Personality Type and Burnout

November 14, 2016

Image of file folder and pens in a briefcaseHave you ever taken the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? If so, you know that this is an assessment with the aim of measuring your personality preferences along four different dichotomous dimensions. The MBTI helps people answer the following questions:   Where do you focus your attention and/or get your energy?; How do you prefer to take in information?; How do you make decisions?; and finally, How do you organize the world around you?

Myers and Briggs believed that in order to have a more satisfied life, people needed to better understand themselves which could then help them choose an occupation which better suited their personality.

The Myers Briggs will not tell you specific career paths you should choose; however, you can utilize your results to consider the pros and cons of different employment sectors/occupations/work environments and how much they match with your personal preferences.

What if your personal preferences clash with your work environment though? It is very common to see an employee who is dissatisfied and on the road to burn out because their job doesn’t match their personal preferences. How does this look along the different dimensions of the MBTI?

Extroversion vs Introversion – Where do you get your energy?

A strong extrovert who is in a lab all day by themselves will become restless and bored. Extroverts tend to need outside stimuli to help maintain their enthusiasm. They enjoy being out in the world and interacting with others, so if deprived of that, their energy will begin to wane.

Conversely, introverts can get easily overwhelmed by too much external stimuli. They prefer positions where they can work alone and have quiet, reflective time. A position in sales or customer service could create stress for an introvert and more easily result in an individual feeling bunt out.

Sensing vs Intuition – How do you take in information?

Sensor like facts, details, and tend to feel most comfortable in structured work environments. Whereas, intuitives are generally open to multiple variables and they tend to respond negatively to rigid work environments and/or repetitive processes.

Intuitives tend to feel a sense of accomplishment in the creative process, but sensors like to point to firm achievements such as solved problems or finished projects. If they don’t see that, it would lead to burn out for a sensor.

Thinking vs Feeling – How do you prefer decisions to be made?

Thinkers want to see a logical approach to decision making and they crave results that make clear sense based on facts. Feelers, on the other hand, are more likely to see the emotional and sociological sides of decisions.  Feelers tend to be better at understanding the need to compromise based on office politics or diplomacy which would frustrate a thinker.

Burnout can ensue if you are in a position where you have to make decisions that are at odds with your personal preference. For example, a feeler as a bank loan officer might have a hard time removing their emotions from their job.

Additionally, thinkers and feelers could both get frustrated if the office is managed and their boss’ decisions are made in ways they don’t understand or relate to.

Judging vs Perceiving – How do you organize your world?

Judgers like things ordered and routine whereas perceivers like things spontaneous and flexible.  You can probably easily tell who is a judger and who is a perceiver in a staff/lab meetings. A judger would want an agenda and clear follow up action items while a perceiver might view the same meeting as a place to chat and brainstorm without any structure.

A disorganized work environment can be a major stressor for judgers, who like to know what is expected of them and their performance. Perceivers might feel too constrained by these limits and would prefer the autonomy and ability to innovate.  Perceivers often like jobs that are unpredictable like event planning or emergency services or even working at a new start up where they can invent the process.

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No matter your MBIT type, the key is recognizing your fit with your job. Given how much time one spends at work, it is important to consider your personal preferences in relation to the work environment. Hopefully, thoughtful consideration of yourself in relation to your work will ensure it is a good match and you won’t be prone to burn out within your role.  If you find yourself still struggling, check out our blog post on ways to prevent burn out.


Squash those ANTs

November 7, 2016

Even the most optimistic person is not immune to negative thoughts, but for some, automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are a regular part of life and the chatter of self-doubt and worry can be constant.

During times of high stress, like a job search, ANTs can become even more pronounced. Often job seekers will face a barrage of worries and doubts like: Am I making the right decision? Maybe I should wait until I finish X experiment and get Y publication? Should I leave the bench? I like what I’m doing… why do I have to change? I hate what I am doing…will I really like anything else?

Career planning and job searching is all about transitions and transitions are always difficult. Perhaps we have to let go of an idea we once held for ourselves; or we have to find a way to manage the uncertainty of a job search; or we have to deal with the discomfort of examining our strengths and weaknesses while others do the same.

