The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was invented during World War II to help women find a job that suited their personalities and individual strengths.
It's still used as a career matching tool today. It's controversial – aside from concerns that the entire concept is flawed, there are criticisms of the way it's typically scored and interpreted.
However, it is a tool that can help you consider your strengths and weaknesses and pin down what kind of work will make you happy – or unhappy. Let's take a look at what you can learn from Myers-Briggs about the best career choice for your personality.
Myers-Briggs' Defining Traits
The Myers-Briggs personality types are based on four different binary preferences that, in various combinations, make up 16 different personality types.
Attitudes/Orientations: Your Ideal Work Environment
The first and last letters of your type describe how you interact with the world. In terms of the best job for your personality, your orientations indicate the kind of work environment where you'll be comfortable.
Extraversion (E) vs Introversion (I)
The first letter of your type indicates where you direct your energy and what you are energized by.
Extraverts (E) thrive in fast-paced and social environments. They're energized by being around other people, love attention, and prefer to think out loud or brainstorm in groups.
Introverts (I) thrive in slower-paced environments that give them time to think. They're more comfortable behind the scenes than in the spotlight. They prefer to work quietly and alone.
Perceiving (P) vs Judging (J)
The last letter of your type has to do with the degree of certainty or flexibility you need in your work.
Perceiving (P) individuals (perhaps better described as adaptable) enjoy the process of work and are comfortable without definitive answers. They're at their best with flexibility and improvisation. They'd rather keep their options open and take things as they come.
Judging (J) individuals (perhaps better described as structured) enjoy certainty and closure. They're decisive planners who need rules and deadlines. They thrive with detailed, step-by-step instructions.
Mental Functions: Your Ideal Type of Work
The middle letters of your type describe how you tend to process information.
Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)
The second letter of your type describes how you gather or take in information.
Sensing (S) individuals (perhaps better described as observant thinkers) tend to focus on details and current realities. They're more comfortable with practical ideas that have concrete applications. They work best in careers that let them focus on how things are.
Intuitive (N) individuals (perhaps better described as insightful thinkers) tend to pay more attention to meanings, patterns, and future possibilities. They like entertaining ideas for their own sake and imagining how things could be. They excel at seeing the big picture and making connections. They work best in careers that let them innovate, analyze and improve, or work theoretically.
Feeling (F) vs Thinking (T)
The third letter describes how you organize information and make decisions.
Thinking (T) individuals (perhaps better described as logical decision-makers) make conclusions based on objective facts. They prefer to find a basic truth or principle that can be applied consistently to every situation. They prefer technical or scientific fields and sometimes miss the "people" part of the equation. They can be viewed as logical and rational, or as task-oriented and indifferent.
Feeling (F) individuals (perhaps better described as empathetic decision-makers) make conclusions based on the consequences for everyone involved. They're communicative and concerned about the feelings of others. They put more weight on people's points of view than the objective facts. They can be viewed as warm, empathetic, and tactful, or as idealistic, mushy, or indirect.
Common Personality Types
Some combinations of the Myers-Briggs binaries are more likely than others.
According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation, observant, detail-oriented tendencies are far more common in the U.S. population (73% Sensing) than insightful, big-picture tendencies (27% Intuitive). Empathetic decision-making is a little more common (60% Feeling) than logical decision-making (40% Thinking).
As a result, the lion's share of the population has fact-oriented but empathetic tendencies, followed by fact-oriented and logical ones.
Introverted individuals are a bit more likely to prefer a structured environment than a flexible one (29% Introverted-Judging; 21.9% Introverted-Perceiving). Extraverts, on the other hand, are evenly split between their preference for structure or adaptability.
As a whole, the most common personality types are ISFJ, ESFJ, and ISTJ, each of which makes up more than 10% of the population. The least common personality types each comprise 2.1% or less – INTJ, ENTJ, INFJ.
How to Choose the Best Job for You Based on Personality Traits
A lot of online quizzes, articles, and books make it easy to match your personality type to the perfect career, but it's actually more nuanced than that.
Here's the catch: no individual is 100% aligned with each of their preferences. According to the Meyers & Briggs Foundation, some preferences have more influence on you than others.
