Career Satisfaction and Personality: Assessments and Myths

Career Satisfaction and Personality

“If you love your work, you’ll never have to work a single day in your life!”

As the Internet rapidly reshapes 21st century work culture, career satisfaction also shifts along. Remote work, contract positions, the gig economy, and new opportunities to break free from corporate ladders appeal to many in the current workforce.

Terms like moonlighting, digital influencer culture, and telecommuting are beginning to gain momentum—and suggest the rise of a completely new approach to work. The idea of a “dream job” has stuck around for decades, and gained momentum in the North American 9-5 work culture, along with other fads. However, large-scale changes are on the way.

Enter flexible start/end times, work-life balance, and organizational fun hours. The unlimited office snacks, catered lunches, and open pet policies. Board games, beer on tap, and even giant blow-up slides—the hip Millennial dream.

In the end, what really makes for a satisfying career, and how does one’s personality factor into the equation? Let’s find out:

Standardized Hiring Assessments

Caliper Profile

As one of the most popular and internally recognized vocational assessments having served over 65.4 thousand companies and 4.5 million people, the Caliper Profile looks into:

  • 280 behaviors
  • 56 competencies, and
  • 22 personality traits

Leadership / Influencing

  • Assertiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Ego-Drive
  • Empathy
  • Ego-Strength / Resilience
  • Risk Taking
  • Urgency
  • Cautiousness

Problem Solving / Decision-Making

  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Idea Orientation
  • Thoroughness
  • Flexibility
  • Cautiousness
  • Urgency

Interpersonal

  • Empathy
  • Sociability
  • Gregariousness
  • Accommodation
  • Skepticism

Personal Organization / Time Management

  • Self-Structure
  • External Structure

Results from the Caliper Profile can be used for selection, coaching and development, as well as talent analysis. Most frequently, the Caliper Profile is used for pre-employment screens of a potential candidate pool.

DISC Behavior Inventory

DISC stands for Dominant (D), Influential (I), Stable (S), and Conscientious (C). The DISC assessment focuses on communication styles in the workplace, and how individuals prefer to work in (and out of) the office.

The DISC four-quadrant grid is split into two dimensions:

  • Task-orientation – People-orientation (x-axis)
  • Outgoing – Reserved (y-axis)
Dominant (D)

Task-oriented
Outgoing
Doing, Determined, Directing
Influential (I)

People-oriented
Outgoing
Inspiring, Interactive, Impressing
Conscientious (C)

Task-oriented
Reserved
Compliant, Competent, Contemplative
Stable (S)

People-oriented
Reserved
Steady, Secure, Sincere

Industrial-organizational (IO) psychologists regularly use the DISC profile to build successful teams and increase productivity (as well as measurable results) in the workplace.

MBTI®

The world-famous 16-type indicator created by mother-daughter duo Katherine and Isabel Myers-Briggs lists the gifts and behavioral presentations of each personality type. Over 2 million assessments are issued annually to corporations and individuals.

Each type takes the form of four letters, along four separate dichotomies:

  • E–I (Extraversion – Introversion)
  • S–N (Sensing – Intuition)
  • T–F (Thinking – Feeling)
  • J–P (Judging – Perceiving)

The MBTI® Step II, an updated version of the assessment, was developed in the 1980s to account for five additional facets of the original four dichotomies. For example, the Judging preference is broken down into Early Starting, Methodical, Planful, Scheduled, and Systematic.

Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)

With a focus on how individuals lead and work in teams, the HPI is a hiring tool that adopts principles from socio-analytic theories.

Adapted in the 1980s, the HPI includes seven (7) primary scales:

  1. Adjustment
  2. Ambition
  3. Sociability
  4. Interpersonal Sensitivity
  5. Prudence
  6. Inquisitive
  7. Learning Approach

Six (6) occupational scales:

  1. Service Orientation
  2. Stress Tolerance
  3. Reliability
  4. Clerical Potential
  5. Sales Potential
  6. Managerial Potential; and
  7. 42 additional subscales

SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ / OPQ32)

Designed specifically with talent retention in mind, the OPQ features three behavioral domains:

  • Relationships with people
  • Thinking style
  • Emotions or feelings

Its mobile- and user-friendly design keeps the participant experience in mind, and is backed with rigorous psychometric research to streamline the process. The OPQ spans 32 highly specific personality characteristics for job-focused profiles.

The test involves multiple choice selections, with an embedded social desirability lie detector (fudging results = instant elimination). Practice tests are offered to familiarize the talent pool with the structure and style of the OPQ.

