Purpose – In a period of profound crisis for professions, this paper aims to develop knowledge about the role of proactive personality in the relationship between accountants’ occupational prestige and goal orientation. Design/methodology/approach – The study draws upon the literature on professions and employs a multiple linear regression analysis to test the mediating role of proactive personality when accountants challenge external events threatening their profession. The study focuses on Italy, an area characterized by a high degree of precariousness where, over the past 30 years, accountants have been facing many threats undermining their occupational prestige. Findings – The findings show that proactive accountants are more goal-oriented, unless they perceive that others consider their career to be prestigious. Therefore, the study demonstrates that occupational prestige – more volatile and subject to external forces– can shape proactive personality – usually internally determined and more stable – insofar a perceived low occupational prestige can be mediated by a proactive personality towards goal orientation. Practical implications – The study has both academic and practical implications, showing that contextrelated factors are buffered by personal characteristics when professionals react to external events affecting their prestige. Originality/value – The paper sheds lights on the critical issues of setting and achieving goals in uncertain situations, and enhances our understanding of the accounting profession, by identifying new reactions and behaviours based on personal factors as well as exogenous and contextual factors.
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