20-Somethings and Type

My kids and their friends are in their mid-20’s now, and I watch them with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I envy them because they are attractive and strong and they know it, and their lives are filled with discovery, excitement, and anticipation.

On the other hand, I feel sorry for them. I sit in the home that I love, with the spouse that I love, and go to a job that I love, while they are anxiously looking for all of those things. Before they find their “big three,” (career, spouse and home) most of them have to go through an assortment of jobs that don’t fit, potential partners that disappoint, and homes that don’t feel like home.

I’ve noticed something though, and it’s about those jobs-that-don’t-fit and their types. I’ve noticed that even when they are doing jobs that don’t use the talents of their types, they still find ways to exercise those talents. It appears that you can’t keep type from expressing itself, even if it’s not getting paid to do so.

For example, the talents of an ESFJ include organizing people around projects that help people, but the first job my ESFJ son Paul had was financial auditor. He worked with numbers, not people, and when an audit was finished, he usually had to tell people they were doing something wrong.

At the same time, however, he was also busy organizing the people in his company to do volunteer work in the community, play on sports teams, and go on hiking adventures in scenic places. 

The talents of an ISTP include the skillful handling of tools and weapons, but the first job my son’s ISTP friend Chris had was stocking a warehouse. On his days off, however, he worked for a contractor, learning how to paint, plaster and lay bricks, and then went home to play war games on his computer.

The talents of an INFP include helping people in creative ways to understand themselves and realize their potential. But the first job that my daughter’s INFP friend Rachel had was to edit proposals for a large consulting firm, a job that was detailed and rule bound, and didn’t allow for exploring human potential.

In her spare time though, Rachel was reading voraciously and discussing ideas about literature. She was also organizing unusual theme parties for her friends, like a New Orleans Carnival, or making creative birthday cards for them that captured their special talents, as well as the most significant moments in their relationship with her.

The talents of an ISFJ include taking care of people’s physical and emotional needs, but the first job that my ISFJ daughter Perrin had was just pushing paper in an office and watching her boss publicly humiliate the other employees.

In her private life though, she was usually taking care of people’s emotional needs with empathy, support and frequent praise, and their physical needs with home-cooked gourmet food for meals, birthdays, wedding showers, parties, picnics, and tailgating.

Some day these kids are going to find a way to incorporate their talents into their occupations and not just their hobbies. It can take some time though, because even though they may know what they want to do in their free time, finding a way to do it for money can involve a lot of trial and error, and let’s face it, some things just require more maturity. 

In the meantime, I get a kick out of watching how their types manage to emerge, even when they can’t get out at work. So many things are uncertain for these kids, but the talents of their type, I’m beginning to realize, are not among the uncertainties. You can bank on them.


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  1. JeniRae

    #1 by JeniRae - November 13, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    As an individual who has had the unique experience of being incredibly emerged in Type from a very young age (I received my Certification when I was 22...) I can attest for how beneficial having this foundation of knowledge can be, and how it can serve as an ever-present "compass" for guiding ourselves through these tough, hellish years which we call our Twenties...

    I have had jobs in sales, in insurance, in retail... none of which ever provided me with the mental stimulation that I needed. I could have let those jobs get me down, but all along, I was able to keep in the back of my mind that it wasn't MY fault for being miserable at these jobs, the jobs just didn't serve my dominant cognitive process. (And those of us type-folks know, ALL OTHER PROCESSES act in servitude to our dominant process.)

    In order to obtain the mental stimulation I desired, I joined APTi, went to my first conference in 2001, and returned home to jump straight into action on the local Board of Directors of DVAPT (the Delaware valley chapter of APTi.) I eventually sat on the Northeast Regional Board of directors-- all by the age of 23. Psychological Type itself, and the passion I felt for the theory gave me what I needed to get by.

    Ten years later, I can honestly say that I love my job (maybe not my *paycheck*, but I think that is true for many of us in this economy...) but never before have I actually wanted to go to work and to continue leaning more with regard to it. Type will always be an important lens through which to see the world and put it into perspective. And I'm glad to have had the change to maneuver through this decade of experience with this wonderful theory under by belt.
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