You might have noticed that some people seem to scale the career ladder quicker, while others often get stuck at lower rungs along the way. The differences in career trajectories are often a function of personality type. A body of research has shown, for example, that optimists have lower stress levels than pessimists and scoot up the success ladder faster and farther than pessimists. New sales personnel with an optimistic outlook sell 37% more life insurance in their first two years than pessimists. Scientists have studied how personality is linked to careers and reveal the personality traits that predict career success.

Five Personality Types And Career Success

A 2001 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior examined the “Big Five” personality dimensions: neuroticism, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and openness to understand their relationship to career outcomes. Researchers at Cleveland State University surveyed 496 employees (318 men and 178 women) in a diverse set of occupations and organizations on the five personality dimensions. Results of a statistical analysis showed that extroverted employees had greater satisfaction with salaries, promotions and overall career satisfaction; whereas workers who scored high on neuroticism (for example, moodiness, anxiety, worry, fear or frustration) were less likely to be satisfied with their careers. Those who were high in agreeableness had less career satisfaction, and high openness scores were negatively related to salary level. The research team detected a significant negative relationship between agreeableness and salary among those in people-oriented occupations but no relationship for those in occupations not involving a strong “people” component.

Can Personality Change Boost Career Success?

A second study published in the December 2020 issue of Psychological Science found that if you make a personality change, it can lead to higher levels of job success. Dr. Kevin Hoff at the University of Houston and his research team followed two groups of youth for approximately 12 years from 17 years of age to about 29 years old. Growth in emotional stability, conscientiousness and extroversion were the personality traits that most predicted career satisfaction and success.

Those with greater degrees of conscientiousness and emotional stability showed more overall career success. This is the first study to show the predictive power of personality changes for a variety of careers for more than a decade. Overall, the findings show that personality has important effects on early career outcomes—both through stable trait levels and how people change over time. The good news is these findings show that personality traits are malleable over time and support neuroscience that the brain is plastic. So it’s never too late to make positive changes and get your career off the ground.

Optimism And Career Success

Extroversion has a leg up on the career ladder for success in both studies. Emotional stability and conscientiousness are not far behind. But neuroticism stands out as the biggest personality obstacle to career success which matches previous findings that pessimism holds workers at the lowest rungs. While extroversion is not necessarily a prerequisite to achieve career success, emotional stability, conscientiousness and a degree of optimism are. Your mental health and mindset towards your career carry more weight than how outgoing you are. If you’re an introvert, you might find it hard to change, but you can get mental health support if you need it, and you can learn to be more optimistic.

Optimists are not smiley-face romantics looking through rose-colored glasses, nor do they possess some magical joy juice. Their ability to look on the positive side of a negative situation enables them to overcome career obstacles. When you enlarge your perspective and see gains in your losses, the upside of a downside situation, how far you’ve come in addition to how far you have to go and beginnings in endings, your positive outlook arms you with the potential for career success at the highest rung.

Reference

Fickman, L. (2020, December 2). Personality changes predict early career outcomes: Making personality changes can sometimes promote success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201202192740.htm Personality changes predict early career outcomes. ScienceDaily.

Author(s)

  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Founder and CAO of ComfortZones Digital and Author of 40 books.

    ComfortZones Digital

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is Founder and Chief Architect Officer (CAO) of ComfortZones Digital--the digital companion to mitigate workplace stress. He is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." www.bryanrobinsonbooks.com.