Entries Tagged as "Careers"

My TED Talk

Every once in a while, I am reminded that the advice for aging gracefully includes the necessity of mixing it up, of doing things differently, and of taking on risks and challenges.  So I answered the call, literally and figuratively, and agreed to do a TED Talk at my alma mater, Grinnell College. 

I thought it would be a good stretch for me.  And I thought it would be a way to expose a wider audience to personality type.  We’ll see about that one!!  The YouTube video does keep track of the number of people who have watch it, and I’m going to try not to take it personally if my numbers are really low!

Five alums were invited to give talks and I was 20 years older than the next oldest one and 45 years older than the youngest ones.  But they were a real treat to get to know. 

Another alum served as a coach; I think her role also was as a “wrangler.”  She was supposed to keep us on track and rehearse us so that we’d be ready. 

We were to write and memorize a 15-18 minute talk and it was to be on the theme of “When the Bubble Bursts.”  One woman, a dancer, had her dream burst when she suffered an Achilles heel injury.  One man’s burst was when his wife died of cancer, leaving him with two young children.  You get the picture. 

I wasn’t wild about revealing an intimate bubble burst to a wide audience and tried to back out of it. But the wrangler didn’t let me out of it!  What was my setback? You’ll just have to watch! 

When I give a presentation on the MBTI® framework, I prefer to have hours.  You can imagine my consternation at getting it down to 15 minutes.  Will my colleagues lambast me for simplifying the message?  Can I do justice to the concepts?   You get to be the judge.  And I did stretch it to 21 minutes.

I wrote up my ideas and began rehearsing them first via telephone with the wrangler/coach and then in front of friends and family.  Everyone had constructive criticism that I really appreciated.  Each time I got to the part about my bubble bursting, there were fewer tears and breaks in my voice.  ESTJs especially don’t like to lose control and I certainly did!

So I got to campus and met with the coach in person.  She had a few suggestions, but basically I was ready to go.  During dress rehearsal, it was apparent that I had really prepared (a hallmark of ESTJs), but the others were still working on theirs. 

The actual taping was part of a four-hour program – we had student emcees introducing the various segments that included really, really good Ted talks on tape, interspersed with our live ones (you be the judge).  It was a relief to get it done!

There was a big red circle on stage.  We were to remain within that space.  Somehow the sound was difficult to regulate on mine and there’s a slight squawk in the middle.  It was much louder at the time but the tech wizards did their thing to soften it.

It took three months for it to be posted.  Apparently it has to be technically enhanced, then sent to the TED people who review it, and then they post it.  TED talks began at a 1984 conference merging the concepts of technology (T), entertainment (E) and design (D); they are “ideas worth spreading.”

When I got word of the link, I was nervous.  Could I bear to watch it?  I hate to make mistakes…will there be some?  Whew -- I watched it and basically felt okay. 

I wished when we had rehearsed that I could have seen some of how it looked on the screen.  On the tape, I know I was squinting into the lights, so thought I looked a bit angry or upset, when actually I was having fun by the time I was on stage.  I could have corrected that had I seen myself beforehand.  Ah well…ever critical (yes, another ESTJ characteristic!). 

And now I have to resist the temptation to see how many people view it and whether they liked it or not.  It is what it is.  Another ESTJ challenge…letting go!


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Writing My Way

It seems like there are two kinds of people in the world…well okay, there are at least 16 (or more!)…but when it comes to writing, people seem to fall into two camps. They love it and want to get published or they hate it and want to avoid writing (except for short texts to friends).

I have been in both camps.  For this ESTJ, I find the experience of writing to be both difficult and exhilarating. 

How did I get into writing?  By accident.  I remember disliking writing in school.  I could do the mechanics just fine, but it was coming up with something to write about that was the problem.  I needed a topic and a prototype to get me going.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do unless I had those. 

And forget creative writing – I can’t just make up stuff!  I once wrote a mystery in the 4th grade that probably had a really terrible Nancy Drew-like plot. 

Luckily I had several teachers who actually encouraged me, and an INFP Mother who loved writing.  I began to think that maybe I was being hard on myself. 

I started writing about type in part because I didn’t understand what Intuitive authors were saying about Sensing.  It made no sense to me, so I thought I would take a stab at it.  CAPT published some of my short works in the form of handouts.  Verifying Your Type Preferences and Talking in Type were the first ones. 

And then I got invited to write with Sandra Hirsh, ENFP,  in part because we were writing for an ST audience and having an ST co-author seemed like a good idea.  So Introduction to Myers-Briggs Type® in Organizations came about.

I remember reading Studs Terkel’s book Working when I was in college and thinking, now that’s the kind of book I’d like to write if I ever wrote a book.  It was about real people doing real things – nothing made up there! 

And eventually I did write about real people, only its focus was people’s personality types not people’s work lives.  Look at LIFETypes or WORKTypes or anything else I have written – they are all full of real-life examples.  It’s nice when something really does work out the way you wish it would!

