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Librarian or Astronaut? Personality tests can help narrow career fields

I’m an ESFJ.  Do you know what you are?

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, then you have not taken the Myers Briggs Type Indicator©.

The Myers Briggs Indicator©, MBTI, is one of the most common and popular personality tests. First published in 1962, the MBTI assesses preferred ways in which people relate to the world and each others.

Test subjects are labeled with personality types based on four dichotomies:

extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, and judging and perceiving. 

My MBTI result, ESFJ, means I am extraversion (E), sensing (S), feeling (F) and judging (F) individual.

The test assesses more than just whether you make friends in a crowd easily. It can also help narrow the career fields that may fit your personality type.

In my case, the fields of education, health care and religion are good matches for my personality type.

The test is administered to people of all ages who are exploring new careers, or are thinking of a career change. Undecided college students often use it to help choose a career path before they begin classes.

More than 2 million MBTI tests are administered each year in the U.S. Career counselors often recommend the test to their clients.

J. Patrick Lincoln, PhD, a career counselor with Life Transitions, a career counseling center in San Antonio, Texas (, is a huge fan of the test.

“If someone has six different areas they are considering, then I can counsel them and give the MBTI,” he said. “The test is a snapshot of the person sitting across from me.”

Another test that Lincoln recommends is the Strong Interest Inventory, SII, developed in 1927 for people exiting the military.

Although you can take the tests online, Lincoln says it is best to have someone who is versed in the tests go through and help you interpret the results.

“If the MBTI says they will be good in engineering and the SII also lists oceanography, then it gives grist for the mill,” he said, “The results are something we can sit and discuss together.”

While the tests offer a great baseline for career choices, Lincoln recommends using the test results to further your research, not as a final decision.

 “Tests are not the be all, end all. Contact people who are doing what it is that you want to do,” he said. “Go talk to 10 lawyers in different areas of law, go see what the costs of law school are. Get on the dictionary of occupational titles and the net and plug in occupations and research them.”

Not only does the test help recommend career fields, it also can steer people away from careers that might be a really bad match for their personality.

 “A lot of parents call us before their college student picks a major,” he said. “This way, their kids don’t spend a lot of money deciding on something they ultimately don’t end up doing. Spending a little bit of money now can help save a lot of wasted money, and time, later.”


To learn more about the tests, visit:

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