Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Personality

Direction Map - Heart or Head

When you’re in the gap that exists between jobs (whether that was by your choice or your employer’s), you have one of two goals—to find whatever employment that will have you, or use this precious time to find something that will help you avoid being in this unpleasant situation again.

The week I left my job I think I was still navigating the shock of having actually gone through with it. I was also overwhelmed with all of the tasks I wanted to accomplish and figuring out a logical order for where to begin proved more difficult than I had anticipated. First and foremost, I knew that if I wanted to be successful in my job search, I needed to define my ideal position. Telling myself that I just wanted something that didn’t make me miserable wasn’t going to help me find that.

A logical first step in this process was taking the time to consider all of the elements of my previous jobs that I enjoyed and did not enjoy. This provided some clarity, but not as much as I had hoped. I knew I wanted something that provided more autonomy, opportunities for growth, and a sense of meaning. These are all great qualities to look for in a company or organization, but they’re pretty generic and don’t help with identifying a particular role.

Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

All of this reflection led to thinking about motivation and a class I had in graduate school. During one particular Organizational Behavior class, we watched this video of Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explaining how mastery, autonomy and purpose were key factors of intrinsic motivation.

The acronym MAP (mastery, autonomy, purpose) has stayed with me for the three years since I sat in that classroom and has served as a measuring stick for my career satisfaction. Every time I reflect upon what was missing from a particular job, it has always related to a lack of mastery, autonomy, or purpose. If you don’t have time to watch the video, the takeaway is that motivating people with financial rewards doesn’t work and science has repeatedly proven it. As Pink so eloquently notes, “humans are not smaller, better smelling horses.” So it only makes sense that we shouldn’t be motivated in the same ways.

Once I had figured out how I’m intrinsically motivated, I needed to determine where to direct my energy.

Passion Versus Skills

This TED Talk by Benjamin Todd, co-creator of 80,000 hours, suggests that following your passion in selecting a career path is a huge mistake—and it makes A LOT of sense. If I followed my passion from when I was five, fifteen or even twenty years old, I would either be She-Ra, a tattoo artist, or an illustrator. Instead of passion, Todd suggests considering what your best skills are and where you can use them to provide the most value. 

After getting to the heart of things like motivation and fulfillment, I still needed to refine what I wanted from a job in terms of environment, work-life balance, organizational role and culture fit. For these factors, I looked to the commonly-used personality assessment, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and a lesser known assessment called the Innermetrix DISC Index.

Assess Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself

I recalled taking the Myers Briggs assessment years ago and getting one of the “introverted” personality types as a result, but I recently re-took a free version of the MBTI test since I had long forgotten which of the 16 personality types I was assigned. The Innermetrix DISC Index is also free through Tony Robbins site, but full disclosure, you will need to provide your email to get your results.

To be honest, I have never really put much stock in these types of assessments because they always seemed so rigid and black-and-white, where most people would agree that personality involves many shades of grey.

Regardless of my opinion, thousands of employers use these tests to evaluate candidates and their fit for a role or within an organization, so I decided to put my preconceived notions aside and try to extract some meaning from my results.

And I’m glad I’m not quite as stubborn to new ideas as my INFJ personality type would suggest. Combing through the results of my assessments, I found myself going through a mental checklist of qualities I know I possess but thinking about them in ways I never had before.

The Good News and the Bad News (about being an INFJ)

Some traits of my INFJ personality type that I recognize include:

  • A tendency to avoid office politics and gossip (as well as confrontation)
  • Dedicated, thorough and conscientious
  • Diplomatic
  • Modest
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Avoids risk and uncertainty (anyone who’s played poker with me can confirm this)
  • Craves order, independence, and autonomy
  • Not motivated by financial gain
  • Prefers to work independently or in small groups versus large teams

The flip-side of these traits, both good are bad, are:

  • I can be perceived as aloof and guarded.
  • People tend to dump work on me because they know I’m dedicated to getting the work done.
  • I am really good at doling out praise for others, but not so great at communicating my own accomplishments.
  • My perfectionist tendencies mean that I can sometimes hold others to impossibly high standards.
  • Waiting for 100% of the information can lead to delayed progress and a perceived lack of urgency by others.
  • I don’t get hung up on titles. I am happy in both supporting roles and assuming leadership positions when needed.
  • A private workspace can be hard to come by when so many companies institute open offices and combined workspaces.

TL;DR (Takeaways)

If you’re reading this and you’re completely satisfied with your job and your career path, I envy you, but more importantly, I recommend considering the aspects of your job, company, coworkers, and industry that you find fulfilling.

My first job was incredibly fulfilling for many years, but then leadership changed and so did my department structure and I suddenly found myself in a situation I had never been in before.

Even if you don’t experience a similar scenario, continuously working on being more self-aware can only benefit you throughout your life. In my pursuit of being more self-aware, I have learned how to be a better employee, partner, friend and all around human being.

Aside from personality tests or performance reviews, how do you assess yourself and your level of personal awareness?



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