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Personality Theories Ability To Predict Ambition Within A Career

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Personality factors contribute to many aspects of human life, including the determinants of those who are likely to be ambitious in their careers. These personality factors which play a role in this topic can be observed in the context of two theories of personality; the social cognitive theory as well as the Big Five trait theory. The idea of ambitious careers has changed in the last few years. Ambitious careers tended to be thought of as careers such as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs. Careers that are difficult to attain and which require an educational background. Now as times have changed so has this view. Instead, ambition can now be viewed as an employees ability to be ambitious and successful within a chosen career. The definition of career within this context is a profession which is held long term and has the financial ability to sustain a living. Personality factors in the theories of personality to be discussed are considered the defining stable traits of a person.

Career is defined by Hogan, J., & Holland, B. (2003) as “the sequence of employment related positions, roles, activities, and experiences encountered by a person.” Finding one’s career is a process which can last a whole lifetime and can be found in many different ways. To find a career in which someone will be successful and happy, the career must fit to their personality traits (Alkhelil). Evidence shows that people are inclined to work in environments and careers that they are interested in. The sense of interest then shows an insight into the personality. Showing that one’s personality therefore dictates career (Wille, Bart & De Fruyt, Filip. 2013). According to Frese (1982) to match one’s personality with a fitting career, personality measurements must be theoretically consistent and psychologically meaningful (Wille et al. 2013). Proving it’s difficult to find exact measurements of personality to match a career, as measurements tend to be fairly vague. It has also been found by Schröder, E., Schmitt-Rodermund, E., & Arnaud, N. (2011) that parents play a large role in the kind of careers their children will choose in their future. Parents influence their children’s career planning and preparation early on. If a parent pushes their child to do well in school and go to college, then the child is prepped to go into a more ambitious career (Schröder et al. 2011). Personality dictates one’s interest and correlates both the big five and social cognitive theory, concluding one’s personality is a large factor now only in one’s career choice but also success.

Alkhelil (2016) states that a “personality can be defined as the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with others”. He also goes on to report that it must be described in a measurable form. For the purpose of this paper we will focus on personality traits that are stable over time and situations. These are the beliefs, preferences and desires under an individual’s motivational control which generally stays consistent (Barrick, Murray & Mount, Michael & Li, Ning. 2012). A personality trait which contributes positively towards a career is one of the Big Five dimensions, conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is positively correlated to social investment in work (Wille et al. 2013). Another personality trait which has a correlation with career is proactivity. Proactive personality plays a large role in those who end up in ambitious careers. Fuller, B., & Marler, L. E. (2009) base their definition of proactivity off of social cognitive theory, stating “Proactive people are characterized as seeking out opportunities, showing initiative, and persevering to bring about meaningful change.” Those with proactive personalities are more likely to attract sponsors for resources and networking and have a positive correlation to work motivation and leadership. Fuller et al. (2009) has also found that proactive personality can relate to more variety in job choices than the Big Five, and that proactivity can drive competitive advantage and organization. The personality characteristic of proactivity is positively correlated to four of the Big Five traits: extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Of the three of the Big Five factors that proactivity is correlated to, extraversion and openness have been thought to be related to “a higher order factor of getting ahead” (Fuller et al. 2009).

The five-factor model has been referred to as the Big Five. The Big Five is a model consisting of five broad personality dimensions which capture personality. The five dimensions are neuroticism: career indecisiveness is related to neuroticism because of negative thoughts and feelings (Alkhelil), extraversion: sociable, dominant and ambitious (Barrick et al. 2012), openness: imaginative, adaptable and intellectual (Barrick et al. 2012), agreeableness: cooperative, considerate and trusting (Barrick et al. 2012), and conscientiousness: dependable, hardworking and persistent (Barrick et al. 2012). These five dimensions each work on a spectrum from high to low. Much research has found that different combinations of certain levels of dimensions can be used to estimate ambition in different career types. For example, people high in agreeableness, extraversion, and openness excel in research roles. Those ranking high in extraversion and low in neuroticism are well suited for technical roles (Alkhelil). Those high in extraversion are likely to gain roles in enterprising occupations (Wille et al. 2013). Along with combinations of traits having the ability to indicate broad career paths, individual traits of the Big Five can also determine the likelihood of a more direct career outcome. For instance; extraversion can positively predict enterprising characteristics, openness positively predicts artistic characteristics, and agreeableness negatively predicts investigative characteristics (Wille et al. 2013).

Results from Judge, T. A., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D. (2012) indicated that the personality trait, ambition, was predicted by individual differences in the Big Five divisions. The Big Five divisions which predicted this were conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism as well as the personality trait of general mental ability. Other aspects play a role in ambition, such as socioeconomic background variables like parental occupation. Parental occupations connected to high “educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income” is positively related to the child’s ambition (Judge et al. 2012). Research from Fuller et al. (2009) shows ambition is also positively linked to proactive personality and a blend of the Big Five traits extraversion and conscientiousness (Fuller et al. 2009). An overall personality trait of ambition can be determined using the Big Five, therefore finding a broad aspect of personality which could contribute towards an ambitious career.

