Paul Tieger’s Do What You Are is one of the best career advice books I’ve used. The book is organized into chapters on each of the 16 personality types of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.) Each chapter offers a list of what makes work worthwhile for that personality type. The lists work so well because they aren’t specific to any occupation. They focus on what makes your personality type tick and where you’ll find satisfying work and people who understand you. When I coach people on career transition, I suggest that they focus on these concepts rather than salary and duties. After all, you probably know what the job involves already. What you don’t know s what the team is like – and how well you’ll fit in.
For the record, I’m an ENTJ. (All the MBTI types consist of these four-letter designations. Take the personality quiz to see what type you are.) For an ENTJ, career satisfaction means doing work that (among other things) gives me “the opportunity to interact with other capable, interesting and powerful people.” Those three adjectives are very important to me, but they may not at all be important to an ESFP. She might prefer an environment where she can work with “other easy going and social people who share her sense of enthusiasm.” Big differences in style, even though we are both extraverts.
Understanding yourself and what environment will allow you to thrive opens up a whole new set of questions to ask potential employers.
- Tell me about the other team members – how do they interact and communicate about decisions?
- Tell me about the pace and variety of the work I’ll be doing.
- Will I be involved in long-range strategy, or reacting to changing conditions in the field?
- How large is the team I’ll be working with?
- How competitive / cooperative is the environment? How do you measure success?
- How important is fun and celebration here?
Once each chapter has established keys to career satisfaction, Tieger provides a list of career possibilities in many industries. To go back to my ENTJ and ESFP examples, ENTJ careers in business might include executive, network administrator, or consultant, whereas ESFP would be happier as a diversity trainer, sales professional or fundraiser. Two people with the same education and extraverted personality would choose very different paths based on how they view the world.
Each chapter also provides a list of strengths and weaknesses that might show up in your job search based on your personality type. For instance, the introverted and perfectionist INFJ should guard against personalizing rejection and getting discouraged quickly. The extraverted ESTP must guard against diving into the first opportunity that presents itself and consider making long and short-term goals (not usually a strength of that pattern.)
Tieger also outlines the strengths of each pattern and how they might be used effectively in a job search. The organized and orderly ESTJ will be good at follow-up and tracking opportunities. The values-driven ISFP will use her research and data collection skills to find the company that matches her deep need for meaningful work.
What is the key to your success and happiness at work? What questions would you ask to find out whether a job will let you be yourself – and reward you for it?