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Specific Characteristics May Enhance a Successful Career


by Abby Welsh, SIOP Intern

Attractiveness, ability and self-control are different pathways to same destination

Career success is the measure of career development and satisfaction over a period of time. The real question is what characteristics are apparent in adolescence that can influence career-related outcomes?

While there are several pathways that can lead to career success, a research team of SIOP members studied three specifics traits that can result in success — physical attractiveness, cognitive ability and self-control.

Patrick Converse, a professor at Florida Institute of Technology, Michelle Thackray, Katrina Piccone, Mary Margaret Sudduth, Stephanie Miloslavic and Michael Tocci, doctoral students at FIT, sought to learn why these characteristics were key components to succeeding. They also examined job complexity to determine whether it influences an individual’s level of work satisfaction as well as income.

The study used archival data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The Add Health study has collected data from adolescents and followed them into adulthood to examine how adolescent behaviors, as well as the environment, influence adulthood outcomes, Converse said.

Participants in the study were approximately 6,504 individuals. The sample included 50 percent females, 66 percent being Caucasian, he added.

Physical attractiveness, cognitive ability and self-control are predictors of a wide range of important outcomes that all can lead to a happy and successful career.

“In our study, they were found to initially lead to core-self evaluations, education and adolescent behavior, including delinquency,” Converse explained. “These mediating mechanisms in turn led to job complexity, and both education and job complexity related to income and satisfaction, which is how our study operationalizes career success.”

Specifically, the study looked at how the three traits impact individuals’ evaluations of themselves, ability to refrain from delinquent behavior, educational achievements and job complexity.

For example, increased attractiveness leads to positive core self-evaluations, which are positively correlated with both education and job complexity, Converse said.

“Education also leads to increased ability to handle complex jobs and that then leads to income and job satisfaction. It all falls into place,” he added.

Other determining factors that have a positive role in education is increased cognitive ability and self- control, which can both showcase someone’s thought process and demonstrate how one can control his or her impulses, Converse said.

“Meanwhile, adolescent behavior, such as delinquency, is negatively correlated with education and job complexity,” he explained.

The study has provided insight to career success for employers in a variety of ways. It has integrated theory and research from several areas that have not previously been combined such as cognition, personality and physical attractiveness.

“We wanted to research these areas and see how they all intertwined with one another,” he said. “Based on our results, one of the most interesting issues about career success is that there are multiple pathways that lead to it.”

Each pathway leads down a different road, but still can result in the same destination: career success.

Even though Converse’s study focused on only three specific traits leading to the career success, he said based on their research, there wasn’t one outstanding trait that leads to success in an individual’s career. “It doesn’t matter which characteristic someone may have, they still will get there the same way as someone with a different trait,” he said.