Do you even Accountant? The right personality for CPA PEP

A recent email from a learner hit me hard as I can relate to her self-doubt: 

I really like your outgoing personality, which makes us feel very close. I am also a people person. However, some of my friends who have known me for a long time or my family think that I may not be suitable for the accounting profession because of my extroverted personality. They believe that accountants should be serious. Is an extroverted personality an advantage or a disadvantage in the accounting industry? Should I do something to change my character?

Personality fail

My grade school report cards read: Does well on tests, but she talks too much. Creative, but she talks too much. Good energy, but…you get the point.

I’m not sure whether my parents were quoting Andre Gide, author of Autumn Leaves or Kurt Cobain from Nirvana when reinforcing: “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” Truth.

Professional mis-practice

During my annual review at a public accounting firm, a senior manager confirmed my work quality was stellar, and clients enjoyed working with me. However, he shared my loud personality made it appear at times, I didn’t take the work seriously. The senior manager went on to say I would be a great asset as a firm partner, but I’d never make it there like “this.”

He all but said it: Does well but talks too much.

DiSC profile

Before the Core 1 Orientation Workshop, candidates are required to take the DiSC personability profile quiz. Candidates receive a profile where they are varying amounts Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.

Later in the program, during Capstone 1, candidates are placed into groups, with DiSC profiles used as one factor for group allocation. I often hear from candidates who wish to retake their DiSC profiles. When pressed as to why many candidates admit they didn’t answer truthfully in their first DiSC questionnaire, they wanted to ensure they “fit” into the program.

Candidates were concerned they weren’t “accountant enough” for CPA PEP.

After nearly 15 years of working closely with accountants, I will tell you that while many of us possess a shared passion for making things balance, there is also a mix of “types” of accountants. If you want to be a CPA, your personality is “accountant enough” for CPA PEP. 

Find your people

Let’s be real, some people cannot stand me. Others will joyfully pose for mirror selfies and co-write blog posts with me. My advice: Find your people as this journey can be difficult

Know your worth

CPAs can be outgoing, have fun AND also take things seriously. It need not be one or the other. Since becoming a designated accountant, I continue to work on my communication – speaking AND listening – skills.

The senior manager was correct: I quit shortly after that meeting and never made it to partner. The world needs all types of people, and together we fulfill the roles that keep the financial world spinning. Some people may decide to proceed down the path to work towards becoming a firm partner. Conversely, there are those of us who choose to fulfill the roles of the people who hire partners to work for them.

To all my Swiftees out there:

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake I shake it off, I shake it off (Whoo-hoo-hoo)

Shake It Off by Taylor Swift

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum. 

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB and an instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.