The Big Five Personality Traits and the best jobs for each

big five personality traits
Bill Gates may be one of the richest men in the world but contrary to popular belief, he's not an extrovert. In fact, 70% of CEOs today are reportedly introverts. Source: AFP

There are close to eight billion people in the world today but psychologists believe they can all be categorised into five groups.

The Big Five Personality Traits is a model that’s widely recognised and scientifically validated way to measure and understand human personalities.

As unique as we may all think we are, the Big Five Personality Traits put forth a theory that all that we are, despite our quirks and habits, can be grouped neatly into just five categories:

  • extraversion (how social we are)
  • agreeableness (how we put the needs of others before our own)
  • conscientiousness (how well and thoroughly we perform our duties)
  • neuroticism (how stable we are when confronted with negative emotions like anger and anxiety)
  • openness to experience (how we explore, seek, and attend to stimulation, within and beyond us)

For each of the categories, imagine a spectrum of two extremes. For example, very agreeable versus not agreeable at all. Then, picture where you would fall on this scale.

You can try the test for yourself here.

Seems simple, but don’t underestimate how powerful the Big Five Personality Traits are in today’s world — and in your world too.

The power of the Big Five Personality Traits in today’s world

Companies love the Big Five Personality Traits. One-third of companies use personality tests when recruiting executives, according to a 2017 survey.

The consulting firm McKinsey creates teams by striking a balance between introverts and extroverts.

“A lot of companies use this [test] for hiring decisions or for allocation of different workers to different types of tasks,” says Karen Macours of the Paris School of Economics to NPR.

“Psychometrics can help identify what are some potential areas where a person might need coaching or feedback, or where a person might have blind spots.”

It helps us know ourselves better — and in turn, helps us make better decisions in life, such as what to study in college, what career to choose and how well you want to do in your job.

How you answer these questions can have a big impact on your life.

It can influence how much money you make and whether you hate or love your career.

Big Five personality traits

All smiles — understanding which of the Big Five personality traits you have could lead to career success and a happy life. Source: AFP

Why so many people make the wrong career choices

Ninety-nine percent of people say they regret their career choices.

This can explain why most of us don’t enjoy our jobs. Only 15% of workers everywhere say they’re engaged at work, according to a global poll of one billion full-time workers by Gallup.

That means 85% are unhappy at their jobs. The situation in Japan is staggering. Stress, clinical burnout and death by overwork have led to a staggering 94% being unengaged at work.

The main reason behind this mass hatred? Managers.

Workers quit their managers, who are not prepared to “coach the new workforce,” according to Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup.

A good job, according to today’s millennial workers, has the following traits:

  • Focuses on development over satisfaction
  • Provides ongoing conversations over annual reviews
  • Has strengths-based discussions over weakness-based “gap” discussions

These are sadly not what the reality is for most jobs today.

What doesn’t help further is how we go about choosing careers. We seek a job that:

  • Pays high enough so we can impress even people we don’t like
  • Puts us in control and the people we fear and distrust away from controlling us
  • Makes us well-known, honoured and famous

Most of us end up unhappy because of the state of jobs today and our high, unmet expectations.

But there are the lucky few who have escaped this. Where work doesn’t feel like work for them, but a life’s calling; and if there is any stress or adversity, they find it easy to overcome.

It sounds like a cliche, but much of their happiness is due to them following their passion. Sure, they may earn little and live modest lives, but they get to enjoy what they do.

The problem is not many people know themselves well enough to be able to figure out their passion in their 20s.

They didn’t find out their Big Five Personality Traits and the best jobs that would fit their personality.

You can.

The Big Five Personality Traits and the best jobs for each

Big Five personality traits

Meryl Streep isn’t the first person who comes to mind when you think of introverts. Source: AFP

1. Extraversion

Extraversion is one of the Big Five Personality Traits, and it describes how outgoing and social you are. If you score high on extraversion, you tend to be more friendly, talkative, and energetic.

Those who score low are usually introverts who prefer spending time alone or with a small group of close friends. 

If you love attending parties, making new friends and are often the one to start conversations, you are most likely an extravert. 

If you have this personality trait, you might be good at networking and excel in careers requiring social interaction, like sales or event planning. 

