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How to Use Your Personality Type to Get Ahead at Work

Play into your strengths — and be aware of your weaknesses.
Image: People work at laptops during a meeting
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can provide some specific insight into how your personality traits affect your interactions at work.Rafal Rodzoch / Getty Images/Caiaimage

You've probably sat through a job interview where you were asked some version of, "What do you bring to the table?"

Sure, there were likely a list of boxes you checked that made you a solid candidate for the role. But what about the things that make you uniquely qualified for the job that have nothing to do with work experience?

Psychologists and researchers alike have been hard at work studying the differences in how people see, experience and interact with the world and those around them for decades. One such scale of evaluating personality types, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, deciphers personality traits across four pillars in order to determine this.

"The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality assessment created to help people better understand and appreciate differences in personalities and perspectives," explains Melissa Summer, associate marketing manager at The Myers-Briggs Company. "Commonly called 'the MBTI,' this tool is a self-assessment that helps you understand how you’re energized (extraversion or introversion), the way you take in information (sensing or intuition), what things you weigh when you make decisions (thinking or feeling), and how you organize your time and world (judging or perceiving)."

According to Summer, you're born favoring one or the other of each of the four preference pairs — but it's not impossible to be able to function on both sides of the spectrum. "Just like how you prefer to write with one hand doesn’t mean you can’t use the other hand, but your favored hand is faster and feels more natural," she explains.

Once you've taken the MBTI assessment, you're assigned a personality type that consists of four letters, which correlate to which way you lean in each category. "Certain personality types may be better suited for particular tasks at work," says Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. "A personality assessment is beneficial because it helps you to pinpoint your areas of strength, and better understand how you may act or react in particular situations."

Here's how to get ahead at work no matter what career path you've set your sights on, based on which side of the scale you fall for each of the four main personality pillars.

If You're An Extrovert

It's important to note that no one is 100 percent introverted or extroverted. We're all capable of both introversion and extroversion when the occasion calls for it. For example, we might become more extroverted in an office setting, but act more introverted at home. But if you generally find yourself more energized by people than you do drained, you likely fall more toward the extroversion side. "An extrovert is a people person," says Hakim. "Someone who is an extrovert is likely to feel comfortable meeting new people and engaging in small talk before a team meeting or professional gathering."

Getting Ahead: Whether it's leading a meeting or giving a client presentation, extroverts shine when tasked with getting up in front of people. "Extroverts tend to prefer verbal communication," explains Lisa Orbé-Austin, Ph.D. "Presenting in the workplace can be very outward facing, and [extroverts are] good at engaging a large variety of people. Extroverts are comfortable leading teams, and want to address conflict face-to-face." The affinity for meeting new people also helps extroverts get ahead in their respective career disciplines. "Extroverts can often be well-networked which assists in their advancement," Orbé-Austin says.

Challenges: Extroverts excel at building workplace relationships — but this can end up being detrimental to their workload. "For those who enjoy (and get great fulfillment from) socializing with others, it can sometimes be tough to break away from office dialogue to get work done," says Hakim.

What to Work On: Balancing your passion for socializing with your workload is key for extroverts. "Set clear boundaries so that you have time to socialize, but not at the expense of meeting your deadlines," says Hakim.

If You're An Introvert

It's not that introverts don't like or value interactions with people — it's just that their strengths lie in the work that they do solo. "Introverts tend to prefer written communication and an opportunity to reflect before providing feedback during meetings," explains Orbé-Austin. "They need time by themselves to recharge — especially after a lot of interpersonal interaction."

Getting Ahead: Give an introvert a solo project to work on, and there's no doubt it will exceed expectations. "An ideal job for an introvert is one that is individual-based," says Hakim. "You may do well working on a detailed report or crunching numbers for a company budget." Introverts enjoy spending time thinking things through from different angles, and the work they put forward is known for being thoughtful and well-rounded in perspective.

Challenges: Because introverts have an affinity for working alone rather than engaging with a group, the way they're perceived in the workplace can come off negatively. "Introverts tend to be misunderstood as being either too timid, aloof or disengaged, because they often are more quiet and in their own heads," says Orbé-Austin.

What to Work On: "Introverts must work to assert themselves by speaking up more and engaging more with their colleagues, especially through small talk," says Orbé-Austin. "Offering more opinions in meetings and trying to connect more with colleagues by going to lunch or after-work events will also allow them to raise their profile and be more visible" — which is especially important when promotion time rolls around.

If You Gather Information by Sensing

When you need to make a decision on something, do you rely on the truths of the situation in order to come to a conclusion? If so, you likely fall on the "sensing" side of the spectrum. "If you identify with the sensing preference, your thought process is logical and you draw results based on overt facts," explains Hakim.

Getting Ahead: The extreme attention to detail that those who identify with sensing bring to the table can help them get ahead not only through the work that they complete, but the cues they pick up when interacting with their superiors and other coworkers. "You are perceptive of the world around you and aware of others," says Hakim. "At work, take full advantage of your ability to notice such details. Pay special attention to the verbal and nonverbal cues of others, to build rapport and ensure clear and direct communication."

Challenges: "While they see the fine details, sensing types tend to overlook or fail to consider the big picture or strategy of a project/initiative, and how their role/duties contribute to it," says Orbé-Austin. "They can get lost in those fine details, and sometimes struggle to recognize how all the pieces fit together."

What to Work On: Putting in an extra effort to see the broader scope of work will help put sensing types ahead. "Work to better understand the greater strategy involved in a project or initiative and to value data outside of the factual and concrete," says Orbé-Austin.

