Extrovert personality traits could boost poor pupils’ career prospects

Extrovert adults who are assertive, talkative and enthusiastic are 25 per cent more likely to earn more than £40,000 a year, but less likely to come from poor backgrounds, says a new report.

The report A Winning Personality, from the Sutton Trust thinktank, suggests that personality could play an important part in social mobility – if schools help students from lower-income families to develop extrovert traits.

Report authors Dr Robert de Vries, of the University of Kent, and Dr Jason Rentfrow, of the University of Cambridge, found that the career boost from being an extrovert is independent of an individual’s background.

And they say that with social skills becoming increasingly important in the labour market, efforts must be made to address the disadvantages that less privileged young people face.

Dr de Vries said: “Regardless of family background, the characteristics of extroversion still have an effect on earnings. Those characteristics, such as self-confidence or assertion, are part of your personality but are also things that can be developed. When we say ‘extroverted’, it is not about being very extroverted or not at all, it is very much a spectrum and if you are a bit more extroverted, that is something which can help you.

“We are encouraging people at secondary school, when they do things to promote kids getting into the workplace, that they think about the academic gap but also think about the gaps in character which can help them later.”

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Our research shows that there is a clear correlation between social and other skills and earnings. We must therefore build the career aspirations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and foster the more intangible qualities that they need to succeed and which are not taught in the curriculum, such as confidence, aspiration, resilience and creativity.”

The report is based on an analysis of data from the BBC Big Personality Test. It looks at the personality characteristics of more than 150,000 UK residents and whether there is a link between those characteristics and career success.

The researchers looked at four personality characteristics: extroversion, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness. They found that extroversion and conscientiousness were both linked with greater career success. But that, of these, it was extroversion which was linked with coming from a wealthier background, and it may help close the gap between children from low-income backgrounds and their wealthier classmates.

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