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There are a number of very good tests of personality type on the market, and as a career coach I always recommend that people in transition explore the results of such tests and apply those results in their decision-making processes. Being in transition is an opportune time to assess where you are and what you want to pursue in the future. For the purpose of this article, I focus on one of the most popular tests: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI.
Let’s face it: we are what we do. When casually asked, “So, what do you do?” we typically answer with our title or we identify our industry. We reply, “I’m a vice president at XYZ Bank,” or, “I teach in special ed.” However, neither answer gives a clue about whether the person is good at the job or enjoys doing it. If you probe a bit further with a second question, ”How did you get into that profession?” the answer in most cases proves that it was a coincidence. When deciding on a profession, we took into consideration what we thought we could do, what others such as parents and friends thought we should do, and what our own intuition said regarding what we wanted to do.
A few years ago, I took the opportunity to sit for several personality tests, and while all of them gave me clues and insights beyond what I see every morning in the mirror, I found the MBTI intriguing. Most of us are not clear regarding what it is that satisfies us, but we know well what we don’t like doing. The MBTI personality test can reveal the secret of which career choice might fulfill and satisfy you and enhance the quality of your life.
The traditional approach we take in selecting a career path focuses on our values, interests, and abilities based on skills. None of those assures us that we’ll enjoy what we’ll do and that we’ll have fun with it. Each person has an individual personality type—an issue that usually is neither recognized nor properly addressed in the choosing of a career path. The MBTI deals with personality types. It deals with how we interact with the world, how we focus our energy, the kind of information we instinctively notice, the ways we make decisions, and whether we prefer more structure versus spontaneity.
The MBTI suggests that there are 16 personality types. It differentiates between extroverts and introverts, between people who sense and those who make decisions on intuition, between those who are thinkers and those who are more gut-feeling types, and between those who judge and those who perceive. The completed test needs to be interpreted by a qualified person for a nominal fee. My results were pretty accurate, but the likely profession that the MBTI recommended I would enjoy was a far cry from what I can associate myself with. Paul and Barbara Tieger published a book named Do What You Are which I found very helpful interpreting my personality type.