Career Stereotyping

March 2012. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

I just heard it again…career "advice" that "you really shouldn't go into that field because you're the wrong type!" What is the wrong type?? As an ESTJ, following that logic, I shouldn't be a psychologist! Yet, I've found ways to be in that profession that fit wonderfully with my type.

No, I'm not a psychologist conducting therapy to help my clients grow and develop by delving into their childhoods and providing brilliant insights on destructive patterns and how to overcome them. I am a psychologist who enjoys teaching others about some of the nuts and bolts of psychometric instruments (the mechanics I'm interested in are not those of machines, but of people-related assessments). And I enjoy teaching practical applications of the instrument by using examples of people I know as well as "how to" stories.

I also work as part of a team conducting a leadership program Ė I put together small groups of people who will work on a task together. I use my ST to make sure I have the facts about those people and a logical structure in forming the groups. My goal is to have diversity in those groups (yes, including type diversity) so that people can intentionally experience the inclusion of different perspectives. Some of the best learning has occurred with teams who initially had conflict but who stuck with the process, analyzed their dynamic, and figured out ways to move forward together.

But back to stereotyping - just think about substituting gender or race or ethnicity or country of origin in that first sentence limiting occupational choice; I doubt that anyone would utter that out loud at this point, although those were limiting "characteristics" in many peoples' eyes not so long ago.

As for stereotyping/limiting based on type, I am assuming the perpetrators are simply misinformed! If they bothered to look at the data, they would find that all occupations have all 16 types, although certainly there are some patterns.

Focusing on a sample of 509 career counselors,* the type least represented is ESFP at 2.2% and the type most represented is ENFP at 16.1%. (They are just one "letter" different, but that letter and its dynamics matter a lot! Who says type dynamics donít matter… but that's a post for another day!) STs are 17.7% of that career counselor sample; SFs, 23.4%; NFs, 41.8%; and NTs, 17.1%.

I admit here you are seeing a bit of my ST approach in the paragraph above Ė research data! However, think how limiting it would be to have a career counselor who…

  • only provided data on jobs and the job market, along with efficient procedures for you to follow (ST), and missed that there are individual differences among people and exceptions to the data, or who…
  • only provided the latest theories on career development (NT) and didn't focus on you and your immediate needs to pay bills, or who…
  • only provided direct support for you now, not offering any alternatives that might upset you (SF), and didnít encourage you to see beyond the day to day to the challenges of the future, or who…
  • only focused on empowering you to be all that you could be (NF) while you were really just an ordinary musician, not someone who could logically earn their living as a rock star.

You get the picture, don't you?! So are you limiting people by their types?

* From MBTI® Type Tables for Occupations by N.A. Schaubhut and R.C. Thompson, Mountain View, CA: CPP, 2008. Another good source for related information is MBTI® Type Tables for College Majors.