The Preparation

Why personality matters

By Michael "Dr. Woody" Woodward, PhD

We all have our own mix of attributes and experiences that combine to create the unique value we bring to bear in our college and internship endeavors. Arguably, the most powerful of these intrinsic forces is personality. Your personality is a root driver of the behaviors and actions that you demonstrate on a daily basis.

Although there are many influences on human behavior, I believe that personality is one of the most significant. Other influences that drive behavior include experience, culture, upbringing, and religion to name a few. What differentiates personality from these other influencers is that personality comes from within, whereas the others mentioned are external. In fact, your personality is partially responsible for determining how you respond to those outside influences.

What is Personality?

In a simple sense, personality is really about your natural inclinations. We all have natural leanings and comfort zones. We are all born with and quickly develop our own unique disposition.

One of the most well researched models of personality is the Big Five. The Big Five consists of five high-level factors that can be remembered as OCEAN: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion/introversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (often referred to as emotional stability). The model states that we all have varying levels of each factor that operate together to create our individual personalities. The model has gained such wide acceptance that even the psychologists at e-Harmony use it as part of their matching system.

Assessing Personality

When it comes to assessing personality, there are literally thousands of personality assessments on the market. The unfortunate reality is that the majority of these assessments likely provide as much intellectual insight as your daily horoscope or the latest quiz in Cosmopolitan magazine. So, when looking for a good assessment, consider the source. Simple on-line assessments can sometimes do more harm then good.

The most popular Big Five-based assessment is the NEO-FFI, but this is not easily accessible. Two other well-known models include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DISC assessment, both of which have enjoyed a tremendous amount of popularity in workshops and are sometimes used in classrooms.

How Your Career Center Can Help

When it comes to personality assessments, the best place to go is your campus career center. Most career centers offer a variety of assessments designed to aid in the self-discovery process. If you strike out there, check with the psychology department. Graduate students often use personality assessments as part of their research projects, so if you are willing to participate, you may get to take an assessment.

Having a good sense of your natural talents will be critical to your success. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where most of your time is spent outside of your comfort zone. When you are in your element, you are at your best. The bottom line is that career success requires really knowing yourself and where you best fit in. Knowing your personality is a good start.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a coach and author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. Dr. Woody is president of the consulting firm HCI, sits on the Academic Advisory Board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership, and holds a PhD in organizational psychology.