In Part I of this series on Type Development: “What Does the Future You Look Like?” I described how the Jung/Myers System for understanding people is a developmental model – that is, we’re all born with a specific type but as we grow, we gain greater access to the parts of our personalities that come less naturally to us.
I also shared that there is a hierarchy of functions for each type: a ranking of which type functions (Sensing, Intuition, Thinking or Feeling) are most and least important to us. The captain of the ship is called the dominant (or lead) function and the second mate is the auxiliary. These two letters appear as part of your type and reflect your greatest strengths.
But there is also the third function (sometimes called the tertiary), and the fourth (sometimes referred to as the inferior or shadow) most often operates on an unconscious level. Thus, it takes a lot of work to develop.
A second component of Type Development is that there is a rough timeline when most of us develop these different functions. From about age 6-12 we develop our dominant, from 12-25 our auxiliary, from 25-50 our third function, and after 50 our fourth function.
In this post, I’m taking a look at how type development can influence your career.
Type Development and Career Satisfaction
In writing Do What You Are, my co-author Barbara Barron and I did extensive research. We had a genuine Eureka! moment when we discovered the formula for career satisfaction for the sixteen types:
- Work that is in sync with one’s temperament
- Work that allows people to use their dominant and auxiliary functions (and which doesn’t require extensive use of their third and fourth functions), and
- Work that is aligned with their type development.
As a recap, the four temperaments are:
- Traditionalist – Sensor Judger, SJ
- Experiencer – Sensor Perceiver, SP
- Conceptualizer – Intuitive Thinker, NT
- Idealist – Intuitive Feeler, NF
A recent Harris poll showed that almost half of older Millennials now approaching middle age wish they’d chosen a different career path. I’m not surprised by this finding. If you think about it, most people make decisions that lead them down a particular career path when they’re 18 or 19 years old, long before they’ve had enough life experience to really know who they are let alone what they need in a career for it to be satisfying. Nevertheless, this is when (and often before, when they’re still in high school) people are faced with decisions that will alter the course of their entire lives: should I go to college?...if so, what should I study?...should I look for job?...what kind?... should I enter the military? etc.
Although there are some lucky people who discover their passion early on and may even describe this as a “calling,” many more at this age think they know what they want to do, often because they’ve been influenced by well-meaning parents: “My dad was a doctor, his dad was a doctor, and I’m going to be a doctor,” or “I’ve always loved to argue so I was always told I’d make a good lawyer.” But once they develop a better sense of themselves and get some life experience under their belts, many realize their choices were not really a good fit after all.
The Need to “Feed the Lead” (the Dominant)
Jennie has always loved animals. For as long as her parents can remember, she would sneak stray dogs, cats, rabbits, birds – pretty much any critter that she ran across – into the house, making impassioned pleas to her parents to let her keep them. Recognizing this is what made her happy, they usually acquiesced. It surprised no one when Jennie became a veterinarian.
As an ESFJ, Jennie’s dominant function is Feeling, her auxiliary is Sensing. Her third is Intuition and fourth is Thinking. A vet now for 20 years, Jennie still loves what she does. Interacting with and taking care of animals and their owners feeds her dominant Feeling, as everyday she gets to help others in need. Her auxiliary Sensing also has a lot to do with her satisfaction: Jennie’s work is very hands-on, doing real things like keenly observing, palpating body parts, listening for how the animal is breathing, etc. These are all things that make use of her highly developed Sensing.
Typical of many ENTPs, Jason is an entrepreneur at heart. He can credit his dominant Intuition, coupled with a highly developed auxiliary function, for a long string of creative projects starting at age 7 when he sold tickets to his parents and their friends to attend a play – which he’d yet to write…or cast! Over the years, his creativity and gift for seeing possibilities (everywhere) led Jason to careers in advertising, television, and a string of (mostly) successful start-ups.
The Search for Wholeness
Carl Jung – the father of Personality Type – said that as we reach midlife, we unconsciously begin to seek wholeness because we realize our journey will not go on forever. And how do we achieve this wholeness? By engaging the parts of our personality that we didn’t use much in the first half of our lives – our third and fourth functions. As a result, we find greater satisfaction in using them, and activities that we avoided earlier often become more appealing.
Maureen, an ISFJ, has enjoyed her work as a medical researcher for over 20 years. When her boss retired, she was offered his job. In the past, she wouldn’t have even considered taking the offer, since as a supervisor, she would have to both discipline employees and be involved in office politics – the thought of either made her instantly anxious.
But now in her early forties, and in the process of developing her third function Thinking, Maureen feels differently. She’s become better at letting people take responsibility for their own actions, less inclined to take on others’ burdens, and more comfortable saying no when she needs to. In other words, she is developing her Thinking function. And while still somewhat undeveloped, everyday she’s getting better at, and deriving more satisfaction from, using it.
People who know Mark well have noticed a change in him over the past few years. An INTJ, Mark’s dominant function is Intuition, his auxiliary is Thinking, his third function is Feeling, and his fourth is Sensing. Mark’s been a highly driven and hugely successful litigator for thirty years. But now in his mid-fifties, his priorities are shifting. He’s become softer, more open and sensitive to others' needs. Some might suggest that now that he’s achieved professional success and financial security he can afford to have a more generous spirit. But I believe this is a good example of someone in the process of developing their Feeling function.
To Sum Up…
Personality Type, and how our type develops through the years, has a huge impact on which careers we are attracted to and find success at. We all have a natural, unconscious desire for wholeness in our lives, and our career choices often present an opportunity to facilitate that growth. Knowing our greatest natural strengths – as well as our potential blind spots – can help us become more competent and successful. Knowing how we’re likely to change and grow over time can help us understand and embrace our shifting values and engage in activities that bring us and others more joy.