I recently saw an “Infographic” that opened with the words: “Some of us get energized by interacting with other people while others among us are drained by such interactions. And it’s likely a lot of people are out there in jobs that are unsuitable for their natural inclinations toward extroversion or introversion.”
I am a major supporter of assessment as part of anyone’s self-awareness and continuing development. In the context of career search, I believe that everyone should be aware of their strengths, their interests, and their personality. However, there are two major issues that have the potential to seriously interfere with the value of the information generated by the assessments.
The Validity Issues
The first issue is related to the validity of the information. The concept of validity is fairly basic on one level: is the assessment logically or factually sound; does it measure what it’s supposed to measure? On another level, validity is actually a complex statistical measurement that requires professional skills to determine. On still another level, validity is too often assessed by only the “face validity.” This can translate to nothing more than an individual saying that he or she “likes” or “agrees” with the results.
The second issue is a subset of the validity issue. For personality factors in particular, there have been a plethora of options available for decades. But in today’s world, it’s expanded to almost an infinite number of options. In addition to this overwhelming number of options for assessing some personality factors, some of them, like introversion versus extroversion, are frequently portrayed in movies, television, comic strips, and infographics.
On the professional level, these personality factors – some of these factors like introversion and extroversion are often referred to as part of “personal style” – can be measured by more costly and supervised assessments. Consider the following options:
On the internet, you can take a six-question “test,” for free that will tell you if you are an introvert or an extrovert. You can also get a determination of your “Introversion versus Extroversion” scores by taking a formal assessment, like the classic Myers-Briggs (MBTI).
If you choose the formal assessment, it is likely (and should be) administered by a professional who had to qualify the purchase the assessment for you and is bound by professional training and standards. From a validity standard, which option is more likely to provide real insights on this important factor of personality.
The Misinterpretation Dilemma
In my opinion, there’s an equally if not slightly more important issue. Too many people have the mistaken belief that they are either an introvert or an extrovert. Even with professional feedback reports I’ve found it critical to explain this critical factor.
In addition, there’s a reality that many people can be primarily on style at work and an opposite style at work. There are numerous famous performers who are very extroverted on stage – and extremely introverted offstage. I am very good friends with an award-winning singer whom I guarantee would be scored as an extrovert by the thousands of fans who’ve seen him perform. I’ve traveled with him multiple times three-four day weekly tours. On the bus, at restaurants, during the “off-time,” he’s very much an introvert. I learned personally that my own mother, a very supportive, quiet woman at home was a very assertive, outgoing person in the work world as a property manager. My own personality, measured multiple times with multiple instruments, reveals an “introvert” preference – which would very much surprise 1000’s of students who completed my courses and training programs.
A key word there is “preference” and it requires the real important clarification here. I recently did an assessment for a young man I’ve known for over a decade, from the young son of a friend to a student in a training program I facilitated, to a colleague on projects with me, and to a successful real estate agent in his hometown. I can verify, along with his test results, that he acts and scores as an introvert – yet I’ve seen him play guitar on stage with his father’s award-winning group, and I’ve personally assigned him to work with an audience of over 200 workshop participants that required very outgoing – extroverted – behavior. While he has a “preference” for introversion, a preference on the extroversion-introversion scale, a +7 out of a possible +30 – correctly interpreted as only a “slight preference.” Understanding this was a key development for this individual’s career decision-making at the time we explored this.
I’ve recently begun experimenting with a variation in presenting and discussing results with individuals and teams. In addition to presenting the standard results, which too frequently results in a “I’m an INTJ” type categorization, I’ve created a “word cloud” based on the actual scores. It appears to be increasing the understanding of the results, particularly when comparing results with team members.
I place a high value on the concept of how personality factors impact career decision-making and career success. I support the general idea that there are introvert and extrovert careers – but it’s not just a simple dichotomy. It requires thoughtful consideration and professional applications of some very important personality concepts.
Photo Credit: Bigstock