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15 Feb 2016

How does personality affect career planning

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Sonia Hutton Taylor of Medical Forum writes on how your personality affects your career as a locum GP

There are many ways of dividing the human personality up into “types” and sometimes this can help to explain career planning difficulties or career dissatisfaction.

Myers BriggsEnneagram and Belbin are all different personality tests - to name a few.

If you are like me you may well have done one or more of these in your past - yet you can’t quite recall which “type” or types you are. This is not surprising as with Myers Briggs there are 16 different types and unless one uses it in ones daily work and life (it is a bit like a language) it gradually becomes a distant memory and very rusty.

Personally I like the personality test devised many years ago by British Telecom when they were training their telesales staff. The aim was to quickly decipher one of four main types and these were:

People person
Order person
Direction person
Creative person

So if one was selling a car to these four types:

People

Appeal to their social and sociable nature. How many people fit in the car, how can the seating arrangements be varied, how safe it is for the dog in the boot, how good is the communication with mobiles?

Order

Appeal to their penchant for data and precision.   Talk about the litres of space for storage and different types of innovative storage, the top speeds, the mpg, the length of the contract or free servicing bonus.

Direction

Find out what this person is aiming for in life.  Could this car suit their goals and the challenges ahead?  What precisely do they want the car FOR - a runaround, impress the neighbours, drive faster to work, to do off roading occasionally?

Creative

Is often taken with the overall vision, new gizmos, colour options, interior trim and how flexible the space is (people, loads, furniture, dogs etc).

Now this is not to say that the sociable person might not want to drive fast; nor that the orderly person might also have a preference for black bodywork and dogs or that the creative person might want a good fuel consumption.

The truth is that we are all a mix of these four traits and Myers Briggs would even divide each into another four (hence it being far too complex to use on a daily basis ). However our default personality is more likely to be the part that finally makes the decision.

However using those four very broad personality types, we can guess how a locum might tend to plan their careers or indeed organise their locums.

People person /social

They will tend to want their career to very much blend with the needs of others. They can be persuaded to do something relatively easily because they want to please and fit in - but they may at times not say no when they should and should thus try to be clear about boundaries and their own needs.

They will be keen to do repeat locums in places they have bonded with the team.

Order

This person will have a methodical approach to locum work and keep great time and fees/ tax records.
They probably will prefer to have a steady and logical career plan with not too much change.
And they can be persuaded to do something if it involves being orderly, precise or creating order.
But they may resent being expected to work in an untidy disorganised room.

Direction

This person likes a challenge particularly if it gets them somewhere they want to go.
They may be ambitious in small or big ways - and like to work towards an end point.
They can be persuaded to do something because it is difficult and challenging - even if no one else wants to do it, especially if it can advance them in some way or they simply see that it is needed as part of the whole. They need clear purpose - the clearer the better. Locum work can feel particularly plateau-like for this personality type, so it is important to build in a sense of progressing for part of their week.

Creative

This person likes variety and aesthetics so if a practice has particularly nice views or interiors they would gravitate there.
Their career plan needs to be full of variety; and in fact they may make it so full due to their desire to experience new and innovative - that they take on far too much and not do enough “pruning” of existing commitments.
They can be persuaded to do something sometimes merely because it is different or something not done before or because it requires them to come up with loads of ideas or be very flexible in their approach. In locum work they may be attracted to locums in remote or unusual places or where the set up of the practice is quirky or where the arrangements are particularly flexible.

From these very brief descriptions you may identify yourself with firmly being more like one of the four or you may find you overlap two main ones ( albeit with a few smidgeons of the other two). However most of us on further deeper questioning will find that there is one mode that is clearly dominant in how we conduct ourselves and this is the one that can help or hinder us in pretty much everything we do.

To give an example - the high creative type loves to have a career plan full of ideas and pursuing new things. However they may have so many ideas that they get stuck going round and round them all or merely keep generating new ones but never taking any of them into properly weighed up analysis.

It is clear that when attempting to generate new career options this might be incredibly useful but not if so many possible directions keep being generated that the list is endless. Remaining stuck in “possibility” and options can really stiffle a career and whilst dreaming and vision is good - in fact an essential part of good career planning - remaining in that state and not taking things forwards can result in a sense of not meeting true potential.

So whichever of the four types that is dominant for you - it will definitely be both helping and hindering your career and even how you adapt to a locum’s life.

Adapted from the Factsheet “personality and career” available within Medical Forum free guest membership where there are more links to personality tests.

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