Careers Lost in Space
So many times in my work and my life, I meet people who are a bit lost. They’re not happy at work but don’t know what to do about it. Sometimes they don’t even know exactly why they are dissatisfied.
When you’re not clear about what drives you, it’s easy to make big career mistakes. Take me, for example. It’s only since becoming a career specialist myself that I realise that my two key drivers for job satisfaction have always been 1) to influence others and 2) to train others.
Yet, after leaving life as a French teacher, I tried Hospitality (learning Japanese as a way in) and then did an Accounting degree, ending up in Banking. As a management accountant in the Corporate and International division, my spreadsheets were regularly plagued with errors. I do not naturally have attention to detail and often say that I am fundamentally scatty.
I had made several poor career choices.
Knowledge is Power – especially with career choices
So, if I can, I talk to people about preferences - it just makes sense to me that we should spend as much of our time as possible each day working in alignment with our personality preferences.
I also find that personality preferences are closely linked with Career Skills & Interests, as well as the type of work environment that people find appealing. So understanding your personality preferences is such a valuable piece of information.
Part of the “In” Crowd
Which tool is the best one to use to explore these personality preferences?
A few years ago, I attended an international Careers Consultants conference in Chicago, with specialists from around the world. One after another, attendees and speakers threw detailed comments about MBTI into the mix, until it became a bit of a joke.
Ever since, I’ve used MBTI accreditation as a test for the seriousness of a career practitioner, as a way of differentiating a solid practitioner from the crowd. I just do not believe that it is possible to provide a full and complete service to clients without it.
Where’s the Proof?
MBTI builds on Carl Jung’s work and, of course, Jung never looked inside a brain. So, until recently, there has been no validation of the MBTI.
Dr Dario Nardi, of the Human Complex Systems group at UCLA has begun correlating Jungian functions with neuronal activity. If you check out his talk to Google staff on Youtube, you’ll find a fascinating analysis of this new area.
In his neuroscience lab at the University of California, he uses insights of real-time EEG, viewing people's brain activity in real time.
The results are clear: individual personality differences matter.
The Goldilocks of Career Assessment Tools
So, in my opinion, after literally working with thousands of people who are forensically examining their next career, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is the perfect tool. Not too detailed, not too superficial.
There’s no point, of course, just accessing a free version online. There is quite a limited reliability if you do that. It is the 1 – 1 ½ hour debrief with a solid accredited practitioner that increases the validity of the response.
My MBTI Profile
Here’s a very short description of the ENTP profile. People who know me will readily agree with the following…
Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.
But it goes further than that. There is specific information that goes with the profile that advises on:
- What type of experiences are likely to provide you with career satisfaction
- What types of occupations might resonate with your preferences
It’s not meant to be a Cop-out
By the way, this doesn’t mean that we should just use our natural preferences as an excuse for not trying in other less-preferred areas.
Back in my Banking days, when I became solely responsible for the monthly Board reports for the division, I can tell you that I became the most meticulous checker you could imagine. I just needed a double scotch after those reports were handed in!
Emotional Career Support
It is not unusual for people to think that perhaps they have been a "round peg in a square hole" and need to change careers. But many people also carry some emotional baggage, a sense of failure, that they couldn't cut the mustard in this field or a sense of guilt for feeling the way they do.
In my experience with career changers and in fact people who have simply had a tough time succeeding in the job market, understanding the delicate fit between their mostly innate personality patterns and the working demands of certain occupations and of certain job environments is essential.
It is essential not only for selecting a "good fit" for the future, it is a key to understanding the past in a way that helps restore a person's self-confidence and optimism. It also sometimes helps to explain why a career has gone stale or why despite several years of experience and different employers/work environments, career success and satisfaction remained out of reach.
Living with an ISTJ
An added bonus, is the respect you gain for other preferences. My husband, Phil, gets used as an example all the time (and doesn’t mind). I always remember the first time I went shopping with him. I nearly died! Then I just realised that was the way someone with “S” preferences would shop. So no judgement involved – now I just steer clear and meet him afterwards for coffee!
So, if you only have one hour to work with a career practitioner on career “stuff”, I absolutely recommend exploring your personality preferences.
If you already know your profile, it gives you a specific career lens. If you’re new to the MBTI, at a minimum, you’ll love it and at a pinch, it’ll be the most valuable professional career discussion you’ve ever had.
aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au