we’ll skip the argument about whether or not they need to know it – it’s the old quote about those who don’t learn being doomed to repeat– you know that one, right?) And my jury is out on those who seem to be interested, but don’t look like they are going to do much more. But the ones I want to marry on the spot are those who soak up the story, want to know more, and (hang on, this is the important part) go out and learn more!
No matter what your skill set, no matter what your profession (yes, I know I’m talking to auditors, but this applies to anyone at anytime), you need a broad depth of knowledge. You can know GRC inside and out and be studying it until your ears bleed, but that is useless if you are not leavening that understanding with other knowledge. 
What does James Joyce have to do with Internal Audit? Danged if I know. What does The Baby Sitter’s Club have to do with communication skills? You’ve got me (although it did come up in a job interview one time.) What does a wrong answer on “Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” have to do with risk assessment? If I knew the answer, then I wouldn’t need to explore it.
Look, it is not about making sure you’re some kind of Renaissance man who knows all things about all things. Rather, it is about having insatiable curiosity about everything. Don’t just sit watching television. Don’t limit your reading to Internal Auditor magazine (however, never skip the humor pieces.) Don’t sit back in the movie theatre and wait for the next mindless piece of Transformers fluff to elevate you to a new plane of existence. Go out and fanatically learn. Yes, you can read, watch television, go to mindless movies, surf the net. But make sure you are being an active participant in these dialogues. THINK about what you’re hearing and make sure you’re doing more than existing as a lump in the chair.
Where is the next new thing in audit? What is the next ERM, GRC, control self-assessment? We really don’t know. But we’re not going to find it unless we expand our minds into new and different areas.
Where was I…Oh yeah, how do I prove to my boss I can do the job?
I can’t speak for your boss, but if you work for me, show me that you are not only eager to learn, but that you are still out there learning.
Your thoughts are welcome. And I’ll try and get my reply to question three posted by Friday.

Posted on Aug 18, 2010 by Mike Jacka

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