“Big 5” Profiles of Career Adaptivity

In this era of economic uncertainty, employers are increasingly shifting their need for market flexibility onto individuals, resulting in greater job insecurity and fragmented and unpredictable educational and vocational pathways. This economic dynamic has given rise to an increased interest in the psychological characteristics, behaviors, and interventions that enhance individuals’ adaptation in a rapidly evolving environment.

Career Adaptation

Career construction theory (CCT; Savickas, 2013) conceptualizes four aspects in the process of adaptation needed in the world of work and career:

Adaptivity → Adaptability → Adapting Adaptation

According to CCT, individuals who are willing or ready to change (i.e., Adaptivity) and possess the psychosocial resources to do so (i.e., Adaptability) are better able to respond to changing conditions (i.e., Adapting) and thereby secure positive outcomes (i.e., Adaptation).

Career Adaptivity → Career Adaptability

The “Big 5”, the Five Factor Model (FFM; McCrae & Costa, 2003), is sufficiently encompassing to capture all aspects of personality. However, the CCT offers no specific combinations of personality traits to reflect career Adaptivity, which is the first factor in the chain of the process of adaptation. We hypothesize that is possible to identify some combination of the FFM traits reflecting Adaptivity.

Our research is the first to examine profiles of career Adaptivity based on the FFM dimensions using latent profile analysis (or mixture analyses). This research reveals three Adaptivity profiles shown in the figure below. Each profile has a distinct pattern.

FFM profile

We found individuals with the “Adaptive Ready” profile reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability, measured using the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012).  They had more career Adaptability than individuals with the “Ordinary” profile, who, in turn, reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability than those with the “Rigid” profile.

From a practical standpoint, this research has implications for education and career counselling. It may be possible for educators and career counsellors to identify groups of individuals with a configuration of personality traits indicative of low adaptivity (i.e., “rigid”). These individuals are more likely to possess fewer adaptability resources to respond to academic and career challenges and, thus, may be at risk of poor adaptation (i.e., lower career success, satisfaction, and development). The implementation of structured interventions for these individuals, designed to enhance their adaptability resources and/or develop their adapting behaviors (e.g., career management and exploration) may better equip them to navigate novel academic and career tasks, transitions, and challenges towards optimal adaptation.


McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2003). Personality in adulthood: A five-factor theory perspective (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Savickas, M. L. (2013). Career construction theory and practice. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (2nd ed., pp. 147-183). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Savickas, M. L., & Porfeli, E. J. (2012). Career Adapt-Abilities Scale: Construction, reliability, and measurement equivalence across 13 countries. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(3), 661-673. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.011

This blog article in an extract from:

Perera, H. N., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Profiles of career adaptivity and their relations with adaptability, adapting, and adaptation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 98, 70-84. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2016.10.001

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