Personal qualities and how they translate to career success

Personal qualities and how they translate to career success
SEEK content teamupdated on 29 February, 2024

Your personal qualities reflect who you are. They shape your personal life and cross over into the professional world, too. Unlike hard skills, which are learned through training, personal qualities are traits you naturally possess. 

Personal qualities are closely connected to soft skills and play a pivotal role in how we interact with others in the workplace. In short, they are less about what you can do and more about who you are.

Whether you’re preparing for a job interview, contemplating a career change, or wanting to improve in your current role, understanding these qualities is a game changer. In this article we explore a list of personal attributes that are always good to have, and how they help you succeed in the workplace.

What are personal qualities?

Personal qualities are just that: personal. One person’s strengths will be completely different to someone else’s. They aren’t skills that can be learned through formal education, but are more about our innate strengths, our values and how we see the world. These qualities shape our interactions, reactions and decisions, and include things like empathy, resilience, integrity and adaptability. 

Discovering your personal qualities

Identifying your personal qualities can offer insights into your strengths and areas for growth. Here are some methods to help you uncover these traits:

  • Asking others: one of the most effective ways to understand your personal qualities is to get feedback from those who know you well. Friends, family, colleagues and mentors can highlight qualities you may not have recognised in yourself.
  • Reflecting on your personality: take time to consider how you react in different situations. What motivates you? How do you handle challenges? Reflecting on past experiences can reveal patterns in your behaviour and attitude that highlight your qualities.
  • Writing down what you do: keeping a journal or writing down what you do each day can be an insightful exercise. Over time, patterns will emerge, offering a clearer picture of the traits that define you.

Why personal characteristics matter

Personal qualities heavily influence what we choose to do for a living and also impact how successful we are in our jobs. Traits like empathy, resilience, integrity and adaptability are all important to thriving in the workplace, no matter what line of work you do. Here’s why each one of these qualities is important.

They lead to personal growth

Traits like self-awareness, determination and curiosity lead us to continued self-learning. They encourage us to take on new challenges and grow every day. This growth plays an important role in long-term career success and satisfaction.

They enhance our communication skills

Effective communication doesn’t always come naturally, which is why it’s such a valuable skill. Being able to empathise with clients and coworkers, actively listen to people’s concerns and collaborate well with them is valuable in any workplace.

They help us build and maintain relationships

The ability to keep relationships healthy is a highly sought-after skill. Trustworthiness and respectfulness are good personal qualities, that help us form strong relationships with colleagues, clients and stakeholders.

They help us deal with workplace conflicts

Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace. How we handle these situations is largely dependent on our personal qualities. Qualities such as patience, the ability to solve problems, and calmness under pressure are essential in resolving conflict.

How personal qualities affect career success

While technical skills are important, it’s your personal qualities that allow you to use them to their potential at work. Let’s take a closer look at how they can affect your career growth and success. 

Importance to employers

Adaptability, resilience and integrity all contribute to a positive work environment. Your personal qualities will often show how well you’ll:

  • fit into the company culture
  • work within a team, and 
  • handle day-to-day challenges.

Employers know that technical skills can be taught, unlike personal qualities, which can significantly impact performance and cultural fit within the company.

Hiring managers’ perspective

Hiring managers look beyond the resumé to see the personal qualities of a person and whether they fit with the company and the role. For example, roles requiring teamwork and collaboration rely on qualities like empathy and effective communication. Positions in high-stress environments need resilience and calmness under pressure. 

How personality impacts career progression

Having good personal qualities will open doors in your professional life. Here are some ways personal qualities can boost your career growth:

  • Continuous learning and improvement: if you’re open to feedback and eager to learn, then you will be more likely to progress in your career. 
  • Emotional intelligence in the workplace: this enables you to build strong relationships, handle conflicts and create a positive work environment.
  • Conscientiousness and job performance: employees who take their jobs seriously are often seen as more productive and dependable, which can lead to promotions in the future.

