Regardless of whether or not you plan to be an auditor, you will have to take the audit portion of the CPA exam. In studying for audit, you will become very familiar with the two concepts behind auditor independence; that is, independence in fact andindependence in appearance.
Obviously, it is important for an auditor to be independent in fact, but it is just as important that they appear to be independent to outside observers as well. Even if you are, in fact, the most ethical, upstanding person in the world people will still pass judgment based on what your actions portray. I’m not looking to start an argument on whether people judging you by what they see is right, but they will, so why give them a reason to think poorly of you? The important point here is that people are judged on two separate criteria in almost all areas of life, and because appearance is much easier for others to evaluate, it can almost be more important than the actual facts.
This idea can easily be extrapolated into other areas of day-to-day life. For students, you should be aware that professors and potential employers are going to make assumptions based on your appearance. Again you may, in fact, be a great student, always getting all of your assignments done and studying for hours every day outside of the classroom. The problem is, your professor doesn’t see what you do out of the classroom. So when you do show up for class and don’t pay attention, sit there texting on your phone, talking to people, doodling, the professor will probably make the assumption you don’t really care about their class.
You may be thinking, “So what? I still get the work done and make good grades.” Yeah for now, but what happens when you mess up on something, or what if the professor is one of those crazy types who actually bases some of your grade on class participation? Your professor might even be the one making recommendations to future employers. Wouldn’t you want him or her to know you as a punctual, outgoing student who takes their work seriously?
We all know what our actual intentions are, and I would imagine most of us believe we have pretty good intentions, but it’s hard to convince someone you had only the best intentions when what they observed says otherwise. So, think about how others will perceive your actions in all of your daily activities. You want people to automatically assume that you are a very professional, reliable person based on what they have seen.
Truthfully, I do mean to scare you to some degree. We are all being judged by everyone we see every day. However, that doesn’t need to be a negative thing, because knowing you are being judged will make you more concerned about making the right impression. Being judged doesn’t have to be negative; you can also be judged positively. So make sure your actions ensure you are judged favorably.