Stress can create a time fraught with challenges and thinking errors. Some of the most common thinking errors that can occur include:

Overgeneralization
Taking one isolated situation and using it to make wide generalizations. For the job seeker, this could look like, “Well, I didn’t get that one job. Nobody wants to hire me. I’m never going to get a job.” All or nothing language like “always” or “never” is another form of overgeneralization and black-and-white thinking.

Mental Filter
This occurs when somebody focuses almost exclusively on one specific, usually negative or upsetting, aspect of a situation while ignoring the rest. For the job seeker, this could look like, “I answered that one interview question so terribly!” Even if the rest of the interview went well, the person will ruminate about their perceived mistake.

Fortune Telling
This is often also called jumping to conclusions or mind reading and it happens when you assume you know what is going to happen.  Perhaps in an interview, you imagine what the hiring manager is thinking. “They are probably thinking my answer was really stupid.” Then you anticipate how the situation will unfold and assume you will never get the job.

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There are many thinking errors that can occur and Dr. Amen has devoted his research to this topic. Dr. Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist, director of the Amen Clinics, the author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”.  He notes that our brains are actually wired to focus on the negative and to scan for threats, but you can also learn how to stop your automatic negative thoughts and focus on the positive.

According to Dr. Amen, there are three steps to kill thos ANTs:

1. Write them down and clearly identify them.

2. Ask: are these true?

3. If you discover these thoughts aren’t true, talk back to them !

Labeling, investigating and talking back to your ANTs takes practice but it time can help you to minimize these cognitive intrusions. Watch Dr. Amen’s video here:


ACE Your Career in 10 Hours

October 3, 2016

Albert Chen, an MD/PhD student at the University of Michigan designed the ACE plan.  ACE is short for Active Career Exploration.  According the Chen and colleagues within their four-part series on Science Careers, “ACE is your protocol for career experimentation, a logical progression of steps designed to overcome common barriers and give visible results after just 10 hours.”

Just 10 hours?

To be clear, the authors note that this means 10 hours within one month. The steps aren’t meant to be drawn out over, say the last year of your postdoc.

Here is how the 10 hours break down:

2 hours = Read and reflect
3 hours = Send cold emails to people you don’t know
3 hours = Meet people for informational interviews
2 hours = Form your career plan

 

Image of the ACE Plan in steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chen created a guide to help you within your ACE Plan entitled “Cold E-mails and Hot Coffee” which can be downloaded for free.  One of authors’ guiding principles was to create limits on how much time a person could spend in one section since it can be so easy to get stuck in an area which feels the most comfortable to you.

Many trainees at the NIH are well-versed on the first step: reading and reflecting.  Many times this equates to trying to do their own research on a career field through articles and books; however, they then have a hard time making that leap into the second and third stages – the more active phases – which include sending cold emails and meeting people for informational interviews. The read and reflect phase spans into months instead of a mere two hours.

Why do people get stuck making the leap to the second and third phases within the ACE Plan?

Well, often because sending cold emails to people you don’t know feels awkward and you worry it won’t be well-received.  Chen and colleagues understand these challenges, so they devoted a whole article on how you can do this part well.  It is extremely important to normalize this networking process because it is so key to your career development. Often the worst that happens is you just don’t hear back.

If you have attended any of our workshops at the OITE, then the ACE Plan will sound very familiar to you.  It is a new spin on common recommendations, but perhaps the time-limited approach will resonate with you.

Give it a try and let us know how the 10 hour ACE plan worked for you!


What Anchors Your Career? A Look at Work Motivations and Values

September 12, 2016

Image of a boat dropping anchor

In the world of career development, we often discuss the importance of assessing your skills, values, and interests. Today, we are going to focus primarily on career values because while it is such a priority, it is also an oft overlooked piece of the puzzle.

What are Career Values?
You can see general categorizations of career values at O*NET. Another site which compiled a list of career values is Monster.com, which you can access here.  They broke it down into intrinsic and extrinsic values. Here is a snapshot of some of the options:

Intrinsic Values
– Working for a cause I deem worthy
– Experiencing adventure/excitement
– Having an opportunity to be creative
– Engaging in very detailed work

Extrinsic Values

– Making a certain amount of money
– Being in a position of authority/power
– Working in an aesthetically pleasing environment
– Being recognized monetarily or otherwise for contributions


How Can You Identify Your Career Values and Motivations?
There are many ways to begin identifying your career values. It can often be helpful to discuss this with a career counselor or mentor who can work with you to prioritize your values. However, some people benefit from structured exercises/activities to help them create their list of career values. It is important to recognize that you will probably create a long list of things you “Always Value” in a career; however, in order to be realistic, you will need to truly assess what your top values include. Try not to choose more than 3-4 values as your top priorities.