I found it was editing my writing and making things clear and succinct that most appealed to me.  I worked for a consulting firm where our product was a written report.  My colleagues started coming to me asking me to shorten up their reports.  I acquired the nickname, “The Slasher.” 

I once got a call from an editor at CPP whom I did not know.  She began with a question: “Is it true that your nickname is The Slasher?”  Well, I didn’t know if she thought that was good or bad, but I did say, “Yes.”  She hired me to take over a stalled book project with ten authors contributing chapters.  I got it done.  And when we did the revision of the book, it even won an award. 

And I actually started writing more and more!  I was lucky enough to get invitations from publishers and co-authors to write.

So what is my process of writing like? My first draft is usually quite straightforward and boring.  It is like an outline but with short sentences instead of phrases.

Then I go back through and make longer sentences, trying to add in a few adjectives and adverbs along with examples from real life.  I ask myself what each paragraph is about and if I have an overview somewhere on the page.  And yes, I add that Intuitive overview as best as I can.

Eventually I get into a flow where I lose track of time.  I wonder if this is what it feels like to be an Introvert – being so into something that the outside world is irrelevant.

What is most fun for me, however, in the whole writing process is to critique and to edit– yes, I am a dominant Thinking type.  Is the phrasing correct?  Are there extraneous words?  Have I made my point?  Will readers know what I’m talking about?

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with several other really good writers who had different personality types than I do, and I appreciate what they have brought to our works. 

My MBTI® Step II™ co-author Naomi Quenk is an INFP.  We jokingly say, “When we agree, we’re right” because we say we have covered all eight preferences.  We bring different skills to the writing process and work hard to find words that convey what we both mean.  It is a joy to work with her. 

May you find joy in whatever kind of writing you do!



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Addicted to Type

Susan ScanlonRecently I was asked how the Indicator made a change in my life. What a great question, especially for me, because the MBTI® instrument gave me a career! For 25 years, I was learning everything I could about type and writing about it in the pages of The Type Reporter.

It started in 1983, when I read my first description of the eight preferences on a summer day in the back yard. From that moment on, I was addicted to type, and always looking for the next fix. Like all people with an exciting new idea, I wanted to share what I was learning. I started by helping everyone in my world figure out their type, and going to groups where everyone knew their type, so I could see the types in action.

I was a free lance writer at the time, so I wrote an article on the MBTI assessment for the Washington Post. I got such a good response that I thought I'd write about type for other papers and magazines. I soon realized, however, that writing introductions didn't satisfy my addiction. I always wanted to learn something new about type. So in 1984, I got the idea to start my own publication.

The first issue was about people doing innovative things with type, like making a comedy show out of it, or describing how the different types react to stress. After that, I had a theme for each issue, like "careers," "type development," or "parenting."  I'd interview MBTI professionals working in those fields, or phone people of all 16 types and ask them questions like, "What were you like as a child?" or "How do you develop your weaker functions?"

I wish everyone's work could be as much fun as mine was. I was always looking for an answer to a big question, like how can you help a feeling type ask for a raise, teach a perceiving child how to get to school with everything they need, or make it easier for a sensing type to see the sense in change. 

What I remember most fondly is the interviews I did with people of the 16 types. Because I was looking for quotes I could use in my next issue, I hung on every word they said. Because they were talking about something they really knew - themselves - they sounded clever and wise. And because they were telling me what it was really like to be them, I loved them. What better way for an INFJ to connect with others?

My rolodex, organized by type, is still sitting on the shelf next to my writing chair, and going through it, I see the names of the people I couldn't wait to call with a new question. Their voices are still in my head when I come across other people of their type, helping me understand their inner world and guiding values. I started out loving a theory and ended up loving a whole world full of people.

To all the young people who are getting addicted to type right now and thinking about making a career out of it, I can only say, it's a great place to work; it's a great place to make a difference. 




Time Management for Perceiving Types

Let’s face it…nearly all time management techniques seem written for Judging types.
Now some qualitative research of successful college students by Meri Hicks Beckham actually documents what seems to work for Perceiving types in “managing” time and why. 

Beckham notes, “At the core of Judging is the issue of control—control of time, control of space, and control of self….At the core of Perceiving is a sense of freedom—freedom in time, freedom in space, and freedom for self.”  Her findings follow and seem applicable to Perceiving types of all ages:

Regarding conventional academic tasks, most Perceiving students

  •  Read only some of the textbook assignments
  •  Wrote papers close to deadlines with little or no proofreading
  •  Took notes but reviewed them only once when the exam was imminent
  •  Kept urgent things within sight and did not need a clear workspace to study
  •  Preferred comfort for studying, not necessarily desks
  •  Studied just before the deadline
  •  Used time well, but did not manage it

Beckham answers the “why” of Perceiving students’ academic work styles with these six theory elements:

