How Big 5 Personality Traits Affect your Personal & Professional Success

In psychology research, personality is a major focus. A popular theory of personality is the Big 5 Personality traits. The Big 5 Personality dimensions are: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These spell out the common acronym OCEAN. Each person has a score for all of these aspects and that unique combination of each trait makes up your personality. 

There are other models of personality that are not as well known by the general public. One model is the HEXACO model which consists of Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience (Feher & Vernon 2021). Another way to categorize personalities is with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. Your personality can impact many aspects of your life. Your personality can impact how you interpret and react to situations as well as what you like. Here are some examples of recent personality research that can help you think about your life. 

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4 Ways Big 5 Personality Research Can Impact Your Professional Life

1. How personality affects your new job

When starting a new job or going to a new school, you would want to find out information about the place that you work or attend school at. Information seeking is a prosocial behavior that can be helpful when attempting to learn about company culture. A 2021 study of 409 undergraduate students at a Chinese university found that “openness and agreeableness are associated with high maintaining, while agreeableness is associated with downward trajectories” (Zhang, Yao, Yuan, Deng, & Guo 2021). Maintained high levels of information seeking was associated with high levels of openness and agreeableness while agreeableness on its own was associated with less information seeking over time. 

2. How work stress affects your personality 

Personality is not always stable throughout life. One thing that causes work related stress is job insecurity. A 2020 study of 1046 Australian employees revealed that “that chronic job insecurity over four or five preceding years predicted a small increase in neuroticism and a small decrease in agreeableness in both timeframes, and a small decrease in conscientiousness in the first timeframe” (Wu, Wang, Parker, & Griffin 2020). Job related stress can negatively impact personality. 

Job demand is another stressor in the work environment. A longitudinal study of 1049 English-speaking adults in the UK found that “job demands can alter employee personality. Employees who consistently experienced high workloads over a 20‐year period incurred developmental increases in three personality traits – extraversion, openness, and agreeableness – such that they became more outgoing and assertive, more curious, and broadminded, as well as more helpful and sympathetic” ( Holman & Hughes 2021). Unlike job insecurity, changes from job demand were generally positive. 

3. Personality and Leadership  

Personality may also impact engagement in leadership development. In a 2018 study undergraduates took a year long leadership development course. Engagement in the leadership development course was evaluated through self-report questionnaires and instructor reports. Big 5 personality traits were measured with the Big 5 Personality Assessment. This questionnaire used a 7 point scale (1= very inaccurate to 7= very accurate) to measure extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness,  emotional stability, and intellect/imagination. Agreeableness was highly correlated with self-reported positive attitude, showing interest and engaging with peers (Blair, Palmieri, & Paz-Aparicio 2018). 

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4 Ways Big 5 Personality Research Can Impact Your Personal Life

1. Personality and Your Love Life

Your personality impacts your dating life. In a 2019 study with a sample of 2998 men and 1480 women living in Austrialia who identified as heterosexual, the results show that for both men and women extraversion was positively associated with sexual frequency and the same was seen for men who were more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and less agreeable (Whyte, Brooks, Chan, & Torgler 2019). High extraversion was associated with more sex for both men and women. However, for men there were also other personality traits that were associated with more sex. 

2. Personality and Holiday Spending 

A 2019 study found a link between higher spending during the holiday season and some Big 5 personality traits. The researchers found “zero-order correlations suggest holiday spending is associated with conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion; the relationship with neuroticism persists after accounting for possible confounders including income and demographics” (Weston, Gladstone, Graham, Mroczek, & Condon 2019). Knowing your personality may be important for you if you are trying to buy gifts and stay on a budget. 

3. How Life events shape Personality

A person’s personality can change over time and sometimes these changes are influenced by major life events. A 2019 study examines the relationship between big 5 personality traits and life transitions such as getting a job, getting married, and having children. In regard to childbirth the findings indicate “participants gradually increased in emotional stability and life satisfaction as they approached the birth of their child” but after childbirth researchers “found a sudden decrease in conscientiousness and linear decrease in emotional stability” (Denissen, Luhmann, Chung, & Bleidorn 2019). In this study emotional stability was measured as the opposite of neuroticism.

