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.


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  1. Sachin Chavan

    #1 by Sachin Chavan - April 6, 2012 at 5:48 AM

    Jean, you makes a point and then the counter-point. You say how an ST is into psychology and then goes on to state how she adds value to the field in ST ways. I take you mean personality type may not be a limitation in selecting a profession, but can surely help you evolve your specific role/contribution combo in that profession. Makes sense.
  2. Serena

    #2 by Serena - December 9, 2012 at 10:33 PM


    I am so excited to have read your post. I am also an ESTJ and have a passion for psychology and personality type areas. However, I have a BS in medical technology with a strong background in blood banking. I am great at what I do, but know that my true passion is psychology. I spend most of my free time reading about it, or talking to others about it and informing them of all the uses. Like you I am not really interested in counseling or therapy, but want to learn how to use these tools to teach people more about themselves and how they can use this information to be the best version of themselves in all areas of life. However, I do not know how to go about changing my career field or what type of masters degree or training I would need to find the way to find a career in this area. I would love to hear about how you found a career that you did and what type of degree I would need or what type of positions are out there for this career field. Thanks so much for giving me hope and hopefully some guidance for the future!
  3. Jean Kummerow

    #3 by Jean Kummerow - March 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    My career path is a rather twisted one. I went to grad school in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology in the early 70's because I wanted to end up in a university setting in student personnel work (I grew up in a university town). My program had shifted, unbeknownst to me, and was counseling oriented not student personnel oriented, but I finish what I start. I ended up getting a job in an industrial psychology firm doing pre-employment psychological assessments through some friends in graduate school. My manager decided everyone needed to become an expert in something and he assigned me the Myers-Briggs. I respond rather well to responsibility and that was a responsibility!
    I don't know graduate programs any more - perhaps talking with people who are doing what you want to do to find out their backgrounds would work. Or perhaps talking with people in hospital/medical systems to see what positions might be available - change agents, training, coaching, etc.
    It's the chaos theory of career development - know yourself, find out what's out there and be prepared for chance encounters that you can learn from and perhaps even find more education and/or a job through.
    Best wishes, Jean
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