If you’re the type of person who always knew what career you wanted to go into, and are astoundingly happy and secure in your career path, then you, my friend, are doing great. If you’re not sure you’ve made the right career choices, or are feeling increasingly restless in your job, then you, my other friend, are in good company. Maybe you picked something that interested you right out of school, but have come to find that you’re no longer so keen on the field. Maybe you picked your job or career because you thought it would be totally different. Whatever the case, you don’t have to make your decisions (stay or go? What do I want to do?) blindly. There are a variety of tools available that measure your strengths and weaknesses such as career aptitude tests.
You’re welcome to find a zen place (beach, shady tree, lonely desert) and think hard about what you want to do with your career. But if you’re like the rest of us, you might need a little additional help to make the best choice. Chances are, you know yourself pretty well—but there are tools that can help you figure out if your personality and approach are a good fit for your career path. And if not, where your strengths might lead you.
Why Personality Matters in Your Career
In the career world, data matters. Your skills matter. Your experience matters. Your references matter. What can get lost in this process sometimes is the real, complete you. Defining your professional qualities and actions on paper is pretty easy (wrangling them into bullet points and concrete examples, slightly less so). What doesn’t necessarily come across in your resume is your personality, the sum total of your experience, outlook on life, sense of humor, values, and priorities. You may have more of a chance to show other sides of yourself in an interview, but it’s still a very limited, controlled environment.
Figuring out your personality and work style is more of a personal thing. The better you know yourself and how you react to situations, the more likely you are to seek out jobs and careers that match up with that. It’s like trying on pants. You can like what you see on the rack, and assume that because they’re your size, they’ll be fine. And maybe they will, but if you don’t try them on first, or you run the risk of being happy with said pants when you get them home. On the other hand, if you know the brand of pants well, like the style, and confirm they’ll look good on you before you buy, then you’ll probably be pretty happy with your pants. Career happiness is probably more important to you long-term than pants happiness, so it makes sense that you’d want to apply at least as much care to your career choices as well.
Personality also matters to your daily work life, even beyond the choice of a job. It’s a major factor in your success and satisfaction on the job. Are you a leader or more of a platoon member? Can you overcome major differences with colleagues or bosses to get things done? Are you a lone wolf that prefers hunkering down and getting things done over working with a team on a project? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you prefer look at the big picture, or are the small details all you can see?
It’s important to understand how you interact at work, and what your comfort zones are. It can be good to push those comfort zones a little for the sake of personal and professional growth, but it’s best to be reasonable about it. If you’re an introvert, a job where you have the spotlight on you just might not be very satisfying in the long term. You can change jobs, but changing your personality is just not very feasible.
For more on personality and your career, check out this video:[via OTM Education]
So how do we figure out this baseline personality, and start making smarter career decisions? To the internet!
How to Figure Out Your Path
The online world isn’t just good for helping you figure out which Game of Thrones character you would be…it also has more serious quizzes that you can use to help you figure out what your own real-life character is (you’ll still have plenty of time later to figure out whether you’re a Lannister or a Stark).
Online quizzes and surveys that go beyond Facebook memes can help you really drill down into your character and personality, and figure out where to go from there.
Let’s look at some of the top personality/career quizzes and assessments.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The MBTI is a general personality assessment that is used broadly by professionals when it comes to evaluating new hires or potential candidates. It assesses personal preferences, like motivation, how you process information, how you view the world, etc. The official test is $49.95, but there are also free versions kicking around as well.
How to apply it to your career: Sites like this one have already done some of the leg work in figuring out what types of jobs match your Myers-Briggs personality type.
Truity builds on the Myers-Briggs type, and offers a TypeFinder assessment that also identifies your personal strengths.
How to apply it to your career: Truity recommends different job types based on your TypeFinder results. The official TypeFinder Personality test costs $29, but smaller subtests (including one to figure out your temperament) are free.
Pymetrics uses games to help gauge your personality, strength, and weaknesses, and match you up with careers and companies looking for your type. It’s not your average personality quiz—the interactive mind games make it feel more like you’re taking a break than taking a test. It’s free to sign up and start playing the games.
How to apply it to your career: The site features a matchmaking-type option that lets you find companies that would fit well with your personality. It’s non-binding, but it can give you more information about the kinds of roles that might suit you.
The Johnson-O’Connor Career Aptitude Test
This one is a bit of a flashback to those aptitude tests you took in high school, which you then had to discuss with your guidance counselor in a meeting about Your Future. It’s a pretty straightforward paper-and-pencil test that you can download and take. Also, this test is hosted on Oprah’s website, and as far as careers go, Ms. Winfrey and her media empire are a pretty solid success story, wouldn’t you say?
How to apply it to your career: The results on each individual test (there are five overall) show your strengths, and recommend general careers based on those strengths.
The MAPP Career Assessment Test
This assessment is free to try, but costs $89.95 to get full results and reports. It’s a 15-minute test where you choose one statement out of sets of three, and is billed by MAPP as the “most comprehensive online career test.”
How to apply it to your career: Upon completion of the test, the site promises to match you to five different careers based on the results. This can help point you in a particular direction (or away from another).
The O*Net Interest Profiler
This one is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, and is more career-interest-oriented than personality-oriented.
How to apply it to your career: Based on your results, you can search the Department of Labor’s database for more information on your recommended career paths. You can also search based on experience, education, etc., meaning you can find jobs that will be a good fit for you based on where you are right now.
What Happens Once You Know Your Personality?
Once you’ve got a better sense of what your personality type is, you can start drilling down into what that means for your actual career. The intersection of personality and career is a pretty hot one right now, and there’s a growing number of resources devoted to matching your job to your personality type. Many of the test sites above have direct resources for searching for jobs that match you (rather than the other way around), but you can also just start looking up categories of jobs.[via Business Insider]
You should also start looking at job descriptions for key words. If your strengths lie in teamwork, look for positions that call for collaboration. If you’re still not sure what kind of job would be best for you, dive into a job search site like Indeed or Monster and start reading through different types of job descriptions, even if you’re not immediately interested in the job itself. Remember: in this exercise, the more information you have, the better.
Personality insight is also helpful for things like networking. Knowing whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert can help you find ways to approach new contacts in a way that suits your style (meet for coffee or email back and forth?).
Also, personality tests aren’t just for people looking to jump ship to another job—knowing your strengths and comfort zones can help you modify your current job to be more comfortable. You can take this info and have a conversation with your boss about how to work more efficiently based on your personality, or how to re-prioritize in order to meet your goals better.
Your long-term career happiness depends on a lot of things (job, salary, benefits, coworkers and bosses), but the most important thing is you. And the more info you have about yourself and your needs, the better prepared you’ll be to meet your goals and be satisfied with your career.