Friday, April 25, 2014

Pick a career compatible with your personality

You really can’t do much to change your personality. It’s more or less fixed upon adulthood and will likely remain largely unchanged throughout your life unless you’re affected by head injuries, medications or other substances, or, gasp, old age. Like many other characteristics it’s the result of both genes and environment.

Since personality is quite stable it’s important to pick a career that’s congruent with it. This may seem like common sense, but I’ve seen a lot of people take on jobs which are largely incompatible with their nature. If there’s a mismatch you’ll constantly feel like you’re swimming upstream, putting on an act, and always feel “on.” Essentially, you’ll feel stressed out and unhappy.

There’s of course no single job that will perfectly fit your personality at all times, but, rather, even in a compatible position, you’ll end up altering it to some degree throughout your work day. The question is how much, to what extent, and your degree of comfort with this.

In general temporary and subtle personality adjustments are tolerable and may even feel effortless. These changes often happen automatically without conscious thought. For a moment, think of someone who’s generally outgoing and loud. This person could likely comfortably act subdued while spending a some time browsing in the library. And he probably wouldn’t even give it much if any thought. However, if he became a librarian, it would be far more difficult and his personality adjustment will not be sustainable. He will likely not be able to conform to the library’s cultural norms, so, he will probably end up quitting or be fired after being loud on too many occasions because it was simply too hard to keep the guard up, masking his true self. The bridge between his and the required personality is simply too wide.

Some people’s personality is such that they are comfortable making frequent short-term personality changes. A lot of these people tend to do well in sales. Salespeople tend to be relatively comfortable “mirroring” prospective customers, for example. This involves mimicking characteristics of the individual they’re communicating with, which in turn can build rapport between individuals since people tend to trust others they perceive as being similar to themselves. But even these people have a core personality, of course, and this trait is merely one component, and they too benefit from carefully gauging their degree of comfort with the frequency and extent of any personality adjustments.


The photo was taken with my cell phone this past winter. I saw the deer alongside a road. 

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