A Q&A with Paul Tieger, Behavioral Scientist & bestselling co-author of “Do What You Are”
Our work and careers are such a big part of our lives. We spend a huge chunk of time there, and yet many people are very unhappy and disengaged with their work. In fact, thanks in part to the global pandemic, a “Great Resignation” is now underway, with many people re-examining their core motivations and looking for more meaningful and authentic careers.
Paul Tieger, behavioral scientist and co-author of bestselling book “Do What You Are,” has been specializing in using personality type to help people lead more fulfilling lives for more than 40 years. I sat down with Paul to learn more about how personality type can help us find meaning and fulfillment in our working life during this time of transition.
When “Do What You Are” was first published, it transformed the field of career counseling. Previously, career counselors would focus on values, interests and skills to guide their clients’ career choices -- things, which Paul explains in our interview, are transitory. Whereas our core personality type is more consistent throughout our lives; hence is more instructive in helping us find joy and lifelong fulfillment at work.
Now, a million copies later, Paul and his daughter Kelly, have just published the sixth edition of their book updated with new guidance for the modern workplace.
Here is an excerpt from our interview, check out the full interview here.
Samantha: So your book when it first came out really revolutionized career counseling at the time. Why do you think it made such a big impact?
Paul: Well, first of all, it's been very gratifying. This book came out 25 years ago. It just came out recently in its sixth edition with my daughter as my co-author. That shows you how long we've been doing this stuff. And I think that the marketplace has spoken after all these years. There's been a recognition that personality type really is a key component in career satisfaction and success.
And now we're really in our second generation of people who have found this to be so useful.
I think people are looking for fulfillment. And the old ways, the old measurements that we used to use, really don't work. But personality type is inborn. That's a big part of it.
The other part of it is that newer folks, younger folks, are more enlightened, more aware. They're seeking more fulfillment. They're more mindful of where they are, where they want to be. So I think that's a big part of the appeal for Millennials.
Samantha: Congratulations on the 6th edition. That's fantastic.
Paul: Thank you very much.
Samantha: And you and your daughter Kelly worked really hard on that. What did you see as the need for this update?
Paul: Well, I think that, first of all, the last edition came out seven years ago. So the world has changed in the world of work. I think that if I were to take the most important differences, they have to do with automation. How many more jobs have become automated in part or entirely? Not something I endorse or feel good about. But that's the reality.
And the second thing, especially for younger people, is that there is a movement from the old economy to the gig economy. And Millennials especially have had to, for a variety of cultural reasons and economic reasons, become more entrepreneurial, had to invent their own occupations or their own jobs. They paid a price for it. I mean, they've traded off stability and security and especially benefits for more flexibility, for the opportunity to pursue their passions, which is very important to that generation. So I think that's the reason why there's such a resurgence of interest in the book among young people.
Samantha: And I mean, as we’ve had to move to that gig economy, people have to take more control or charge of their careers, which means they need to be more savvy about who they are and what their natural interests and talents are.
Samantha: So thinking about this in the context of the “Great Resignation” and what's happening at the moment, what do you think is driving people to resign in such numbers?
Paul: This is a great question and a huge challenge for our economy. I've been thinking about this question, and I think it's different for older people and for young people. For older people, and I mean older, not like 80, but I mean 50, 60, 70, whatever, people who have kind of faced their mortality. They recognize that they could get this virus and die or get sick. They've seen it happen. If not with their friends or relatives, they've certainly seen it in the news with horrendous numbers. So there's been a realignment, people saying, “do I really want to do this for the next 10, 15, 20 or 30 years?” And a lot of those people are saying, no, I really don't, because life has become more precious, is my theory. There's nothing I've read or discussed with other experts. This is what I believe.
Now for younger folks I think it's really different. I think that because of the Internet and social media, they've been able to see all kinds of possibilities to actually visualize what different opportunities are like and not just imagine them, but actually see other people doing them. So I think for them, that's been a big driver. So, you know, ‘there's other things to be doing other than what I've been doing.’ I think that those folks, Millennials and GenZ especially, expect a higher level of individuality and value self actualization more than previous generations. So it's a confluence of things, different for different people in different age groups.
Samantha: Let's talk about the career process. So how can you apply personality type to your career to help you find those things that people are looking for out of this process?
Paul: Well, I think the thing we're all looking for is the best fit. The best and the most fulfilling job is one that aligns with your personal values and your natural way of being in the world with the activities you've got to engage in. So I think the reality is that it's a combination of understanding who you are. What are the things that are important to you? It's not just values, interests and abilities. I think it's really kind of you in essence, your innate drives and motivation, which is what personality type is about. And knowing that early on can be really helpful because then you don't waste a lot of time trying out stuff that you find out five or 10 years later really was not a good fit.
To watch the full interview and learn more about applying personality type to your career, go here.