[IMGCAP(1)]Some of the most stylish people I know in business are confident, hardworking and highly intelligent. I have learned it’s not only what clothes you wear on the outside, but how you conduct yourself in a professional setting, and the effort you put into your professional growth and development. Intelligence, sophistication and savvy all combine to create powerful elements of style in the workplace…and possessing a little bit of that can really take you places.

With busy season approaching (or having already begun for some), the beginning of the year may not be the best time to plan out your future professional development activities for the year. But make sure to keep this important effort on your radar for when you may have some time to devote to these activities. All CPAs need to keep up their CPE, of course, but also consider additional ways to progress. From advancing your education and attending networking or business development events, to learning new skills or refining existing competencies, professional development can often lead to career advancement and both personal and professional fulfillment. Now, that’s stylish!

You are already off to a great start if you hold a membership with a professional organization such as your local state society of CPAs. These organizations often provide specialized training, events and seminars that may be helpful to fine-tune your technical skills. They also serve to connect members with fellow practitioners, provide an environment to trade best practices, and offer excellent news and updates, benefits and opportunities to learn, develop and grow.

Conferences, tradeshows, seminars and other special events are also great ways to learn and expand your experience as a professional. When traveling is not a normal part of your usual work experience, it can be a very positive and motivating venture. When it’s convenient, it never hurts to get out of your office environment every so often, and gain inspiration and insight from different places and people. I often come back from professional development trips refreshed, recharged and ready to move forward. I’ve learned a lot, connected with people who may have inspired me, and am ready to tackle whatever challenges may be ahead… possibly armed with a new strategy or idea. It’s a great feeling!

In addition to the items mentioned above, consider adding unique skills to your resume. This is a great way to become a more sought after individual and really stand out in the crowd when it comes time for a new job opportunity, interview or promotion. Some skills that I believe will be highly helpful to those in the accounting profession include:

1)      Savvy social media skills. Become familiar with current and emerging social media platforms, the best practices for their use in the business space, and the social media etiquette that plays a key role in their usage. Consider taking a seminar or joining a local chapter of Social Media Club to keep up to date and put out a few Google Alerts about the subject to keep up with updates and news.

2)      iPad intelligence. We have many CPAs at our firm who use their iPad daily to ease the workday. From the hundreds of thousands of amazing and useful apps, to a means for better organization, iPads can be a really great tool to adopt.

3)      Soft skills. Your interaction with others, the ability to work in a team, communicate with others effectively and manage conflict situations are all great examples of the soft skills that can be very helpful in the workplace. I just finished a certificate program covering many of these skills at my local college, and loved the information I brought back with me to the office. Check your local chamber of commerce, young professional and trade organizations, colleges and universities to see what’s available in your area this year.

Also, consider adding a discussion about professional development and plans to visit trade shows, seminars and events to your yearly review with a direct report. It’s a great way to show your desire to learn and grow, and bring back valuable knowledge to your firm. There’s a ton of great information, people and events out there, it’s up to you to make professional development a priority for you at some point in 2013. It’s a great way to add a little “style” to your professional step.

Emily Burns Perryman is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-Marketing Communications Specialist for Freed Maxick CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and was named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickCPAs or email her at emily.burns@freedmaxick.com.