Previous research has suggested that, in addition to cognitive skills such as intelligence or a good memory, social or non-cognitive skills such as aspirations, confidence and personality can have an important effect on career success.
These non-cognitive skills are likely to be related to family background, with the conditions of a more advantaged upbringing being more beneficial in their development. These characteristics may therefore have a substantive role in social mobility.
In this project, conducted by Robert de Vries and Jason Rentfrow, we used two separate approaches to examine the association between family background and characteristics related to personality and aspirations, and between these characteristics and adult career attainment:
- A review of the existing evidence from 90 peer-reviewed academic studies
- An analysis of information on the non-cognitive characteristics of more than 150,000 UK residents, based on data from the BBC Big Personality Test – the largest survey of this type ever conducted in the UK
- Schools should work to improve knowledge and awareness of professional careers among less advantaged students
- Schools should use good feedback to improve pupils’ social skills
- Intervention programmes aimed at improving outcomes for disadvantaged young people should be broad-based – focusing on wider skills as well as academic attainment
- Schools and universities should provide students with suitable training in employability skills and interview techniques
- More research is required on interventions to improve beneficial personality traits