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How Your Personality Dictates Your Earning Power A little bit of introspection may help you determine whether you're earning as much as you deserve

By Vaibhav Joshi

You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


We all have different reactions when we look at our paychecks for the first time. Some are satisfied to see the figure mentioned, others feel they deserve a raise immediately. We used to believe that it was in the boss' hands to decide whether we merit the salary we receive, but research has revealed some of it might actually be down to our personality.

Does Your Personality Match Your Job?

In their study entitled "Uncovering the Power of Personality to Shape Income' published in Psychological Science in November 2017, researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands looked at data provided by the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP). This contained information on the personality profiles, annual income, and jobs of nearly 8,500 adults in Germany.

The researchers then attempted to determine what jobs could be a good fit for which individual, using psychology's Big Five personality traits and a career classification system devised by the International Labour Organization. Through their research, they found that a positive link between a person's character and higher pay when it came to three major personality traits—extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to experience.

A word of caution, however—the researchers also noted that too much of these otherwise positive traits could actually diminish your earning power, at least in careers that did not complement such traits. "Our findings show that looking at the combination of personality traits and job demands is key to predict important outcomes, like income," explained lead researcher Jaap J.A. Denissen in an official media release. "This updates the notion that you only have to look at the personality traits of an individual to predict his or her life outcomes. Our results indicate that it's more complex: You also have to take that person's environment into account."

Denissen went on to explain how these findings would benefit both companies looking to hire and individuals looking for employment. According to him, companies learned the importance of investing in personality assessment, while individuals that looking for jobs better suited to their personality type could lead to better earnings.

Other Qualities Matter As Well

Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology in September 2018 talks about how income is affected by demographic variables like age and education and even more oblique variables such as height. However, its results indicated that after the obvious factors like occupation, education, location (as determined by zip code) and gender (with males earning more than females), the next most decisive factor in earning capacity was self-control. Terming it "delay discounting,' or how much a person discounts the value of future rewards compared to immediate ones, the researchers found that children with greater self-control were more likely to have higher salaries later in life.

Dr William Hampton, the lead author of the study, suggests starting out young. In an official press release, he said, "If you want your child to grow up to earn a good salary, consider instilling in them the importance of passing on smaller, immediate rewards in favour of larger ones that they have to wait for. This is probably easier said than done, as very few people naturally enjoy waiting, but our results suggest that those who develop the ability to delay gratification are likely investing in their own earning potential."

What's The Salary Situation Like In APAC?

Luckily for employees in the Asia Pacific region, salary budgets in 2018 were set to rise at a faster clip than in 2017 in most markets. India, China and Vietnam are expected to lead the way, according to Willis Towers Watson's 2017 Asia Pacific Salary Budget Planning Report. Asia's other developing market with a large population, Indonesia, was projected to see the largest decline in real increases in 2018 while the developed markets of Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Japan and New Zealand were also set to see among the lowest overall increases.

Vaibhav Joshi

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Asia-Pacific


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