This question was often asked of me while I attempted to get my first “serious” job. It was a difficult, philosophical question to answer. Looking back on those times, I wonder if the enquirer had asked it because he could not remember why he himself had chosen to become an accountant. Nearing retirement, the job interviewer hoped that this young, fresh-faced interviewee might retrospectively give meaning and justification to the previous thirty years of his working life. Unfortunately, there was no blinding flash of wisdom from the mouth of this babe accountant.
Shortly after I commenced this career path I knew that I would struggle to compete with many of my peers. They read SSAP’s (Statements of Standard Accounting Practice) with the same enthusiasm that I reserved for the sports pages. These guys clearly had a “passion”. For them, a spread sheet is not just a random collection of Arabic numerals on a page. It tells a story of life, of love, of struggle, of disappointment and shared sadness. It tells of the indomitable human spirit to try, try and try again until the final battle is won and the highest mountain is climbed. Numbers don’t go up and down. They leap and bound. They soar like Icarus but they also fall to earth with an almighty thud.
I can’t remember exactly how I answered the question as to why I wanted to be an accountant. I guess it was similar to how a beauty contestant might have done so. I hoped to make a significant contribution to society – to make the world a better place. Can this be done by the role of an accountant?
If you hold to your audit principles of truth and fairness
When all about you are losing theirs
If you can meet with debit and credit
And treat those two imposters just the same
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and – which is more