What Does Personality Have to Do with Careers?

What Does Personality Have to Do with Careers?

What Does Personality Have to Do with Careers?

How Does Personality Affect Occupational Choice? By Steve Johnson

Many different studies and theories have been developed related to personality in all of its complexity. Most of these are based upon character traits, including how people react with the world around them. Many of these traits affect people’s life choices, including occupation, whether they are aware of it or not. In general, most extroverts lean toward more social occupations, while introverts often end up in occupations with more solitude.

It Starts Early

Personality’s influence on job choice starts early and is often shaped directly by tests given in high school. These include everything from personality tests to entrance examinations. Personality tests can play a major role as they match potential occupations with the personality type of the test-taker. These types of tests are intended to guide a student toward occupational choices ideal for their personality and away from ones that might counter their personality. An example would be a student who rates high in analytical categories receiving recommendations toward engineering, medical, or computer science fields.

Personality and Employers

Some employment opportunities require applicants to take exams, often including personality tests. This places the personality as a key determinant of whether a person does or does not get a position. If someone is rejected for a position because of a personality mismatch, it becomes more likely that the next occupational choice will lean toward a different field.

Influence on Job Performance

The reason personality is critical is that in some jobs a person with a personality not suited to the job will perform far worse than a well-suited person. Put an introvert in a job that requires constant communication, and you might be looking at someone that performs poorly on a day-to-day basis. Other fields, such as creative and design fields, need to be occupied by people with an aptitude for inventiveness. Mismatches can

produce poor job performance and ultimately lead to alternative career choices.

Choices and Opportunity

Success isn’t always about matching a job to a personality; it can also result from the personality opening up more opportunities in the work force – often through effective networking. Extroverts tend to have a much larger network than introverts, affecting the number of external connections they have to the work force. This will place them at a distinct advantage if it means they wind up with more occupational choices.

Types, Traits, and Temperaments

by A. Bronwyn Llewellyn with Robin Holt

Your personality colors how you think and how you behave. It influences how you respond to different situations and how you perceive the world, make decisions, and live your life. That particular pattern of responses, perceptions, and behaviors makes up your personality. It makes sense that anything that affects how you live your life is going to affect your career satisfaction and success. It's easy to figure out that a passive introvert would likely shrivel under the scrutiny required by a career as a politician or that a gregarious person might be a good fit for a career in sales or service. But don't let such stereotypical thinking limit your own career possibilities.

The purpose of personality studies isn't to pigeonhole you or anyone else. You might be an outgoing person who happens to love working with numbers. In that case, you could still thrive in a solitary accounting job, but you would have to find other ways to feed your sociable side, such as through leisure-time activities or hobbies. If you are so reclusive that the idea of initiating cold calls makes you sweat, remember that cold calling is a skill. Such skills can be learned, and you can learn to be more comfortable doing tasks that might seem almost impossible now. If you love the career, you'll find ways to make it work.

The most important thing to remember about personality in the workplace is that people are different. Those very differences are what make life and work so varied and enjoyable. You've heard the expression “Variety is the spice of life.” Would you want to live and work only around people who are exactly like you? Probably not.

Those personality differences are also the things that can make a particular working situation intolerable if you don't learn how to recognize and adjust to them. You may come to find that your boss isn't mean after all; she's just so detail-oriented that she finds your fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants work methods disconcerting.

The more you understand about your own personality themes and those of others, the better able you will be not only to find a career that suits you, but also to understand and work with the other personalities you find there.

Jungian Theory

In the 1920s, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung worked and published his own theory of psychological types. It was Jung who suggested that human behavior could be classified by how people go about such basic functions as gathering information and making decisions based on that information. He realized that some people orient themselves to the world outside themselves (extroverts) and some people orient themselves to their inner world (introverts). He then named the cognitive processes that all people engage in — thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting — to come up with eight types. For Jung, personality differences are the result of preferences. They emerge early and reflect both genetic and environmental influences. As preferences, there is nothing wrong with any of them — they're just different.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Around the same time that Jung was developing his ideas in the early twentieth century, Katharine Briggs was performing her own research on personality. She later set aside her work to concentrate on Jung's ideas and published a description of his theories in the New Republic in the 1920s.

Katharine Briggs collaborated with her daughter, Isabel, who also developed an interest in personality types. In 1930, Isabel published a novel, MurderYet to Come, with characters developed using her concepts. The women thought that eventually psychology professionals would put Jung's ideas about personality types to some practical use, but it took a world war to make it happen. Spurred on by a desire to find a way to help people find jobs that suited them, Isabel Myers Briggs conducted independent research and tried a series of questions out on friends, family, and students at her children's school until she came up with sixteen distinct personality types. Each type was rated on a continuum between opposites, and each combination of four represented one of sixteen different personality types.