Tag Archives: career

I’m not so sure that I’m self-assured

Because I’m writing a book about career ownership, I spend part of my time taking self-assessments – the kind that tell you what your skills, style, values, and interests are – to find out if they are worthy of my readers (i.e. you). If they are, I write about them.  If not, I whine about them all the way through and then forget about them.

As I promised in an earlier post (Making – or breaking – Sustainable Career Decisions), these are the tests that I’ve used to develop a snap-shot of Me Inc.

(And for the record, I do not and will not get any remuneration from any test provider if my readers- you – buy or use these assessments.)

So what’s my personality – the way I do the things I do?

After months of testing assessments, I now know that according to the most common personality test on the career counselling circuit, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI for short), I’m either an INTJ (a.k.a. Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging) or an ISTJ (a.k.a. Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging).  To find out more about my types and all others, go to: http://typelogic.com or to www.personalitypage.com or type the actual initials in a search engine and you’re likely to get a list of sites that define each type.

In essence, according to the MBTI I’m undecided when it comes to being either sensing or intuitive. And I’m not so sure what to do with that information. Maybe my career coach does.

For now I’ll stick with the INTJ (intuitive) type since Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Rumsfeld, and
General Colin Powell all have that same type.  But especially because Eeyore, the donkey in Winnie Pooh, is an ISTJ!

I also know that to take the original version of the MBTI test you need to pay a fee.  Although there are some imitations offered online for free (www.similarminds.com/jung.html and www.wzsn.net/mbti.html), the original version is only available for a fee.  I recommend that you skip the free versions, and pay for a service, whether online or in person, that interprets your results.  It’s the interpretation of your profile that’s likely to benefit you the most.  There’s an extensive list of certified MBTI counsellors at www.myersbriggs.org It’s also possible to take the test online at www.personalitydesk.com which includes a personalized interpretation.  I found the test to be quite easy to complete and their staff quite helpful and accessible and clued in.

What are my interests – or what am I drawn to?

According to Dr. Holland’s Self-Directed Search (SDS for short) which he designed 20 plus years ago to assess a person’s predominant career interest, I am Realistic and Artistic. Is that possible?  Oh, that’s why I’m a writer.  (I get it now) 

If you’d like to find out more about this test, visit: www.self-directed-search.com.  For a free (award winning) assessment based on Dr. Holland’s work, go to the University of Waterloo’s career centre at www.cdm.uwaterloo.ca/step1.asp You’ll be able to find out your interest type, after you complete step 5. The templates on this site are very user friendly and I’ve found that career centres in universities across the US refer to it as well.  (I’m sure that they’re onto something…).  At www.personalitydesk.com you’ll also be able to assess your interest and get an interpretation of your results.

What am I good at?  Actually what am I better at than most?

I decided to add some spice to my personal inventory and find out about my strengths.  According to Donald O. Cliffton, author of Soar With Your Strengths, our strengths are different to our skills.  They are those things that we’re naturally good at, not just what we can do or are skilled at.  On the other hand, our weaknesses are those things that no matter how much we practice and focus on them, we’ll only be average.  In other words, why bother and waste time with our weaknesses when we can instead focus on our strengths and potentially become world class.  Sold on this theory, I decided to take the Strengths Finder test.  To access the test online you need to have a code that is found inside the book by Tom Rath: Strengths Finder 2.0.  A copy on Amazon is anywhere between $12 for a new copy and about $8 for a used one.

It turns out that my strongest themes are (in that order): Focus, Learner, Intellection, Self-Assurance and Futuristic.

After I did some research to find out what that meant – and with an ego that was about to burst – I realised that according to the different theme quadrants (please refer to exhibit 1) I can work hard and smart, but I’m weak at influencing people and relating with them.  Pop! went my ego…

Here’s exhibit 1 as evidence of my findings:

Striving: Working Harder










Thinking: Working Smarter













Impacting: Influencing People







Relating: Assisting People








So how can I be so self-assured if I cannot relate or influence, let alone make an impact?  And what, I have no Woo? How can that be?

There’s gotta be a way for me to improve on that.  There has to be.  Not according to the strengths theory.  I mean, sure, I can work on getting better at having Woo but I’ll never make any real noise.  After that, and not sure any more, there was no air left in my self-assured ego.

Bring on the Mother of all tests

Being that I am one to persevere – nope, perseverance isn’t one of the themes on the list above – I decided to check out another test.

This time I went for the Mother of all tests: CareerLeader.  (Thank you Tim and James for letting me trial it at no cost)

You can take it online at www.careerleader.com for $95 – or you might be able to convince your boss to buy it for the company.  I know what I’d be doing – if only I’d be good at influencing others! Developed by Tim Butler and James Waldroop, it’s used by the Harvard Business School and other top business schools to assess and give career direction to graduates and by several Fortune 500 companies to assess their employees.

The main philosophy behind this test is that when it comes to choosing a career what matters most are your values – or what rewards you need in order to stay motivated and your interests – or what you’re drawn to.  This is based on the theory that these are the two dimensions of your personality that tend to change the least throughout your life.  In other words, you can always up-skill to take a job that you feel passionate about, but you cannot love (at least not long-term) a role that is not in line with your values even if you have the skill set to do it.  And without passion, it’s unlikely that you’ll last long in a role.  I can say that I’ve certainly experienced that.

