What Does It Mean To Be Professional?

ACCA believes good accountants are always professional. Iwona Tokc-Wilde finds out what being professional actually means

You often hear how important it is to behave professionally at work. But what exactly does it entail? Peter Johnson, HR partner at accountancy firm Cassons, says: ‘A professional is someone who displays high levels of expertise and efficiency.’

So, to be perceived as a professional, is it enough to simply do your job well?

‘Professionalism is a jigsaw with many pieces and technical expertise is only part of this jigsaw,’ says Penny Clarke, programme director of BSc Accounting at Manchester Business School. ‘My view is that professionalism is exhibited in a person who knows when to speak and when to listen, when to challenge and when to submit, and when to lead and when to be a team player.’

To most people, acting like a professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of them as competent, reliable and respectful. Professionals are a credit not only to themselves, but also to others. ‘As an accountant, you are representing your profession, your professional body and your organisation,’ says Johnson.

Professionalism is incorporated throughout the ACCA Qualification, but, you cannot learn professionalism solely by reading a textbook or going to a lecture. In fact, ‘professionalism cannot be taught, it’s not a skill but a collection of attributes which need to be developed over time,’ says Clarke. It is important you understand what some of these key attributes are as you strive to work and act professionally.

Being A Professional: Dale Atkins at [email protected]

Why is professionalism important?

Although each company may set its own standards of behavior, a professional attitude makes you trustworthy and reliable. Employers and colleagues alike prefer to work with people who are polite and considerate. This is why exhibiting professional behavior that matches your industrys standards is so important.

When you are known as somebody who is reliable, you’re more likely to be given added responsibilities and job opportunities.

What is professionalism?

Professional behavior is characterized by being considerate, formal and focused. Although the levels of professionalism in the workplace vary from industry to industry, and even from company to company, its important to have a firm understanding of what is considered professional behavior with your employer.

Examples of professional traits

Although the specific behaviors that mark you as professional can vary from one company to the next, there are general qualities that are considered professional. Top examples of professional traits include:

How to show professionalism

Because professionalism is not always tangible, it’s important to make sure you are behaving appropriately in each business setting. Here is how to ensure that you are behaving professionally:

1. Meet your company’s standards of professional behavior

Although general rules like treating others with respect and meeting deadlines are broadly applicable in any setting, some of what makes behavior professional comes down to where you work. What is considered to be acceptable in one office might be viewed as disrespectful in another.

The best way to determine what is and is not professional behavior is to look at the behaviors of well-respected colleagues. For instance, if you’re not sure about the company’s dress code on casual Fridays, you could observe what your supervisor wears or you could ask a member of human resources for guidance.

2. Build a professional wardrobe

One of the first things someone will notice when meeting you is what you are wearing, so its important to build your wardrobe so that you can dress with confidence each day.

It’s particularly important to understand and be able to follow your company’s guidelines for attire when meeting with clients, so be sure you have this information in advance.

3. Be aware of your own behavior

The most important part of creating a professional reputation is showing that you behave well when at work. As with your dress, the behaviors that make for professional conduct in your workplace may vary from job to job. Whether your workplace is highly regimented or more relaxed, however, behaving in a professional manner remains important. Some tips that are broadly applicable across most fields include:

4. Deliver on your promises

It’s important to build a reputation as someone who keeps their word. Failing to make good on your promises or obligations can have serious consequences for the people who rely on your work to be accurate and on time.

When you have forged a reputation for yourself as a diligent worker who does what they say they will to a level that everyone is satisfied with, it will contribute substantially to your efforts to build a reputation as a true professional. The more established your record of reliable performance is, the higher esteem your coworkers and supervisors will hold you in.

5. Take responsibility for your mistakes

While you should always strive to do your best at work, it’s also important to take responsibility when mistakes do occur. Owning up to your own mistakes and offering ways to fix the errors and prevent them from happening in the future will help your colleagues and supervisors maintain their trust in you.

6. Adapt and adjust as needed

In the course of your career, you may find yourself switching employers or even careers entirely. At other times, even while you remain at a company, changes to the business you work for can lead to changes in the culture around you. When you find yourself in a new setting, its important to take time to reflect on your current behaviors and determine if they still fit.

If you find that the work culture has changed and some behaviors are no longer considered acceptable, make adjustments so that you are following the company’s guidelines for professional behavior.


What does it mean to be a professional?

What are professional values?
  • portray a professional image through reliability, consistency and honesty.
  • dress and act appropriately.
  • deliver work outcomes to agreed quality standards and timescales.
  • be accountable for their actions.

What makes a person professional?

The disadvantages of professionalism
  • Limiting Creativity. A work trait often seen as conflicting with high standards of professional conduct is creativity. …
  • High Costs. …
  • Open Interpretation. …
  • Increased Stress.

What does it mean to be professional in a workplace?

Professional Costs means all costs and expenses of TARGET related to the transactions contemplated by this Agreement including expenses for attorneys, accountants, and financial advisers.

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