Personality Type and Careers

Understanding personality type preferences, as identified through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument, can support people in career exploration, development, and decision-making. One of Myers' goals in developing the MBTI assessment was to help individuals find interesting, meaningful, and satisfying careers that support their natural strengths.

Knowing your personality type, can help you with career planning at every stage:

  • Career exploration
  • Choosing a college major, trade, or certification program
  • Choosing your first career
  • Career advancement
  • Career change
  • Retirement planning

Your type preferences influence:

  • Your approach to career planning (how you set goals, gather information, contact potential employers, and make decisions)
  • The kind of work environment you may enjoy
  • What motivates you
  • The tasks you may find interesting and rewarding
  • Your potential strengths within a career

The MBTI assessment is not designed for use in hiring practices or job selection. Your preferences do not determine your abilities, skills, or competencies. Your preferences do, however, provide insight into the kinds of tasks and roles you may enjoy within your preferred work environment.

Research shows that when people work in areas that support their natural strengths and talents, they find the most satisfaction and sense of well-being in the work they do. It makes sense that people are attracted to careers that allow them to make use of their natural type preferences. Though all four letters of your type can affect the kind of career that interests you, the two middle letters (ST, SF, NF, or NT) of your type have a particular importance for your career choice.

Type awareness can also promote better communication between colleagues, an understanding of personality differences, and an appreciation for those differences.

Know Your Work-Self Through Type

Of course, more than just your type preferences need to be considered when choosing a career, such as interests, values, and abilities; type is only one aspect to consider, but it is a great place to start. Knowing who you are, through type, may help you discover the kind of work you want to do or might like to do.

If you are passionate about an occupation, but it doesn't appear to fit with your personality type, don't let it stop you. It may be that you find the area of that occupation that best fits your preferences, or, that you adapt your day or work tasks to find purpose, motivation, and satisfaction in the work you do.

For example, people who prefer Extraversion or Introversion may both enjoy successful careers as workshop facilitators or in sales. However, one who prefers Introversion may need to recharge at the end of the day with some alone time, whereas someone who prefers Extraversion may still want more interaction and thus may choose to join a group for dinner or meet up with friends at the end of the workday.

Keep in mind if you are unhappy in your work life and exhausted at the end of a day, you may not be using your natural strengths (type preferences) predominantly, which means you are likely spending much of your day using your stretches (the opposite preferences) which can lead to burnout and stress. Type awareness can help you to adjust your day, adapt how you approach your tasks, or provide insight into new career pathways.

Value of Type Awareness in Work

People often find difficulty defining what kind of work they want to do or why a given field makes them comfortable or uncomfortable. Personality type is a practical tool for investigating what works for you and informs how you might look for and recognize work that satisfies your preferences.

Knowing your MBTI type may, for example, prove helpful in deciding what specific areas of law, medicine, education, or business to pursue. A person with a preference for Introversion may find he or she is happier doing research, while a person who prefers Extraversion may favor a field with more interaction with people.

Even when circumstances make it necessary for you to do work that you have not chosen or which you must do as part of your overall job description, knowledge and understanding of type can help you discover and use your strengths to accomplish the work.

When you find an unsatisfactory job fit, you can examine the reasons and seek solutions based on your preferences. When you do have an opportunity to take a new path in your work, type can help inform the direction you take.

All Types in All Careers

Certain personality types are attracted to certain careers, but we find all types in all careers! And we need all types in all careers! Your type preferences should not limit your choice in the work you choose to do.

If you find yourself attracted to a career atypical of someone with your type preferences, explore it further to see how your natural strengths could successfully be used in that role. You might bring a different perspective or insight into that position, a viewpoint the organization may be missing.

For example, Barry who prefers INFP (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) works in critical communications (police, fire, EMS) designing proposals and creating/reviewing intricate data spreadsheets. People with his preferences tend to work in fields like human resources, psychology, teaching, or the arts. Yet, Barry really enjoys his work. Is he tired after using the Sensing preference to scour spreadsheets throughout his day?

Of course, but the overarching aim of his work is to focus on possibilities, understand and support the client, and network with people to create the best solutions. Barry values the work done in critical communications and cares deeply for first responders' safety. If motivated, we can do any job. Barry is motivated by his desire to serve others.

His natural talents for creativity, adaptability, interpersonal skills, and gentle persuasion bring calm to an industry that can be stressful, and at times argumentative. Over time he has come to enjoy working on spreadsheets because he knows it supports his overall vision of the gifts he offers to the organization and their customers.

Careers that call on your unique talents are often the most satisfying. There are times, however, where we may be asked to do work that requires us to use our opposite preferences. We can all use our opposite preferences, we just need to remember that it typically requires more focus and support, may be tiring, and we may need frequent breaks to rebalance.

Where to Access Career Reports

Career coaches and counselors who are MBTI certified can assist with all aspects of career exploration, from choosing your first career to career advancement to a career change.

The MBTI Career Report is a valuable resource that is available through an MBTI Certified Practitioner or the Take the MBTI service on peoplestripes.org. If you would rather learn about type and careers on your own, the self-guided MBTIonline Careers service, on The Myers-Briggs Company site, is another option.

The MMTIC® Career Report, available to high school students, is another great resource. The report helps students narrow their career interests, support choice of college majors, and provide activities and information related to a variety of career opportunities, while keeping type, natural strengths, interests, and values in mind. Parents can order the career report through an MMTIC Certified Professional or by purchasing the Take the MMTIC Assessment service at People Stripes.

Type in Professional Roles

Type knowledge not only informs career exploration and choice, but also how you might become more effective in the work you do. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument has been extensively studied in various professions. Many books and articles have been written about the use of type in professional roles such as in healthcare, law, sales, education, engineering, management, and others. For example:

Healthcare. When health care professionals understand personality type, they have a constructive framework for better understanding what both the patient and family members need. With knowledge of the 16 types, health care providers can adjust communication and better explain the appropriate care programs that best suit the patient. Personality type can assist health care professionals in many ways, including learning how to be flexible with patients, understanding their reactions to disease, appreciating how they experience stress, determining patient compliance with protocols, and knowing how best to deliver challenging medical news.

Law. Personality type researchers have conducted multiple studies in the legal profession and with law students. Type awareness can help inform which fields of law may be the most appealing to students starting out. Legal professionals have also used the concept of personality type to better understand different communication styles on jury panels.

Sales. If your work involves selling, knowledge of type can clarify what a client needs from you, especially how they best like to learn about products and services and how they like to interact during the process of gathering information and making decisions.

For additional information and research on how personality type is used in other professions, visit Mary & Isabel's Library Online MILO®.