Entries for month: March 2012

Career Stereotyping

I just heard it again…career “advice” that “you really shouldn’t go into that field because you’re the wrong type!”  What is the wrong type??  As an ESTJ, following that logic, I shouldn’t be a psychologist!  Yet, I’ve found ways to be in that profession that fit wonderfully with my type. 

No, I’m not a psychologist conducting therapy to help my clients grow and develop by delving into their childhoods and providing brilliant insights on destructive patterns and how to overcome them.  I am a psychologist who enjoys teaching others about some of the nuts and bolts of psychometric instruments (the mechanics I’m interested in are not those of machines, but of people-related assessments).  And I enjoy teaching practical applications of the instrument by using examples of people I know as well as “how to” stories.

I also work as part of a team conducting a leadership program – I put together small groups of people who will work on a task together.  I use my ST to make sure I have the facts about those people and a logical structure in forming the groups.  My goal is to have diversity in those groups (yes, including type diversity) so that people can intentionally experience the inclusion of different perspectives.  Some of the best learning has occurred with teams who initially had conflict but who stuck with the process, analyzed their dynamic, and figured out ways to move forward together. 

But back to stereotyping - just think about substituting gender or race or ethnicity or country of origin in that first sentence limiting occupational choice; I doubt that anyone would utter that out loud at this point, although those were limiting “characteristics” in many people’s eyes not so long ago.

As for stereotyping/limiting based on type, I am assuming the perpetrators are simply misinformed!  If they bothered to look at the data, they would find that all occupations have all 16 types, although certainly there are some patterns. 

Focusing on a sample of 509 career counselors,* the type least represented is ESFP at 2.2% and the type most represented is ENFP at 16.1%.  (They are just one “letter” different, but that letter and its dynamics matter a lot! Who says type dynamics don’t matter…but that’s a post for another day!)  STs are 17.7% of that career counselor sample; SFs, 23.4%; NFs , 41.8%; and NTs, 17.1%.

I admit here you are seeing a bit of my ST approach in the paragraph above – research data!  However, think how limiting it would be to have a career counselor who…

  • only provided data on jobs and the job market, along with efficient procedures for you to follow (ST), and missed that there are individual differences among people and exceptions to the data, or who…
  • only provided the latest theories on career development (NT) and didn’t focus on you and your immediate needs to pay bills, or who…
  • only provided direct support for you now, not offering any alternatives that might upset you (SF), and didn’t encourage you to see beyond the day to day to the challenges of the future, or who…
  • only focused on empowering you to be all that you could be (NF) while you were really just an ordinary musician, not someone who could logically earn their living as a rock star.

You get the picture, don’t you?!  So are you limiting people by their types?


* From MBTI® Type Tables for Occupations by N.A. Schaubhut and R.C. Thompson, Mountain View, CA: CPP, 2008. Another good source for related information is MBTI® Type Tables for College Majors.



A J and a P in a Pod

My husband is an ENTP and I’m an INFJ. We’ve had a very happy marriage for 33 years, except for one thing. I’m on time, and he’s late!

This was a big problem whenever we had to do things together, especially when we took family trips. I remember one year when we drove from our home in Virginia to Boston for a niece’s wedding. John and I had agreed to leave at 10 on Friday morning. At exactly that time, I had the car loaded with suitcases, gifts, food and activities for the kids during the long drive. The car itself was full of gas and in good shape because I’d seen to that. The kids and I were strapped in and ready to go, and that’s where we sat, for 25 minutes, in the summer sun, while John began to get ready to leave. By the time he came out to the car, smiling and joking, I had such a bad headache that no one could play the radio or talk above a whisper for the entire 11-hour drive.

That was the worst episode, but every Saturday night, when we’d go for our dinner date, I sat in the car fuming because he always had to run back inside to look for something. It would take me at least 20 minutes to stop feeling angry, and even though we always had a great time on our dates, they always started out badly for me.

That changed about two years ago. Now, whenever we go somewhere together, we walk out the door at the same time, get right in the car and leave, and it’s like a dream come true. We were talking about that lately, and how it happened.

The first thing was that finally, two years ago, I told him about it. You’re probably thinking, “You’re kidding. In 30 years, you never told him that you hated waiting for him.” Well, actually, no, I didn’t. I guess I assumed he knew and just couldn’t or wouldn’t do something about it. I think a lot of people assume that their spouse can read their mind or their face, and just deliberately choose to ignore it.

Also, when I was angry at John, I wanted to accuse him of selfishness, and that is just not true. He is the most thoughtful person I know. It took me a long time to find words that weren’t unkind and accusing – words that were about the other feelings I was having besides anger and righteous indignation.

One evening, when John got in the car late, I finally told him, “You know, it makes me sad that every Saturday, when I want so much to enjoy our time together, I start out angry because I have to wait for you.”

“You’re kidding,” he said. “I didn’t know that. I can try to be on time if it’s so important.”

I was stunned that it was so easy. Who is this person I married? Then he asked me a reasonable question: “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

I thought about it and I had to tell him the painful truth. “You’re such a good husband – I thought I should let you have this one fault. And I didn’t want to be mean, or make you angry back at me, or even lose your love.”

“That could never happen,” he said.

I asked him recently if it was difficult for him to be on time when we left. He said, “No, surprisingly, it’s not. I figured out that if I just told you if I needed five or ten minutes before I’d be ready to leave, you were fine and happy with it.”

I told him that when I know how long I have to wait, I’m free to fill that time with other things, like filling the dishwasher or paying a bill. I’m not sitting in the car feeling trapped in a waiting game.  

We both marveled that what seemed like such a complicated and impossible difference, could be fixed by a simple communication like me saying, “I get upset when we don’t leave on time,” and him saying, “I’ll be ready in five minutes.” Now we’re really a J and a P in a pod.

Please, if our story sounds familiar, don’t wait for 30 years to speak up about the pain it is causing you, and don’t wait for 30 years to ask for five more minutes.

I found a helpful book for both Js and Ps to read about the problem of lateness. It’s called Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged. The author, Diana DeLonzor, doesn’t mention type, but she has clearly talked to Js and Ps and offers some amazing insights into both. She has come up with seven types of late people: The Rationalizer, The Producer, The Deadliner, The Indulger, The Rebel, The Absentminded Professor and The Evader. Then she gives practical strategies for each of them to help overcome their lateness. 

I also enjoyed the stories she tells of embarrassing moments of being late, especially the one where she’s late to her friend’s wedding, and is running up and down the aisle looking for a seat in the packed church. Suddenly, the organist begins to play the wedding march, and everyone turns to see the bride and sees her instead.

At the end of the book, she has a chapter titled, “Living and Working with the Punctually Challenged,” and guess what she recommends…

Sit down and have a heart to heart talk with the late person. Discuss the problem openly and honestly.... The more calmly and amicably you can discuss things, the more success you’ll have in helping the late person see the importance of change. 


For more insights into punctuality, check these CAPT titles:

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