10 ways to be professional

Professionalism and integrity are essential attributes for anyone going into the accountancy profession. But what does being a professional entail, and what are the key characteristics? We asked you for your definitions of professionalism, and here are some of the best

1 Go beyond what is expected

As a student of ACCA you come within the jurisdiction of ACCA’s disciplinary procedures. These include matters such as professional misconduct, misconduct in exams, and breaches of regulations which include actions likely to bring discredit to you, ACCA, or the accountancy profession. There will be many times in your career where you have to make a choice which does not have a clear-cut rule or answer. ‘Professionalism goes beyond observing the profession’s ethical rules,’ says Karishma Sewock, a Part 2 student from Mauritius. ‘You should sensitively and fairly serve the best interests of your clients and the public. A professional instinctively does what they know to be right.’

2 Be the best

John Onwusoh, a Part 1 student from Nigeria, believes that professionalism involves being as well studied as you possibly can. It is essential to know what you’re talking about. ‘A professional should be an expert in their chosen field. As a professional, at all times the best is expected of you. You should study as much as possible until you are a master of your profession. A professional should speak with genuine authority.’

3 Be responsible

As a professional, you must be transparent in your work and take responsibility for all the decisions that you make. Part 2 student Rueben Nyemudzai from Zimbabwe explains: ‘Professional people are objective and apply independence of mind in making decisions in their daily work. They do not lose focus of the goals of every piece of work they undertake. Professional people take responsibility and are accountable for the outcome of their actions in their working life. These should be the two most important aspects at the back of every professional’s mind when they undertake each task. As a professional you are answerable, you are responsible, and the buck stops with you.’

4 Once a professional, always a professional

An essential part of being a professional is being able to maintain standards. A true professional demonstrates his or her integrity through everything they do, both personally and professionally. You should be able to act in a responsible manner in whatever situation you may find yourself in. Ifeanyi Obi, a Part 2 student from Nigeria, advises: ‘Being a professional must not be an act. You must strive to continually uphold your professionalism in a well-structured and systematic way.’

5 Self-discipline and commitment

A professional quality is to have control over your actions and take responsibility for what you do. Victoria Akoto, a Part 2 student from Ghana, says: ‘A professional must be self-disciplined. They must be ready to face any problems and find solutions no matter what. A professional should be fully committed to what they are doing and seek advice where needed.’

6 Be a role model

As a responsible professional it is natural that others may look to you for guidance at some point in your career. Being a good example of your profession helps build you – and accountancy – a strong reputation. Ali Mohammad Khan, a Part 3 student from Pakistan, says: ‘You must be an example to others and have the urge and the aspiration to attain and spread knowledge to your peers. Professionals have the ability to lead and act as strong, positive role models.’

7 Appearance

A professional should always dress appropriately to their surroundings and role. Being smartly dressed indicates that you take yourself and your job seriously, and can reassure others that you are a responsible and trustworthy person. ‘I recently had the opportunity to do an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers which gave me a lot of exposure to the professional world,’ says Joana Boadi, a Part 2 student from Ghana. ‘But when I started the job, I realised there were some colours and certain styles of clothes I couldn’t wear to work. Your clothing says a lot about you, and so I began to dress in a more professional manner. This was an invaluable lesson for me as I enter the world of business.’

"You should sensitively and fairly serve the best interests of your clients and the public"