Connecting Career and Character

Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there."  John Worden

What is Character?

Character consists of the moral or ethical traits that form the individual nature of a person. An individual's character traits differ from their personal values, which are culture specific.

Linda Popov, author of The Family Virtues Guide and one of the founders of The Virtues Project, suggests that character consists of 52 Universal Virtues that exist in all of the world's faith traditions. They are soul qualities or spiritual principles that can be taught and are modeled through attitude and behavior.

Why Does Character Matter?
Throughout history people have written and spoken about the importance of character:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." ~ Helen Keller

"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self-respect springs." ~ Joan Didion, Novelist

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

From birth to death, character traits define one's potential for being in relationship with others and living a principled life. In The Family Virtues Guide, Popov explains how each of the 52 Virtues can be taught within families and demonstrated in behavioral terms to guide one's lived experience. 

Character Traits As Career Enhancement
Using The Family Virtues Guide, here are a few character traits with potential for CAREER enhancement.

  • Assertiveness: asking for what you want and need; but not at the expense of the other. 
  • Confidence: acting with strength; not allowing fear or doubt to prevent you from doing what you really want to do.
  • Creativity: expressing new ideas; using the power of imagination to see old things in new ways.
  • Detachment: choosing how to respond in each situation; feeling what you feel but not acting on the feeling unless you want to.
  • Enthusiasm: being filled with a positive spirit; it is the way you go about doing something.
  • Gentleness: moving wisely, touching softly, holding carefully, speaking quietly and thinking kindly.
  • Honesty: being sincere, open, trustworthy and truthful; doing what you said you would do. Actions match words.
  • Humility: Doing your best withoutattracing too much attention. Giving what you have to give, not to impress others, but just for the sake of giving.
  • Love: Treating other people with care and respect.
  • Moderation: Stopping before you go overboard. It is using self-discipline to keep from overdoing.
  • Patience: Enduring a delay or troublesome situation without complaining. Sticking with something to finish it.
  • Tact: Knowing what to say and what isbetter left unsaid. Thinking before you speak. Knowing when to stay silent.

Character Traits as Career Limitations:
There are also character traits, that as habits, have the potential to be career limiting. These are virtues that fit the cliche "too much of a good thing." Virtues with the potential to be career limiting include:

* Responsibility - Being responsible means being accountable for the results. However, when we take on more than our share of responsibility, we may be overfunctioning in our role and risk being perceived by others as controlling. At its' worst, being continuously overresponsible can lead to burnout.

* Self-discipline - Creating structure, order and efficiency in your life. Taken to the extreme, however, this virtue can become "over the top" behavior that seems excessive to others and can lead to conflict in individual relationships or within teams.

* Excellence - This is always about doing your very best. Since excellence is a desire for perfection, the risk comes when our personal standards are so high they require superhuman effort. Perfectionistic behavior can be extremely hard for others to tolerate or understand. Family relationships or team projects often suffer.

Discover Your Character Traits

If you'd like to know more about your personal character traits, the VIA Institute of Character offers a validated FREE psychological assessment at This assessment takes 30-40 minutes to complete and provides you with 24 Character Strengths in order of priority.

For more information on The Virtues Project and how to bring character education into your life go to  

           Take good care of yourself,