Prior to entering the workforce, you may have taken a personality test (or two!) in a high school or college careers course. Chances are, the four letters can seem a bit jargon-y and perplexing at first. ENFP… ISTJ… ESFJ… what’s going on here?
The four letters represent four separate dimensions of your personality traits, as part of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). It currently stands as one of the most widely-used assessments in the workplace – from talent searches, to hiring to employee onboarding — with over 88% of the Fortune 500 using it. The four-letter type codes are not just used by the MBTI® but also other recent personality typing models have also adopted the 16 personality types and naming convention too.
Now you may be wondering, “How can the 16-personality model guide my career direction?”
…in (many!) more ways than one. Through an understanding of your personal strengths and preferences, you can confidently make strides to an enjoyable and rewarding career path.
Let’s take a closer look at how your personality type can be an extremely helpful tool in figuring out a rewarding career:
What is the 16-Personality Model, Exactly?
The 16-personality model was originally proposed by psychiatrist Carl Jung, and then popularized by the mother-daughter duo Katherine Myers and Isabel Briggs. They originally intended their model strictly for career purposes, as opposed to any formal psychiatric diagnosis.
To quote daughter co-developer of the MBTI®, Isabel Briggs:
By developing individual strengths, guarding against weaknesses, and appreciating the strengths of other types, life will be more amusing, more interesting, and more of a daily adventure than it could possibly be if everyone were alike.”
– Gifts Differing, 1990
Many other similar systems and models have since been devised, such as the four temperaments and colors. One of the most archaic versions of the personality model is known as the four pseudoscience temperaments (and humors) by Hippocrates. They are Sanguine (blood), Choleric (yellow bile), Melancholic (black bile), and Phlegmatic (phlegm).
Other common personality tests include the Clifton StrengthsFinder (with 34 themes), the latest Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (i.e. Artisan – SP, Guardian – SJ, Rational – NT, Idealist – NF), and the Big Five or revised NEO (i.e. Openness (O), Conscientiousness (C), Extraversion (E), Agreeableness (A), Neuroticism (N)).
Now, moving back to the 16-personality model, there are four (4) distinct dichotomies proposed by Briggs and Myers:
- Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) – Intuition (I)
- Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)
This translates to sixteen (16) distinct personality types (with nicknames) in total:
- ESTJ (The Executive)
- ESTP (The Entrepreneur)
- ESFJ (The Consul)
- ESFP (The Entertainer)
- ENTJ (The Commander)
- ENTP (The Debater)
- ENFJ (The Protagonist)
- ENFP (The Campaigner)
- ISTJ (The Logistician)
- ISTP (The Virtuoso)
- ISFJ (The Defender)
- ISFP (The Adventurer)
- INTJ (The Architect)
- INTP (The Thinker)
- INFJ (The Advocate)
- INFP (The Mediator)
The 16-Personality Dimensions: What It Means for Your Decisions in the Career Sphere
Before abandoning caffeine-fueled morning lectures, to shift gears and make a leap into the professional world, students have many important decisions to consider:
- Workplace structures (tall versus flat)
- Personal values
- Colleagues’ personalities; and
- Styles of work itself (classic office versus remote)
For example, people who have a stronger Thinking preference tend to perform best in careers with logical analysis. Think: programming, accounting, or law.
People who score higher on the Feeling preference, on the other hand, flourish in work with an emotional component. For example, nursing, public relations (PR), or human resources (HR).
The Sensing–Intuition difference also plays a significant role in career choice. Intuitives tend to prefer working with ideas rather than facts; Sensors work best with clear-cut rules over creative ambiguity.
Extraverts gain energy by socializing with people, whereas introverts recharge their batteries by being alone. Naturally, you’d find extraverts in positions with plenty of interaction, such as journalism or sales. Behind-the-scenes work, such as programming or editing, are best suited for introverts.
Finally, Judgers prefer and find comfort in a daily routine and may choose to stick with the traditional 9–5; Perceivers enjoy flexibility and can be excellent freelancers or remote workers and business owners.
Wrapping Up: How to Put Your Personality Type Into Action!
Now that you’re more familiar with the meaning behind your best-fit personality type, your next steps are to:
- Scour through the internet and make a master list of all the careers you find intriguing. (Yes, even the one with uber-strange spelling.)
- List your strongest subjects and interpersonal skills—and carefully compare them with each option.
- Narrow down your career choices to the top 3 to 5 options.
- Reach out to professionals in your field(s) of interest, be courteous, and ask away!
- Rinse and repeat. You’re one step closer to figuring out your career sweet spot—thorough self-understanding is the key to success.
A bit of advice: Personality typing is simply another useful tool for your personal development toolbox, and shouldn’t be taken as medical or psychiatric advice. Talk to a professional if you’re experiencing any imminent, time-sensitive concerns.
Summary: How the 16-Personality Model Can Help With Your Career Direction
To briefly recap the personality factors covered which intertwine with career direction:
- Workplace preferences (traditional hours, remote work, freelancing)
- Personal values (meaning, promotional space, convenience)
- Various components of effective teams and workspaces
- First-hand experiences from professionals of the same personality type
- Comprehensive career guides for your personality type right here on The Career Project.
How has the 16-personality assessment helped you in your career journey? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!
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Myers, I. B., & Myers, P. B. (1990). Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
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