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  Category: Articles » Careers & Jobs » Article

The Hidden Hand of Your Personality

By Atul Mathur

My friend John (not his real name) came to me with a work-related problem that could cost him his job. He worked for a multi-national company, and his job was to carry out quantitative analysis of equities.

His problem: He was prone to committing mistakes in his work. So much so that his boss had already given him an ultimatum to either improve or leave the job in next few months.

As we discussed about his background, he casually mentioned that he had once taken a personality test and he remembered he was INTJ. The moment he uttered those four letters, I realized how the hidden hand of his personality was causing John all the trouble at the work.

Personality is one of those vague things that we all realize we have but find it difficult to understand, especially its implications on our career.

Let's look at what personality means, how you can find yours, what is the relationship between personality and occupation, and finally, what can you do once you know your own personality.

Four Dimensions of Personality
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, originally came up with a theory to describe personality. He called it Personality Type. Later, Personality Type was adopted, modified and applied in the real world by an American woman Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.

According to the Personality Type, there are four dimensions of a person's personality:

1. Extraversion-Introversion (E-I): This dimension determines where you like to focus your attention. From where do you get energy?

Some people have an outward orientation (E type). They show a spark or higher energy level when they meet others. They are good at connecting with people. Others, however, are inward looking (I type). These guys are happy to be left alone and often find it awkward to deal with strangers. They like to reflect and think deeply before taking action.

2. Sensing-Intuition (S-N): How do you prefer to get information?

There are people who are good at using their five senses to gather information (S type). They find it easy to handle facts and figures, and are generally practical. They show patience with routine details and are good at precise work.

Some people, however, get information through intuition or what we call sixth sense (N type). They can see interconnections in seemingly unrelated situations. They dislike routine details and are prone to making errors of fact. They like to imagine.

3. Thinking-Feeling (T-F): This dimension reveals how a person prefers to make decisions.

Some people like to think and logically arrive at decisions (T type). For them, reasoning is more important than feelings. They are generally seen as cold and calculative. These people may often hurt others' feelings. They don't mind firing and reprimanding people.

Some people, however, base decisions on their feelings (F type). They are perceived to be warm and friendly. They like to please others. They are perceived to be sympathetic.

4. Judging-Perceiving (J-P): This dimension measures how a person prefers to deal with the outer world.

Some people are systematic and like to plan, set goals and work in an organized manner (J type). They don't like pending work; they like to finish it before going for a breather.
Some people, however, are "messy" (P type). These people are spontaneous, flexible and take the life as it comes. They would often start a new project only to get bored with it after some time.

Each of the four dimensions has two preferences. We have a natural inclination to use one of the two preferences more than the other. Knowing your personality means knowing your preferences on each of the four dimensions.

Combinations of the above preferences result in 16 distinct personality types as below:





E: Extraversion / I: Introversion
S: Sensing / N: Intuition
T: Thinking / F: Feeling
J: Judging / P: Perceiving

Experts say that everyone conforms to one of the 16 personality types.

What's Your Personality Type?
There are two ways to know your personality type:

a. Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) test, which is one of the most widely used tests for assessing personality type. There are several organizations offering MBTI® test for a fee. You can get more information on this test from CPP, Inc.'s Web site: This is the most accurate way of knowing your personality type.

b. Assess yourself through online tests (mostly clones of the MBTI®). Some of these tests are free. For example, you can get yourself tested (for free) at:

In addition, there are plenty of commercial Web sites offering online personality tests.

Personality and Occupation
Studies show a clear correlation between people's personalities and their occupations. For example, one study showed that people doing well in creative occupations like architects, writers, research scientists, etc. were mostly intuitive (I) type of people.

Findings from another study showed:
- Majority of the accounts were ST (sensing-thinking) type.
- Majority of customer service/relations professionals were SF (sensing-feeling) type.
- Majority of creative writers were NF (intuitive-feeling) type.
- Majority of research scientists were NT (intuitive-thinking).

Studies also show that when people enter into occupations that do not match with their personality, they struggle and eventually leave them.

So, What Should You Do?
For the sake of your own career, you can do the following:

a. Find out your personality type and study closely the characteristics of your type.
b. Embrace work/situations that match with your personality type.
c. Avoid, if possible, work/situations that do not match with your personality type.

The bottom line: The hidden hand of your personality is playing its game behind the scene. The question is whether you can make it play to your advantage and success.

Copyright © 2006 by Atul Mathur
About the Author
Atul Mathur is the author of three ebooks: 5 Quick Steps to a New Job, The Best Career Move: Know Yourself and The Secret of Finding the Right Career Direction. He also writes Career Tips, a free monthly newsletter dedicated to career development.
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