  1. Momentum. Progress is propelled by energy that carries through to completion.  Going back is to be avoided. By waiting to start at the right moment (i.e., when they are ready to begin) and acting decisively, they can ride the wave of energy to completion. An approaching deadline is not stressful, but rather energizing. One time through works best. 
  2. Unconstrained time. Time is seen as available, fluid and usable. When time is running out, the rate of thought and action increases.
  3. Entirety.  Processes are whole, complete and cohesive, not compartmentalized. Efficient work processes are not those that break tasks into small pieces, but rather follow the flow and do all the tasks at one time.  One thing naturally leads to the next and feels complete.  A piece at a time feels incomplete.
  4. Continuity.  Processes are flowing and interruptions of that flow are potentially destructive to both process and product. Breaking into or interrupting the process makes it difficult to regain needed momentum; repeating a step may be seen as a time waster and making the learning boring.  Those interrupted tasks then become work and are not fun or even challenging and may be perceived as empty tasks, lacking purpose.
  5. Awareness. Any objects that might be useful to the task at hand are left in sight to enhance recall, intention, and use of time.  Out of sight objects may be lost or forgotten.  It’s not about a messy desk, but a workspace full of useful information!
  6. Augmentation.  A variety of experiences will augment learning; it’s not just about studying.  Extracurricular activities, friends, social engagements, etc. are all ways to enhance the learning process. 

I occasionally coach Judging types who are upset with Perceiving types ways of getting work done.  In the past, I would always ask, “Is the work done on time, done well, and done legally?”  If the answer to all three questions was “yes,” my advice was to “Then shut your eyes and let them do it in their own ways.”  If the answer was “no” then we began to identify the performance skills needed and work from there. 

I can continue to give that advice, but now I can explain more of the “whys” of how Perceiving types get things done thanks to this research study.  A messy desk does not equate to a messy mind.  A stitch in time doesn’t necessarily save nine!


Kummerow, Jean M., Barger, Nancy J. & Kirby, Linda K. (1997). Chapter 3, “Time Management.” WORKTypes. New York: Warner Books (Hatchette). 

Beckham, Meri Hicks.  (2012).  “Building Momentum: The Unconventional Strengths of Perceiving College Students.”  Journal of Psychological Type, 2, 27-40.



Synchronicity and Kemp's Ridley Turtles

Okay, so this is a strange title but they definitely are connected (in my life) so read on.  Those who have spent time learning a bit of Jungian psychology know the concept of synchronicity.  Its simplest definition is a “meaningful coincidence.”
I wrote this post in the Houston, Texas area while visiting with a long-time friend who owns and runs a private school for ages 3 through 9.   She’s an ENFJ and is constantly encouraging her students and her teachers to grow and develop; her curriculum is incredibly creative and students are well loved by the teachers -- they form strong bonds with one another.  I was there to do a type session encouraging even more teamwork among her teachers so that they could improve their collaboration and better educate their students.
The school’s primary grade students have an annual fundraiser. The second and third graders (about 20 in all) have a project in which they pick an endangered animal, research it with their families, and write a report on their findings. Each presents the report and their classmates vote on the one they want to be the subject of their fundraising – Kemp's Ridley Turtles “won” this year.  These turtles also have a close geographic connection to them: Padre Island, Texas is being reintroduced as a nesting site.  There is only one other site in the world (Rancho Nuevo, Mexico) where these turtles return to lay their eggs.
The teachers include these turtles in their lessons.  For example, each grade draws pictures of the turtles using different art techniques (see the art teacher’s blog for some samples).  Elements of the pictures are put together and a t-shirt is designed for the “fun run” fundraiser event.
Now here’s the synchronicity.  Decades ago, marine biologists were mystified as to where the Ridley Turtles had their nesting site, but no one could find it to even begin protecting it.  My uncle, Henry Hildebrand (INTP) was part of the hunt and actually was the first scientist to document their nesting site in Mexico.
(As an aside, you can probably see that it is difficult to be part of my family and my friendship group and escape the MBTI® inventory! My adult children have requested that I hold off asking anyone they date to take it right after I meet them!!)
Uncle Henry was a remarkable man and a dedicated marine biologist. He gathered data on turtle sightings in part through talking with locals in both Texas and Mexico (he spoke fluent Spanish, although apparently with a heavy Texas accent).  He spoke with anyone who might have information, including fishermen, fish processing company owners, villagers and scientists. He had an incredibly wide circle of people who spoke at his funeral service – all of whom admired his independence and his ability to talk to each person as an equal. He learned something from everyone, and was able to put together theories of the turtles’ migration patterns and their potential nesting sites.  And he finally found the sites at Rancho Nuevo along the Gulf of Mexico.*

So how is it that this friend of nearly 50 years who has run this school for 25 years and whom I had never visited until March 2012 was having a school focus on Ridley Turtles that my late Uncle Henry had been intimately involved with in his career?  That’s synchronicity!
Talking with the children who had just gotten back from a turtle rescue lab in Galveston was a treat.  Showing them pictures of my uncle and the Mexican nesting grounds of the turtles he had discovered was wonderful. Hearing their excitement about turtles and the things they learned was even better.
I’ve come away with a greater appreciation for both my uncle and for how good teaching happens.  Some would say, “What a small world.”  Synchronicity happens!! 

   *Read more about this in The Great Ridley Rescue by Pamela Phillips, Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1989.