Shortly after college I was working for an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. For eight hours a day I ran around the sunny beach passing out snorkels, surfboards and sailboats. Needless to say, it was a physically exhausting job. But over those six months, I developed an incredibly strong work ethic.
When it came time for my review, I was heartbroken when my supervisor told me I wasn’t measuring up. Even though I did a good job on the beach, management was disappointed that I was not socializing enough with the guests.
At the time I was devastated and thought something was wrong with me. I wanted so badly to be like some of my bubbly, outgoing coworkers. They mingled with the guests so naturally and seemed to have endless amounts of energy.
Several years later, I got my master’s degree in Counseling and studied personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs-Type Indicator (MBTI). I quickly realized there was nothing wrong with me.
I will never be gregarious. Socializing with large groups of people is not in my comfort zone. And that’s okay. It’s the way I’m wired. I get my energy from thinking more than talking. I prefer the company of a couple close friends to a large crowd.
Have you ever thought about your natural personality preferences and how they affect your job satisfaction?
You’ve got to let go of the pressure to be everything.
For example, if you’re more of an introvert, you might not love attending networking events. In fact, you might loathe them. And that’s okay. Your job might require you to attend events periodically and hone your networking skills. But you don’t need to become a networking superstar.
Public speaking may never feel comfortable for you. Although you can practice and become more skilled at it, you don’t need to reinvent yourself as the next Tony Robbins to succeed at work. You just need to embrace your natural personality.
In the context of the MBTI, individuals either have a natural preference for extroversion or introversion. Extroverts tend to get their energy from the external world. For example, working and sharing information with other people. Introverts tend to get energized by working alone and process information internally.
That said, nobody is entirely introverted or extroverted. It’s not an either/or. We all have times when we need to recharge internally as well as externally.
If you’re more extroverted and you have a job where you are working mostly alone or from home, you might find yourself getting frequently drained. Conversely, if you have a stronger preference for introversion and your job requires you to talk to people a lot, you probably want to keel over from exhaustion at the end of the workday.
Introverts need space and time to recalibrate and recharge their batteries. If you are an introvert in a more extroverted job, make sure you carve breaks into your day where you can sit in a quiet space and read, rest, or work on projects alone.
Are you an extrovert working mostly alone? Make sure to schedule regular Zooms with colleagues and friends. Get out on a walk with a neighbor or family member during your breaks.
It’s important to seek out new opportunities or projects that align with your personality.
If you are more extroverted, ask your supervisor if there are any committees or collaboration-type projects you can join.
In addition to projects, professional clubs and organizations can allow you to hone new skills and build your network. Not only that, joining an affiliation offers countless opportunities to collaborate and socialize.
If you’re more on the introverted side, you can seek out projects which involve more independent work, like writing, designing, or editing.
If you are in the process of changing jobs or career fields taking into account your natural personality preferences is key. There are several things you can do when job searching.
Pay close attention to the job descriptions as you apply for positions. Read carefully through the job functions and look for common themes.
Let’s say you’re a strong introvert. If the majority of positions you’re targeting require you to interact with clients, coworkers or the public for a large part of your day, will you be satisfied long-term? You might be okay for a while, but eventually you risk suffering burnout.
For extroverts, finding a job that gives you the opportunity to collaborate or talk to people for at least some of the day will likely keep your energy tank full.
Informational interviewing can help you determine if a job will be a good fit. Informational interviewing involves having 20-minute conversations with professionals working in jobs or fields of interest.
Talking to people who are doing the work you are interested in allows you to get first-hand knowledge. Ask questions like, “what is a typical day like on the job?” and “what is the office culture like?”
Informational interviewing can also open doors to unadvertised jobs. You can follow up with your contact and if a position opens up, the hiring manager will likely ask for referrals before they will browse a database of resumes.
Ask probing questions in the interview process. For example, ask “what percentage of the time will I be interfacing with clients, customers or coworkers?” If you have a preference for extroversion, you can ask if there are opportunities for collaboration or socializing with teammates and co-workers.
Introverts can ask about areas in the job that involve more independent contribution or working on projects alone, like writing, creating or designing.
If you’re interested in learning more about your personality preferences or taking a formal career test or assessment, there are many options out there. In terms of personality assessments, The MBTI is a great option. There are both paid versions and free versions of the MBTI. Either option will provide you with insight into your natural personality preferences as well as areas for growth.
The MAPP (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) offers a free career assessment which provides information about your career-related motivations, as well as ten corresponding career areas. If you want more in-depth results, you can take the paid version for $89.95.
My Next Move is a quick, free career assessment. You can search the database several ways. If you know the type of career path you’re looking for, you can do a keyword search. In addition, you can search more broadly by industry. For job seekers who are completely unsure about their next move, there is a short interest and skills-based assessment and corresponding list of related careers.
The CliftonStrengths by Gallup (formerly called Clifton StrengthsFinder) helps people uncover their natural talents, as well as learning how to develop those talents into strengths to enhance career fulfillment. This assessment can be particularly useful in terms of giving job seekers language to develop their resumes, as well as skills and strengths to highlight in an interview.
If you decide to take a career assessment, it’s important to keep in mind that the purpose is to learn more about yourself and corresponding career paths that might be a good fit.
Career assessments will not tell you “the answer” or what career option to choose. Ultimately, it’s up to you to research your options, do the work, and choose the best path for yourself and your natural personality type.
Lee Cristina Beaser is a career coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and founder of The Career Counter, where she empowers women to achieve happiness and fulfillment in their careers.
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