When you were in high school, a lot of people probably asked you what you wanted to be. Maybe you wanted to be a lawyer because they make a lot of money. Or a landscaper because you love being outside. Or a teacher because you liked kids.
Maybe that job worked out. Maybe it didn’t.
When you’re thinking of careers that are right for you, just as important as what you like doing is thinking about who you are. It’s a point I don’t think is emphasized nearly enough.
There are countless different personality tests, and I find that with each one I take, the more I learn about myself. There’s no one test that tells you everything, but by learning about different aspects of your personality, you develop a richer picture.
The Myers-Briggs might be the most popular personality test (you can take the full assessment here, or find a pretty close approximation by googling for a free version). I’m an INTJ. As an introvert, I prefer working alone rather than in groups. I prefer working at home rather than in a noisy office. No one in high school ever asked me about my preferred working environment, but it makes a major difference!
For really thorough (and cute!) descriptions of all 16 personality types, check out 16 Personalities.
If you’re a fellow introvert, you might be interested in these book recommendations:
- Hiding in the Bathroom
- The Secret Lives of Introverts
- The Highly Sensitive Person (not actually the same as introversion, but often correlated)
Gretchen Rubin describes 4 personality traits in her book, The Four Tendencies. And these traits, too, have a significant impact on which career you’ll find satisfying. I’m an Upholder: I love following, making and enforcing rules. Rules give my life structure.
I am completely unapologetic about telling someone else they aren’t adhering to guidelines. I’ve called the police on a drunk woman with a young child (and trailed her while on the phone with the 911 operator until help arrived). Some people find this trait really annoying, but there are also certain tasks in a job that it turns out I’m really amazing at. It’s no surprise that I’ve ended up teaching classes on creating employee handbooks.
The Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment is another popular assessment used frequently in the corporate world. The 34 strength areas that the assessment highlights are incredibly relevant to your success in various job settings. My friend, Vik Mittal, specializes in helping people shift their careers in ways that align with their strengths (he’s awesome!). There’s no such thing as a ‘bad personality type’, just poor matches between personality types and careers.
I rank very high on the execution strengths, which means I love seeing a task through to completion. Every little detail. It’s not everyone’s strength, for sure!
Have you done your Enneagram? I’m an 8. I’m self-confident and incredibly decisive. When it comes to a job situation, I’m excellent at making decisions. I collect all the facts (I’m an N, remember?) and making a decision.
What I love about the Enneagram (besides it being spooky accurate for myself and a number of friends) is that it also lists weaknesses/blind spots. For example, I can come off as intimidating or terse to some people. Or cold. And because I make decisions quickly, those decisions can seem rushed to others who take more time.
Pulling it all together
I read in Insight (a really great book) that something like 80% of people won’t tell a colleague that they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe. Even if they know that keeping mum will result in a rather embarrassing situation for the colleague AND even if it’ll negatively impact a joint outcome (such as a team landing a deal). For most people, bringing an issue to someone’s attention is just too awkward.
I am not part of that 80%. I am the person who’s going to tell you. If you’re my auto body shop and there are typos in your service contract, I’ll circle them and let you know (yup, that really happened. And they said they’d had the contract since 1994 and no one had mentioned it!). I do these things even if it takes time and has no benefit for me. I just can’t help it.
By now, I’ve gathered enough insights about myself that I can pretty easily identify whether a job/client will work well for me. Ambiguous completion criteria? Nah, sorry. Not going to work.
I encourage you to take a few tests (and maybe even read some of the books I’ve recommended) and view the profiles with respect to your current job. Does it suit you? Are there aspects of your job that you could change to make life smoother sailing?