Personality Types and Career Choices By Lawrence J. Clark “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) Last month I discussed the four main temperaments, or personality types, and how understanding them has helped me to have a better marriage. This month I will discuss the personalities as they apply to another important aspect of marriage: jobs and career choices. The choices we make in our careers can have a profound effect on our marriage, as our jobs can determine where we live, how much (or how little) we earn, and how much (or little) time we can spend with our families. Also, since most of us spend such a large portion of our day doing work-related activities, our jobs can also have a huge impact on our personal happiness (or lack thereof), which can affect how we interact with others, especially those within our immediate family. There are many scripture verses that speak to God’s love for us and His desire to care for us, but one of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) What this verse says to me is that from our earliest days, and even before we were born, God made a plan for us, and that plan was a good one. Part of that plan, I believe, was to give each of us an in-born temperament that, along with our spiritual gifts, makes us suitable for certain roles in life and in our service as members of His Kingdom. If you are not familiar with the personalities (Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy), you may want to read my previous article, “Introduction to the Personality Corner”. As a Popular Sanguine/Powerful Choleric, I have found that I am happiest in a job that allows me to 1) have fun, 2) interact with people while I’m working, and 3) be in charge of my schedule and my job-related activities, or at least have a high degree of independence and autonomy. Some combination of these factors is ideal. One of the things I did after learning about the personalities was to go back and examine my career choices, which helped me to understand why I was well-suited for certain jobs, while others were, well, disastrous mistakes. I am not talking about intelligence here, or even skill sets, although both are of course important factors. What I am talking about is my in-born, God- given temperament that makes me a “natural” for some jobs, but a poor fit for others. Let’s go back and look at my first “job.” I was an eleven-year old sixth grader, and my family was living in a large city in Turkey while my dad was stationed at an American Air Force base outside of town. Since my dad was a sergeant, and my mom stayed home to take care of me and my two brothers, there wasn’t a lot of extra cash flow in the household. Although I was able to occupy myself with low-cost activities such as playing Little League baseball, borrowing books from the library, and participation in the school drama club, I also wanted to do other things that cost money, such as going to the movies and the bowling alley, eating out with my friends, and going on weekend excursions with my Boy Scout troop and our church youth group. As a Popular Sanguine, it was extremely important for me to be able to participate in these activities, if for no other reason than “everybody else did,” or so it seemed. To be left out of the group due to a lack of funds wasn’t going to fly in my book, and to sit at home while I knew my friends were out having fun was akin to punishment. And the Powerful Choleric, independent side of me couldn’t stand relying on my parents for the small weekly allowance they were able to provide; I wanted to be in charge of my own spending and choices of activities, so I began looking for ways to produce my own income stream. It didn’t take too long until I was talking with some of my new-found friends in the base cafeteria, and one of them mentioned that she was selling her paper route for twenty dollars. I had exactly that much left of birthday money in my pocket, so I ponied it up and “inherited” a list of twenty-three subscribers to the Stars and Stripes newspaper. My friend explained that every day at lunchtime she would ride her bike to the BX bookstore, purchase two dozen copies of the paper, then ride the bus home and deliver the paper to the customers, all of whom were American military families living in apartment buildings within a six block radius of each other. At the bookstore, the papers cost ten cents each, or fifty cents per week, so she charged the customers 75 cents per week, leaving room for a 25 cent profit. Most people just gave her a dollar and told her to keep the change, so with just over twenty customers on the route, she usually took home about ten bucks a week. Following this business model, I made my twenty bucks back in a couple of weeks, then started adding customers by looking for “American” sounding names on the doorbells and asking people if they wanted their Stars and Stripes delivered. Sometimes people would even stop me in the hall or on the stairs as they saw me walking up with a pile of papers under my arm. I did lose a few customers due to families transferring back to the States, but I averaged about thirty-five customers and made about sixty dollars a month profit for the next two years, not bad money for a junior high student in the early seventies! At any rate, this job was well-suited for me because 1) it was fun walking around and exploring the city, 2) it provided the opportunity for lots of social interaction with people, and 3) I was in charge and made my own schedule, and earned plenty of extra cash to spend however I liked. I have held various other jobs throughout my life, some of which I was more suited for than others, but let me tell you about one that didn’t work out quite so well. Many years later, after graduating from a Ph.D. program in English, I took a job as a professor at a university in another state. This job met all my professional and personality requirements, but due to its location and low salary, I soon left to move closer to my daughter, who was living in Houston with my ex- wife, and took a position as a technical writer, a subject I had been teaching at the college level for several years. Although I have never regretted moving back to Texas so I could be a more involved father, I soon realized what a huge mistake I had made regarding the job I had accepted. Sure, I had almost doubled my salary, but my duties consisted mostly of sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer terminal revising endless boring chapters of computer manufacturing equipment procedure and maintenance manuals (if you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you’ll get the idea). If that wasn’t bad enough, I worked for a micro-managing supervisor with a Perfect Melancholy temperament. This individual had very limited social skills and forced our team to perform mind-numbing tasks such as (I am not kidding) counting the spaces between words. This job: 1) was no fun, 2) was devoid of virtually all social interaction 3) gave me almost no control over my schedule, my environment, or my daily tasks Needless to say, two weeks before my 1-year contract was up, I gave my notice and lined up an adjunct teaching position at a local university that paid even less than the full-time professor position I had given up a year earlier. Thankfully, things have improved greatly since then. That was almost ten years ago, and I am now in my 6th year as an associate professor at a small Christian liberal arts university. I am happy to say that I LOVE MY JOB! This job is: 1) lots of fun, 2) allows for plenty of social interaction with students, fellow colleagues, and university staff, and 3) allows for significant input over my teaching schedule (days/times), my work environment (a combination of classroom time, office hours, and preparation and grading, which can be performed in a variety of locations and times of day) and work-related tasks (I can create and offer courses in subjects that interest me; contribute to university life by participating in a variety of committees and campus organizations; and do public speaking in schools, libraries, and churches). I am also in charge of several campus activities, including a weekly coffee house- style performance series and a noon-time brown bag seminar for which I recruit faculty to give presentations on their recent research, publications, travel, etc. At the risk of stating the obvious, I must say that unlike the position I held as a technical writer, all of the duties and responsibilities associated with my position as a professor fit my personality blend of Popular Sanguine and Powerful Choleric. I have read many books on careers and goal setting, as well as a variety of self-help books, written from both secular and Christian perspectives. Now that I am aware of my God-given temperaments, though, I feel I have a greater understanding of myself, the people that I work for and with, and the career choices I have made thus far and will make in the future. I am also able to spend more time (practicing to be) a better father and husband, since having extra time during the spring break and summer holidays allows me to spend more time with both my extended and immediate family members. If you would like to find out about your own personality blend and how it can affect your choices in careers, relationships, and other areas of your life, please check out my previous articles on NewBeginningsMarriage.org. I would highly recommend Florence’s books Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself, as well as her daughter Marita’s book, Wired That Way, each of which give an excellent introduction to personality types. Also, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. NOTE: Permission is granted for you to forward or print this article free of charge for anyone you feel might benefit from its contents.
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