It's probably not a total shock to you that personality has a serious impact on career success and earnings (after all, surveys show that entrepreneurs factor personality into hiring decisions as much as they do skill.) But the many ways that science says personality affects career success might surprise you.
Writing for Quartz recently, a team of business school professors summed up the current state of the research on personality and career performance, highlighting the many fascinating ways your personal traits are likely affecting your work and your bank balance.
The right personality for success
Unsurprisingly, being emotionally stable and conscientious has been found to boost productivity, which results in higher earnings. Perhaps less predictably, being agreeable can actually cost you. The super nice earn lower wages, science shows, most likely because they don't negotiate for themselves as aggressively.
Studies also show that the same personality traits have different effects depending on gender. Women tend to be more neurotic than men, but contrary to hoary old stereotypes of moody women, it's actually openness to new experiences that most dents the productivity of female workers. (The article doesn't speculate as to why, but perhaps adventure-inclined women are less likely to buckle down to tasks they find intrinsically boring than their male counterparts?)
Another interesting gender difference in the science: Extroverted women are less productive but extroverted men are more so. "This is probably due to the fact that being an extrovert is perceived as meaning different things for men and women and that each personality trait has different facets. For instance, extroverted men often present as more ambitious and assertive, whereas extroverted women tend to present as more sociable and gregarious," the researchers write.
The bottom line: Being emotionally stable and conscientious will probably give you a career boost no matter your gender. The best place to be on the spectrum of openness and extraversion may well depend on whether you're a man or a woman.
But can people change?
All of which is interesting, but are these findings useful? After all, your personality is pretty much fixed by the time you've hit the prime of your working life, right? Actually, maybe not, according to another study reported recently on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog.
The research, conducted by a pair of University of Illinois psychologists, asked undergraduates to report what changes they'd like to make to their personalities and then tracked them over time to see if, with a little guidance and an active commitment to alter their personalities, they could actually do it. The psychologists "found that participants' personalities tended to change in line with their wishes for how they'd like to change, and so did their behaviors," reports BPS.
Of course, the changes weren't massive--you're not going to go from being a total shut-in to the life of every party through sheer force of will alone--and more research is needed to confirm the findings, but as the study authors write, "These findings indicate that, at the very least, people's personality traits and daily behaviour tend to change in ways that align with their goals for change."
So if your own personality isn't helping your career, be aware you're not entirely stuck with it. A little effort could see you develop the traits to succeed.