Can an SJ Personality be a Jack of All Trades?

The Sensing-Judging or “SJ” personality type is ideal for certain career tracks and vocations that involve the practical application of knowledge in a structured way. Libraries, laboratories, spreadsheets and engines, call to us like sirens. We are masters at pulling together vast amounts of minutiae and arranging them into cohesive and efficient wholes. When we focus in on a profession, we tend to become “Masters of One”.

We carry our skills, education and network with us into any work situation and are able to use them in any variety of combinations to excel in the next challenge. Once an SJ begins to put down roots in a company, it’s a challenge to interest him in another career field, even one within the same scope of work. Unless the new position is a stepping stone along a career path that was carefully laid out from the beginning, the SJ is usually content to remain in place.

What is easy to miss, however, is that the same gifts that an SJ uses to go deeper into a single career can be used to go wider into complementary job arenas instead, if circumstances dictate it. Let’s take a look at how an SJ can survive, and thrive, in a jack-of-all trades world.  

The Jack of all trades, a new map for working 

Millennials have kindly coined the term JOAT for us—the “Jack of All Trades”. They embrace the idea that change is a constant and happens whether we change along with it or not. Picking up skills, education and an ever-widening network of contacts along the way, they blaze the trail for purposeful, inquisitive career expansion.

No longer is there a stigma attached to advancing our personal cause. It’s expected that an employee would be regularly evaluating whether to stay with a company or move on to another. This surprises most SJs. The traditionalist within us is bewildered to learn that, not only is job-hopping socially acceptable, but necessary if we want the salary, position or challenge we crave in the career of our choice. Successful professionals will tell you that employees who change careers every three to five years make more money than those who remain ten to fifteen years with a single company.

While our initial response to the idea of switching jobs feels contrary to our instinct for tradition and loyalty to the company where we are, we also appreciate the idea that money, benefits and other tangible compensation are a reality of life. Certain circumstances will make us aware that it could be time to change up our game.

Sometimes a career change is out of our control. We are practical enough to understand concepts like lay-offs and even termination. No matter how carefully structured our career plans are, this detour can happen. While SJs aren’t perhaps exuberant about switching jobs, it’s reassuring to know that we can use the opportunity to our advantage by reevaluating what it is we want for our careers and ourselves, moving forward.

Now that you mention it…

The personal challenges that an SJ faces in the workplace are interesting. Several situations that have nothing to do with our salary could be the impetus to job hop. We aren’t an emotional type, so it’s hard to offend us, but we also like to be valued for our contributions and are eager to share them. Unappreciative management or having a supervisor that is thin on regular feedback will have us questioning our own judgment on the job and eventually create a sense of instability. An SJ won’t live with for these things for long, unless it’s for the greater good. Like parenting.

If, however, your superiors are recognizing you for your insight and eagerness to make the company thrive, be prepared for at least one, if not many, threatened coworkers. Your self-confidence comes from within and other personality types are going to struggle with the idea that you are fine whether they bond with you or not. You are there to do a job well, and Happy Hour is a secondary thought. Without some form of personal reassurance that you are, indeed, on their team, a distance can develop that you may or may not recognize until it’s too late.

A company culture that discourages independent thinking, practical discernment or changing up our work environment for the sake of it will also tempt us to explore other opportunities in the workforce. You know who you are and where you’re going. Sometimes, the logical next step is to head for the exit.

Should I stay or should I grow now?

There are other situations that could occur specifically with SJs, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Learning is our forte, but reassembling that hard-won knowledge is our gift. Beware of learning the company routines and then suggesting a “better” way. Particularly if you haven’t spent some time figuring out your supervisor and coworkers’ personalities and goals. If you weren’t hired to make a difference but instead, to maintain the status quo, your gift will be met with a decidedly negative response.

Egos are a thing. It’s a tricky tangle for us; not that we don’t have egos of our own, but we keep ours in check for the greater good. It’s inconceivable that we would stop our workday to cater to a coworker’s disrupted emotional state, or worse yet, that it factored into how they proceeded with their job. They naturally assumed you would do the same and your apparent detachment will trigger an entirely secondary set of feelings about you personally. Having self-confidence without personal connections in the workplace can stall the most promising of careers.

If you find yourself in a company for a long period of time, content, busy and thinking that your loyalty and hard-won coworker bonds are finally paying off, think again. Are you still growing? Are you still using your personality talents to their full potential? Sometimes we are lulled into coasting instead of growing. That dull, vaguely unsatisfied feeling in the back of your mind could be trying to tell you that you crave a fresh challenge. After all, you’ve brought this company as far as you are able. Others are out there, and they need you.

Judge for yourself

Sensory-Judgers are known as the Guardian temperaments. We are pragmatic problem-solvers. We aren’t emotionally attached to our jobs, but like to be loyal to people or ideals. This means we can tolerate negativity in the workplace much longer than other personality types and this isn’t always a good thing. Question the behaviors of others in your workspace and judge whether you are in an environment that encourages you to thrive. Deciding when to stay and when to go will be easier once you lay out all of the facts for yourself.

Know that changing jobs, whether in the same, similar or completely different career field, will be a confidence booster because you are able to bring everything you’ve ever learned and everyone you’ve ever met, along with you. This makes you a valuable contributor to any workplace. You may even find yourself returning to school to gather additional education into your arsenal. For us, all learning is valuable.

SJs are certainly capable of, if not excited about, being a Jacks of All Trades. We funnel in a constant cursory knowledge of a great many things and our personality can formulate a plan and make sensible decisions with the moving pieces. Whether you move deeper into your specialized career niche or move out onto a wider cross-career path, find a workplace that appreciates your particular contributions. You know how to plug your past into a newly designed future.

And being loyal to yourself is the best gauge for deciding which way to grow.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is a freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where - aided by innumerable pots of Yorkshire Gold tea - her first novel is in progress. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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