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Social cognitive theory is a four model theory acknowledging how people differ in interest development, choice making, education, achievement and vocational adjustment (Lent, R. W., Paixão, M. P., Silva, J. T. D., & Leitão, L. M. 2010). This theory is based on the belief that the environment, human behavior and the person all have influence over each other, together shaping a person’s choice in the world. This theory emphasizes the role of self-efficacy beliefs to enable people to make decisions regarding their career efforts and choices (Lent et al. 2010). Social cognitive theory pronounces that when people hold a strong self-efficacy towards a task and they believe they excel at this task, they are more likely to continue and enjoy the task. According to Lent et al. (2010) “They also look forward to the outcomes to which their efforts could lead”, otherwise known as outcome expectations. This theory emphasizes success and measures satisfaction in terms of a person’s ability to commit to taking steps towards a promising future (Bandura, A. (2011). A Social Cognitive perspective on Positive Psychology).

Self-efficacy is one’s perceived ability of control over themselves and their environment. When one has high self-efficacy, they believe they will do well within a certain activity. With this positive thought process they then become more likely to take on the difficult task (Lent et al. 2010). If a person has low self-efficacy, they do not believe they’ll succeed in a task, they will in turn have little want to acknowledge and work through difficult situations (Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., & Pastorelli, C. 2001). If a person is interested in a topic which they have high self-efficacy for, they will in turn strive to continue to have involvement in the activity. For example, people tend to choose their college major based off what is interesting to them. They then tend to enter a career path which correlates with their received degree. This then unintentionally connects their degree to their interests (Lent et al. 2010) Therefore, self-efficacy in an interest can correlate to becoming employed in a profession connected to the interest, which encourages ambition within the career.

Parents can play a part in their children’s self-efficacy. When a parent has high academic expectations, it may raise their children’s self-efficacy which in turn raises the child’s aspirations, social achievements and academic endeavors (Bandura, A. (2011). On the Functional Properties of Perceived Self-Efficacy Revisited). Thus, children of high perceived academic efficacy achieve good academic progress and have high educational aspirations and a strong sense of efficacy for scientific, educational, literary, and medical pursuits (Bandura et al. 2001). In order to thrive in a career, one must have a high sense of academic self-efficacy, which they can then use to master vocational skills (Bandura et al. 2001). Self-efficacy positively correlates with the Big Five traits of high extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness (Ambiel, R. A. M., & Noronha, A. P. P. 2016).

Many of the factors discussed, such as social cognitive theory, the Big Five, and certain characteristics: proactivity, ambition and self-efficacy, are highly affected by other socio cognitive factors (Bandura et al. 2001). Environmental factors such as peer and family influence and relationship, economic status and life earnings can all have effects on a person’s ability to be ambitious within their career (Edwards , K., & Quinter, M. 2011). Genetic factors can also have an influence, such as; gender, cognitive skill and family birth order (Schröder et al. 2011). College education has also been seen to be highly influential. Those who enter college at a younger age tend to go into the career their education is in. Yet those who leave college or don’t pursue college earlier on tend to not go back. Many studies base career choice off of students choice of major in college, yet some people don’t go into a career directly related to their college major. In fact research from Wille et al. (2013) finds that although a large amount of people do obtain their college degree and enter into an occupation which pertains to it, an equal amount of people do not finish their college education and therefore do not pursue a career in the degree they were working towards.

Social cognitive theory and the big five trait theory were used to discuss different personality factors and how they relate to ambitious careers. Social cognitive theory points out that environment, human behavior and person, all interact to factor into personality. This theory can be seen the concept of self-efficacy. The big five theory, although able to determine which career would best suit a personality, does not seem to be able to determine how ambitious one would be within the career. Although it should be noted, enjoying the career a person is in can have a positive effect on ambition. Therefore the Big Five could be used to guide one to a category of career that they could find interest in and will suit their personality. Beyond guiding someone towards a career which suits them the Big Five does not provide adequate evidence to determine if the employee will then be ambitious within the career. The personality trait of proactivity along many different personalities and careers can be used as guidance to determine if someone will be ambitious within their career. This personality trait is a helpful determinant to the topic in many careers. High self-efficacy is also a useful condition in determining if a person will be ambitious within their career. Although it should be kept in mind that the social cognitive theory points out that aspects such as self-efficacy can be highly influenced by environmental factors such as peer influence. It appears that the big five theory holds less weight when determining ambition within a career than the specific personality traits of proactivity and high self-efficacy.

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