Personality and Careers - separating the job and the environment

Bill McAneny's picture
Published on Fri, 11/15/2013 - 14:47 by Bill McAneny

Colour PencilsMuch of the literature and many of the sites about Jungian type outline specific job roles for particular types. My (ENTP) list included Computer Programmer, Lawyer, Actor, Engineer and Entrepreneur. The problem I have with this is that I don’t think it is possible to pigeonhole someone into a specific job according to their personalities as this ignores the organisation, the values and the culture, which are far better determinants of suitability than a job title (which in themselves can be ambiguous). Even individual jobs, (say) an accountant, are not universal and differs from industry to industry, organisation to organisation and person to person. So what can we learn about personality and career choice?

Well firstly that it is worth looking at more broad issues such as the fact that an INFP does not like to be constrained by rules, that an ESTJ will want to have clarity, an INTJ will want to be allowed to work independently and will prefer an intellectual challenge, and an ESFP will be at their best when there is a strong people focus. The point is that it is understanding ourselves will allow us to make more informed career choices and this will be around issues such as a need for space, a dislike of authority, thriving on competition, a desire to work harmoniously, a need for flexibility, etc. Sometimes careers advice focuses so much on “the job” and too little on the environment and conditions in which we will naturally thrive, and those where we will struggle. It is like trying to teach people customer care: we can’t teach people to care, they either do or they don’t so best to recruit people who care. We were with the CEO of Forest Holidays yesterday and he was outlining his recruitment process:

Recruit for attitude as skills can be learned.

So when looking at the next, or indeed the first, career move it might be better to focus more on your own personality, likes and strengths and then the environment and culture of the organisation. Ask “why do people leave,” “what sorts of people do well here,” “what does the organisation reward,” and you will have a much clearer idea of whether it’s right for you and if it is the sort of place where you will thrive or struggle. When we look at the reasons cited why people depart or are removed it is usually lack of skill, or knowledge; but it rarely is. Drill a little deeper and it is usually an issue of personality and fit so best for both parties to get that right as early as possible. Buying the Acme Book of Interview Skills will not help, indeed it may help get you hired into a role and organisation for which you are totally unsuitable. How sad would that be?

We'd love to hear your views and experiences in the comments. Does your personality fit with your current job, career and organisation?

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