Simple. Your job may just be a terrible misfit for your personality type. When looking at job satisfaction, the common factors we’ve been taught to value in our career—salary, benefits, stability—become relatively unimportant compared to the fundamental fit between our personality type and our work.
Doing work that satisfies your basic needs and desires can be inspiring and motivating! Unfortunately, doing work that runs contrary to your basic personality style can cause stress, dissatisfaction, and burnout.
To help you evaluate whether your personality type may be a poor fit for your job, I’ve collected some common complaints I hear from dissatisfied professionals in my career consulting practice. In order to understand my clients’ needs, desires, and motivations, I work with the system of personality typing. This is a system based on four basic personality dimensions, which describe how you think and approach the world around you.
The first personality dimension, Extroversion/Introversion, describes where you focus your attention and get your energy. Extroverts are externally focused, and get energy from interacting with others. Introverts are internally focused, and get their energy from solitary thought, quiet activity, and reflection. A poor match in this area may cause you to feel drained after a day at work, and often results in complaints like:
I’m stuck alone in my office, and feel isolated and unstimulated.
Extroverts are energized, stimulated, and motivated by other people. They like working on teams, meeting with others, and bouncing ideas off their colleagues. They tend to enjoy giving presentations, expressing their ideas, and interacting with lots of other people during the day. Extroverts who must spend long periods working alone tend to feel bored and unmotivated. Because Extroverts tend to do their best work with other people, independent projects can be frustrating and dull for them, and they may get stymied if they’re not allowed to collaborate.
I’m constantly put on the spot to speak, and I can’t get a moment’s peace.
Introverts, on the other hand, are most focused and productive when they have a quiet workplace where they can isolate themselves from others to concentrate. Introverts tend to prefer working on a project independently rather than on a team, and usually dislike having to present information to others, especially if they’re not given adequate time to prepare. Introverts usually feel drained by their work when it requires lots of interaction with many people during the day, constant meetings, or working in a noisy or busy environment.
The second dimension, Sensing/Intuition, describes how you gather and process information. Sensors tend to be concrete, detail-oriented, and firmly rooted in reality. Intuitives tend to be abstract and oriented to connections, possibilities, and meaning. Your preference on this scale determines to a great extent what kind of work you will enjoy, and what sort of work will drive you crazy:
I have to constantly learn new things on the job, and I never get a chance to really master a skill. -OR- I don’t know what I’m working for, since I can’t see tangible results for my efforts.
Sensors prefer to use trusted skills on the job. They prefer work that they can learn to do well, and like to repeatedly use skills that they feel they’ve mastered. A job with constantly changing requirements or responsibilities, or one where they must constantly acquire new knowledge or skills, is often stressful to Sensors. Sensors also prefer work where their efforts result in tangible or observable results—a newly built house, a healed patient, an organized file. Work where they’re forced to spend too much time in the realm of ideas and possibilities, without seeing a real result, feels pointless and ungratifying to Sensors.
I spend my time endlessly repeating the same tedious, mundane tasks—I never get to learn new things!
In contrast, Intuitive types prefer work where they can constantly pursue new information and skills, and are often bored by a task once they’ve mastered it. Doing the same thing over and over is deadly for Intuitives, and they will often try to cope with repetitive tasks by inventing new ways to complete them. Intuitives become particularly stressed in jobs where they have little opportunity for creativity or innovation. Intuitives can be described as designers, rather than builders, because they often enoy coming up with an idea but have no interest in personally putting it together. Because Intuitives tend to think of things in a global way, work that requires close attention to detail is irritating to them. They prefer to focus on the concepts, meanings, and possibilities, rather than the mundane details.
The next dimension, Thinking/Feeling, describes how you prioritize values like cooperation and compassion. Thinkers value objective logic and reason over subjective personal concerns. Feelers value relationships, harmony, and altruism. Thinkers and Feelers tend to choose very different occupations, and when in the wrong occupation become frustrated in some common ways:
Coworkers bring their personal problems to work, and I have to consider people’s emotions even when they’re not being logical.
Thinkers like a work environment where decisions are made logically, consequences are reasoned out, and objective analysis rules. They also prefer to work with colleagues who they view as reasonable, intelligent, and competent. Thinkers will become frustrated if they are pressured to comply with decisions or plans that don’t make sense to them in the interest of preventing hurt feelings or avoiding conflict. Powerful office politics, needy coworkers, and an over-emphasis on satisfying everyone are all very frustrating for Thinkers.
My work is all about the bottom line, and I am forced to ignore my personal values.
Feelers, on the other hand, prefer work that aligns with their values. More likely to choose work in education, counseling, and health care, Feelers need to believe in the positive impact of their work in order to feel satisfied with what they’re doing. Business environments where the focus is strictly on the bottom line are unmotivating to Feeling types. Feelers also value a friendly, caring workplace and often dread working with colleagues who are critical, contentious, or unsupportive. Typically motivated to achieve consensus and harmony, Feelers may burn out trying to please others who are not similarly accomodating.
The final dimension, Judging/Perceiving, refers to how you prefer to organize your life and has a fundamental impact on the type of work environment that fits you best. Judgers prefer an organized and structured way of life, whereas Perceivers prefer to keep things spontaneous and open-ended. A poor fit in this area can lead to complaints like:
This place is totally disorganized—I never know what the plan is, and nobody seems to be in charge.
Judgers like a workplace where the expectations and hierarchy are clear. They prefer to know how and when things will be done, and what the procedures are for doing them. For this reason, they often adapt well to working for large, established companies or government organizations. They will become stressed if they are in a work environment where it is unclear who is in charge, how responsibilities are distributed, and how their performance will be evaluated. Judgers also like to plan projects in detail and do things in an orderly and methodical way, and dislike surprises and interruptions. If surprises and changes are constantly derailing their neatly ordered plans, they will quickly become frustrated.
I’m constantly tied up in bureaucracy, red tape, and hierarchy. I have no freedom to do things as I see fit.
Perceivers, in contrast, prefer an open-ended, casual, and unstructured workplace. They prefer to pick up projects as inspiration strikes them, and often work in a pressure-prompted fashion to complete things at the last minute. Having to plan or schedule their work in detail, particularly over the long term, is constraining to Perceivers. Perceivers also like to be free to invent new solutions and respond to changing circumstances, and feel stifled by standard procedures, rules, and bureaucracy. Most comfortable with uncertainty and flexibility, Perceivers feel limited by a workplace that imposes too much structure.
If you recognized yourself in these descriptions, your first step to positive change is to take the TypeFinder® assessment to accurately determine your personality type. Although it may seem daunting to start thinking about a career change, rest assured. There is a job out there that you’ll be excited to go to every day, and becoming aware of your own personality is the first step in discovering it.