Ethics and Your Career

In the wake of recent corporate scandals and increased regulation of accounting practices, ethics has become one of the hottest buzzwords in accounting. And organizations aren't just paying lip service to this trend, they're taking concrete steps to ensure they abide by a strong set of values, such as creating a code of ethics or hiring an ethics officer.

This renewed focus has also affected hiring and personnel-management practices. Accounting professionals guided by solid principles are more valuable to employers and, ultimately, bigger assets to their companies.

In a Robert Half International survey, 58 percent of chief financial officers said that other than ability and willingness to learn, the qualities that impress them most while interviewing a candidate are honesty and integrity. This is a 26 percent increase from the results of the same poll conducted five years earlier.

How can you demonstrate these attributes to a prospective employer? Start with the basics: Be upfront on your resume and give candid responses to interview questions. In addition, when meeting with the hiring manager, describe situations when you relied on your principles to make a decision. Provide references who can attest to your strong character and can also give examples.

Making sound decisions once on the job will distinguish you. At different points throughout your career, you will face difficult choices. How you respond to these challenges will, in part, determine your success and your professional reputation. A strong moral compass will help you avoid compromising your values during these times.

Of course, recognizing the right thing to do in a given situation isn't always easy, but there are a number of sources you can turn to for guidance. Many professional associations, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Institute of Internal Auditors, and Institute of Management Accountants, offer resources such as hotlines, seminars and news updates. Employee hotlines, your boss and coworkers, professors, network contacts, and family and friends can also provide good advice.

While ethics has always been a part of successful business, it has recently reemerged as a hot topic. Just as organizations understand that ethics can help them establish standards and foster a more productive work environment, accounting professionals know that demonstrating integrity will be valued by current and future employers. Maintaining a strong ethical foundation will allow you to make good decisions and succeed under even the most challenging circumstances.

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