Career Choice and Career Development: Using the MBTI ® and Personality Type
By Ross Reinhold, INTJ
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Managing Job & Working Career Challenges
Being successful and happy in your working career and with specific work situations involves similar personality factors that identify a good fit between you and a career area, but more exacting. While as a general rule, accounting work is a good fit for an ISTJ personality, there could be specific kinds of accounting jobs or accounting work situations which are not a good fit for this type.
Work organizations tend to develop a certain culture that in many ways can mimic a particular personality type (Bridges, The Character of Organizations). Likewise departments within organizations develop a certain character, often strongly influenced by the personality type of the manager. Your immediate boss's learning and communications style will have a significant impact on your job satisfaction and success. If your styles are complimentary, you'll find yourself navigating smooth waters. But if they clash, you'll have some rough going and need to adapt your style to better match his or her communication and learning style.
While the first impulse when one finds themselves in a bad-fit situation (for example an ENFP who finds himself in an ISTJ organization, with an ISTJ direct supervisor) would be to look for a new job, I recommend investing some energy learning to stretch outside your box! This apparent bad-fit is a growth opportunity. You future success and happiness will be enhanced by learning how to pace yourself to a working environment that requires you to develop your non-preferred side of your personality, becoming more skilled in the use of your opposite hand, as it were. Eventually, you'll want to move on to a situation where the fit is better, where you and your work situation are flowing in the same direction. But by having spent time learning to go upstream and handle unfamiliar waters you'll be better prepared to handle the inevitable challenges that will come even in a good fit work situation.
Working life is full of dynamics; change is the rule even in relatively stable situations. You may get an assignment to work on a project with a colleague whose working style is opposite your own. Your favorite boss may leave for greener pastures and the new one has a radically different working or communications style. An otherwise good customer easily triggers your hot buttons. Remodeling or a move to a new physical work location may negatively alter the goodness of fit of your work environment. No matter what your preferences or type, chances are you'll land in circumstances where some of your key strengths are no longer assets and you need to adapt.
Knowing when to hold 'em, knowing when to fold 'em
Like in that old Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, there's an art to using opposite strategies . . . "Know when to walk away and know when to run."
People who like written communications need to learn when to talk it out instead. Maybe you create the written document to satisfy your own need to have a clearly stated and visual sense of what you want to communicate, but then just use that as a guide for your conversation.
People who like to talk it out and ramble a bit in their conversation need to learn when they need to supplement their communication with either a written synopsis with some focus or with a properly timed follow-up and to the point conversation.
People whose nature seems to gravitate towards whatever is new and original need to recognize that their inspirations sometimes involve re-inventing the wheel and even when the idea is sound there can be timing and other circumstances which argue against it. Your great new idea may necessitate convincing people personalities who strongly value sticking with what works and are naturally cautious with new and original ideas. It will take time and skill to win these people over to your scheme.
People whose nature is being task-oriented and sparsely communicative need to learn when and how to engage in a more relaxed and social conversation.
"Knowing when to hold and when to fold" begins with knowing yourself: your natural strengths that you go to instinctively and understanding what is the opposite of those strengths.
There is an advanced form of the MBTI ®called the Step II that I've found quite helpful in identifying areas of strength as well as areas of potential vulnerability. Click Here to view it.
The Step II inventory identifies 5 trait dichotomies that are correlated with each of the four Myers-Briggs MBTI preference dimensions. In my experience coaching and working with people I've found each person has a unique constellation of these trait pairs. Some people are hard-wired quite strongly to favor one end of the trait scale and would have great difficulty moving to the other side. However on other scales, even though they favor one end, they may have flexibility to move away from their natural trait when circumstances require.
For instance I am by nature more contained, well controlled, and sometimes hard to read. But when circumstances warrant I can turn up the juice a bit and be more expressive, approachable, and easy to know. While I have a natural tendency to be one way, I can open up and be more flexible on this particular trait dimension.
I am also by nature an early starter on most long term tasks and am focused in my approach to a task, managing one-ball-in-the air at a time. When I have a deadline down the road, I make progress towards it in pieces, doing a piece here, a piece there over time. I hate waiting till the last minute to get started. And when I work on the project it gets my full attention, I do not like distractions when I'm cookin'. My opposite number on this characteristic is pressure-prompted, a multi-tasker who craves variety and generally doesn't work at his or her best until the deadline is very near.This is especially the case with any task that has some objectionable features. I can't be this way; I have very little flexibility on this particular dimension. So when I am confronted with a situation where being an early-starter is a disadvantage, I need to find other ways to adapt.
Knowing these kinds of things about yourself is very important. Where do you have flexibility; where do you have very little room to negotiate? What kind of traits in a person you might have to interact with have the potential to drive you up a wall? How can you effectively adapt to this circumstance?
Knowing and understanding these key traits that are correlated with personality type is a step towards more skillful self-management. This in turn will help you succeed in and better enjoy whatever job you find yourself employed.
® MBTI, Myers-Briggs, Meyers Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries (aka meyers briggs or myers briggs).