Know thyself: uncovering your strengths through Myers-Briggs

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To be the best that you can be, it’s important to know your strengths and play to them while devising strategies to prop up your weaknesses.

We have a funny expression in HR that says “You can teach a chicken to climb a tree, but you are better off hiring a squirrel.” What we mean by this is that you are better off hiring someone whose natural strengths suit the job you want done.

Now don’t get me wrong. It is important to work at improving our weaknesses, and most of us function well in areas that don’t necessarily play to our strengths. With that said, you have a greater chance at being happier and more successful long-term by working in a field that makes use of your natural inclinations and that helps you to develop your strongest attributes. To continue the theme in December of taking time to reflect on your career, having a better understanding of yourself will help to steer you in the right direction.

There are a number of great self-assessment tools out there and having worked in Talent Acquisition, I had the pleasure of road-testing many of them. A very popular one is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and I will include a link later on in this article for you to do a free simulation and gain a better understanding of your natural talents. It is useful to know about your type when you are navigating your work life. Taken from the Myers-Briggs Foundation website:

When you understand your type preferences, you can approach your own work in a manner that best suits your style, including: how you manage your time, problem solving, best approaches for decision making, and dealing with stress. Knowledge of type can help you better understand the culture of the place you work, develop new skills, understand your participation in teams, and cope with change in the workplace.

What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

Developed in the 1940s by mother-daughter duo Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI is based on the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung. This indicator identifies 16 personality types based on natural preferences. Each MBTI type is identified by a series of four letters described in this excerpt from the MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

The MBTI has been the subject of criticism as an assessment tool, which I made mention of in my article Psychometric testing and the hiring process. If you would like to learn more about using the MBTI in a professional context with a certified consultant, you can click on this link, however for the purpose of our December career reflection, read on.

The MBTI test

The result from taking an MBTI test is a series of four letters which gives you insight into your natural preferences. Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, took the test and did a light-hearted segment on the process.

If you are interested in taking a 12-minute simulation of the MBTI test click here. Ultimately, these results are for you and to help you to understand yourself better, so the more honest you are in your responses, the more accurate your results will be.

It’s important to remember that because we are unique individuals, we will fall somewhere along the spectrum between the polarities. For example, in my case, I fall pretty much midway between Introversion and Extraversion. I love self-assessments, so I took a similar test on different platforms then repeated the same tests just for fun and to see how replicable the results were. Most tests placed me on the Introversion side, but a few had me on the Extraversion end. I was able to come to the conclusion that I am naturally more introverted because I am someone who replenishes my energy by spending time alone and focusing on my inner world. (If you are curious about what type I am, check out the Stephen Colbert clip.) You may also find yourself around the midpoint of a given spectrum, in which case you will have to determine which attribute describes you most accurately.

An introduction

Personally, I find MBTI simulation tests a great introduction into the world of self-assessment and psychometric testing. As I mentioned before, if taking this test has sparked a curiosity within you, there are a number of great resources out there to either do online by yourself or accompanied by a consultant. By gaining greater insights about ourselves and our strengths, we are in a better position to capitalize on our natural talents. In turn, by having more self-knowledge, we are also able to understand the differences between people and their natural tendencies and create an atmosphere of communication, openness and harmony.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified MBTI administrator nor have I used MBTI in any professional context. The contents of this article are for information purposes only and are not to be interpreted as psychological or career counselling.