People with higher extraversion scores often report higher job satisfaction when their work involves social interaction and teamwork. However, those who lean more towards introversion tend to be more content when they have jobs that allow for independent tasks and fewer social demands

Here’s a list of careers that are well-suited for individuals with extraverted personalities:

  • Sales representative: Extraverts are often natural salespeople with outgoing and persuasive communication skills.
  • Marketing manager: Engaging with clients, teams, and audiences is crucial in marketing, and extraverts thrive in this dynamic environment.
  • Public relations specialist: Building and maintaining relationships with the public, media, and stakeholders requires strong social skills.
Big Five personality traits

People who score high on agreeableness are those who often go out of their way to make others feel comfortable. Source: AFP

2. Agreeableness

If you score high in agreeableness, you tend to be more cooperative, compassionate, and considerate of others’ feelings.

While those who score low might be more competitive and straightforward, focusing on their goals and less concerned about pleasing everyone. 

If you’re always willing to help, are a great listener and often go out of your way to make others feel comfortable, check out the career paths below:

  • Nurse: The healthcare field benefits greatly from agreeable individuals who can provide compassionate patient care.
  • Social worker: Social workers help people in need, and their empathetic and supportive nature is essential for this role.
  • Counsellor: These professions rely on creating a safe and supportive environment for clients, where understanding and empathy are key.
Big Five personality traits

Those who score high for conscientiousness tend to do well in careers as project managers as they are organised, reliable and detail-oriented. Source: AFP

3. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is defined by high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control and goal-directed behaviours. 

If you score high in conscientiousness, you tend to be organised, reliable, and detail-oriented. You may enjoy planning ahead and always consider how your behaviour affects others. 

On the other hand, if your score is lower, you might be more flexible and spontaneous, with a tendency to prefer a less structured lifestyle. 

Here’s a list of careers that are well-suited for individuals with a conscientious personality:

  • Accountant: Attention to detail and a strong work ethic are essential in accounting and auditing.
  • Project manager: Conscientious individuals excel at planning, organising, and overseeing complex projects.
  • Data analyst: Analysing and interpreting data accurately and efficiently requires precision and thoroughness.
Big Five personality traits

Neuroticism is a personality trait characterised by emotional instability, irritability, anxiety, self-doubt, depression and other negative feelings. Source: AFP

4. Neuroticism

Neuroticism is one of the Big Five Personality Traits that is characterised by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. People with high neuroticism tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability and sadness. 

If you have a lower neuroticism score, you are generally more emotionally stable and better at handling stress. 

Someone with a high neuroticism score tends to get anxious before exams or important presentations and often worries about what might go wrong. These people might find their calling in careers that benefit from their sensitivity, such as psychology or counselling, where empathy and understanding can make a substantial difference. 

If you score high for neuroticisms, the best careers for you include:

  • Freelance work: Freelancers can set their schedules and work environments, providing flexibility to manage their emotional needs.
  • Creative Professions: Careers in art, writing, or music can offer an outlet for emotional expression.
  • Counsellor: Some individuals with high neuroticism choose careers in mental health to understand better and manage their own emotional challenges while helping others.
Big Five personality traits

Openness refers to how open-minded you are to new ideas or experiences. Source: AFP

5. Openness

Openness is one of the Big Five Personality Traits that describe someone who is curious, creative and willing to embrace new experiences. 

If you score high in openness, you’re likely imaginative and eager to explore new ideas and concepts. However, you may lean towards practicality and familiarity if you have a lower score. 

If you are someone who is enthusiastic about trying new things, whether travelling to foreign countries, experimenting with different art forms, or engaging in philosophical discussions, you might be well-suited for careers in creative fields like graphic design, journalism, or research.

Studies also found that you’re likely to be fulfilled in roles that encourage creative thinking and exploration, while those with lower scores may thrive in roles that demand routine and established procedures. 

Scored highly for openness? Your life’s calling could be one of the below careers:

  • Artist: Creative and imaginative individuals often thrive in artistic pursuits like painting, sculpture, or design.
  • Writer: Authors and poets can channel their love for new ideas and words into captivating stories and prose.
  • Research scientist: The scientific community benefits from those who question the unknown and pursue groundbreaking discoveries.