8 Personality Traits that Can Help Your Career

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 07, 2021

Different personality types have unique personality traits that fit well with particular kinds of jobs and careers. But in a working context, there are some personality traits that are universally applicable and endlessly helpful. Anyone of any personality type can possess them or cultivate them, and if they do, their long-term career prospects will be dramatically enhanced.

What follows are eight traits that people who find career success often demonstrate. If you can develop or learn to display just a few of them, it could have a profoundly positive impact on your future.

#1 Responsibility

A great employee is a responsible employee. The same goes for a great manager and a great entrepreneur. Responsibility is an indispensable personality trait in the workplace, where things won’t get done effectively or efficiently if people neglect their duties (or look the other way while others are neglecting theirs).

The responsible person will always show up on time. They will complete their assignments on time, and if necessary they will step in to help others complete their assignments on time as well. They don’t take shortcuts and won’t make excuses for their occasional failures. The responsible employee will address their weaknesses and work hard to overcome them, always seeking self-improvement for their own sake and for the sake of the people who depend on them (inside the workplace and out). 

Anyone can become a more responsible employee or employer. It’s a choice to be responsible and reliable, and once someone develops that trait they will be invaluable to everyone who works alongside them.

#2 Optimism

An optimistic person is someone who believes the best is yet to come. This personality trait can be infectious, which is why all employers feel fortunate when they find someone who is consistently and persistently optimistic.

Sometimes, the optimist can be misunderstood. The optimist doesn’t just assume everything will turn out all right regardless of what anyone says or does. As a deep believer in human potential and the benevolent nature of the universe, they are convinced that creativity, generosity, and a good work ethic will almost always be rewarded. Consequently, their optimism makes them proactive and energetic. It also keeps them from sinking into depression when faced with the occasional disappointment (their optimism can’t be defeated so easily).

Regardless of your past behavior, you can make a concerted effort to be more optimistic. Others will appreciate it and emulate your example, which will give you the encouragement you need to stay on the optimist’s path.

#3 Resiliency

Resiliency is the perfect complement to optimism. The resilient person can be knocked down just like everyone else, but they won’t stay down for long. They will be determined to learn from their mistakes or failures so they can do better the next time.

People who possess the personality trait of resiliency set a great example for co-workers. If they feel despair or disappointment they only feel it briefly, before summoning up the energy and enthusiasm to try again. They have a deep-seated belief in their problem-solving skills, and their self-confidence will remain strong even when setbacks occur. Resilient people are always coveted by employers, who need workers and managers they can rely on through thick and thin. Resiliency might be an even more important personality trait for entrepreneurs and the self-employed, who may have to endure tough times before they finally break through.

You can become a resilient person primarily through practice. Make it a habit to keep going and keep trying no matter what, and you’ll be amazed by your ability to revive or rescue seemingly lost opportunities.

#4 Flexibility

Employers prize flexibility and adaptability in their employees. People who can only handle a limited range of activities or responsibilities may still be valuable, if they can handle them well. But the employee who can wear many different hats and make them all fit comfortably is truly golden.

It is one thing to be willing to take on new and different assignments if asked, or if required to. But the most coveted employee is the one who takes pride in their flexibility and adaptability. They enjoy the reputation they gain for always rising to the challenge, and they will almost always volunteer when new or difficult tasks need to be performed.

You should develop a plan to become more flexible and adaptable. You can take continuing education courses in your career field to improve your skillset, ask your co-workers to share their knowledge about their specialties, or simply jump in and offer your services whenever a colleague or manager needs assistance. Every bit of knowledge you pick up will help make you a more versatile and valuable employee.

#5 Diligence

There are different words used to describe this personality trait. It is sometimes referred to as conscientiousness, and other times as being organized. In some instances, people who demonstrate this characteristic may even be called perfectionists.

All of these personality traits are related, in the sense that all are signs of diligence. A diligent person insists on doing things the right way, in every instance and as a matter of principle. They are detail-oriented, highly observant, have excellent memories, and are always willing to help co-workers and managers complete important tasks. They are the type that notices everything, and their diligence allows them to catch mistakes that others might miss.

Diligence grows out of commitment, and once you commit to being the best you can be in your career you’ll be on the way to developing it. Even if you’re big-picture oriented by nature, you can cultivate more focus and concentration to make sure you don’t overlook the details.

#6 Boldness

In any enterprise, sudden changes in direction can produce a wide range of results. There will always be risks, and that can intimidate managers and employers who’ve managed to carve out a niche and are happy to continue filling it. It can also prevent people from changing jobs or careers when they aren’t fully satisfied with their previous choices.

But in every area of life, fortune favors the bold (that’s a cliché for a reason). You must be willing to risk something to gain something, and opportunities for profit, success, or self-improvement will slip away if risk aversion becomes habitual. The top entrepreneurs and the career ladder-climbers are never afraid to take a risk, because they trust their instincts and are convinced they know how to convert their visions for the future into reality.

The problem with being too cautious is that things change, socially, culturally, technologically, and economically. There is no guarantee that methods or products that delivered marvelous results last year will still be doing so in five years, or even next year. There is also no guarantee that the job you have right now is the best you can ever hope to do. Choosing the bolder course may seem scary, but if you learn to follow your first instinct and not be intimidated by the potential risks, you’ll benefit from your boldness more often than not.

#7 Empathy

An empathetic person has the ability to see things from another person’s point of view. They identify with the emotional reactions of others, almost experiencing them as if they were their own. At times they seem to exhibit a kind of sixth sense, which allows them to read other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Empathy in both employers and employees is a personality trait that promotes harmony and cooperation in the workplace. It is also quite helpful in customer service, where understanding the true needs and intentions of a potential client is paramount. People who demonstrate the personality trait of empathy tend to thrive when dealing with the public and with colleagues, and employers will make a great effort to ensure they don’t lose employees who possess this capacity.

You can develop your empathetic tendencies more fully through listening and observing. If you learn to pay close attention to what people are communicating, verbally and non-verbally, you’ll pick up clues that will let you know what they’re thinking and feeling.

#8 Humility

People who enjoy the most success and upward mobility in their careers are also the most eager learners. While they have a quiet confidence in their own abilities, they know there is always more to learn. They are eager to soak up new knowledge from co-workers, managers, employers, clients, and teachers and lecturers in continuing education courses. They never display a know-it-all attitude, and in the long run that helps them develop their potential more fully.

This approach is a direct expression of their humility. While other personality traits may result in gaining them great recognition and respect, their humble approach prevents them from becoming overconfident or too self-satisfied. They are always willing to listen and will never dismiss different ideas out of hand. They will happily defer to others who have greater skills or expertise.

You should know that a lack of humility actually demonstrates a lack of self-confidence. People who aren’t humble feel threatened by the talents and accomplishments of others, and that prevents them from being generous or staying open to learning. If you refuse to indulge in emotions like pride, envy, jealousy, or defensiveness, you can definitely become a more humble person.

Nathan Falde

Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

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