According to the highly regarded Big 5 personality test, an individual's personality is defined by five traits, one of which is conscientiousness. People who display conscientious qualities are typically hard workers and make good team players, which makes them highly sought after in the workplace.
In this article, we explore the characteristics of a conscientious person, explain how you can develop this marketable quality and look at some jobs that typically require high conscientiousness.
What is conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness is essentially a form of awareness. Conscientious individuals are typically well organised, plan their time carefully and demonstrate self-control. They're also highly efficient, ensuring that each moment of their time is put to the best possible use. Some people have a natural tendency to be conscientious, but with practice and patience, anyone can develop many of the characteristics associated with conscientious people.
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What are the benefits of conscientiousness?
There are many benefits to being conscientious, including:
- Ambitious goal setting: If you are a conscientious person, you usually have a strong desire to complete objectives, no matter how big or small.
- Improved accuracy and comprehensiveness in work: Conscientious people are extremely detail-oriented. They rarely make mistakes or overlook important information.
- Increased likelihood for advancement: These individuals are more likely to be trusted with important tasks, which may lead to raises and promotions.
- Healthy habits: If a person is conscientious, they are more likely to pay attention to what they eat, when they exercise and how much sleep they get. Being healthy can increase your alertness, mental ability and productivity, which can positively impact an individual's work.
- Effective decision-making: Those who are conscientious typically think through decisions before they act. They consider all the potential consequences of their actions and safeguard against any negative outcomes. This kind of critical thinking is a highly desirable soft skill among employers.
Characteristics of conscientious people
Conscientious people may demonstrate the following characteristics:
- Commitment: Those who are conscientious make a plan and stick to it. They may even find it fulfilling to work through a to-do list. Commitment includes showing up early and possibly leaving late in order to get everything finished on time.
- Efficiency: Conscientious people strive to avoid waste of both time and resources. They do so by trying to find the most elegant solution to any issue.
- Emotional intelligence: Conscientious people demonstrate awareness of their teams' and customers' reactions during conversations and encounters. With high conscientiousness, you can interpret nonverbal communication patterns, match tone and mood and have better interactions with both colleagues and clients.
- Thoroughness: Since conscientious individuals are detail-oriented, they typically prefer quality over quantity. When faced with a project, they explore every area to ensure that their final product is flawless. If an error slips through, the conscientious person learns from their mistakes and adapts their processes to avoid them in the future.
- Dependability: Conscientious people are reliable. If they say they're going to do something, you can consider it done. Team members and managers trust a conscientious coworker to help on any kind of project.
- Organisation: Conscientious employees usually keep an organised workspace and schedule. They effectively eliminate clutter, reduce distractions and manage their time so they meet deadlines.
Tips for becoming more conscientious
You may have some of these characteristics or utilise certain characteristics at specific times, but you can also improve your skills to better develop your conscientiousness and use it more consistently in the workplace. Here are a few steps you can take to be more conscientious in any role or industry you work in:
- Prioritise: Order your projects, beginning with the most important. Complete tasks that your coworkers need first or ones that have an approaching deadline. Give each project your full attention and best effort. Try to create a thorough schedule for your projects that allows you sufficient time to produce quality work. By ordering your projects and giving them plenty of time, you can increase the quality of your work and reduce the likelihood of mistakes.
- Focus: Reduce distractions while you work. Keep only work-related internet tabs open, and place your smartphone out of reach until you have a break. When you focus on your duties, you can get more done in less time and successfully meet deadlines. If you really struggle to concentrate, try working in short bursts with small, well-defined goals. Every time you reach a goal, reward yourself with a quick break or a fun activity that helps you relax.
- Persevere: There are various techniques you can use to complete a project. If facing a challenge, consider seeking the help of coworkers who can offer a new perspective or have more experience. Also, try separating a large project into smaller tasks that take less time to finish. Completing smaller tasks can help you gain a sense of accomplishment if you're working on a challenging activity. Resolving to finish the work you start builds trust with your manager and team members.
- Practice mindfulness: Conscientiousness is all about attention. So is mindfulness, the relaxation technique that has become popular in recent years. By practising mindfulness, you learn to pay extra attention to your environment, even when you're under pressure. This attention will help you spot important details that you might otherwise miss.
- Ask for guidance: Mentors and life coaches can help you develop techniques to improve conscientious qualities. They can encourage you to be more thoughtful and diligent in your workplace. Try meeting regularly with your mentor to review your progress toward becoming a more conscientious person.
Constantly seek ways to improve by taking not of the most common errors you make and finding systems that help you get things right next time. Doing so can result in better work, more satisfaction with your performance and possible career advancement.
Jobs that typically require conscientiousness
Conscientious people generally thrive in professions that place importance on concentration, attention to detail and accuracy. Here are five jobs to consider if you possess this trait:
National Average Salary: £18,730 per year
Primary Duties: Administrative assistants ensure their workplaces function smoothly. They greet guests, answer phones, respond to emails and order office supplies. Some administrative assistants help with onboarding and human resources duties. Additional responsibilities can include creating spreadsheets, taking notes during meetings and assisting with business travel. Administrative assistants need emotional intelligence and strong attention to detail to oversee workplace operations.
National Average Salary: £31,473 per year
Primary Duties: Therapists work with patients to improve mental health. They hold regular appointments with clients to discuss emotions and experiences to develop ongoing treatment plans. Therapists can work with individuals or families who seek guidance in managing their mental health. In some cases, therapists will refer patients to a psychologist or psychiatrist for additional treatment. Therapists need emotional intelligence in order to communicate with clients.
National Average Salary: £41,301 per year
Primary Duties: Software test engineers ensure that software is free of any bugs, inconsistencies and security issues before the program goes live. A test engineer develops test plans that explore every aspect of the software, including presentation and usability. Most software testing is now automated, with the test engineer responsible for designing tests, writing scripts and configuring automated test software. Test engineers may also need to perform some manual testing, which requires a keen eye and an ability to focus on minor details.
National Average Salary: £44,223 per year
Primary Duties: Commercial pilots work for airlines to transport passengers or freight. They review the condition of the planes, fill out flight itineraries and work closely with a team of aircraft professionals to ensure safe flights. They use a variety of instruments to take off, land and navigate weather patterns. Commercial pilots must have strong organisational skills in order to manage multiple tasks without getting distracted.
National Average Salary: £50,920 per year
Primary Duties: Surgeons in the UK can either be directly employed by the National Health Service (NHS) or work as private consultants. They evaluate and analyse patients' medical histories and create a surgical plan including pre- and post-operation steps. Working closely with a team of medical professionals, surgeons ensure successful operations. They may also prescribe medications such as antibiotics and sedatives. Since surgeons often perform procedures in high-pressure and emergency situations, they must have strong attention to detail and time-management skills.