If the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment were accepting gifts, it would demand platinum. After celebrating its 70th anniversary last year, the self-assessment test is still going strong—and helping people across the world, including visitors to the AU Career Center, better understand their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and ideal working environments.
“The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is really taking a look at a person’s preferences and their personality and the way they like to get energized, take in information, make their decisions, and structure their life,” says Susan Gordon, director of career development with the Career Center. “And through those preferences … understand what might be some career fields that fit.”
For decades, the MBTI has assigned individuals four letters reflecting their personal preferences in viewing and experiencing the world: extraversion (E) or introversion (I), sensing (S) or intuition (N), thinking (T) or feeling (F), and judging (J) or perception (P).
“Knowing whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, or if you want structure or are flexible and can roll with the punches—knowing those things about who you are can help you assess whether a job or an internship can be a good fit for you,” says Julia Beyer, career advisor for the School of Communication and a certified MBTI administer.
The MBTI isn’t the only self-assessment resource available for AU students interested in exploring their major or career interests. Other assessments offered by the Career Center include the Self-Directed Search, which suggests occupations based on one’s daydreams and abilities, and the Career Values Test, which helps the test-taker determine what he or she really wants from a career, from personal satisfaction to salary ranges.
But along with the MBTI, career advisors most commonly recommend that students take the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), which was updated in 2012 and links the assessment-taker’s likes with what others, who are happy in their professions, also like.
The theory of the SII, Gordon says, “is if you like what somebody in an occupation likes, and they like their occupation, you’ll probably like their occupation.” She notes, however, that the 10 career options the SII provides based on the assessment-taker’s responses are not the only jobs in which he or she will be happy. Instead, the SII is more of a guiding force.
“What the Strong does really well is it helps take ideas that have been swirling around in somebody’s mind and puts them on paper,” Gordon says. “They knew they were kind of interested in this or that, and it shows that and relative levels of interest. It’s a concrete thing that helps you sort out what you’re thinking.”
That boost in sorting and organizing professional interests was experienced by Peer Advisor Quinn Smeaton, SIS/BA '13, who has worked with the Career Center since fall 2012. During her training in August, Smeaton took both the MBTI and the SII.
“It’s interesting seeing yourself on paper, and who you are in comparison with other results,” she said. “It made me think about things that are sometimes hard to think about yourself or describe to yourself, but play a part in your work preferences.”
Fellow Peer Advisor Eric Fleddermann, SIS/Kogod/BA '13, who has worked with the Career Center for the past two years, saw his extracurricular interests reflected in his SII results but was surprised at his MBTI, which pointed out an aspect of his personality he hadn’t considered, he says.
“The Strong indicated that one of my top career matches would be an attorney—a result that made sense given my mock trial experience,” Fleddermann said. “The results of the MBTI surprised me in the sense that they made me consciously aware of several attributes of my personality, such as my big-picture thinking and my non-judgmental view of the world.”
That insight can help point students in different directions. If it affirms what they already thought about themselves, it can provide greater confidence in their internship or job search, or while networking. But if assessment results are in opposition to how a student perceives their personality or behavior, it gives them time to explore different academic courses or activities on campus to see what truly interests them.
If students are intimidated to take the assessments alone, they should attend the Career Center’s Whose Life is it Anyway? series of workshops, which allow freshmen and sophomores to take the tests for free and in a group environment, Beyer says. Participation in all four workshops, which are held throughout the semester, each semester, is required, but allows students to explore options in a collaborative atmosphere, Beyer notes. And self-assessment isn’t the only option for students. “There are multiple ways to figure out what you want to do—paying attention to the stuff you do in class, getting involved in campus organizations, internships. All of that can help you in putting the puzzle together,” says Beyer.
On their own, a student can consider “success stories,” or academic or personal accomplishments, and think of how to adapt those things in a professional setting, Gordon adds.
Smeaton, who spent her first few years at AU bouncing between various organizations and clubs to narrow down her interest in international development, agrees with both Beyer and Gordon.
“Go outside your comfort zone,” Smeaton says. “Being in D.C., there’s so much out there—take advantage of it … even if the opportunity is totally outside of your area of interest, because you never know what you might learn.”
Both the MBTI and SII self-assessments are administered online and last about a half-hour each, cost $10, and require a follow-up meeting with the assessment-taker’s Career Center advisor. For more information on those resources and others offered by the Career Center, visit http://www.american.edu/careercenter/Self-Assessment-and-Exploration.cfm.
The Career Center’s Whose Life is it Anyway? series of workshops will be held on Feb. 11, 13, 18, and 20. Registration for the workshops is required, and should be done online by Friday, Feb. 8.