The psychology of your profession

The psychology of your profession

It is quite obvious that people are drawn to professions more suited to their personality. Along with skills, location, opportunities and monetary gain, psychology plays a big part when choosing our career. But to what extent does our profession define our character, or furthermore, how much can career choices tell us about a person’s psychology? 

Making it to the top could indicate you have psychopathic tendencies

We have read many studies here at regarding psychopathy and how many of the world’s elite sportsmen (and women), politicians and CEOs have traits within the psychopathic spectrum. One may expect that to make it to the top a person would be less risk averse and able to cope under pressure, but do these people really share some of the darker traits of psychopathy? Narcissism? And a lack of empathy?

Recent studies have shown that one in five top CEOs could be considered psychopaths. Research conducted by Bond University found 21 per cent of 261 corporate professionals had clinically significant psychopathic traits. This compares to just 1% of the general population.

The study headed by forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks showed that among the population of CEOs there was a level of psychopathy akin to a population of prisoners. Mr Brookes says that figure "shared similarities to what we would find in a prison population”. While other studies put the figure far higher in prisons. 

This is to say that four our of five CEOs do not have clinically significant psychopathic tendencies. However, it is still an interesting correlation.

High risk professions - is it in the DNA?

While we may all aspire to be, or at least see the attraction of becoming a CEO, what, we may wonder, attracts people to the higher risk professions? What makes someone want to clean the windows on the 45th floor? Maintain pylons? Fight fires? Fly fighter jets? Or even be a professional gambler?

OK, so these jobs are highly diverse so there will be many defining factors, however there are some very interesting articles relating to risk aversion, danger and our awareness of safety being in our DNA. Which begs the question, while we can understand the pull of fire-fighting, or becoming the next Top Gun, what about those who climb and maintain 150 foot structures? Do these guys just have no fear, or sense? Or do they actually have more of a super-human focus and feeling of invincibility?

As for those ‘professional gamblers’, those you find in the obscure competitive leagues on which the betting sites offer markets, we recently read a study on how their ‘risk intelligence’ is measuered. This, almost mathematical approach to risk, is rarely seen in other professions outside perhaps that of stocks and shares, one wonders if this too can be looked upon as ‘professional gambling’?

Focus drive and determination

Let’s face it we all need a certain amount of these traits to simply get through the working day. When your boss is being demanding and it is weeks away to pay check, we must pull on our internal resources. But let us think for a moment at what characteristics we would need to perform emergency brain surgery on a trauma victim, or remove a tumour from dying child. These professionals need focus, drive and determination by the bucket load, coupled with a strong stomach, a cool head and a compassionate temperament. 

A research paper on the psychology of surgeons lists many character traits needed for the profession. An interesting read as it outlines how surgery training programs are physically, psychologically, cognitively, and emotionally challenging. Which, if they were not, perhaps they would not adequately prepare the candidate for life as a surgeon. 

Caring and the profession of passion

Interestingly, many people who enter a caring profession will have had personal experience of caring for a loved one. It has been shown that nurses, mental health nurses, carers and caring volunteers are much more likely than the general population to have experienced a caring role outside the workplace.

Whether this was looking after a sibling or older relative, it stands to reason that the skills, compassion, empathy and want to help, will come from a place of experience.

So, what does your career say about you? What does it say about those you know? Is your boss a psychopath? Or perhaps you are in need of a career change? 


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