13.4 Career Growth: Personality and Strategies

Learning Objectives

  1. Be able to explain the personality characteristics that can increase the chances for your personal career growth.
  2. Be able to explain why having a mentor can be an important part of your career growth.

While this section doesn’t discuss job searching, resumes, and cover letters (since you do that in other classes), we will discuss tips for developing a career after you already have the job. First, we already know there are some personality characteristics that tend to be required for career success. Please note that this is different than behaviors, which we discussed earlier. Personality is a stable set of traits, while behavior is an expression of those traits in different circumstances. Although personality traits tend to be stable over time, we can change our personality traits. For example, Phil’s personality may normally not be career driven and motivated. This could come out in the way he relates to others in his organization. But suppose Phil finds a job he really likes. His behavior can change in that his satisfaction makes him confident, relaxed, and able to work well in teams. So sometimes when we change our behavior, our personality can change—and our human relations can change, too.

Some of the personality characteristics for success might include the following:

Of course this list is not exhaustive, but we have discussed many of these throughout the book. But how do you develop these skills? First, being aware of your own need for self-improvement can go a long way to improving these skills. Assume Steve isn’t a very good listener and he identifies this as an area for improvement. Steve then needs to make a conscious effort to improve his listening skills. Having an awareness of this need and then putting together an improvement plan is a step in the right direction. But until we are able to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, we are not able to improve upon them. In another example, assume Duana realizes she gets very stressed at work, and that stress causes her to be short with people. Learning how to manage stress better can create better relations with other people.

Why Human Relations?

Human relations skills allow us to better deal with situations and people (us included) who are imperfect. Human relations—and emotional intelligence—has shown to be twice as important to determine excellent performance at work.Goleman, D. (2004, January). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, accessed May 23, 2012, http://hbr.org/2004/01/what-makes-a-leader/ar/1 Not every work situation will be great. Bosses will be difficult to work for, we will have colleagues who we don’t enjoy working with, and personal relationships will have their ups and downs. How we handle these situations is the true measure of our human relations skills. How well can we handle situations that are difficult or learn to make decisions that may be challenging? By employing the human relations information throughout the book, we can begin to analyze our own strengths and weaknesses in each of these areas. If we have an “I’m fine” attitude, we are not able to improve, limiting our potential for positive human relations, thus, limiting our career success.

To get better at human relations, we need to hone on our strengths and weaknesses (self-awareness skills) and understand what human relations skills we should and could improve upon. Those areas we identify as our strengths, we need to continue to develop those strengths.

Sample assessment of strengths and weaknesses:

  • I want to improve e-mail communication (Chapter 4 "Communicate Effectively"), so I am more focused and clear, resulting in the receiver understanding my message more clearly.
  • I tend to be impatient and protective of my time. Because of this personality trait (Chapter 1 "What Is Human Relations?"), I can sometimes come across as too demanding to others.
  • I want to improve the way I deal with difficult team or group situations (Chapter 7 "Work Effectively in Groups"), so I don’t get so angry when things don’t go the way I want.
  • Improve conflict management skills. My emotions run too high when there is conflict and disagreement. I want to improve this skill, because I know effective skills will allow me to resolve situations and move forward in my relationships (Chapter 9 "Handle Conflict and Negotiation").
  • A strength is my ability to solve problems (Chapter 8 "Make Good Decisions") in a logical manner. I will continue to employ logical thinking in the decisions I make and teach others to do the same through the example I set.
  • A strength is my understanding and appreciation of cultural differences. I understand people may behave differently from me based upon their background (Chapter 10 "Manage Diversity at Work"). Because I know this, I am comfortable in a wide variety of work environments. I will continue to develop this skill by reading about other cultures and traveling to experience the culture firsthand.
  • A strength is my willingness to help team members. I try to always go above and beyond to assist someone who may lack skills that I have (Chapter 7 "Work Effectively in Groups"). I will make an effort to continually do this, even if it isn’t convenient.

This example shows how you might assess your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to your own human relations. As we know from this chapter, first acknowledging the need to further develop, then making efforts to improve the skills are the first steps to a positive human relations—and a successful career.

Soon, you will be taking final exams, working on final projects, and moving on to the next set of classes—or maybe a new career. Don’t think of your journey for improving emotional intelligence skills as ending; really, it is just beginning. As you begin the process of self-assessment and self-awareness, you can do this more thoroughly because you know the components of good human relations.

Why Have a Mentor?

(click to see video)

Stone-cold millionaire Larry Beachham explains why having a mentor can help your career.

One of the ways we can develop the skill of recognizing your strengths and weaknesses is to utilize a mentor. A mentorSomeone who is a trusted counselor or teacher. is someone who is a trusted counselor or teacher. Sometimes, companies have formal mentorship programs. Often, though, the best mentorships come from relationships that form over time. For example, when Paul started working at Ascent Corporation, he knew he wanted to move up the company ranks but didn’t know how. When Paul was put on a project with Beth, a managing director, he knew that he wanted to talk with her to find out how she made it to that position. Paul felt nervous approaching Beth at first because she was so busy. But he decided to take the risk and invited her to have coffee after their meeting. After that, they began to speak weekly and Beth took an interest in helping Paul in his career. Together, the two worked to develop strategies and objectives for Paul’s career. When he had questions about his career path, she helped him. When a position opened up, Beth coached Paul on the interview and he was promoted.

Make sure you continue learning. Taking seminars and courses can help make you more marketable in your field. Since most fields change on a regular basis, we must continually update our skills to build upon what we already know and learn new things.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many personality characteristics that can help someone be successful at work. They include learning how to manage emotions, being ethical, and learning how to deal with stress.
  • Other factors to career success might include the ability to set goals, make decisions, and deal with conflict.
  • Knowing which of these things you are good at and which need work is an important part to making sure you continually grow professionally and personally.
  • Getting a mentor, that is, someone who can guide you through your career, is also a valuable tool for making sure you experience career growth.
  • Continually learning is another way to grow in your career. Make sure you stay updated on new technologies and discoveries in your field. This can happen through formal training courses or reading publications from your industry.


  1. Looking at the list of personality characteristics for success in this section, rate yourself on a scale from one to ten, with ten being your strongest areas. Once you rate yourself, look at the three lowest areas. Create specific goals and objectives that will help you overcome these weaknesses.
  2. List at least three possible mentors for you, and then discuss how you might approach each one to ask about his or her availability to mentor you.