Michael Sterling

7 Traits of Highly Successful Public Accountants


Every individual has potential. Their own set of skills and abilities. However, not every person reaches their potential. Truly successful people do things a little differently. It’s what sets them apart from the pack.


I work exclusively with public accountants – as a coach and recruiter. Over the years, I’ve seen that the professionals who, time and again, are the most successful have very similar characteristics. Hiring Partners look for these qualities in candidates. They recognize that these attributes are the signs of a rising star.


As we start off a new year, it’s an ideal time to assess ourselves – our goals, skills and professional development needs. Do you model the core elements of success?


7 Traits of Highly Successful Public Accountants


  1. They learn. Every day is a fresh opportunity to learn something new. Successful people read, seek to understand and ask questions. They’re explorers of what works and what doesn’t. They are attuned to the values of their firm, the values of co-workers and clients. Most importantly, they are always looking for ways to improve the process, the results, the team and themselves.
  2. They observe. Highly successful individuals are comfortable quietly watching and listening. They are not the loud, know-it-alls. They survey and take note of their surroundings. They master the art of being aware and use the data they collect to make sound decisions.
  3. They have open minds. There’s a willingness to try new things. They’re nimble and able to change course as needed. They step out of their comfort zone and embrace change.
  4. They fail – and that’s ok. Failure is not feared. Failing is seen as a part of the process – it’s an opportunity to learn.
  5. They have grit. When some would give up and throw in the towel, successful people persevere. They live by the adage “If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.” Perseverance is a soft skill which many professionals neglect to sharpen. The hard fact is soft skills are key to achieving success. Public accountants cannot succeed on technical wizardry alone. There are “Six Soft Skills Every Public Accountant Needs” to propel their career.
  6. They surround themselves with winners. Successful people seek out a network of strong, smart, goal-oriented individuals. They look for mentors and, in-turn, are willing to be a mentor.
  7. They are modest. Truly successful professionals don’t aim to impress. They are self-confident, but embrace the fact they don’t know it all and embody a passion for continuous learning.


Use these 7 traits of highly successful public accountants as a personal check-list. Which qualities do you have? Which need improvement? Be brutally honest with yourself. But, don’t stop there. Ask a trusted associate or mentor how you measure up. Their response might highlight a blindspot that is holding you back.


Career Wellness


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website. And connect with me on LinkedIn. I welcome your comments. 


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