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Personal Qualities – what’s so great about you?

This latest blog on 6 Signposts to New Career Ideas digs deep, to get up close and personal.

We look at two things:

Personal qualities – how we do what we do.

Values – why we do what we do.


Let’s take two doctors – both qualified with the same training, same years of experience, working in the same hospital. Both are great at what they do. One is curious, detail orientated and a problem solver. They excel in the job as they search for new and better ways to provide patient care. The other is empathetic, thoughtful and dependable. They excel in their job by providing kind and consistent patient care on a daily basis.

Both do a great job, are happy in their job, and they do it in different ways. They have very different personalities.

How we do a thing adds a unique layer to what we do.

Our personal qualities bring a uniqueness to our career. They illustrate not only what we can do in terms of skills and knowledge, but how we do it. Any university can train a Doctor, but it is your unique personal qualities that will drive your talents toward orthopaedic surgery or palliative care medicine. It is often this layer that recruiters look to understand as they sift through hundreds of job applications to find the perfect fit for the job that they advertise.

There is no definitive list for personal qualities .But let’s get the ball rolling. Below is a list of 12 that we use in the Career Conversations Experience to start the conversation

I’m logical

I’m creative

I'm competitive

I’m empathetic

I’m detail orientated

I'm thoughtful

I’m a big picture thinker

I'm adventurous

I'm a problem solver

I’m curious

I'm practical

I'm dependable

Pick three for yourself and answer the following questions for each one:

Why have you chosen this one and what evidence do you have that this is a good one for you?

e.g. I’m curious. I say this because I am always asking questions about people and situations. I like to delve a little deeper to get to know a person or look at a situation from different perspective to know more.

e.g. I’m dependable. I can be relied on to do as I say. Dependability is important to me. It’s the basis of trust, and trust is a key foundation stone in all the work that I do.

e.g. I’m adventurous. I love to try new things. All my career has been about taking risks and doing things differently.

There are several ways to work out what your personal qualities might be….

1. Reflect back on your career to date and pick three situations or achievements that you are most proud of. What qualities did you use here?

Phone a friend. Ask three people who know you well to give you three words to describe your personality.

Take a test. There are lots of personality profiling questionnaires out there to help you identify your key personality traits/strengths.


If personal qualities tell others about how we do things, values elicit clues as to why.

Values lie at the core of our internal career compass. They will always drive us, often subconsciously.

Values tend to be relativity stable over a lifetime. But the emphasis on one value over another might change. For example, career might always be important to you, but family might take precedence in the early days of parenthood. Money and financial independence might be a key driver in early career, but less so in later years. Community and connection might be strong in early and late career, but less so mid-career.

Here’s a useful list to get you started. Again, it’s not a definitive list, but challenge yourself to pick your top five. Reflect back on your life and career to date and look for evidence of where this value has shown up and why it was important to you.

Work/life balance

Physical challenge

Professional excellence



Security & stability


Influencing Others



Wisdom & knowledge

Monetary Success

Making a difference



Authority & decision making





Position & status

Spirtual fulfilment





From my early days of studying careers and career development, I was much influenced by the writings of Edgar Schein - a Swiss-born American academic, and a former business professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Schein suggested that each and every individual possesses specific and unique ‘anchors’ - one’s perception of one’s own values, talents, abilities and motives, which form the basis of individual roles and development.

In his work, Schein identified 8 career anchors:

Technical and Functional “ I like to use my skills and get better at what I do all the time.”

General Management – “I like to get the best out of others and resources to achieve a collective goal.”

Autonomy and Independence – “I like to get on with things myself , and have flexibility on how I do it.”

Security and Stability – “I like to know what to expect and have financial and job security.”

Entrepreneurial Creativity“ I like to build things for myself, take risks and try new things.”

Service and dedication to a cause “I like to work in the cause of others or towards a better world.”

Pure Challenge “ I like to solve problems, overcome obstacles and compete.”

Lifestyle“ I like to balance career and lifestyle as an integrated whole.”

As they are based in part on values, these career anchors don’t tend to change much over our lifetime, though emphasis on one over another might. If you valued the goal star on your homework copy at 8 years old, then that ‘reward & recognition’ will most likely be important to you when you seek recognition in your career for a job well done.

Similarly, if you valued the fact that you got the gold star because you aced the spelling test (whether or not you got the gold star) – then expertise and challenge will show up for you in your career in the roles you most enjoy.

Like values, no one anchor is better than the other. But knowing your anchor will keep you grounded in a sea of new career ideas.


I take this next little exercise from a wonderful podcast series by Irish journalist Carla O’Brien Core Values - RTÉ Podcasts ( where she interviews people in the public spotlight about how their values have changed or shifted during the experience of the pandemic.

Grab yourself a quiet moment and a cuppa and answer these short questions about yourself and your values:

What do you value about today? – big or small.

What is your most valued possession?

What do you value that was lost to you, or was diminished during the pandemic experience?

What value came to the fore, and that you valued more as a result of the pandemic experience?

Who is your MVP – most valued person/people? And how do they help?

What is your core value?

Values are the internal compass of our career navigation. Our personal qualities are the external manifestations of those values. Awareness of both put us on a powerful path to new career ideas.

Thanks for reading!


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I will be working on this exercise this weekend

Susan Mulholland
Susan Mulholland
Mar 11, 2022
Replying to

Good luck with it Donna!


Will be working on this during the weekend

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