Ambition and Personality: How Important are they for career success?

Career success can be measured in a number of ways. For example: salary, number of promotions received and managers’ reports on performance are objective indicators of success, however, some people may judge career success against more subjective criteria such as job satisfaction. Research suggests that the factors predicting objective career success are different to those predicting subjective success. For example the ability to gain and retain a job depends on three factors:

• Interpersonal skills
• Ability to do the job
• Willingness to work hard (which includes ambition and motivation).

Since Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability are often correlated with career success and satisfaction, an ambitious person might be more likely to be successful in their career.

In a study of 990 people, were split into three groups:

• ‘Not at all ambitious’
• ‘Quite ambitious’
• ‘Very ambitious’

The more ambitious people were more likely to have been promoted and less ambitious people were less likely to have been promoted.

Age was also found to be linked to promotion. The average age of the ‘promoted’ group was more than four years younger than that of the ‘not promoted’ group.

The best overall prediction of career success was achieved through a combination of three predictors; Ambition, Age (low) and Vigilance (low) where vigilance is about questioning others motives and challenging ideas. Ambition contributed most to the prediction, followed by Age and then Vigilance. However, whilst these variables play a role in determining career success, their impact is only modest.

Promotion is just one indicator of job success. It is an objective measure, but is highly dependent on other factors such as the nature of the role and the availability of opportunities for promotion.

In summary ambition, age and vigilance are modest determinants of career success.

File type jpgDownload file

Back to list