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Obtaining paid employment was another life event that was examined in this study. Results showed a “linear increase in conscientiousness and openness” before getting a paid job and a”sudden increase in emotional stability” right after (Denissen, Luhmann, Chung, & Bleidorn 2019). Participants also decreased in life satisfaction and emotional stability as they approached unemployment (Denissen, Luhmann, Chung, & Bleidorn 2019). Marriage did not result in any changes to Big 5 Personality traits but researchers did find an increase in life satisfaction as people approached marriage (Denissen, Luhmann, Chung, & Bleidorn 2019). There were also no changes in personality found due to divorce or widowhood. These events were only found to be associated with changes in life satisfaction (Denissen, Luhmann, Chung, & Bleidorn 2019).

4. Personality Predicts for Addiction 

An Australian study for 3,785 twins and siblings demonstrated that “the personality profile of high neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness was associated with all 4 addictive disorders” (addiction to alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and gambling) (Dash, Slutske, Martin, Statham, Agrawal, & Lynskey 2019). Certain personality traits can lead to negative outcomes. It is important to be mindful of your tendencies and realize if you are at risk to develop these addictions. 

Understanding Yourself with LIFE Intelligence

The useful thing about all this research is that it can help you to better know yourself. The LIFE Intelligence app is tool to go through a journey of even deeper self-discovery. The app provides empirical scientific evidence across 9 topics, or "missions," that guide you through deep analysis of your self (mental health, emotional intelligence), career (productivity, goals, decisions), and relationships (communication, conflict, leadership).

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As we seek to better know ourselves, self-reflection is the key to understanding why we do the things we do and the motives behind our goals, habits, and actions. Mission 1 in LIFE's 9-Mission curriculum focuses on mastering your mind to gain control over all the complex thoughts and feelings that you experience everyday. After that, Mission 2 guides you through self-awareness so you can be the most authentic version of yourself. Mission 2.4 in particular deals with internal self-awareness if you’re looking to truly “know thyself” - your strengths, challenges, stories and self-talk.  

Finally, having the ability to pinpoint your moods and manage emotions is essential, regardless of personality type. Whether we identify as more agreeable or neurotic, we all go through similar ups and downs. LIFE Intelligence also provides a mood tracker and an emotional management toolkit that teaches you how to manage each mood, whether anxious or angry. In this way, it shows us that while we are all very different, we still have very similar issues, whether goals, decisions, or relationship conflicts. LIFE explains situations in relatable terms, that are easy yet insightful. So you can know yourself more deeply and uniquely than a five-letter word.

Alba Corney
March 6, 2021


Blair, C., Palmieri, R., & Paz-Aparicio, C. (2018). Do Big 5 Personality Characteristics and Narcissism Predict Engagement in Leader Development? Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1817–1817.

Dash, G., Slutske, W., Martin, N., Statham, D., Agrawal, A., & Lynskey, M. (2019). Big 5 Personality Traits and Alcohol, Nicotine, Cannabis, and Gambling Disorder Comorbidity. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33(4), 420–429.

de Jong, N., Wisse, B., Heesink, J., & van der Zee, K. (2019). Personality Traits and Career Role Enactment: Career Role Preferences as a Mediator. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1720–1720.

  Denissen, J., Luhmann, M., Chung, J., & Bleidorn, W. (2019). Transactions Between Life Events and Personality Traits Across the Adult Lifespan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(4), 612–633.

Feher, A., & Vernon, P. (2021). Looking beyond the Big Five: A selective review of alternatives to the Big Five model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 169, 110002–.

Holman, D., & Hughes, D. (2021). Transactions between Big‐5 personality traits and job characteristics across 20 years. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

Weston, S., Gladstone, J., Graham, E., Mroczek, D., & Condon, D. (2019). Who Are the Scrooges? Personality Predictors of Holiday Spending. Social Psychological & Personality Science, 10(6), 775–782.

Whyte, S., Brooks, R., Chan, H., & Torgler, B. (2019). Do certain personality traits provide a mating market competitive advantage? Sex, offspring & the big 5. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 158–169.

Wu, C., Wang, Y., Parker, S., & Griffin, M. (2020). Effects of Chronic Job Insecurity on Big Five Personality Change. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(11), 1308–1326.

Zhang, Z., Yao, X., Yuan, S., Deng, Y., & Guo, C. (2021). Big five personality influences trajectories of information seeking behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 173, 110631–.

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