One other way of thinking about career values comes from Edgar Shein who created an assessment about Motivation and Career Anchors. He described career anchors as the unique combination of perceived career competence, motives, and values.  He put forth eight core career anchors. See which one you would choose as your primary and then secondary career anchor.

Career Anchors

  1. Managerial
    This type’s primary concern is to integrate the efforts of others and to tie together different functions in an organization. They welcome the opportunity to make decisions, direct, influence, and coordinate the work of others.
  2. Technical Expertise
    This type prefers to specialize in their skill and they enjoy being challenged to exercise their talents and skills in their particular technical or functional area. They feel most successful when they are recognized as an expert.  They tend to dislike being moved into managerial positions.
  3. Autonomy/Independence
    This type dislikes being bound by rules, hours, dress codes, etc. They enjoy setting their own pace, schedule, lifestyle and work habits. They often dislike the organization and structure of a workplace and often end up working for themselves.
  4. Security/Stability
    This type seeks security and stability in their jobs. They look for long-term careers, geographic stability, and good job benefits. They dislike personal risk and often personally identify with their work organization which makes them reliable employees.
  5. Entrepreneurial/Creativity
    This type thrives on creating something new and/or different, whether a product or a service. They are willing to take risks without knowing the outcome. They enjoy work where success is closely linked to their own efforts as the creator.
  6. Service/Dedication to a Cause
    This type wants to undertake work which embodies values that are central to them (e.g. make the world a better place to live; help a cause; etc). They tend to be more oriented to the value of the work than to the actual talents or areas of competence involved.
  7. Pure Challenge
    This type likes solving, conquering, overcoming, winning. The process of winning is most central to them rather than a particular field or skill area.
  8. Life Style Integration
    This type’s primary concern is to make all major sectors of their life work together in an integrated whole. They don’t want to have to choose between family, career or self-development. They seek flexibility and strive for a well-balanced lifestyle.

In whatever way you choose to think about it – career values, career motivations, career anchors – these are ultimately the key factors that drive you when making your career decisions.  Remember too, that these can change depending on where you are in your life-span life-space, so you might need to reassess over time.


The Four Tendencies: Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, and Rebels

September 5, 2016

Image of Four Circles representing Four Tendencies: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and RebelGretchen Rubin is the author of Better Than Before, a book about creating and maintaining habits.  While writing this book, she created four categories of personality as a framework to help explain how individuals respond to both external and internal rules.

The Four Tendencies describe how people respond to expectations, including outer expectations (i.e. a deadline, a request from a friend) as well as inner expectations (i.e. starting that new diet, or keeping a New Year’s resolution). Your response to these expectations is what defines your type.

According to a blog post by Rubin on Psychology Today, she defined the Four Tendencies accordingly:

UPHOLDERS wake up and think, “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They’re very motivated by execution, getting things accomplished. They really don’t like making mistakes, getting blamed, or failing to follow through (including doing so to themselves). They response readily to outer and inner expectations.

QUESTIONERS wake up and think, “What needs to get done today?” They’re very motivated by seeing good reasons for a particular course of action. They really don’t like spending time and effort on activities they don’t agree with. They will meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (often after asking a lot of questions about it) so they make everything an inner expectation.

REBELS wake up and think, “What do I want to do today?” They’re very motivated by a sense of freedom, of self-determination. (I used to think that Rebels were energizing by flouting rules, but I now I suspect that that’s a by-product of their desire to determine their own course of action. Though they do seem to enjoy flouting rules.) They really don’t like being told what to do. They resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

OBLIGERS wake up and think, “What must I do today?” They’re very motivated by accountability. They really don’t like being reprimanded or letting others down. They readily meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations they impose on themselves.

Curious to know what your type is? Well, you can take the quiz to find out at Rubin’s website here. Understanding your tendency can be important if you are trying to change a habit or find a new means of motivation that will be more productive for you. For example, an Obliger who is finding a hard time exercising on their own might need to set up a mechanism for external accountability, since they will respond better to that. It might be in that Obliger’s best interest to join a workout class or a running club.

