Making personality changes can sometimes promote success (and still, I feel a bit scared)

This is the kind of study that is interesting but can also lead to new myths in education. In short the press release states that this new study may hold the key to job success as it finds that young people who develop higher levels of conscientiousness and emotional stability during the transition to employment tend to be more successful in some aspects of their early careers. Ok, but hold on. ‘The key’? And while this study is an analysis of 12-year longitudinal data examining the importance of personality changes during young adulthood, the finding that personality growth has real-world career benefits is interesting but still correlational.

So yes, I think that this is an interesting study, but don’t go too far in your conclusions.

From the press release:

Kevin Hoff, assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Houston, found young people who develop higher levels of conscientiousness and emotional stability during the transition to employment tend to be more successful in some aspects of their early careers. The study findings are published in Psychological Science.

“Results revealed that certain patterns of personality growth predicted career outcomes over and above adolescent personality and ability,” reports Hoff, adding that the findings support potential policy actions meant to help young people develop personality-based skills.

Hoff’s study is the first to assess the predictive power of personality changes for a broad range of career outcomes across more than a decade of young adulthood.

For adolescents who have experienced difficulties or are dissatisfied with aspects of their personality, good news there, too.

“The study showed you’re not just stuck with your personality traits, and if you change over time in positive ways, that can have a big impact on your career,” said Hoff.

Hoff’s team tracked two representative samples of Icelandic youth for approximately 12 years, from late adolescence (about 17 years old) to young adulthood (about 29 years old) and found individuals who developed higher trait levels achieved greater success as young adults. Across both samples, he found the strongest effects for growth in conscientiousness, emotional stability and extraversion. Specifically, conscientiousness changes predicted career satisfaction; emotional stability changes were tied closely to income and career satisfaction; and extraversion changes were linked to career and job satisfaction.

Given the focus on personality changes as predictors, Hoff said it was important to include a replication sample and data from more than two time points. He used data from three and five time points.

“Adolescent trait levels also predicted career success, highlighting the long-term predictive power of personality. Overall, the findings highlight the importance of personality development throughout childhood, adolescence and young adulthood for promoting different aspects of career success,” said Hoff.

Abstract of the study:

In this research, we examined whether personality changes from adolescence to young adulthood predicted five early career outcomes: degree attainment, income, occupational prestige, career satisfaction, and job satisfaction. The study used two representative samples of Icelandic youth (Sample 1: n = 485, Sample 2: n = 1,290) and measured personality traits over 12 years (ages ~17 to 29 years). Results revealed that certain patterns of personality growth predicted career outcomes over and above adolescent trait levels and crystallized ability. Across both samples, the strongest effects were found for growth in emotional stability (income and career satisfaction), conscientiousness (career satisfaction), and extraversion (career satisfaction and job satisfaction). Initial trait levels also predicted career success, highlighting the long-term predictive power of personality. Overall, our findings show that personality has important effects on early career outcomes—both through stable trait levels and how people change over time. We discuss implications for public policy, for theoretical principles of personality development, and for young people making career decisions.

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