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How personality shapes a career

There are two kinds of self-knowledge that are important in finding the right career path: Assessing your interests, skills, and abilities and understanding how your personality has impact on the way your career evolves.

Women with different career personalities

Take a look at the nursing career of my friend Kay. Shortly after she moved to town she accepted a part-time job as a cancer care coordinator at a local hospital. She had wanted a full-time position but accepted the offer because it fit her nursing specialty, but also because it got “a foot in the door” at a place she wanted to work.

Kay ultimately became an indispensable resource for cancer patients and their families. Demand for the center’s services increased and the hospital turned the part-time job into a full-time job. Later, when the opportunity for a promotion came up, Kay decided to apply for the job and got it. She worked her way up the ladder and is now a senior VP for nursing administration.

ENTJ Personality

Kay went into nursing for all the right reasons but the make-up of her personality has had a great deal to do with her success. Her personality type, as measured on the Myers-Briggs Type-Indicator (MBTI) assessment, is ENTJ: Extraversion (E), Intuition (N), Thinking (T) and Judging (J). ENTJ’s typically have a strong vision for the future and are frequently found in leadership positions. Kay didn’t know her personality type when she started her career but her success reflects her natural gifts.

To briefly elaborate on Kay’s personality preferences, she is energized by being around people and is an excellent communicator (E). She is forward-thinking and has the vision to see how a job today can be turned into something bigger for tomorrow (N). Problem-solving is what she thrives on, whether it involves people or logistics (T). Going about things in an orderly fashion is key and she always seems to have a handle on what’s next “on the list” to get done (J).

ISFP Personality

A person with opposite preferences to Kay would be an ISFP. My friend Alice, also a cancer care nurse, is an ISFP and she too enjoys a very fulfilling career.

Alice likes a lot of flexibility in her life. She is a free spirit and before she got married spent several years working for a nursing agency where she took temporary assignments around the country. As an Introvert (I), she likes her quiet time and if combined with her favorite sport of kayaking, all the better. As a Sensing (S) type, she enjoys “doing” and relishes the colors, sights and sounds of nature.

Today, Alice is a hospice nurse and she loves her work. She has tremendous compassion and empathy as a Feeling (F) decision-maker. She takes her personal values and the values of others into account before she makes a decision. Her orientation to life as someone with a Perceiving (P) preference fosters her ability to adapt to the natural phases of life – from birth to death. Although she is very sad when she loses a patient, she feels there is no better way to show love and caring than in such great times of need.

These two women both love their work. They started with the same credentials but their personalities have shaped the direction their individual careers.

Personality assessment

The best and easiest way to learn about your personality type is to take the MBTI assessment, if you haven’t already done so. Personality quizzes abound on the Internet but the Indicator is a scientifically reliable and valid assessment that has been around for decades.

Learn more about the work of the non-profit Center for Applications of Psychological Type, co-founded by Isabel Myers, author of the MBTI assessment.


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