Career Decision Making and Personality
Choosing a right career at the right time is an important decision to be made very early in life. Students have to make sound decisions as career determines several aspects of life like relationships, personal growth, life satisfaction, well-being etc. Career decisions are not easy for most of the students as it involves several factors that need to be considered like interests, ambitions, past achievements, peer and parental influences, abilities and skills etc. Career decisions have to be taken on several occasions like after passing 10th, 12th, graduation, post-graduation and later too. Choice of subjects is made during school and college education keeping in view the possibility of utilizing the knowledge in future with highest applicability in practical life. Career gives wide opportunities to work and achieve what we may desire at any particular point of time. With a stable career, we get chances to grow and be productive.
However, career related needs keep changing sometimes due to dynamic life course and alternating ambitions. We may choose to become a doctor during school due to sympathy for sick people but when we qualify with a degree and perceive ourselves through social expectations then we may tend to run our own hospital or a startup of medical care so that we may fulfill entrepreneurial ambitions. It is a common trend these days that people change their careers or work areas after a particular time of working in a familiar environment. Everyone needs change sometimes and stability to carry along a career path. Life impacts our careers.
The change in needs relating to career may be reflections of our dynamic personality too. According to popular thinking in psychology, all human beings function to fulfill different needs at different times of life. Most basic ones are needs of survival like food, water, sex. Needs for security and comfort dominate later once we have fulfilled basic needs. Needs for love and affection come afterwards, and needs for self-esteem and prestige come later. Highest needs are those of self-actualization, which is the ultimate level in hierarchy of needs. Only after fulfillment of needs at a lower level, do we proceed to function for fulfillment of higher needs. Viewing from this perspective, our needs change are in a dynamic process of fulfillment. These needs determine the kinds of labor and work that we choose. For example, if we lack basic amenities of food and shelter, we may be bound to work with any wage that satisfies our basic needs. People working with low economic benefits from their jobs; tend to accumulate less amount of luxuries that could raise their social status. This blocks the transition to seeking of needs for self-esteem and prestige/status. Earning may happen for the sake of becoming a stable individual in society to have a consistent flow of income and take family care. Career may also be approached with the aim of achieving our potential and actualize our abilities. This happens when we are not bothered by our social needs of security, esteem and belonging. We only tend to work for becoming greater than what we were before, irrespective of our shortcomings. This also inculcates values and traits that are appropriate for working in a particular environment with specific demands. In a long run, distinct work cultures shape our personality and determine what we become and acquire.
Alternately, our personality traits may guide us in choosing the right careers. Psychologists describe our personality in terms of 5 distinct personality traits – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Though there many other traits but this classification is currently the common one. People usually have all of these traits but some traits get to an extreme, either low or high, which makes it difficult to adjust and perform in all sorts of environments and fulfill all work demands. Traits are required for our adaptability in the outer world. People with high extraversion tend to prefer works that require constant demands to interact with people and express their abilities in a social environment. They find it difficult to work in a confined environment which requires isolation and seclusion. They know how to work in teams. Similarly, people with high openness to experience require work environments where they can get opportunities to explore and discover, rather than doing routine works. Otherwise they will get easily frustrated and deteriorate emotional health. People with high conscientiousness can not take up uncertain and challenging works where they have to plan continuously and change their decisions abruptly. Individuals with high neuroticism may prefer peaceful non-critical environments where less emotional expressions are required. Otherwise they may feel unstable and not able to accept their minor failures. This may bring feelings of depression and anxiety. People with high agreeableness find it difficult to take decisions on their own and need some healthy leadership and team where they feel safe and secure to work. They may get avoidant otherwise and lose motivation to work.
As can be seen, all the above traits are suited to very specific kinds of jobs and few traits may not be appropriate at all in a particular workplace. Knowledge of our personality traits can help us to choose the right career that goes in harmony with our career demands and workplace culture.Getting into a wrong workplace leads to deharmonization between needs and performance, which leads to stress andanxiety with deterioration of mental health in the long run. So one must choose a right career to bring high states of well-being.
Dr. Tarun Verma
Department of Clinical Psychology
Faculty of Behavioural Sciences (FBS)