Strongest Personality Elements to Career Satisfaction

Personality traits and professional skills work hand-in-hand to paint a picture of an ideal career for each individual. Which elements matter most, however, in determining career satisfaction?

A Japanese concept called the Ikigai (Translation: “A reason for being” / Pronunciation: Ick-EE-guy) for an ideal career breaks down to four spheres:

  • Skills (tangible and intangible)
  • Interests (passions and curiosities)
  • Market Need (compensation and finances)
  • Worldly Need (mission and philanthropy)

Significant elements linked to career satisfaction include:

  • Proximity and location
  • Camaraderie of coworkers
  • Larger sense of purpose or mission
  • Work that plays on individual strengths

Busting Career Satisfaction Myths

Myth #1: Higher income means greater satisfaction

In terms of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, income appears to have little to no effect on career satisfaction. Naturally, higher levels of Conscientiousness (C) appear to be positively correlated with higher annual earnings. More schedules, completed tasks, and self-regulation—a recipe for productivity.

Many other factors, such as working conditions, compatibility with coworkers, and support of a company’s mission can tip the scales of satisfaction or happiness drastically.

Myth #2: Working less hours results in more feelings of happiness

The Four Hour Workweek (2007) had a huge breakthrough in the career market, which preached the idea of working limited hours to maximize happiness and time to spend on hobbies and activities which bring joy. Author Ferriss proposed the concept of a flexible “lifestyle design” over the rigid 9-5 mentality.

However, when the tradeoff involves lessening income to be below an individual’s comfort point (the imaginary line drawn between an acceptable income and expected spending), stress levels spike, and naturally, feelings of happiness drop.

Myth #3: Extraverts are more satisfied than introverts in their careers

A more cogent predictor of career success is the optimism over pessimism view, and degree of self-efficacy (how confident one is in their abilities to take action to achieve goals). Arguably, extraverts actively network more and make more connections, which opens up more doors.

Individuals who scored low on Neuroticism (N) in the Big Five also had higher incomes overall, especially when paired with high Conscientiousness (C). When both of the aforementioned traits are combined with Extraversion (E), the effect is multiplied.

Myth #4: Career satisfaction increases with age, as an individual figures out where their strengths and interests lies

The popular concept of the mid-life crisis bleeds into modern work culture as individuals potentially stagnate, and remain complacent with the current state of their vocations and careers. When lifestyle expenditures pile up and skills remain stable, new technologies may take over certain vocations and open up doors for new ones to proliferate.

The opposite effect has been observed—the early stages of a career holds a sense of wonder and learning curve, which stresses the importance of self-efficacy. After the plateau, an individual may choose to steer their efforts and skills in a different direction.

Myth #5: Professional skills are far more significant in career than personality

High performance and success metrics are indicators of professional growth. In pursuit of extrinsic motivators such as monetary benefits, accolades, or promotional potential—personality appears to matter less in career satisfaction.

This is especially true during the early stages of one’s career journey. However, as the novelty of a job wears off, it can be challenging to recalibrate the career compass and decide whether to stay put, make a drastic change, embark on a side project, carve a different path, or a combination of all.

Career Satisfaction and Personality: A Summary

  • Standardized hiring assessments
  • Long-term trends
  • Strongest affective personality traits
  • Career satisfaction myths

References

Lounsbury, John & Park, Soo-hee & Sundstrom, Eric & Williamson, Jeanine & Pemberton, Anne. (2004). Personality, Career Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction: Test of a Directional Model. Journal of Career Assessment. 12. 395-406. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072704266658.

Lounsbury, John & Steel, Robert & Gibson, Lucy & Drost, Adam. (2008). Personality traits and career satisfaction of human resource professionals. Human Resource Development International. 11. 351-366. https://doi.org/10.1080/13678860802261215.

Seddigh, A., Berntson, E., Platts, L. G., & Westerlund, H. (2016). Does Personality Have a Different Impact on Self-Rated Distraction, Job Satisfaction, and Job Performance in Different Office Types? PloS one11(5), e0155295. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155295.

Sutin, A. R., Costa, P. T., Jr, Miech, R., & Eaton, W. W. (2009). Personality and Career Success: Concurrent and Longitudinal Relations. European journal of personality, 23(2), 71–84. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.704.

Unanue, W., Gómez, M. E., Cortez, D., Oyanedel, J. C., & Mendiburo-Seguel, A. (2017). Revisiting the Link between Job Satisfaction and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Basic Psychological Needs. Frontiers in psychology8, 680. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00680.