One of the best career books I’ve ever read is Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger’s Do What You Are. Paul Tieger is a coach and founder of The New England Type Institute, where he has trained thousands of managers, HR professionals, career consultants, psychologists and educators. He bases his career advice on personality type (using the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, or MBTI.)
Do What You Are is one of the books I always reach for when I work with jobseekers. On his website, Tieger says that career advice has traditionally been based on “a good match for the jobseeker’s values, interests and skills.” There’s only one problem with this approach, Tieger says: it doesn’t work. One reason is that these factors change over time. What was a great match for you at 22 may be a terrible fit when you’re 30. What doesn’t change, Tieger (and I) believe, is your basic personality traits – how you view the world.
The MBTI was developed after WWII by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers to help women entering the industrial workforce after the war find the right job fit. The assessment’s publisher says that two million MBTI assessments are delivered each year, making it one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world. Myers and Briggs based their theories on Carl Jung’s personality research.
Jung measured two cognitive functions and categorized people by which one they used most often:
- (Judging by) Feeling vs. Thinking
- (Perceiving by) Sensing vs. Intuiting
Jung added introversion and extraversion to create patterns of behavior that could be measured and predicted. Based on his concepts, Myers and Briggs created an assessment that resulted in one of 16 personality types. Jung believed that your personality type was an innate characteristic, whereas Myers and Briggs believed that it was more like a preference, making life – and work – much easier and more comfortable when you did it in your preferred style.
Tieger takes this personality concept and applies it to your career choices in a way that’s easy to understand and follow. He says that when you are doing a job that matches and rewards your personality style, you feel energized about your work. Tieger goes on to talk about the kind of work each style finds rewarding and the kinds of co-workers that will understand you and make you feel appreciated. It’s the kind of career advice that is flexible enough to work with any kind of career and be very helpful when you’re trying to decide among several versions of the same career.
For instance, let’s say you’re interested in healthcare as a career, but uncertain about which direction would be best for you. Your MBTI result can help decide whether you would be happier as a pediatric nutritionist or as a forensic lab technician. I’ll be excerpting from Do What You Are over the next few posts.