In working with career clients, my two favorite personality tests are the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram. Together, they tend to cross validate and they also yield a high quality information that is relatively comprehensive with respect to basic temperament and possible areas of talent. They also help to shed light on how to co-create the best possible working relationship with the client.
The Myers-Briggs can yield different results across the lifespan. In addition, when you look at the nondominant functions, it suggests what path the individual may find more fulfillment pursuing during and after midlife by identified unlived potentials. Most of you are probably familiar with this test because it is common in business environments and looks at extroversion vs. introversion, intuition vs. sensing, thinking vs. feeling and perceiving (leaving options open) vs. judging (the need for closure). If you are not familiar with it, look it up in Wikipedia or elsewhere on the Internet.
In the Myers-Briggs you end up with a four letter designation such as INFP or ESTJ. The former meaning an introvert who tends to be be an intuitive feeler and has more of an in the moment I’ll decide approach to life. The latter indicates an extroverted thinker who likes to work with concrete things or relatively concrete ideas. The “J” function denotes an individual who likes closure on situations rather than leaving things open-ended as in the “P” orientation.
With respect to the Enneagram, I once asked a Ph.D. psychologist who was a spiritual director for over 50 years what his favorite assessment tool was. Without a blink, he responded that hands-down the best tool he found over his career was the Enneagram. This man was the chairman of psychology at a major university and he did his doctoral dissertation under Carl Rogers. His reputation was highly respected among his peers, so his input meant a lot to me and after talking to him I studied the Enneagram in-depth on my own and at John F. Kennedy University.
After studying and using the Enneagram for years, I agree that it is one of the most, if not the most powerful tools in the coaches arsenal. I’m indebted to the psychologist who introduced it to me and shared his insights and years of experience.
I find the Enneagram sheds great light and nuance on the relatively static components of an individual’s temperament, but also on their psychodynamics under stress or in the opposite direction of movement toward self-actualization. It has also been clinically validated by Riso and Hudson and mapped to the various types of pathologies at different levels of development. At the same time, it has transpersonal applications and has been used for this purpose for centuries.
Along with these assessment tools, I like to use the integral model as a conceptual framework to capture every domain of the person’s life and the systems they participate in social and otherwise. This model illuminates both external and internal factors in the person’s life, so provides the kind of breadth and depth that is appropriate to making fine discernments and balancing competing goals, agendas, etc.
You can take the MBTI and the Enneagram online at various sites. However, a deep interpretation of both of them is difficult unless you have the knowledge and experience to use them to their fullest. This is also true of the Integral Model, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from looking at them yourself. That’s a great place to get started.
If you are seriously considering switching careers or you are deciding upon a career at at an early point in your adult life, a personal coach or career counselor who gets to know you deeply can be a great asset. Often, it is the demon in your blindspot who undermines your best intentions. A professional could help you to see these areas that you are unaware of. These professionals are also helpful guides when you must confront your own deepest fears in your search for a meaningful career. Big decisions bring out big fears, especially when you are trying to express your deepest authenticity and integrity in your work.