Just 3 weeks into my audit internship and I already feel a lot older.

From the start, I knew auditing was not easy. My professor might have briefly mentioned that vouching (a process involving tracing to the original documents to make sure that the financial statement figures are true) is a tedious process involving piles and piles of source documents, but I wouldn’t know for sure, because I was busy shopping on Tao Bao while my professor droned on about the life of an auditor. But what I do know is that the turnover rate of the auditing industry is one of the highest out of all the jobs available out there; even higher than being a tuition teacher stuck with a bunch of silly, soft students whose only lovable quality is the cheque they submit every month (just kidding J). That seems to say a lot about what to expect.

But like all humans, I have a tendency to think that I am special. I believed that where other people have failed, I will succeed; the things that other people cry about will not stump me.

So I went into my workplace bright-eyed, happy to learn and eager to prove myself.

The first week was training – no problem.

The second week was e-learning – boring, just give me a job already!

The third week was uneventful – for the first part. I ran errands; helping to deliver documents, photocopying thick previous years files and being at the beck and call of seniors.

The second part of the third week – that was when I realised I am no different from other people.

I was assigned to a client’s place to help the seniors with whatever they needed help with. I was dumbfounded when my senior handed me a large stash of papers – which when stacked together, reached my waist – and told me to look for a few randomly selected invoices. It was as impossible as it sounded. I spent the entire day flipping through that stack of papers. I ended work at 7pm instead of the usual 5.30pm.  My fellow colleagues – the associates and the seniors –  went home even later, at 9pm.

The next day, after a long day of hard work, a senior and I cabbed home at 11.30pm. On the way home, I asked that senior whether he considered changing jobs. He answered “yes… but only if I can find a better job. This job may be tiring but luckily, time flies. At first I did not think I can last even one year, but now I am three years into this job. And look at me, I am still surviving, am I not?”

I simply nodded. Had I not been so tired, I would have told him that I really admired his grit. I cannot imagine going to work every morning only wishing for the day to finally be over. And I shudder at the thought of having to do this for the next 40 years.  I am glad I am only an intern who can say adieu after 2 months.

One thing that I took away from this internship, other than a newfound appreciation for sleep, is a clearer idea of the pay structure of auditors. Freshly graduated associates are paid quite poorly when they first start out, considering how tedious their work is. Notice how I said “tedious”, and not “hard”. From double checking with a client or a bank (the cheemer term is “confirmation”) to playing hide and seek with source documents (innocuously named “vouching”), even you can do it too.

But you probably would not want to do it because of the long hours involved. Likewise, for many who are aboard the ship that is an audit firm, they can’t wait to jump off either. Even if there is no other ship that can rescue them from the dark waters of unemployment.

Because of this phenomenon of people quitting like crazy, having just a few years of experience under your belt turns you from a dispensable fresh graduate to a highly prized member of the audit firm. With your few years of experience, you are entrusted with supervision and planning, partly because audit procedures are largely the same, and also partly because with everyone else quitting, you are the only one the firm can rely on. And to entice you to willingly rip up your ticket to heaven aboard the RESIGNATION A380 and stay another year in hell, your salary grows exponentially the more experience you have.

So the next time you look at the 5 figure monthly salary of an auditor, think a bit first before you let your jaw drop. There is a reason for that astronomical sum. And that reason does not lie with a piece of university degree.