Personality Type

Tonight I completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and discovered that I am an INTJ which is short for Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging. I know I have done this test before but I cannot recall what the result was back then (it was about ten years ago).

I am posting the result here, mainly for my own benefit, but also because I am having quite a few thoughts about my career direction at the moment. I have been suffering intermittently from major periods of burnout, where I question my suitability for my employer, for my chosen career path, for the industry I am in and for trying to be a working mother and “have it all”.

I returned from my Christmas holidays, I was determined to make 2008 different to 2007 in terms of work and my approach to it. However, if anything, it’s worse. I feel stretched to my limits and totally out of control of my day to day workload. Couple that with the lack of direction, investment and foresight from my employer as to what my career future might hold with them, and I also feel completely out of control of my career path. My role with the company, at least what my business card says is that I am a Strategist. Somedays I feel like I am being deskilled just by being there as the politics, bureaucracy and lack of empowerment for the people actually driving the business at the coal face, leaves me with nothing but “doing the do” and taking home my paycheck. There is no strategy to speak of beyond the ideas I deliver to my clients.

Tonight I read an interesting view on burnout:

Burnout undermines your happiness, and it’s not about time.
Burnout has little to do with how many hours you work and a lot to do with the type of work you’re doing. Burnout comes from not being able to achieve what you want to achieve even though you are working hard to get it. It’s a situation where you have goals you can’t pin down (like if you work for four bosses) or goals you can’t meet (like if you have an impossible deadline).

People who are most susceptible to burnout are nurses in pediatric burn units because the goal is so clear and so urgent – stop the pain in small children – but it’s an impossible goal to meet.

Other people who are susceptible, though, are lawyers, who are at the beck and call of clients who generally cannot be pleased because they are in legal trouble and upset about it, and even if they are not in legal trouble, who likes spending money on a lawyer?

The thing is that a lot of lawyers make a lot of money. So the money part does not ward off against burnout and might even make you feel more compelled to stay in a bad situation.

This is the exact conversation I had with one of my two bosses today. Last year, for the three months leading up to my performance review, I asked for some insight into what the company sees in my career future. I got the response I expected, which was “Where do you see your career heading with us?” to which I had a prepared response, with an 18 month plan on how I could get there, why it would benefit the company and what the business case for such a plan would be.

To my horror, in my performance review, not only was I told that the plan I put forward was “not going to be possible”, I was not even given any alternatives to which upon I should set my sights. Instead, they handed me a big fat pay-rise and thought that would placate me a while longer.

At that time, I made a decision to accept the company for what it was, and what it was prepared to invest in me (or not, as the case may be). I resigned myself to staying in the role for 18 more months, do as much as was required to take home my pay-check and no more. Then on the side, I would create new goals for myself in the form of potential side businesses or career opportunities that could allow me to work from home when I have my next baby.

And it worked, for a while. But since the new year, I have begun to be courted by an international company that is not only progressive and highly evolved in it’s approach and thinking within the scope of my industry, but is also incredibly interested in my skills and ideas for the future. They have thrown questions at me that have made me consider the possibilities, but also the inadequacies of my current situation.

However, from that same blog as above, I read something else that grabbed my attention, and led to the aforementioned MBTI test tonight:

It is a cliché that everyone thinks they’re a strategist. The reason everyone thinks they’re a strategist is because they don’t know what a strategist does.

Get a reality check. Odds are you are not a strategist.
Strategy requires thinking conceptually and creating something from nothing. So, for the most part, if you need to see something in order to do strategy then you are not doing strategy, you’re doing editing.

Strategists usually favor thinking about the future instead of the present; strategists I admire are bored by what is and focus on what could be.

Also, strategy means constantly making decisions based on incomplete information. It means taking intellectual leaps of faith that could derail many departments in an organization, and doing that with confidence.

The best thing you can do for your career is take a personality test to understand your strengths. If you are an INTJ you really are a strategist. If you are not an INTJ, the fewer letters you have that match that, the further away from strategist you are. So get some self-knowledge before you declare yourself a strategist…

…And if you’re not doing strategy in your current job, you might consider that you are like the guy who thinks he is a novelist but is not writing a novel: people do what their strengths are regardless of what their job description is. Real leaders will lead in any situation they find themselves. Real writers will always write, no matter what their day job is. And real strategists will always think in terms of the conceptual future, from any job they have.

So I am a Strategist, both in terms of title and in my mind. I am also an INTJ (which was a sigh of relief for me – I momentarily considered that I may be in an advanced state of delusion…). So 2 + 2 = … a frustrated strategist in an environment that is extremely non-conducive to taking intellectual leaps of faith, nor to focusing on what could be.

The company that is courting me proclaims to be one that not only markets itself as a risk-taker, but has built a business on the concept of what “could be”. On the surface, it seems like a logical next step in my career and an incredible challenge that would inspire me and grow me. But I still can’t help but think that I am not made for corporate life. I used to be. So the questions continue…

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2 Comments

  1. I did a Myers- Briggs (probably closer to 20 years ago than I’d care to admit 😉 ) I remember that I was an ESTJ – be interesting to see what it is now, because I’ve never considered myself an “E” !

  2. Your NT temperament is prone to a lot of thinking and planning, so obviously strategic thinking is your comfort area. Your growth point is to try to move beyond thinking about more questions and developing more plans and attempting to make the decision and go with it (draw a little harder on your dominant Intuitive function and listen to what it is telling you). In whatever you do, I hope you find the right niche where your gifts for planning will be well utilised. You might want to have a look at my site http://www.success-with-personalitytype.com to gain more information about your preferences and other people’s preferences.


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