It's most important for your work to align with your most dominant preferences. If your work doesn't allow you to rely on your strengths, you'll feel stressed and frustrated because it takes you out of your comfort zone.
On the other hand, a "weak" or leaning preference can make you uniquely suited for work that requires you to use both ways of thinking.
All this means that two people with the exact same four-letter type may need to consider slightly different things.
Here's how to decode your results:
- Look at the percentages on your Myers-Briggs results. These indicate the strength of each trait.
- Which percentages are high, indicating a strong preference? These should be considered needs for your career. Put them on a must-have list.
- Which percentages are near the middle, indicating a "weak" preference? These are areas where you are flexible – note those separately. You can be happy committing to either style or using a mix of both.
- As you explore career options, research the environment and the day-to-day tasks. If you can, talk to people who do the job.
- Toss out jobs that mismatch with your dominant preferences. If the field itself interests you, look for related roles that are better suited to your needs and strengths.
Personality Characteristics of a Healthcare Professional
Healthcare is a great example of a field with nuanced and varying roles.
A lot of personality-based career guides recommend healthcare for specific personality types, but healthcare has room for diverse skills and strengths. Many different personality types can be drawn to the healthcare field and find the perfect role.
ESFP (or ESFJ, ESTP, ESTJ) as Frontline Healthcare Workers
Healthcare roles with high patient contact like nurses, Clinical Medical Assistants, Dental Assistants, and Physical Therapy Aids absolutely need a dominant focus on the here and now (S). It would be hard for a frontline worker to do their job well if they were focused on theoretical ideas and the big picture since their responsibilities lie with the health of individual patients.
They also need to at least lean towards extraversion (E). People with a strong E preference will feel energized by the bustling and social nature of the work. Introverts might struggle unless their workplace is small and not very busy.
Frontline patient care calls for a balance of thinking (T) and feeling (F) traits. They also need a mix of adherence to rules and procedures (J) and the flexibility to take things as they come (P). Weak preferences on the T/F and J/P axes would be an asset!
ESTP (or ISTP, ESTJ, ISTJ) in Healthcare Service Roles
Customer service-type roles in healthcare – like Pharmacy Technician and Medical Billing – call for a strong affinity for facts and details (S). Since decisions must be based on facts and policies, they also need a strong preference for adherence to rules (T).
Extraversion (E) may be helpful, but a weak preference is probably best since these jobs are not the most gregarious and involve a balance of interactive and solo work.
A weak Perceiving/Judging score is probably best. You'll need to juggle customers and shifting priorities, but also follow careful procedures as you dispense drugs or navigate the invoicing process. You'll need a mix of abilities.
ISTJ (or INTJ) in Medical Records
Roles like Medical Coder largely involve quiet, individual work environments, so a strong Introversion (I) preference is best. Some jobs let you combine billing and coding, which would be a better choice for more extroverted people.
A preference for logical decision-making (T) suits the heavily rule-based nature of medical coding work. Similarly, the work's highly structured nature calls for a high preference for Judging (J).
Coding work is an interesting mix of balancing the big picture and the details. Observant, detail-oriented tendencies (S) are probably best for actual coding work, but coders with a strong ability to recognize patterns (N) may be perfect for career advancement to Medical Auditing.
ENFP as Medical Administrative Assistants
Being a Medical Administrative Assistant – working at "the front desk" – requires love for busy, high-contact environments (E). You also need to take things as they come and stay flexible in the chaos (P). Anyone who needs structure might find this job too stressful.
The other traits require balance. You need to see the patterns that make up the big picture (N) while also keeping track of the details (S). You need to make decisions based on consequences for people (F) while also following policies and logic (T). A weak preference for N and F will probably serve you best.
ISTJ in Medical Lab Work
In a field that's often people-oriented and chaotic, you might think that roles for fussy Type A personalities are slim. However, lab technician roles that operate entirely behind the scenes may be the perfect fit for you.
Some medical technicians have a higher degree of patient interaction. Depending on the strength of your Introversion and Thinking preferences, you might want to keep this in mind when reviewing individual job listings.
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