Almost every college and university uses the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in their career guidance office. A quick google search will turn up a list of career possibilities for each of the 16 personality types. Scores of books have been written about the type indicator and the Jungian theory it is based upon. It has been loved, and scorned, for 70 years since it’s creation by the American mother-daughter team, Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.
So is it worth it? How can the MBTI help you find a career and a life you love?
For all the type novices out there, here’s a brief intro. The assessment is based on 4 dimensions of personality type and includes your energy style, thinking style, values style, and life style.
Each dimension can be pictured as a continuum between opposite extremes. Everyone’s personality falls onto one side of the midpoint or the other on each of these four scales.
We call the opposite ends of the scales preferences. If you fall on the extraverted side of the scale, you are said to have a preference for Extraversion. You’re an E. In reality, you use both sides of each scale in daily life, but you have an innate preference for one or the other - kind of like being right or left handed.
Based on your responses in the assessment, you are “sorted” into one preference or the other and end up with four letters that determine your personality type. ISTJ, ENFP, ISFP and so on. These are the sixteen types of the MBTI.
So how can knowing these four letters help you find a career you love?
Here’s what the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator CAN and CAN’T tell you…
First, the type indicator can help you identify your natural strengths and give you a language to talk about them. For example, an ISTJ may have work-related strengths that include the ability to work alone (and love it) and a thorough and close attention to the specifics: facts and details. On the other hand, the work-related strengths of an ENFP might include the courage to take risks, consider new possibilities and adapt quickly to changing situations.
Second, the MBTI can help you identify possible weaknesses, what you might think of as your “growing edge.” The ISTJ listed above may find they are uncomfortable and inflexible in adapting to change and are reluctant to embrace new, untested ideas or procedures. The ENFP may have a tendency to become bored or sidetracked and have difficulty setting priorities and getting organized. Type development theory can help you create a plan to strengthen these weak areas and create a sense of wholeness in your life.
In this way, the MBTI can help you capitalize on your strengths and compensate or improve upon your weaknesses. Learning to do this can make the difference between loving or hating your work and between succeeding and failing!
Third, knowing and understanding personality type can help you understand the differences in people around you. If your boss is a J type, it is very probable that being on time and staying on schedule will be important to him or her. If your co-worker is an F type, she or he will work to create a harmonious environment where everyone gets along. That kind of understanding can help immensely in working as a team and even getting yourself promoted! Work teams (and families!) can use each other’s innate strengths to enhance and improve everything from the work process to decision making.
And fourth, that list of career possibilities for each type can give you a jumping off point - a place to start in your career search. Your feedback report can help you begin thinking about possible career matches and may lead you in directions that you had not even considered.
However, here’s some of the what the type indicator CAN’T do…
The MBTI can’t tell you which career to choose. No career test can - or should do that. Life is far too complex for that. Finding a career you love will also require considering the work environment, family needs and concerns, geographical location, and many other factors. Use the career suggestions as just that… suggestions and a starting point for your career search.
The MBTI also can’t tell you everything about yourself or explain all the differences in how people behave. Again, life is complex. No assessment can explain everything that makes you unique as a human being. It can’t account for your personal and family history, your environment, life circumstances, cultural influences and all the many factors that impact and shape you.
And last, the MBTI can’t diagnose you. The MBTI doesn’t consider depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction or any other mental health concern. It wasn’t designed to do that. Those are factors that often play into career satisfaction and should be considered, but again, one personality test can’t do everything. Check in with a mental health professional if these are personal concerns. Getting your depression treated and your anxiety under control can do wonders in improving not only your career satisfaction, but also your satisfaction with your whole life!
Remember, a single assessment can’t define you or choose a career or life path for you. It’s a tool, a guide to help you think about your style of functioning in the world, where you get your energy, how you make decisions. It’s not about putting yourself in a box - but opening yourself up to a greater understanding of yourself and those around you.
The full length MBTI® questionnaire is available online through Blue Sage Career Strategies and is used as part of the LifeWork Project™. The LifeWork Project™ helps you unlock your personality and goes even further to help you explore all the factors that can help you find a career and life you love. Sign up for the LifeWork Project™ here.
The MBTI® Step II is also available through Blue Sage Career Strategies. This expanded version of the MBTI® results in a four page personality profile and breaks each personality dimension into 5 facets, offering an even deeper understanding of your personality. Read more about the MBTI Step II here.
Anita is a fully certified MBTI practitioner and has over two decades of experience teaching the concepts of the Myers Briggs and working with people to unlock their full potential. The LifeWork Project™ can help you discover your strengths, make career decisions and simply understand yourself a whole lot better. Career and life coaching based on your personality type is also available through Blue Sage Career Strategies.