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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Millions of people have used the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator to learn about their personal strengths and preferences. Those transitioning from highly structured environments such as those found in education or the military will find it especially helpful as they begin to explore careers in the dynamic, sometimes chaotic, private sector.

Test Background

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was developed during the 1940s and '50s by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs. They were interested in making psychologist Carl Jung's personality theories easily understandable, accessible, and applicable to individuals or groups of people who were not necessarily interested in a thorough understanding of Jung's theories, but sought to benefit from using these theories to determine how best to apply their particular perceptions and strengths to their lives.

The first versions of the Myers Briggs instrument were administered in 1962. Almost fifty years of results and refinements have demonstrated the validity of the test. This validity is responsible for the test's being highly regarded as a reliable indicator of how personality and behavior can influence people and groups of people in a consistently predictable way. Further validity is evidenced by the fact of people taking the test more than once, sometimes after a substantial number of years elapsing, and coming out with very similar results.

Personality Traits Identified

The goal of the MBTI is to identify four key areas of personality:

  1. World View – An Extrovert favors an outer world focus. Someone who is more interested in their internal reactions and interpretations of the events of their world is considered an Introvert.
  2. Information Processing - A preference for tangible, clear information is the mark of a Sensing individual. A person who leans toward supplying additional meaning to the information received via the senses is considered to be Intuitive.
  3. Decision Making – Do you give more weight to concrete information for the purpose of decision making? If so, that would assign you to the Thinking category. If on the other hand, you consider the information's consequences on others, or perceive unique circumstances, you are a Feeling personality.
  4. Structure, or how you deal with the outside world – A person who prefers to get decisions made is assigned to the Judging personality category, while a Perceiving personality type will allow a certain degree of flexibility and wait for events to unfold prior to reaching a decision.

These four areas of perception are sub-divided into either/or classifications. In other words, Extrovert OR Introvert, Sensing OR Intuitive, Thinking OR Feeling, and Judging OR Perceiving.

The four types can be combined to form a possible sixteen primary variations that can be applied to making a decision regarding what careers are most suitable for any particular personality type.

For a couple examples of these combinations, let's consider one individual described as Introverted/Sensing/Thinking/Judging or INTJ by Myers Briggs , and one individual described as Extroverted/Sensing/Feeling/Perceiving, or ESFP.

These two types are essentially opposite personalities. If you were to expose these two types to an identical situation, it would be quite remarkable to see how differently they perceive the same event.

It is worth pointing out that none of these sixteen personality types is superior to another, but that certain types are better suited for certain occupations.

It's also important to view the MBTI as an indicator of preferences, and not an ironclad set of rules. Think of them more as guidelines. An introvert, for example, might not make an ideal public speaker, but given a subject about which they are passionate, they could be highly competent in that role.

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