The Big Five personal traits

The five-factor model of personality (FFM) distills personality into five basic traits. It’s a model that’s considered universal across cultures. The Big Five personality traits are:

1. Openness

Openness involves being creative, accepting of new experiences and appreciative of different ideas. People with this trait are often curious and imaginative. In the workplace, openness leads to innovative thinking, which ties in with great problem solving.

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientious workers apply themselves to the task at hand. They tend to be organised, mindful of details and reliable. In the workplace, this trait is associated with a strong work ethic, dependability, good time-management skills and the ability to plan effectively.

3. Extraversion

Extraverts are often outgoing, energetic and enjoy being around people. In a career setting, they often succeed in roles that involve a lot of interaction with others. This includes industries like sales and marketing or leadership positions across any type of organisation.

4. Agreeableness

Highly agreeable people are cooperative, warm and considerate. They are good at collaborating and maintaining a positive attitude, which helps create a good work culture. In professional environments, agreeableness is valuable for building relationships and working as part of a team.

5. Neuroticism

This personality trait is to do with how negative a person is. Neurotic people may be more prone to experiencing stress and emotional lows. Understanding this trait can be crucial for personal development, as neurotic people can benefit greatly from learning coping mechanisms and emotional regulation strategies.

Examples of personal characteristics 

It can be hard to recognise our own personal qualities, especially when there are so many to choose from. Here is a list of personal qualities that all contribute to our success and well-being. It’s helpful to do a little self-reflection to recognise any traits you might have – or don’t have, but wish to gain.

List of personal qualities

  • Confidence: good self-esteem allows you to take on challenges, communicate effectively, and assert yourself in personal and professional settings. The best part? It can inspire others, making it a valuable trait for leadership and teamwork.
  • Loyalty: builds trust in professional and personal relationships. In the workplace, it often results in a commitment to the organisation’s goals and values.
  • Reliability: valuable in any setting, you can be trusted to complete tasks autonomously and meet deadlines. 
  • Flexibility: an essential trait in being able to cope with change. It means you can easily accept and adapt to new ideas and methods.
  • Ambition: drives you to achieve goals and strive for success. Ambitious people are often motivated and goal-oriented. 
  • Openness: as part of the Big Five personality traits, it involves being receptive to new experiences, ideas and ways of thinking. 

Each of these personal qualities examples contributes to personal and professional success. By developing these traits you can become a productive and valuable team player and help build a positive work culture.

The dual nature of personal qualities

It’s important to recognise that all personal qualities have the potential to be both beneficial and harmful to your career. For instance, confidence is generally positive, but overconfidence can lead to arrogance. Being detail-oriented is good, but it can turn into perfectionism, which is often counterproductive. Understanding this balance is the key to personal and professional development.

Personal qualities shape who we are and influence our professional lives. Each one plays a role in determining how we engage with our work, interact with colleagues and deal with challenges. By developing these qualities, we can open the door to career success, job satisfaction and positive relationships with our coworkers. 


What are primary personality traits?

Primary personality traits include:

  • honesty, 
  • kindness, 
  • empathy, 
  • integrity, and 
  • resilience. 

They are central to your identity and heavily influence your behaviour and interactions with others.

What are the Big Five personality traits?

The Big Five personality traits are:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness 
  5. Neuroticism

These traits are used in various assessments to help us understand different personalities.

How can positive qualities contribute to personal growth?

Positive qualities such as self-awareness, resilience and adaptability contribute significantly to personal growth. They enable you to understand and manage your emotions, overcome challenges and adapt to changes. They also encourage continuous self-improvement, which can lead to further personal growth.

What personal qualities are the most important?

The personal qualities that are most important will depend on the role and individual. Some universally valued traits include integrity, empathy, resilience and adaptability.

  • Integrity ensures trustworthiness and ethical behaviour.
  • Empathy fosters understanding and strong relationships.
  • Resilience is important for bouncing back from failures.
  • Adaptability is essential to being able to cope well with change.

How can positive qualities contribute to success in the workplace?

Positive qualities such as effective communication, teamwork, problem solving and leadership contribute to success in the workplace. They help you collaborate, manage workflows and find solutions to issues that arise.

More from this category: Workplace skills

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