Goal #2, professional development: Find / develop a sound professional niche.
‘Professional development’ is not in itself an achievable goal. In order to make it so, I’d need to believe in a suitable career match and decide where to go. While this post offer no solution to my career confusion (my entire blog is about trying to sort that out), there are couple of tools I find helpful in pointing towards potential career directions.
This post is about the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and the next will look at SWOT analysis as a career development tool.
1. Myers Briggs Personality Type indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
The MBTI assessment categorises one’s set of psychological preferences into one of 16 personality types, which each corresponds to a list of ‘matching’ career options (for example). It can assist with career planning by sorting occupations into suitable VS unsuitable careers.
The 16 Myers-Briggs personality types build on four behavioural preference dichotomies based* on the theories of psychiatrist and psycho analyst Carl Gustav Jung. An MBTI test (~ questionnaire) is sometimes called a ‘Jungian personality test’.
The four personal preference dichotomies are:**
- Social orientation: Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
~ Focus on outer VS inner reality
- Information processing: Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
~ Focus on basic information VS meaning-added interpretation
- Decision making: Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
~ Focus on logic and consistency VS people, opinions and circumstances
- Tolerance to uncertainty: Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
~ Need for closure VS prefer to keep options open
Each of the 16 personality types is named with a four-letter acronym which defines its combination of psychological preferences. A brief description of each of the personality profiles can be found on the Myers & Briggs Foundation’s website, and more thorough descriptions can be found on Typelogic and Keirsey (links are to the INTJ personality type, but all types are represented).
MBTI tests outcome: INTJ
There are many free MBTI tests are available online, and I tried four of the longer ones (each doesn’t take long) to see if the outcomes differed and how ambiguous*** they were. I found Similar Minds’ and Human Metrics’ tests to be reasonable clear, while the questions in Team Technology’s (free version of a paid test) and particularly Personality Test.net’s were confusing / bordering rubbish.
My type is INTJ according to Human Metrics, Similar Minds and Personality Test, and ISTP/INTP according to Team Technology. INTJ seems the best match and ISTP a poor match, so I’ll ignore the test result from Team Technology.
The Myers & Briggs Foundation’s website outlines the INTJ personality type as follows:
Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.
I’ve skimmed a variety of INTJ descriptions and they all seem to describe my personality traits surprisingly well, so I’ll choose to believe in the MBTI assessment. INTJ makes up only about 1 to 3 % of the general population**** according to a variety of these ‘personality type websites’, so that could help explain my feelings of being different and out of context amongst people in workplaces, schools, and other social environments.
A personality difference isn’t a bad things… being in minority tends to create the impression that ‘something is wrong with me’; but I believe that diversity in abilities is beneficial for human development & versatility.
Careers for INTJ personality types
Human Metrics’s Jung Career Indicator suggests that the best career fields for INTJ personality types are Natural Sciences, Natural Science Education, Information Systems, Computer Programming and Librarian.
Keirsey’s ‘Best Job Fits for Rationals‘ suggests below fields:
They are often led into technical positions such as scientific researcher, design engineer, environmental planner. The developing field of genetics benefits from their intensity as does the field of medicine. In education they are most often found at the college and university level. In the professions, they may be a lawyer, a business analyst, or strategic planner. Some have a strong artistic/creative bent and may become an artist, inventor, or designer. Whatever they do, they do it with intensity.
The not-so-professional-looking Personality Page’s suggested career paths for the INTJ personality type comprise scientist, engineer, professors and teachers, medical doctors and dentists, corporate strategists and organisation builders, business administrators and managers, military leaders, lawyers and attorneys, judges, computer programmers, systems analysts and computer specialists.
My Personality .info‘s list include most of the above mentioned occupations plus entrepreneur and psychologist.
It seems that most INTJ career suggestions fall into two broad categories: people oriented and technical specialist/researcher. People-oriented occupations assume good social intuition and ability to navigate political landscapes; the INTJ profiles don’t describe such abilities, but don’t rule them out either.
Math? I don’t think so
Most of the specialist careers assume good capacity for and interest in math. Talent for math isn’t directly mentioned in the INTJ profiles, but it does make some sense in relation to having a logical and systems-oriented mind.
