Some of you reading this article will be secure in your current job. Others will be concerned about what will happen next or actively be looking for a new role.

A default position for those in work could be to say, "hang on in there." However, I know from my coaching work that things are challenging right now, even for those at work. Specific difficulties include increased workload, fewer opportunities to work alongside colleagues, and less supervision and coaching from one's manager. And these difficulties apply to many at the moment. So, while it's easy to think the grass might be greener on the other side, the same problems may be present if you change job. That said, I know from my coaching work that making a good job move is possible. 

Let me offer a few reflections at this point in time, which I hope will help those in work and those considering a new role. I also spoke to my colleague Guy Stacey, Director of IAC-Search, for some insights into the current IA jobs market (as at the end of Q1 2021). 

Knowing yourself 

It seems so basic to say that you won't make a sensible job choice unless you know yourself. An immediate reaction might be of course I know myself, I studied finance or business. I'm qualified as an accountant or an auditor. What more do you need to understand? But as readers will appreciate, there are many different types of accountants and auditors, some more quiet and thoughtful, some more gregarious and outgoing. And you will have noticed that there are some types of work that you have enjoyed more and some less. The book "Do what you are" by Paul Tieger is worth considering if you want to consider this question in more detail. 

And it's essential to listen to feedback from others. What are the areas you are not just good at but really great at? What are the areas where you let yourself down? Also, there may be other practical issues to think about that reflect who you are in terms of work/life balance. For example, what do you need in terms of work from home arrangements, the amount of time you are prepared to travel, and the salary levels you need to achieve?  The below template may be helpful:

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Working on your workload

If you're not happy with your job, the first thing to consider is what you have done about the issues you face. For those with a more introverted nature, working from home can increase the sense of detachment from other colleagues, which can put you into something of a "tunnel." This means you may need to force yourself to link up and talk things over with people who know you and are good at listening.

One of the big problems with remote working is the "out of sight, out of mind" problem. This can also mean that your manager may not be fully thinking through ‘who does what’ in their team. As a result, some team members may have more irritating or tedious work or be overloaded. If you are suffering from overload or your job is becoming annoying, this needs to be discussed with your manager. Of course, there is a question of political savvy here. If you simply say, "I'm overloaded," that can easily be interpreted as "I can't cope." So, think through how you prioritise your work and manage your time. It should then be possible to talk to your manager. You can explain what you have already done to improve things and explain clearly what they might do to help any remaining issues (i.e. be clearer about priorities, or offer you additional responsibilities). This may make it more likely to get a solution that works for you. 

Moving away from your current job or moving towards a new job? 

One of the most fundamental questions about changing jobs is whether you are moving away from something less good or moving towards something new and better.

Suppose you are moving away from a current job. In that case, it is crucial to have worked on your current situation before looking for something else. This is because a move away from a job can often encourage the thought: "any job will be better than what I'm currently doing." But, as discussed, this may not be the case at the moment. Also, prospective employers will invariably ask you why you are leaving. If you are not careful, it may become apparent that you are moving away from problems rather than being really interested in their job. One of the benefits of working on your current job is that it shows that you are a proactive person capable of working through difficult situations. This will generally mean you have a much better story to tell when looking for a new role. 

Leaving your job or your boss?

A well-known adage around changing jobs is that people don't leave companies they leave their bosses. Clearly, it is essential to develop your ability to deal with a problematic or apathetic boss, because no matter what level you're at, problems with a manager are not unusual. That said, there can be situations where you realise that they are just not good for you. (For example, they do not help you get credit for the work you do or give you the training and development opportunities you need). If this is one reason you want to change job, you will clearly need to be diplomatic about this in any job interview.

Taking on a different role within your own organisation

For those of you in Internal Audit or finance roles, there may be opportunities for a new role in your own organisation. If your current job is disappearing, and your organisation offers you something that might suit you, I would think hard before declining it. After all, a lateral move may be better than no work at all for a while.  

Of course, there may be situations where making an internal move is of concern. This could be because the new role seems boring or because there may be legal and contractual implications if you accept such a change of job. In the first instance, I would encourage you to explore ways the role might be adapted/expanded to meet your needs. Secondly, if management proposes changes to your terms and conditions, I would get legal help before “signing on the dotted line.”

There are two other things worth saying about taking on a new role in your current organisation. First of all, you will benefit from your existing networks and your knowledge of the organisational strategy and culture. And secondly, it may help you rebrand yourself for the future (if that’s what you want!).  

Making a successful transition 

If you feel that your current organisation cannot give you what you need, then a move elsewhere may be sensible. And in other situations, you may have no choice. 

I spoke to my colleague Guy Stacey to get some insights into the Internal Audit market at present: “It’s been a time of winners and losers this past year. Some heads of audit have lost their jobs because they have been judged to be insufficiently adaptable to the new world. Others have done very well; either in their current role, or through a move to a new role because they demonstrate ‘the right stuff.’”

The ‘right stuff’ can include having a solid understanding of lean and agile auditing, how to show insight through root cause analysis and how to use innovative reporting techniques. And I would advise all IA readers to look into these if they are not familiar them. 

Guy emphasised something else that I feel strongly about: "Of course sector experience and technical skills are important for some audit roles. But it's the softer skills that make the difference to get the best jobs. It's the leadership, management skills, and political savvy that are distinguishing factors. Also, having relevant experience at the right level is becoming more and more critical. For example, Senior Executives and Audit Committee members are increasingly selecting experienced heads of audit who have seen that and done that rather than risk someone less experienced”. 

We also spoke about the importance of thinking through job moves and career choices. This is  something I often talk to auditors about: "You have your job now, and you have your next job/career, and you need to keep your eye on both." Guy explained: "You need to think carefully about your career choices, even from the early on in your working life. This is because prospective employers want to consider your story and how it hangs together. They will want to see how your experience builds and will be on the look-out for times when you may have been ‘treading water.’ Many years spent doing the same job doesn’t automatically improve your appeal during a selection process. Indeed, it may detract from you getting a job if they sense you have allowed your career to drift and can’t justify it (e.g. because of family or domestic obligations)". 

Keep a positive frame of mind and invest in yourself 

We also spoke of some other basics when looking for a new job: Use your network to understand what roles are, or might be, available. Do research on your prospective employer using sources such as Glassdoor and read news articles about the organisation. Also, get someone experienced to look at your CV and – if appropriate – get advice on the latest developments in psychometric testing and help with interview techniques. 

I would add that keeping positive if you have setbacks is also really important. If you come to an interview with a negative frame of mind, this will not help you. So, remember, if you are having a tough time right now, that not everyone can get a job first time around in the wake of the pandemic and prospective employers know that. Guy concluded with this observation: "It's tough out there, but this is not a time to feel negatively about being in Internal Audit. There really are some great jobs out there. But you need to show you have the right experience, can work in a value-adding way, and demonstrate this persuasively in an interview.”


James is the founder and director of Risk & Assurance Insights ( His company provides training, coaching, and consulting services. He worked in finance and HR and was head of internal audit for AstraZeneca PLC for 7 years. He is the author of the book “Lean Auditing.”