Monday, May 19, 2008

I.T. generally a good career choice for introverts; some career advice is puzzling; loot at the MBTI polarity charts


I remember taking some personality tests during outplacement with Right Management in 2002, and I believe they were the Myers-Biggs. This well known test results in a matrix of personality traits, color coded: there are several axes: Extraversio-Introversion (roughly what Paul Rosenfels calls “polarity”) Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. All of these are related to “polarity” and “balanced or unbalanced” personalities, or to “objectivity” and “subjectivity.” A userful MBTI link is here. The charts remind me of the Nolan Chart from "the World's Smallest Political Quiz."

On Sunday, May 18, The Washington Post ran, in the Jobs Section on page K1, a featured story by Vickie Elmer, “A lot of ways to win your game of solitaire,” about how introverts should handle the workplace,” link here. In January 2007 I had reviewed Marti Olsen Laney’s book “The Introvert Advantage” here

She gives two lists of best jobs for introverts, overall and best-paying. She includes Computer software engineer (for both applications and systems software) on both lists. But some of the other choices are surprising. “Financial analyst” sounds analytical, but in practice financial planners have to go out and schmooze for business like insurance agents. She gives lawyer, but some introverts might like the adversarial nature of the legal profession, if intellectual objectivity is important to the personality. She gives medical scientist, but notes “except epidemiologist.” I don’t understand the exception. Is there too much interviewing of people? That shouldn’t be a problem when the interviewing is factual in nature, and epidemiology involves a lot of statistics. I would love to have been an epidemiologist (like James Curran) at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta when the AIDS epidemic broke out in the 1980s. I would wonder about intelligence analyst, say at the CIA.

I would also wonder about reporter or journalist, especially after my visit to the Ethics Center at the Newseum and an exercise as a “reporter.” Remember, Superman Clark Kent becomes a journalist, and actually in many of the Smallville episodes Clark is capable of a lot of introversion and soul-searching, especially in the earlier seasons. Yet, he is still “a man of action.”

Unfortunately, introversion comes across to some people as a "moral" problem, or at least one of stunted personality maturity, particularly to people who believe that anyone should be able to sell for a living. Maybe anyone should be able to sell what he or she worked on. Introversion actually has more to do with insistence on truth.

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