I don’t consider myself a ‘math person’, although I’ll take ownership of mathematical problems when I can see the useful application and there is no one else around who can do it better than me. I disliked math in school when I was a kid because I didn’t believe in it (‘why?’ was a key question for me), couldn’t see its application, and never did my math homework (or other homework for that matter), and the math teacher did notice that and wrote stressing remarks in parent-related notebooks.
I learned why math is useful when I worked on farms as an adult. I had to take it at high school level when I decided to take a higher education (I didn’t initially go in high school) and borrowed primary school level math books from a library to drag myself through the basics and catch up. It was almost physically uncomfortable to force myself to try to grasp the basic concepts and mechanisms and ‘grow my brains’; but also rewarding to understand relations that are part of everything and which I had not grasped before.
I achieved Distinction in the high school math exam, and later High Distinction in Statistics in uni, so I am not a complete idiot at math, but slow. I suck at calculations because I have a working memory like a soap bubble and can’t grasp concepts I can’t convert into visual models (however, many things are convertible into visual models when given enough time and focus… even Anova test🙂
I’ll never be competitive alongside true ‘math persons’ in a technical or scientific career, because the way I process math is cumbersome and error-prone, even if I occasionally trick people by guessing an approximately correct answer to a problem (that’s where intuition comes in, maybe… and luck).
A wider variety of INTJ careers
The website Personality Junkie divides the INTJ profile into 6 sub-career-profiles: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. The suggested careers include occupations of artistic and ‘humanities’ nature: social sciences, philosophy, non-fiction writer, creative writer, graphic designer, blogger, journalist, film producer… priest……. nun…
And I also found this top 100 list of INTJ occupations, for whatever that’s worth.
Out of all the suggested career directions, I’m attracted to the fields of Social Sciences (Sociology) and Life Sciences (Biology and Ecology, Sustainable Agriculture, Animal Behaviour, Animal Welfare), as well as artistic and creative pursuits (writer, visual design) and information systems.
Multidisciplinary research that integrates several interesting fields is super-interesting… like the University of Adelaide’s Human-Animal Research Group under the Discipline of Psychiatry (just at a glance).
If I could choose to study a new field from scratch right now, then I would study human-animal interaction, and practical applications such as the use of Service- and Therapy Dogs. I am particularly interested in how interaction with Service- and Therapy dogs (and other animals) can help persons with social deficits to learn relationship skills and enhance their long term quality of life.
However… entering a new career focus would require new studies. I’m of mature age, and I’ve already got tertiary qualifications (commerce/marketing) which I still pay instalments for. There is no way I can afford to study now; we barely make ends meet. And, there is no guarantee that new studies would lead to employment; since I would still have the same issues in workplaces. Conclusion: an education-driven career change is out of the question.
It would be wiser to focus on expanding technical skills in the areas of writing, visual design and software applications because I can use that right away, while I learn, for freelance work.
Also, based on bitter experience: the meaning of work is essential to me. I chose my current degree based on ‘prudence’ and what I thought was employable and useful, and I’ve barely used it because
- I don’t have the right personality type for job roles that request this qualification (at least not entry roles)
- I don’t know how to use it because it is a generalist education that doesn’t point to a clearly defined direction
- I am not motivated due to my lack of genuine materialism / interest in money and marketing
That’s not the first time prudent choices don’t work out for me.
Skills must centre around a meaningful focus; that’s why interests can’t be left out of the equation. Lesson learned. So I’ll need a plan for evolving hands-on skills and a plan for how to integrate skills and interests over the long run. That’s the new plan for professional development.
Update: I have with time concluded that the Myer-Briggs Personality Test empire builds on absolutely no scientific fundament and is, for most people, no more reliable than their horoscope. However, the INTJ personality type resonates quite well with me, and I’ll leave this post up for its circus value, career reflections, and for explaining what Myer-Briggs is all about.
*’Explicitly or implicitly’ – MBTI basic
**My category titles (‘social orientation’ e.t.c)
***With ambiguous I mean that (for example) the questions can mean different things, none of the two options apply, or the two options are not a real dichotomy (both may apply equally). Ambiguous questionnaires are untrustworthy.
****or maybe of those who take online MBTI tests on those websites