Navigating Career Progress According to Personality Traits

Identifying your personality traits allows you to understand your professional self better, define accurate career choices and work towards progress.

Personality traits, or personality types, tell a lot about the way people communicate, perform their jobs and deal with workplace challenges. The Myer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), for instance, defines 16 personality types based on four dimensions, from the popular ISFJ and ESFJ to the rare INFJ personality.

Complementing the Myer Briggs personality types is the Big 5 personality test, which provides a holistic view of your personal qualities across five key traits.

What are the 5 main personality traits?

Following the simple acronym of ‘OCEAN’, the Big 5 personality traits are:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extroversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

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While you may lean strongly towards one of the five traits, your personality is typically a mix. Results from the Big 5 personality test, which you can take online, gives an idea of the careers that may suit you and the situations favourable for personal growth.

1. Openness

Openness indicates one’s innate desire for adventure. Open individuals display willingness to try new things, and an appreciation for creativity and imagination. They are also curious, with an undying hunger for knowledge. If your Big 5 personality test ranks openness high, you are more likely to perform in a role underpinned by variety and independence as opposed to rigidity and routine.

On the contrary, those who rank low on openness (close-minded) will do better where there is familiarity, as they are least comfortable with change and creative expression. When employed in roles that demand the opposite, small changes to day-to-day life, such as taking the initiative to learn new skills or adding a little variety to daily choices, can help them better adapt. While these may not immediately increase openness, having the inner desire to bring some change will go a long way.

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness alludes to one’s quality of performing work impeccably, which makes highly conscientious people detailed-oriented, disciplined, organised and reliable. Conscientious employees typically do not act on impulse. They set short-term goals to meet long-term ones systematically. Occupations that demand a high level of detail, precision and strong decision-making capabilities (i.e. surgeons, pilots and accountants etc.) attract highly conscientious candidates. Yet, it is a trait that is well sought after in any job — sharpening this skillset will make you a remarkable professional in any field.

3. Extroversion

Extroversion defines how one manages social interactions. Highly extroverted people draw energy from or recharge by being around people. They revel in novel experiences and thrive in social situations. They may feel bored, anxious and unsettled when left alone too long. On the other side of the spectrum are introverts, who are quieter and more reserved. They find social interactions tiring, so they recharge by being alone.

Should the personality trait clash with professional desires, the individual needs to find a balance to progress in their careers. For instance, an introvert who enjoys event planning, teaching or journalism must find ways to recharge, since social interaction is at the heart of such job functions. Extroverts who find themselves in careers with little social interaction can draw energy from networking at work and beyond professional life.

4. Agreeableness

Agreeableness takes a look at one’s relationships with people, with respect to trust, affection, and empathy. Agreeable individuals are more “we-centred” and emphasise harmony, making them effective team players. Helpful and cooperative, they are more likely to listen and remain sensitive to the needs of others. They also tend to take on passive roles in conflict situations to avoid discord. Those who rank low on agreeableness come across as competitive, demanding, suspicious and manipulative.

While an agreeable person is often well-liked, he/she may be stepped on by others and experience burnout quickly. He/she may also face challenges in career progression, especially in cases where they sacrifice success for the needs of others. In contrast, competitiveness found in individuals who score lower in agreeableness help in self-focus as they prevent compassion from interfering with their goals. Balance, here too, is key.

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5. Neuroticism

Neuroticism measures how often an individual interprets events as difficult and experiences negative emotions, such as anxiety and insecurity. Highly neurotic individuals tend to feel sad and have low self-esteem. On the other hand, those who are emotionally stable have a better grasp of their emotions, remain calm and are resilient in the face of challenges. They are well-suited for emotionally demanding jobs (i.e. social worker, nurse, or a leader).

However, emotional stability is important in any job as it allows an individual to fulfil his/her role effectively without letting negativity impair performance. Highly neurotic individuals can opt for mindfulness practices or psychotherapy as a way to cope with stress and anxiety, and strengthen emotional stability.

These personality traits serve as a guide to help us comprehend how we work, the areas we excel in, and those that we need to pay more attention to, vis a vis the career paths we choose. If you’re unsure of the track to choose, taking a personality test can offer a good start.

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