Personality Types and Career Choices by 8UEwFy


									                            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

   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

   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

   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,
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 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

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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