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The following is an excerpt from the Career Development Handbook.

Personality is another wide-ranging concept, but one that certainly plays a role in career development and job satisfaction. It may be useful to think about two categories when reflecting upon your personality:

  • Qualities & Traits
  • Preferences

Qualities and traits are the words that others would use to describe you, or that you would cite in an interview, cover letter, or other opportunity to express what you bring to the table. A few terms or images probably came to mind as soon as “your personality” was mentioned as a topic. These are things that make you who you are, and can help you find your best-fit organization or role. As stated above, some personality traits may seem to overlap with skills, but brainstorming any and all words that come to mind can be helpful in your career development process. Think about adjectives instead of verbs. It may be helpful to ask others who know you in a variety of contexts (ex: friends, family, professors, coworkers, supervisors) to help you recognize elements of your personality and trends/patterns of behavior. For example, would you use any of these words to describe yourself? What other traits come to mind?

  • Honest
  • Adaptable
  • Curious
  • Friendly
  • Adventurous
  • Diligent
  • Charming
  • Intelligent
  • Patient
  • Creative
  • Trusting
  • Observant
  • Dependable
  • Optimistic
  • Funny
  • Encouraging
  • Precise
  • Realistic
  • Focused
  • Decisive

Another piece of personality is your preferences. In an ideal world – work, home, anywhere – how would you operate? How would you get and process information? How often would you interact with other people? How quickly and definitively would decisions need to be made? What would you be doing day-to-day? The most famous instrument for determining personality preferences is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This assessment was built from Carl Jung’s Theory of Psychological Type in which he asserts that people generally have a preference for one of two ways of taking in and organizing information, making decisions, and getting energy. Here are a few additional questions related to preferences and personality:

  • Upon leaving a party, conference, or other event with lots of people, do you feel energized and ready to keep talking – perhaps even sad it’s over -- or do you feel exhausted, ready to head home and relax/recharge?
  • When making big decisions, do you prefer to rely on past experience and weigh relevant facts, or do you tend to “go with your gut?”
  • If you could only choose one, would you prefer to be described as rational or compassionate?
  • Are you happiest when you start a new project, or when you finish a project, checking it off your list?

You can of course think about your personality-based preferences via reflection and brainstorming, as with qualities and traits above, but there are also books and other resources available to you on this topic. See the Resources section for more information.

Being in a work environment that meshes well with your personality can increase job satisfaction and help you adjust more seamlessly to your new role. As you learn about organizations and/or meet potential colleagues, consider if your personality would be a good match for a given team, and if a particular company culture (aka: personality of the organization) appeals to you. You can probably imagine how exhausting it would be to work at a place where you couldn’t be yourself or were constantly going against your natural preferences, and, in contrast, how affirming and motivating it could be to work at a place that suits your style.

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