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August 7, 2015

Follow the Right Career Path for You

Caroline Smith

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I've had many jobs in my life, from working part-time while at school, to taking a year out before university, temping during my holidays, and working full-time after graduating. Each one has taught me something important about my personality and what I want from my career.

My first “job” was doing a paper round when I was 14. I did two weeks’ work experience in a large department store when I was 15, and from 16 I worked most weekends either babysitting, waitressing or both. I learned some valuable lessons from these experiences: I’m not particularly good at standing on my feet for long periods of time, I’m not great with children, and I really don't like working weekends!

Before I went to university, I took a gap year and worked in a call center for a large brewery, hotel and restaurant chain. And I absolutely loved it. Okay, it was stressful, with calls coming in non-stop throughout the day, and I had to deal with irate customers all the time, but I enjoyed speaking with different people and solving their problems, and I liked how I never knew what was coming next. The days just whizzed by. The experience taught me I should work in a team, help others, and do a job with lots of variety.

However, we don't always get much choice about the work we do, and I did pretty much anything to earn a little extra cash during my time at university, including being a receptionist, a data-entry inputter, an administrator, a factory worker, and a law librarian. There were elements of all jobs that I liked, but – most of all – I realized that I never wanted a job doing something repetitive or that didn’t engage my brain.

After graduating, I took everything I learned from previous jobs and decided to pursue a career in HR: you deal with people, solve problems, and there's plenty of variety. It seemed perfect! I started at the “bottom,” working first as an HR administrator, then as an assistant, and progressing to advisor level, at a number of large corporations.

For all intents and purposes, I was doing well, but each promotion left me cold. Dealing with conflict all the time didn't suit my personality, and I despised the large amounts of paperwork and administration I had to do. I found working for large companies a bit like being a cog in a machine, that I was a number rather than a person, and I was frustrated by the lack of creative output.

What changed the direction of my career was taking a Myers Briggs® personality test at work. It gave me real insight into myself, like what gives me energy, what my strengths and preferences are, and the kind of work that suits me. The experience also opened my eyes to the way my colleagues operated, why they did things in different ways, and what made them tick.

I found it absolutely fascinating that this assessment, which matched my personality to one of 16 "types," could be so accurate. I know it’s not the case for everyone but, when I read the generic profile for mine, it was like someone had written it about me.

The MBTI assessment had a profound impact on me. Soon after taking it, I decided to change career and work in editorial – and I’ve never looked back. Editing challenges me, it plays to my strengths and love of language, and it allows me to be creative. Nothing gives me "flow" more than writing a blog post, tweaking an article, or brainstorming new content ideas. And now I'm aware of my preferences, I understand that working for smaller companies and being able to "make a difference" fits my personality much better than playing a small part in a large corporation.

Another excellent personality tool is the DiSC® model, and this is the subject for today's article. This popular assessment classifies people's behavior into four types (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) by looking at their preferences on two scales: task versus people, and fast-paced versus moderate-paced. Like MBTI, it can help you understand your own strengths so you can perform at your best and get the most from your team.

We'd love to hear from anyone who has experienced the power of personality tests, and how they've impacted on your careers. Please share your stories below!

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