Did the test boost my ego?  Yes and no.  What it did accomplish is it gave me more information about myself.

And that’s the name of the game.

As a person, you are too complex to encapsulate your traits in one single test.  For that reason, it’s key that you take several assessments. That is how you’ll get a more complete picture of what really drives you, what you’re great at, and what’s important to you in your work-life.

Before you go to test away, I’d love to hear what your experiences have been with these and other self-assessments.

Please share the wealth…

Inter-Dependence Day

Being that close to 20 countries around the world celebrate their independence day in July*, this is a good time as any to ask if independence has a place in the real world of work.

Admittedly, for all these nations independence was a necessary step to end oppression and inequality. But in the 21st century world of work, where interconnectivity, collaboration and team-work are the rule of the day, the time has come for independence to move over to make way for interdependence.

In the words of the best-selling author Stephen Covey:

“Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They’re not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in…organizational reality.”

Bring on interdependent times

For those labelled on a contract “employee” as defined as: ”one who works for another” it’s crucial to understand that that label exists only for legal and tax purposes. It should not and it must not define a state of mind.

In an interdependent world, the reality is that an employee does not work for an employer.  That would be defined as dependence.  By the same token, it’s not necessary for an employee to claim their independence and work against an employer.  The winning mindset in an interdependent world is that of an employee who works with an employer, as a partner, regardless of labels.

Even though this is not about your boss or your employer, it’s worth noting that from their perspective, your independence may not be as bloody as it was for those free nations, but it’s certainly costly.  Take for example (adapted from real life) an employee who takes 8 hours creating a contract from scratch for a client, when instead they could collaborate and use a template their colleague created – and instead take an hour to get the job done.  (I’ll let you do the math)  When your boss insists on collaboration and team-work, it’s their way of saying: ”leverage existing company resources – that’s what they’re there for.”

Back to you

At the individual level, interdependence has many fringe benefits.

Here are my favourite perks:

1. Effectiveness – where the rubber meets the road, two heads (and three and four and more) are better than one.  With the right leadership and direction, a team has the potential to achieve more in less time than an individual working in isolation.  It’s simple logic. The likelihood is that in a team, members will complement their strengths and weaknesses. Where weakness lies in some, other team members will be strong.. In a collaborative environment there is no room for individual weaknesses – what really counts is the sum of the team’s strengths.

It’s worth making a mental note that collaboration should not be mistaken with delegation.  It is not about sending someone else off to do the work for you.  Okay, if they volunteer (and they insist, as sometimes those who kill with kindness do), I say, by all means take them up on it.  Especially if you have a to-do list that is bulging at the seams and they have time to kill. Quite simply, in the world of work, it’s about delivering results.  In the ego-ruled monarchies of the past millenium, it was about who took the credit. In today’s ultra competitive global environment, the winning team (and company) is the one that delivers results.  I am not advocating that you become so good at collaborating – or even delegating – that you skip learning how to do your job. I guarantee that in this environment, sooner or later that strategy is likely to land you in the redundant pile.  What I am suggesting is that you focus on getting the job done – even if that means having to swallow your pride.

2. Learning opportunity – If you’re open to learning, you’ll benefit from the natural transfer of knowledge and skills that takes place when people work together.  For that reason, you should aim to collaborate with people who are better than you – however humbling that might be.  As an avid runner, and learning from this sport,, one of the best  ways to improve your running time is to go for a run with someone who is fitter and faster than you. The same applies at work.  That’s one of the reasons why I’ve made it a priority to choose to work with companies that attract smart people.  Personally, I’d feel that there’s something wrong if I’d be the smartest in the team.

3. Greater reach – When you’re open to the fact that a. you’re not alone and b. it’s about getting the job done – not getting the credit, it becomes easier to accept roles that you do not necessarily have experience in.  With the right attitude, most of the time you’ll be able to get support and help from someone else in your team or company.  It’s virtually impossible to know every single detail in our jobs before we take them. For that reason, it’s crucial to be able to ask for (and accept) help and learn fast.

4. Collaborators have more fun – by nature, as humans we are social beings.  I say this even to my fellow loners out there, who enjoy working on their own. The fact is, it’s human nature to enjoy interacting with people. Looking at how our brain works, a happy brain, with serotonin flowing through it is a more focused and productive one too.

Claiming interdependence

Unlike independence, interdependence need not be bloody. 

Here are the essentials:

  1. Trust – In a collaborative environment there is no room for hidden agendas.  These will only suck life out of the interaction.  Open communication and transparency will go a very long way when it comes to getting things done as a team.
  2. Self-reliance – The strongest teams are those made up of individuals who are able to hold their own weight.  Understand that this is not about hiding your weaknesses or being dishonest about them either. It’s about focusing and developing your strengths in order to make the greatest contribution, and about recognising your weaknesses in order to complement them with others’ abilities.
  3. Team play – As in the soccer field, it’s crucial to pass the ball to other team members who are better positioned to score a goal. In short, don’t be a ‘ball-hog’.  Keep in mind that how you add value to a company (i.e. what makes money – and pays your salary) is your ability to deliver results – even if it costs you your pride.  You were not hired to be an island.

What do you think? 

*Wikipedia’s ‘partial’ (their wording, not mine) list of countries celebrating independence day around the world