Employment relations Using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator in career choice

Emma Woodhouse, Stepping Stones 

Many of you will know about, or have experience of, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It has been used for more than 60 years to help people become more satisfied and successful in their careers.  

In a nutshell what it does is to identify our innate preferences for how we interact with the world, take in information, make decisions and gain our mental energy; these preferences being expressed as a four letter “type”. Knowledge of your own and others preferences has been shown to be of particular use in improving communication skills and can be a powerful team building tool. In addition to these organisational business uses, I have recently had cause to become involved with, and really see the benefit to individuals of, using the same information but in the context of career choice and development.  

This all began with an after dinner conversation with young man, we shall call him Tom, who had recently graduated. Although he had gained his academic qualifications he was still somewhat at a loss as to what best would suit his personality, skills, likes and dislikes in terms of a career. When I explained about MBTI and its potential to help he was intrigued and so completed the on-line questionnaire to determine his type. We then discussed at length both his individual results and the suggestions of the careers and organisational reports generated specifically for him. We shall return to what happened in due course. 

So how can knowing your preferences (MBTI Type) assist in the context of career choice and development? The accumulated research findings available from over 92,000 individuals have been collated to show the kinds of tasks and work environment that tend to be preferred by people with different type preferences. These have then been organised as job families and into occupational categories and these provided a good place in which to start searching for your first job or investigating options if you are looking for a change. Finding a career which is a “good fit” for you can increase your job satisfaction and reduce stress because you will be using your natural preferences. 

In addition to helping identify potential careers, the information and guidance which is available and can be provided during the discussion phase of the process can be very helpful in terms of highlighting potential strengths and weaknesses associated with your MBTI type in the job search process; in particular performance at interview.  

Knowing your type and the research finding of typical employment areas that fit with it does not mean you should automatically discount any occupation just because it is not popular within your type. In fact, bringing your different approach to an occupation can often add considerable value and be rewarded; you may be seen as an innovator and a leader. However, you should also bear in mind that if you enter one of these occupations you may experience difficulty communicating or agreeing with your co-workers, your particular gifts associated with your preferences may not be recognised or rewarded and you may eventually experience stress or dissatisfaction if you are required to work against the grain of your natural preferences for too long.  

So back to Tom, our young career seeker, did he find MBTI helpful? He most certainly did! He told me how much having his own preferences clarified for him helped him think more clearly about the career goals he had and the type of workplace environment he felt he would flourish in (and almost more usefully those that would stifle him and leave him frustrated and unfulfilled). With all this in mind he considered the job families information that was relevant to him and went on to research various options. He now has a clear career goal and is studying the necessary practical qualifications for it. It actually goes further; as he found the experience so helpful he is now its biggest advocate telling family, friends and work colleagues all about it. So much so that his younger brother, who is still in higher education, asked to do the assessment too. He has used already used the information to help him pick study options with a view to future employment.