Using creative solutions to link personality type to career choice

Who we are, how we tick and what we prefer to do has been an essential factor in deciding career options for as long as there have been careers to decide upon. Research relating personality type to careers is ongoing and producing fascinating results. However, the question still remains as to how we can best use this information with clients to put across a complex message in a simple way.

Having worked with the Myers-Briggs framework for understanding personality for over a decade I am convinced of the value this knowledge brings in so many areas of life, no more so than in exploring career direction. In order to serve our clients well we need to have multiple tools available to us along with the ability to use the appropriate tool for the task at hand. Becoming familiar with a valid and reliable model for helping clients assess their own unique preferences is rewarding for you as a practitioner and empowering, and frequently life-changing, for your clients.

Using language and image is a winning combination when it comes to learning. Getting our language right is essential so that we can be clear and engaging. Using graphics and mental images adds to this and sparks a new level of motivation to learn.

Many of you who use The Personality Puzzle will be familiar with the images below. They represent the eight functions as described by Myers-Briggs® and follow from the work of Carl Jung.

Carl Jung


E – Extraversion

Representing an outward focus on the world. Receiving energy from people, things and activities that are external from ourselves.

I – Introversion

Representing an inward focus. Receiving energy from our inner world of ideas and experiences, memories and feelings.

S – Sensing

Representing the preference to observe the detail of what is real and tangible.

N – Intuition

Representing the preference to see beyond what is real, have new ideas, ‘light bulb moments’.

T – Thinking

Representing the preference to weigh up the pros and cons, seek balanced judgement through analysis and logic.

F – Feeling

Representing the preference to make value-based judgements, using feelings and creating

harmony and goodwill.

J – Judging (or ‘Just settle it’ as I prefer to call it)

Representing the preference to seek closure, have things settled and get things done.

P – Perceiving (or ‘Play it by ear’ as I prefer to call it)

Representing the preference to keep options open, make changes and adapt.

The combination of these preferences form a whole type description which is remarkably accurate.

The outer two letters of the type code E/I and J/P are what can frequently (but not always!) be seen on the outside of a person. The middle two letters represent what is going on inside our heads. Research tells us that the combination of the middle two letters of the type code has the greatest influence on career direction. The symbols for these combinations are also below. What they depict is how the brain works and the influence that has on motivations and actions, they do NOT depict graphic representations of the work people with these preferences will suit.

ST – The Filing Cabinet

Gathers information that is considered relevant (not just data, but all sorts of details) and stores it in a logical way for retrieval when the need arises.

SF – The First Aid Kit

Has a drive to serve in a practical way to help others.

NT – The 3D Diagram of a Molecule

Twist and turns to question and look at problems from many perspectives.

NF – The Ocean

Moves and changes fluidly seeking a means to help everyone reach their potential and make a difference in the world.


Personality Types

My experience is that describing cognitive processes using these descriptions is very helpful, particularly when a client is pondering one of their preference choices as this can frequently lead to an important insight. In fact, I rarely show the actual graphics but explain the options and leave their imaginations to produce their own images, thoughts and ideas. Many great conversations emerge which lead to those ‘aha’ moments which are so rewarding.

For more information on the research which links personality type and careers please read the paper on the CDANZ web site.

Sue Blair is the director of Personality Dynamics Ltd in Auckland NZ and author of The Personality Puzzles, card sort resources and trainer for ‘Solving the Personality Puzzle’, one day courses for careers advisers.