This can also be an interesting framework to examine if you want to know how another person will consider and act upon a request or order from you. It can also help explain the behavior of others.  Perhaps you find yourself exasperated when a co-worker questions every action or decision. Perhaps they are a Questioner and that is their modus operandi.


Decision Space Worksheet

August 29, 2016

Last week, we talked about how you could use the CASVE Cycle to help you make a career decision. For visually inclined and/or visual learners, you might find this Decision Space Worksheet to be more helpful as it is a cognitive mapping exercise.  It prompts you to map out, visualize, and hopefully get clarity on your decision at hand.

Here’s how it works.  On the first sheet, you should list all of the thoughts, feelings, circumstances, people, and/or events that are having an impact on the decision you need to make.

Then, within the larger circle on the second sheet (depicted below), you should draw smaller circles that represent each listed item on your Decision Space Worksheet. Each circle should represent the magnitude or relative importance of the item.

Florida State University has made their Decision Space Worksheet free for all to use. You can access it from their website. Here is a link to the worksheet.  For your reference, an example is depicted below focusing on career values:

Decision Space


Making a Career Decision? Use the CASVE Cycle

August 22, 2016

Florida State University has a world-renowned career center which pioneered the Cognitive Information Processing theory.  According to Wikipedia, this “theory asserts that the major components involved in determining career decision-making and problem-solving effectiveness are the content and the process of career decisions. The importance of the content and process in career decision making can be described by using a metaphor of a recipe. To make a good dish (decision) one must have all necessary ingredients (content), and know how to follow cooking instructions (process).”

Today, we are going to focus on the instructions or the process.  This process is something that everyone will continually navigate through their own career development. CIP theory has put forth a CASVE decision-making cycle to help understand this process. The CASVE Cycle is a good career decision-making model which focuses on action-oriented steps detailing what you need to do. In this cycle, the process is broken down into five stages.

Communication – Analysis – Synthesis – Valuing – Execution (CASVE)

Image of the CASVE Cycle

COMMUNICATION
“Identifying the problem or the gap”

This could be anything from “I need to find a new job” or “I have to choose a major”. It is important to be as specific as possible when identifying the presenting issue. According to the model, communication often boils down to external cues (events, significant others) and internal cues (emotions, physiological responses, and avoidance behavior).

ANALYSIS
“Understanding myself and my options”

This section focuses on self-knowledge like utilizing reflection, structured exercises, or even assessment instruments to gain more insights into your skills, values, and interests in order to gain more self-awareness. Knowledge about options can be gained by looking into more specifics about the options you have at hand. It might also be necessary to explore occupations, programs of study, and employers based on your skills, values, and interests which will help you understand the wide array of options available to you through your own personal filters/preferences.

SYNTHESIS
“Expanding and then narrowing my list of options”

In this stage, you are trying to elaborate on your options in order to then crystallize them into a manageable set of options.  You are essentially checking for alternatives to see if there are other areas to explore.  You can generate occupational, educational, and employment options by doing interest inventories like the Strong Interest Inventory, or other informal assessments online, as well as by doing informational interviews.

In the narrowing phase of this stage, you are tasked with identifying no more than three alternatives, occupational or otherwise.

VALUING
“Prioritizing alternatives”

Your prioritization of your educational, occupational, and employment alternatives conclude with an identification of your tentative primary and secondary choices.

This is accomplished by valuing the costs and benefits to: yourself, your significant others, your cultural group, your community and/or society at large.

EXECUTION
“Implementing my choice”

This stage is about making a plan for implementing your tentative primary choice. Three key factors in beginning the execution of your choice include: 1. Reality testing 2. Preparation program and 3. Employment/Education Seeking.


RESOURCES

Florida State University has put many of its resources and handouts about the CASVE cycle online and they are free for the public to utilize. Take advantage of this handout which allows you to describe your own career problem solving and decision-making process using the CASVE Cycle.

Another helpful resource is this exercise entitled “Guide to Good Decision-Making“.  It goes into more depth about each stage and even gives examples so you have a sense of how to complete this on your own.

Remember, that every decision will have its pros and cons. Very rarely is there a perfect decision to me made; however, hopefully this model will make you feel like you have taken the time to make a fully informed and well-contemplated career decision.