How I Develop My Personality – and Benefit from It at Work

How I Develop My Personality – and Benefit from It at Work

What would you most like to change about yourself? Whether we want to become more patient, self-confident, neater, or assertive, for most of us there’s something that comes to mind. In this article, you will learn how you can develop your personality, and how important this is for your career.

What Defines My Personality?

Thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior are part of one’s personality, and demonstrate an individual and relatively stable pattern. Personality develops through a complex interaction between genetic makeup and environmental factors. Genetics determine certain bases and potentials, while environmental factors such as family, friends, education, and culture influence personality development. “Through social interaction, life experiences, and the adoption of various social roles, people gain new experiences, and put themselves to the test. They develop a unique identity and form their values and behavior patterns,” says Dr. Katja Pässler, research associate in Personal Psychology at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts (FHNW Olten). Personality development is a lifelong process, and is subject to both stability and change.

At What Age Do I Become Who I Am?

While we are no longer exactly the same person that we were ten years ago, we also don’t change substantially over a decade. Instead, we undergo more or less significant changes throughout our lives. The biggest changes usually happen in early adulthood, between the ages of 18 and 30, – a phase of exploration, characterized by transitions and new experiences. We begin training, studies, and careers, become financially independent, move into our first apartment, and start a family. In the process we take on new social roles, change our behavior, and develop our own identity. “In mid-adulthood,” Pässler says, “after 30, our personality increasingly stabilizes. But there remains room for changes that can last throughout an entire life span. We are continuously evolving.”

Self-Reflection Is the First Step in Developing My Personality

According to Susann Blumenschein, Senior Specialist People Development at SIX, the first step in personality development is recognizing one’s own strengths and weaknesses. To get started with self-reflection, Blumenschein suggests asking yourself the following questions: What comes naturally to me? What’s particularly easy for me? In what area or situations do I feel especially confident/uncertain? What things require a lot of effort on my part? In addition, you should solicit views from colleagues, managers, and close associates. With a personality test, we gain an insight into our behavior in various situations, and can thus discover the deeper characteristics of our personality. For example, the Big Five personality test shows us where our characteristics lie across the dimensions of Openness (to experience), Conscientiousness, Extraversions, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Don’t Just Focus on the Weaknesses

The process of self-reflection also carries some risks with it: “We have the tendency to focus on the weaknesses. But it’s worth asking yourself the extent to which they are truly relevant in your daily life. It’s considerably quicker and easier to build on one’s strengths,” says Blumenschein. Strengths-oriented psychology is another approach to personality development. The CliftonStrengths assessment, for example, measures the manifestation of talents and categorizes all the positive characteristics of individuals into 34 different themes. In order to then convert these talents into strengths, one has to invest in them, practice using them, and augment them with additional knowledge and skills.

How Do I Develop My Personality?

The question of how we can intentionally change ourselves has been well researched. According to Katja Pässler, this involves the following three aspects: We have to really want to change, meaning that we have to be motivated. We have to believe that change is possible. And we have to translate our desire into concrete behavior that becomes habit over time. The mere intent to change doesn’t get us very far. We have to leave our comfort zone in order to leave old habits behind and establish new behaviors.

3 Key Steps to Purposefully Changing Our Personality

  1. Want the Change: We have to be motivated, believe that change is achievable, and transform our desire into concrete behavior that becomes habit over time.
  2. Define Objectives as Precisely as Possible: Which specific behaviors help us to reach the objectives in daily life? Establish specific “if-then” rules, for example: “If I have to focus on my work, then I put my cell phone in airplane mode.”
  3. Reflect on Why We Want to Change: Is it our own desire, or are we trying to satisfy the expectations that others have of us?

Katja Pässler talks specifics: “First of all, it’s helpful to formulate our objectives as precisely as possible, and to think about what specific behaviors will help us in everyday life to achieve this goal.” In addition, it helps to create individual “if-then” rules, for example: “If I have to focus on my work, then I put my cell phone in airplane mode.” These “if-then” rules help by integrating desired behavior into daily life, and having them develop into habits. But it’s also important to reflect upon why we want to change: Is it our own desire to do so, or are we trying to satisfy the expectations that others have of us? Self-reflection and personal development are important, but self-acceptance is equally important.

Why Is Personality Development Important in Your Job?

In our increasingly complex working world, the distinctions between working and learning become blurred. Increasing digitalization makes it necessary to acquire new skills and abilities. So, we adapt to the changes in our roles and jobs, and can continue to execute them in a professional manner. That can be, for example, developing our expertise in our current role, and in view of my career objectives, or improving soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, time management, or management skills.

Personality development allows me to tap my full potential, and to discover and solidify my individual strengths. “New expertise is constantly flowing from research into practice, and external factors are changing how we work, so we have to evolve and learn new things in order to be able to continue to fulfill our roles at all,” says Blumenschein.

How do I Formulate Professional Development Goals?

Formulating sensible development goals requires writing down in detail which skills and abilities one wants to develop. Instead of formulating the objective as “Attend training on Presentation Techniques”, I phrase it as “I would like to upgrade my presentation skills, so that I can take on client training.” To this end, I attend training, take on internal team training sessions, sit in on sessions with experienced colleagues and ask for feedback after each presentation.”

“Among employees at SIX, developing language skills is the most commonly cited development goal,” says Blumenschein. Here too, it’s important to define what I would like to achieve, and why, along with how I plan to achieve it and who can support me in the process. Formal training is one way. But 70% learn by doing on the job, 20% learn from others, and only 10% take training.”

Marc Wants to Acquire More Expertise – a Practical Example

Marc works as a software developer and realizes that he isn’t as proficient with databases as he would like to be. He sets himself the goal of improving his skills in this area of expertise. He does so in hopes of being able to successfully implement projects that are more complex and challenging than those he’s managed previously.

He chooses two online courses, which he completes in the next four weeks. In addition, he schedules two hours per week for studying. Marc’s teammate, Paula, is currently starting a new project which will involve integrating a large database into an existing application. Marc carefully observes how Paula approaches the project and discusses with her the knowledge he has acquired from his courses. At the same time, he uses a test application to apply his knowledge on his own. He discusses his progress with Paula, who provides him with a couple helpful tips.

Together with his line manager, Marc arranges to assume responsibility for integrating the database on the next project, with Paula available to assist if he has any questions. Marc implements the project successfully and continuously sets himself new learning goals in order to further broaden his skills. This not only strengthens his professional standing, but also enables him to successfully tackle challenging and innovative projects.

In conclusion, we can say that research findings indicate that our traits are not set in stone. Changing or developing certain aspects of oneself requires some effort. Because, as Brian Little says in his TED Talk “Who Are You, Really? The Puzzle of Personality,” it’s the activities in life and personal projects that sets us apart from others.