Life Tech ‘Vocation compass’: Your social media habits could help you pick the right career

‘Vocation compass’: Your social media habits could help you pick the right career

Choosing a career that aligns with your personality traits and values is key, researchers say. Photo: Getty
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With the nerve-racking wait for ATAR scores over, thousands of school-leavers around Australia are agonising over their future career choices.

For these young adults, the pressure to make the right study or job choices can be extreme, but groundbreaking research suggests there could be an easier way.

Social media habits can be used to predict a person’s personality traits, values, and help match them to the right career, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week said.

“Employment is thought to be more enjoyable and beneficial to individuals and society when there is alignment between the person and the occupation, but a key question is how to best match people with the right profession,” the paper said.

“The information that people broadcast online through social media provides insights into who they are, which we show can be used to match people and occupations.”

The study was led by a team of researchers from Australian universities, who looked at more than 128,000 Twitter users, representing more than 3500 occupations.

The researchers found that certain jobs attracted employees with specific personality profiles.

For example, software programmers and scientists tended to be more open to experience, whereas elite tennis players tended to be more conscientious and agreeable.

Remarkably, many similar jobs were grouped together based solely on the personality characteristics of users in those roles.

For example, one cluster identified by the researchers included many different technology jobs such as software programmers, web developers and computer scientists.

The findings have the potential to change the way we think about choosing careers, underlining the importance of pursuing a job that aligns with your personality traits and values, not just your skills and experience.

While it has “long been believed that different personalities align better with different jobs”, previous studies have been “small scale in nature”,  lead researcher Peggy Kern, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Positive Psychology, said.

Never before has there been such large-scale evidence of the distinctive personality profiles that occur across occupations,’’ Dr Kern said.

With work taking up most of our waking hours, Dr Kern said many people want an occupation that “aligns with who they are as an individual”.

“We leave behind digital fingerprints online as we use different platforms,” she said.

“This creates the possibility for a modern approach to matching one’s personality and occupation with an excellent accuracy rate.”

‘Vocation compass’

Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, the researchers created a ‘vocation compass’ to match people to a career based on their personality.

The vocation compass was able to “successfully recommend an occupation aligned to people’s personality traits with over 70 per cent accuracy,” said study co-author Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, a behavioural data science expert at the University of Technology Sydney.

“Even when the system was wrong it was not too far off, pointing to professions with very similar skill sets,” Dr Rizoiu said.

For instance, it might suggest a poet becomes a fictional writer, not a petrochemical engineer.”

Study co-author Paul X. McCarthy, an adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales School of Computer Science and Engineering, likened finding the perfect job to finding the perfect mate.

“At the moment we have an overly simplified view of careers, with a very small number of visible, high-status jobs as prizes for the hardest-working, best connected and smartest competitors,” he said.

“What if instead – as our new vocation map shows – the truth was closer to dating, where there are in fact a number of roles ideally suited for everyone?

“By better understanding the personality dimensions of different jobs we can find more perfect matches.”

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