Image: Two men work in an office
Intuition types thrive in brainstorming sessions, where they are able to bring unique ideas to the table.svetikd / Getty Images

If You Gather Information through Intuition

On the other side of the scale, intuitives gather information through a process of deep introspection. "If you identify with the intuition preference, you go beyond the surface to delve deeper to understand a concept, and also consider novel ideas or options," Hakim explains.

Getting Ahead: Intuition types are invaluable in brainstorming sessions, known for bringing unique ideas to the table. "You would be ideal for a company think tank or brainstorming session," says Hakim. "Others may also lean on you due to your ability to think outside of the box."

Challenges: Because they're so focused on the big idea, the small but important details can end up being overlooked. "Intuition types tend to miss important fine details, which may be critical to the success of their role," says Orbé-Austin.

What to Work On: Even though you don't have an affinity for minutiae, push yourself to pay attention to it. "Make sure to fully comprehend the fine details of your part of the team project while also piecing together how all the parts serve the big picture," says Orbé-Austin.

If Your Decisions Are Driven By Thinking

Regardless of what side of the scale you fall on for this one, the process of decision-making obviously requires thought. But if your decisions are more driven by the facts than they are by how you feel about a given scenario, you likely align more with the thinker type. "If you identify with the thinking preference you take a rational approach to problem solving," Hakim explains. "You try to take emotion out of the equation when handling an issue or discussing a concern."

Getting Ahead: Whether approaching a problem with a client or a disagreement between coworkers, thinkers are known and valued for being fair, which makes them well positioned for leadership roles. "You may be a good sounding board for others, since you can provide a logical solution to an emotionally-laden issue," explains Hakim. "You may also be called upon by colleagues to resolve work disputes fairly."

Challenges: While thinking types are appreciated for their rationality and fairness, there are some situations where expressing emotions in the workplace can be beneficial. "Thinking types tend to be viewed as cold, insensitive and lacking compassion," says Orbé-Austin. "Therefore, they must work to consider how other people may feel about a particular action they may wish to take."

What to Work On: Cultivating empathy and getting in touch with how your coworkers feel about a given situation will help strengthen work relationships. "During times of conflict, strive to tap into your emotions to understand how the other side is feeling," says Hakim. "This will help to resolve conflict more quickly and ensure that you are seen as a team player."

If Your Decisions Are Driven By Feeling

You may weigh the rational pros and cons, but if emotion tends to be the driver of your decisions you likely line up with the feeling type. "If you identify with the feeling preference, you consider the feelings of others when making decisions and when you share those decisions," says Hakim.

Getting Ahead: Feelers have a knack for getting along with a wide variety of people and personality types, which makes them great team leaders. "They are very attuned to other people’s emotions, have good interpersonal skills and are able to engage with many different types of team members," says Orbé-Austin. "Their strength is finding harmony and remaining personally involved when making decisions."

Challenges: Feelers are attuned to helping others — but making everyone happy isn't always possible. "Feelers should make sure that they are not too sensitive to the needs of others to the detriment of making progress on the project," says Orbé-Austin. "Feeling types do not like conflict, but their avoidance of it can cause bigger problems down the line, and may also result in them being viewed as 'playing favorites,' which can impact morale."

What to Work On: "Work on how to make hard decisions, even if it may displease some people," says Orbé-Austin. "Balance the need for harmony and inclusion with the need for fairness and logical decision-making."

If You View The World By Judging

We’re not talking judging as in being judgmental, but rather making judgements based on a set of "rules," whether that's company driven or societal norms. "If you identify with the judging preference, you are often seen by others as a rule follower," says Hakim. "Others think of you as one who likes order."

Getting Ahead: Abiding by the rules and following proper workflow procedures will no doubt be recognized by your boss and set you up for success as a leader. "Being seen as a rule follower has its advantages in the office — especially with a supervisor," says Hakim. "Leaders appreciate those who can help keep the troops in line. Rely on logic and order to make decisions at work and to meet goals and deliverables."

Challenges: There are plenty of work circumstances that call for flexibility — and that isn't always easy for this type to factor in. "Judging types are often viewed as being too rigid and extremely devoted to their plan, to the point of being unyielding," says Orbé-Austin.

What to Work On: "Balance the need for structure and deadlines with the flexibility required in group work," says Orbé-Austin. "Be open to information that may not align with the initial plan, and be more flexible when working with others."

If You View the World By Perceiving

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the perceivers, who have a more malleable way of viewing situations and circumstances. "If you identify with the perceiving preference, you are often seen by others as flexible," says Hakim. "Others think of you as one who is open-minded."

Getting Ahead: Being able to shift gears and adapt will help you excel as new challenges present themselves at work. "Your willingness to appear flexible means that you may provide (or at least embrace!) a different approach to a solution or situation," says Hakim. "Bosses love it when employees are open minded and willing to tackle a new idea or solution. You may be well-suited to lead a change initiative, especially if others haven’t bought into the idea quite yet."

Challenges: Of course, staying open and being flexible can work against you if you're unable to land on a decision. "Perceiving types are often viewed as being indecisive or flighty and not good with deadlines, due to their desire to remain open to various options," says Orbé-Austin.

What to Work On: "Your drive to be seen as flexible may impact your ability to get your work done," says Hakim. "Instead of committing quickly to a request from a colleague, take a few moments to think before responding. Make sure that the choice is in your best interest and in the best interest of the company."