Employability Edge You And Your Career Personality And Personal Attributes

Personality And Personal Attributes


Have you ever wondered why some people love adventure and change while others prefer familiar environments and routines?  That some people seem easy to talk to while others seem distant and take more time to warm up?  Or, that some people seem to overreact while others always keep their cool?

In many cases behaviours that you might find problematic may be a result of a personality type, not necessarily a deliberate action.  Learning about your personality type will help explain some of your natural preferences and understand other people’s behaviours that may sometimes puzzle you.  An awareness of the diversity of personality types will help you become a more tolerant person, develop your emotional intelligence, and work better with people.


Personality types are not fixed, and with time and effort many people become comfortable with behaviours that are not their natural fortes.  For example, if you are an introvert you may find public speaking quite daunting, but you can train yourself to become comfortable and very effective at it.  Your personality type may need to be considered in choosing professions and work environments.  For example, if you score high on the neurosis scale in the Big Five Personality Traits (see below) and you tend to worry a lot, you may want to avoid work environments that could aggravate your anxiety.  Try and observe different workplaces to help you reflect on your career pathway.

The Big Five Personality Traits

(also called Five Factors, OCEAN or CANOE) are as follows:

  • Openness – People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness.  Traits include being insightful and imaginative and having a wide variety of interests.
  • Conscientiousness – People that have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and prompt.  Traits include being organised, methodical, and thorough.
  • Extraversion – Extraverts get their energy from interacting with others, while introverts get their energy from within themselves.  Traits include being energetic, talkative, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness – These individuals are friendly, cooperative, and compassionate.  People with low agreeableness may be more distant.  Traits include being kind, affectionate, and sympathetic.
  • Neuroticism – This dimension relates to emotional stability and degree of negative emotions.  Traits include being moody and tense.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 7

Personal attributes

These are the attitudes, character traits and physical characteristics of an individual.  For example: can-do attitude, helpfulness, manual dexterity.  Being aware of your key personal attributes can help you decide whether a work environment will be a good match; this will also help you to convince an employer of your suitability.   You should seek out volunteer experience if you are unsure about your personal suitability for an occupation to see if it is the right fit for you, and to determine if you can develop the necessary attributes required.

Personal attributes are frequently confused with skills in job advertisements – this is how important they are for employers and for our career success.  Skills are revealed through deliberate, demonstrable actions, are learned by acquiring the know-how, and refined through revision and repetition.  Whereas, personal attributes are reflected in our unconscious behaviours and rooted in character traits or attitudes.  As such, they may be more difficult to observe in oneself or change.  Some people learn about their attributes for the first time based on feedback from others, such as our family members, friends and co-workers, and can be a valuable source of self-insights in this regard.  Since our personalities can slowly change over time with self-awareness, challenges and effort, there is a good chance that you may be able to change some of your personal attributes or develop new ones.  For example, the ‘can do attitude’, which is so highly prized in every workplace and career.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 8

Awareness of your interaction style

Another important aspect of self-understanding is having an awareness of how you behave around other individuals – behaviour that is influenced by your values and personal traits.  Just like people have various personality types, they also interact differently in collective settings, so it is important to understand the various roles that individuals assume in groups.

Why is it important?

Understanding the diversity of roles that exist, and reflecting on the role that you tend to take up, will help you build positive and effective relationships with work colleagues and potential employers.  This self-understanding can also help you choose a career that you can be successful in.

There are a number of methods to identify team roles, but a well-known approach is by Dr Meredith Belbin who posited that there are nine roles within a team.  High-performing teams need all of them, but not necessarily in nine separate individuals.  We tend to feel competent in two or three roles, and not all tasks require all roles to be present in a team at all times.  Each of the roles require distinct strengths, which is why a range of persons present in a team makes them more effective.

The nine Belbin roles are:

  • Uses their inquisitive nature to find ideas to bring back to the team.
  • Strengths: outgoing, enthusiastic, explores opportunities and develops contacts.
  • Allowable Weaknesses: might be over-optimistic, can lose interest once the initial enthusiasm has passed, and they might forget to follow up on a lead.
  • Helps the team to gel, identifies the work required and complete it on behalf of the team.
  • Strengths: co-operative, perceptive, diplomatic, listens and averts friction.
  • Allowable weaknesses: can be indecisive in crunch situations, tends to avoid confrontation, and might be hesitant to make unpopular decisions.
  • Needed to focus on the team’s objectives, draws out team members, and delegates work appropriately.
  • Strengths: mature, confident, identifies talent, and clarifies goals.
  • Allowable weaknesses: can be seen as manipulative, and might over-delegate/offload their own share of the work to other team members.
  • Tends to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.
  • Strengths: creative, imaginative, free-thinking, generates ideas, and solves difficult problems.
  • Allowable weaknesses: might ignore incidentals, may be too preoccupied to communicate effectively, and could be absent-minded or forgetful.
  • Provides a logical eye, makes impartial judgements where required, and weighs up the team’s options in a dispassionate way.
  • Strengths: sober, strategic, discerning, sees all options and judges accurately.
  • Allowable weaknesses: sometimes lacks the drive and ability to inspire others, can be overly critical, and slow to come to decisions.
  • Brings in-depth knowledge of a key area to the team.
  • Strengths: single-minded, self-starting, dedicated, provide specialist knowledge and skills.
  • Allowable weaknesses: tends to contribute on a narrow front, can dwell on the technicalities, and may overload you with information.
  • Provides the necessary drive to ensure that the team keeps moving and does not lose focus or momentum.
  • Strengths: challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure, has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles.
  • Allowable weaknesses: can be prone to provocation, may sometimes offend people’s feelings, and could risk becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their attempts to get things done.
  • Needed to plan a workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible.
  • Strengths: practical, reliable, efficient, turns ideas into actions and organises work that needs to be done.
  • Allowable weaknesses: can be a bit inflexible, slow to respond to new possibilities, and might be slow to relinquish their plans in favour of positive changes.
  • Most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors and will subject it to the highest standards of quality control.
  • Strengths: painstaking, conscientious, anxious, searches out errors, polishes and perfects.
  • Allowable weaknesses: can be inclined to worry unduly, reluctant to delegate, and can be accused of taking their perfectionism to extremes.

Upon reflection, which roles do you tend to assume most frequently? Can you see which roles your recent team mates performed? Which roles did you find easy to work with? How will you approach working with the roles that you find less compatible with you next time?