Does Personality Type Have any Effect on Career Growth?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 18, 2019

Obviously, your personality type has affected your career. For many, it determined what that career would be. It’s common knowledge that most ENTJs prefer to find success by taking on leadership roles and helping to organize projects, whereas an introverted perceiver may be less interested in that type of role. 

But how, specifically, once you land that job you got by taking account of your personality, does it change where you go on the corporate ladder?

We all know one person who loves the job, or just hates upper management politics, or doesn’t want to deal with people, and turns down promotion after promotion to stay where they are. I’m also willing to bet you have had a boss that was a brilliant problem solver who got promoted to the point where he couldn’t actually work on the problems, and is now completely useless. Just because someone made a great start in their career, doesn’t mean they’re equally suited to a senior position in the same field.  

Maybe you are in a situation like this, trying to figure out how to get promoted in a way that keeps you using your personality authentically, so you can keep on being successful. Unfortunately, to be successful you have to understand not only your personality type, but the way it will interact with the people around you.

Career mismatches are a negative feedback loop

Your personality type does not just affect the way you think and act, but it also influences others' perceptions of you. Think back to that boss who got promoted into uselessness; he probably felt that his potential was being wasted in his position, and even if he never said a word about that, the idea rubbed off. We know that the way others perceive us is something we pick up on and mold ourselves to, both consciously and subconsciously.  

This isn’t a complicated idea, but it is a critical one. Your personality type and any misperceptions others have about it are likely to self perpetuate and drive your career. It’s a feedback loop, regardless of whether or not it’s positive or negative; if you’re unhappy with your job and others know it, you’re likely to become more unhappy about your job. If your personality type doesn’t fit your job, you’re likely to be unhappy about your job (and your coworkers are likely to wish you had a different job!).

So while it is critical to career success to find a job that matches your personality traits, it’s not just because you will have an easier time completing tasks. No, it’s also because it will overall make you a happier, more positively perceived person, which will wrap back around into positive feelings about work and an easier time completing tasks. 

The idea becomes doubly true once you start moving up the ladder. Anyone you have authority over is twice as susceptible to this sort of thing because they’re instinctively taking cues off you. This is why you can guess what department somebody is from just by their attitude toward the company. 

So, don’t just think about how much you are enjoying the job, or even how much your teammates enjoy having you on the job, but also how much of that you perceive, and how much they perceive. It doesn’t matter how much you’re getting paid if you don’t want to work, and it doesn’t matter if you want to work if you don’t show that you want to work.

Finding your place in the hierarchy

To get to the optimal place for you, you want to know what jobs you can and can’t do, before you accept the movement. This goes for official, salary-changing promotions, and for emails titled “can you take on responsibility for project x?” It goes for sideways movement inside the company and it goes for applying for new jobs using the credentials from the last one.

I (an INTJ) have found my personal success working in corporate strategy, working alone on complex policy and objective-based problems. When promoted to a larger project and told to delegate work, I found myself and more importantly my team struggling to solve problems I knew I’d dealt with in an afternoon back when I worked alone. So revel in knowing your limits and accepting them. Can’t imagine yourself leading the team effectively? Ask for a sideways or diagonal movement to take on another position instead, higher or at least elsewhere in the company so that you can then have options for advancement.

If you’re one of the lucky few who is maxing out in their chosen career (this especially goes for people who don’t like leadership roles like myself) then think about what new position above yourself you can create; what responsibility you want and how that would help the company. Look at larger companies and what roles they have built into their structure for people like yourself; not all high paid people are good with leadership and people, not by a long shot. 

Then, explain yourself to the person giving you the promotion. 

First, ask for time to think about accepting the promotion. In fact, I’d recommend asking for time to think about it, even if it’s just fifteen minutes, even if you want the job and welcome the promotion. Big decisions are worth consciously considering. If you consider and realize it might not be the best fit, lead with that. Explain how honored you are, but because you’re interested in the company's welfare, you don’t think it would be a good idea. Then, suggest a role that fits you better, on the same level as the job they offered to promote you to, and finish with something about being willing to move sideways first, and then revisit the idea of promotion later.

Final thoughts

Your personality type doesn’t just change how you get your job, or what job you want, but it also changes where you go with that job once you have it. From leadership roles to more highly technical positions, everything requires you to have at least part of your personality engaging with the job; otherwise you can end up tired out and bringing the whole team down, even if you keep the same attitude you’ve always had. 

Moving sideways within a company or even creating a new position is often a solution to this stagnation and lack of connection with your work. Consider your position, and then figure out where you want to be; if you’re lucky, they’ll match up, and that’s when career growth feels natural. If not, start moving in that direction.

Kenneth Tran

Kenneth Tran is a writer for e27, TechinAsia, Gamasutra, USPA News, and Yahoo! News (syndicated). By day he is a marketer and webmaster for a Fortune 500 company along with owning his own business. As an INTJ, he sees the world as a series of intellectual challenges, with the biggest challenge being figuring out the uniqueness of other people.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


AngieC says...

Thank you ?? Great article ???

Marsha (not verified) says...

Very timely article! I am in the mist of experiencing burnout stemming from working at a job outside of my personality. I'm an introvert, and I teach in elementary school. It worked for a few years, but I honestly just can't do it anymore. Having to be "on" all day, everyday, is killing me! Planning to do something else real soon. Anyway, thanks for the article. It has helped me to see that it's ok to admit when something isn't working for me. 

Carol Littley (not verified) says...

Marsha, do you think you could use your teaching skills, experience and knowledge in curriculum, course development?

You are then still having a positive influence on the education of our next generations, but not having to be "on" as you say, but more behind the scenes.

Good luck in whatever you do.

Share your thoughts


Myers-Briggs® and MBTI® are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., which has no affiliation with this site. Truity offers a free personality test based on Myers and Briggs' types, but does not offer the official MBTI® assessment. For more information on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, please go here.

The Five Love Languages® is a registered trademark of The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, which has no affiliation with this site. You can find more information about the five love languages here.

Latest Tweets

Get Our Newsletter