If you’ve always known you wanted to be a doctor, or you’re a computer whiz who designs logos in your sleep, it’s hard to remember how you determined the career path you might find yourself on. Chances are, your personality – your likes and dislikes, how you solve problems, what drives you – had something to do with guiding your career choices so far. Seems obvious, right?
That’s why most career counselors will sit you down and make you take one of two personality tests, the Meyers-Briggs or the Holland Codes. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator test measures how your personal preferences stack up – whether you’d rather party ’til the cows come home, or curl up in bed with a good book, for example. The Holland Codes evaluation goes a little deeper, attempting to unearth your vocational interests – what you like to do and how you like to do it, whether or not you’re interested in leadership, and how you like to solve problems. But what does any of this have to do with work?
By tapping into the way you’re wired to think and interact with others, you can learn more about which fields you’ll most likely find success in and which will make you happiest in the long run. If you’re a social-minded introvert who likes solving problems that affect others, you’d probably be pretty miserable as an investment banker who has to make snap decisions in a high-pressure environment just to make big bucks – but you probably knew that already.
Taking the Meyers-Briggs or the Holland Codes evaluation is a great starting point for understanding what kinds of working and learning environments will suit you best. Below, you can find even more pointers on how to make the perfect match with your personality and career.
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What Kind of Worker Are You?
According to the UK employment service Adecco, more employers than ever are asking questions about a worker’s personality, not just their qualifications, during interviews. As employers try to find the best fit for their team, they need to know how a prospective employee works in a collaborative environment or whether they’re an independent thinker. Often, an employer is looking for some combination of both working styles.
When you go for an interview, you should be prepared to field some version of the question “What kind of worker are you?” Do you like solving problems with other people? Are you the ultimate “team player”? Or would you rather sit in your corner and do your work, ticking tasks off your to-do list? Understanding the ways you work best can help you figure out how you’ll handle a particular employer’s work culture. Providing an interviewer with past examples of how you’ve worked both on teams and independently will give your potential new boss an idea of how you’ll fit in.
Play to Your Strengths (And Understand Your Weaknesses)
In order to find the right career, try to put your strengths – and your weaknesses – into perspective. If you’re a social butterfly who likes to solve problems and work in a team environment, you could be the ideal marketing guru for a big company. But you may not want to wind up doing market research for the same employer, since digging through case studies and synthesising their findings will keep you chained to your desk. You may intuitively understand this already, but what’s the best way to put intellectual muscle behind what you already understand about your dream job?
Analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a potential investment or business decision is nothing new for executives, so take a page from their book! By taking a personal SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), you can use these same tools to consider your own selling points as an employee. A SWOT Analysis will also help you identify what elements of your work personality you may need to work on and what kinds of sticky situations to avoid in the workplace. The key here is to take your own strengths and weaknesses in stride, improve what you can, and focus on what you do well.
A 2012 study from the University of Zurich suggests there’s some scientific merit to matching “signature” personality strengths to career choices, too. The team surveyed 1,000 people about their personality strengths, asking them to assess how applicable these strengths were in their chosen field. As the report states: “People who are able to apply four or more signature strengths at work have the highest values in terms of positive experience. They enjoy work more, are more wrapped up in it, perceive their work as more meaningful and are more satisfied with their job.”
The take-away? An honest assessment of your interests, coupled with a deep understanding of what you do well, can help work seem more fun – and worthwhile.
Using Your Interests to Make Professional Goals
When you’re just starting out in a career, it seems like it’s hard enough to land an interview, much less begin to aggressively climb the corporate ladder.
That’s where your personality comes in. Tying your career goals to your personal preferences and needs can help you jump-start your work life, even if you’re an entry-level employee, according to recruiter Kelly Kendall:
“Set yourself a personal mission statement which should be specific to your current and future needs,” Kendall writes. “For example: ‘I want to earn £24,000 a year working in software development; with a good training program, modern working environment, a commute of less than 30 minutes and the option of flexible working.’ The more specific you are, the closer you will be to finding a job that ticks most of the boxes.”
Knowing what kind of opportunities for advancement you’re looking for or what kind of commute you’re willing to live with – just like Kendall’s fictitious software developer – is a big indicator of both personality and lifestyle preferences. The better you understand your own needs as an employee, the easier it will be to make realistic goals and choices as you’re preparing to enter the workforce.
Find Your Best Collaborators
Unless you have enough of an entrepreneurial spirit to strike out on your own or want to dig into fields that value independent research skills, chances are you’ll be working with a range of other people and personalities in the office. Understanding how you interact with others – whether you’re the manager or the one being managed – is key to successfully navigating common work situations like team meetings and projects or performance reviews.
The assessment service Truity provides an in-depth look at each Meyers-Briggs personality type, including how certain personalities fare in their interpersonal relationships. Once you discover your personality type, take a gander at the kinds of people you’re most likely to work well with – and those who might provide a challenge to your sensibilities.
You may not be able to avoid people you don’t work well with, but you can learn what to expect from different personality and communication styles. Proactively adjusting your own expectations and reactions can make the difference between a good day at the office and a bad one.
Change is Coming
With so much emphasis on finding the “right” career, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that most people no longer stay with one company until retirement. In fact, Forbes reports that “91% of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years.” Career shifts happen for more established professionals, too. Read any of our profiles of industry leaders, and you’ll see how often they thoughtfully shifted gears to wind up where they wanted to be professionally.
Job-hopping isn’t all positive, though, and may make you a liability as far as a human resources professional is concerned. If you’ve been in an industry for a few years already, and you’re ready to make a career shift, give some serious thought to how you plan to add to your new field with the experiences you’ve gained in another, related industry.
As cultural attitudes toward work continue to shift, consider where you want to be a few years down the road when you take a new job, and how that job will help you get there. Your career plan may not offer a straight path to the top, but you should still look for opportunities to advance, grow, and add something new to your field.
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