Have you seen those posts floating around about “Discover your dream career with your MBTI type!”?
I’ve seen LOTS of them over the years, and now that I’ve just spent the whole last month writing about The Personalities (click HERE to check out post #1 in that series), I’m seeing even more MBTI posts popping up on my social media and Pinterest feeds, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the MBTI. As a Career Counselor, I LOVED walking individual students or entire classes through their inventories and helping them discover what those results meant for them. It’s a great tool.
In the right context.
I’ll explain more about that “right context” in a minute. First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what MBTI types are. Here is a quick run-through of what the eight MBTI function (letter) dichotomies mean:
Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
This one has to do with how we focus our energy. Extroverts focus their energy outward, toward other people. They love interaction and use social situations to recharge.
Introverts, however, focus their energy inward. They prefer to spend their time thinking, reflecting, and absorbing. They use those activities to recharge, as well.
Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
This dichotomy has to do with how we take in information. Individuals who prefer Sensing take in information through their five senses. If they can see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, or hear it, it’s real and valid information. They prefer reality to fantasy and details to the big picture.
Those with a preference for Intuition LOVE the big picture. Abstract thinking is their specialty, and they thrive anywhere they can focus on the possibilities instead of reality.
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
Thinking and Feeling both reflect how we make decisions. Thinkers come to a decision after deliberating the facts of the situation. Their personal feelings are not as important as being impartial and objective. Being “fair” is treating everyone equally. Exemptions and exceptions to the rules are VERY hard for Thinkers to swallow.
Feelers make their determinations based on their personal values and the values of those who will be impacted by their decision. Subjectivity is the only decision process that makes sense to them. Objectivity feels cold and uncaring. Being “fair” for Feelers just means their responses are appropriate for each individual, not necessarily all being treated equally.
Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
This pair covers how we prefer to deal with the outside world, specifically with regards to finalizing our decisions and managing our time. Persons who prefer Judging like to make decisions as quickly as possible with the facts they have on hand. Timeliness is key, and time management is one of their main strengths.
Individuals who prefer Perceiving despise making decisions because there is always more information out there to consider. They prefer to leave their options open and not get stuck in a plan that might change down the road. They will take their time with decisions and generally won’t make a decision until forced to do so.
So, there’s your overview of the 8 MBTI functions. Now, what did I mean when I said the MBTI is great in the right context?
How NOT to Use Your MBTI Type
As you can see from the explanation above, the MBTI is a great source of information on how you as an individual think and process information. Did you notice ANYTHING about what career field you should enter from those descriptions? ?
Here is where we Career Counselors can get off track. Because there has been SO MUCH study about the MBTI types and how they function in the world, it is only natural that there would also be LOST of research into which career fields different MBTI types gravitate toward. There is a TON of information out there about lifework and type, so we have a pretty good idea of which career fields tend to have large populations of certain types.
From all this awesome information, researchers have put together HUGE lists of what types SHOULD go into which fields.
No. Just NO. There is no SHOULD when discussing type and career choice. Just TENDENCIES and large congregations of type within industries. No SHOULD. Ever. (Can you tell this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine??)
A Better Framework
Here’s how I explained the inventory report’s “career lists” to my students:
You’re about to see a list of fields where your particular MBTI type tends to do well. People who think and make decisions like you TEND to function well in jobs where they can think and act naturally, without having to get out of their comfort zone too much.
However, the MBTI doesn’t account for your interests, skills, or abilities. If something on this list sounds INCREDIBLY boring to you, skip it. Don’t even worry about it. Just because others with your type find a good fit as an engineer, doesn’t mean YOU have to.
Then, I typically would tell students a bit about my personal journey with the MBTI to give them an idea of what NOT to do with their reports.
My MBTI Journey
When I first took the MBTI in college, my career counselor handed me the career report page and said, “According to this, you should be a nun.”
After popping my eyeballs back in my head, I said, “Screw you,” and I left. Not a great first experience with the MBTI. ? (And obviously, I did NOT become a nun, and turned out just fine.)
What I’ve learned over the years is that my MBTI type informs me about ME. Taking the MBTI as part of a group tells me about how the group will function as a whole and where we may run into communication or behavioral issues. There is MUCH information to be gained from this inventory when we use it properly.
One year during our mid-year retreat, our group of Resident Directors took the MBTI individually and got a group report. It turned out I was the ONLY person on our staff who preferred Judging.
The ONLY one. No wonder I was forever frustrated with my coworkers who couldn’t seem to make a decision to save their lives!
What We Learned
Once we were able to name the elephant in the room, I was able to extend more grace to my colleagues and help them more with deadlines and planning. The rest of the RDs were also able to cut me some slack when I got too pushy and appreciate that there was SOMEONE in the group who would keep them on task and make sure we accomplished something.
Now, was working in Student Life an incredibly natural fit for me? No, not by a long shot. I had to do a LOT of growing and learning to make it work for me and really find my place in that world.
But did working in Student Life match my passions, skills, and abilities? YES! It was the BEST place for me to be at that point in my life, and it allowed me to use my gifts to their fullest potential. And the very ENFP-heavy Student Life field needed ISTJ-me to help provide balance in our little world.
The Moral of the Story
No matter what your MBTI type may be, it does NOT have to determine what career field you enter or enjoy. EVERY type is needed in EVERY field.
Just like we talked about in the post about using The Personalities with your kids, we need ALL parts of the body. If we were all servant-hearted ESFPs, we’d have one GIGANTIC hand, not a body. If we were all intellectually-driven INTPs, we would spend a lot of time thinking and research the facts, but never considering how those facts impact the people we love. We need ALL TYPES!
Here’s the moral of the story: Do not take your MBTI report as the gospel truth of what you should do with your life. Take the MBTI information and balance it with other profiles about interests and a thorough examination of your skills.
My current MBTI profile says I should be an accountant. ME. The one who can’t balance a checkbook to save her life and is always one PENNY off! NO ONE is going to want ME doing their taxes! Math is NOT one of my strong suits.
I’m SO glad I chose a field based on ALL factors, and not just my MBTI type. ?
How about you?
Have you taken the MBTI? What was your experience like? Do you currently work in a field that is a “natural fit” for your type? Or do you willingly struggle with the culture, knowing it’s a best-fit for your other passions and abilities? Please comment below and tell me about your MBTI-work fit!
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.