Just how well do you really know your own personality, and does it even matter?
It may matter more than you think. Your personality, or your individual "patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving" according to the American Psychological Association, is one major factor that impacts how you see and experience the world around you, from the line of work you pursue to the way you tend to enjoy spending your Friday nights. When you act in ways that aren’t consistent with your personality, you’re likely to find yourself unhappy, uncomfortable and eventually completely burned out in your personal or professional life. If this happens to you, a little soul-searching and self-reflection may help; a personality inventory can be a great tool for deepening that process.
Personality inventories (sometimes called assessments, instruments or questionnaires) can help you uncover your own unique combination of personality traits and preferences and suggest behaviors, activities and careers of best fit. They may also help you better understand and deal with other types of personalities. In other words, you might come to understand why some of your classmates waited until the last minute to submit their portions of group projects (hint: it may be because they prefer to work right before deadlines, not because they’re lazy). A little more understanding of how your personality interacts with those of others can improve how you communicate and relate.
If you’re about to embark on the exciting journey of getting better acquainted with your personality and the personalities of others, congrats! Hopefully you’ll find this to be a fun and enlightening process. First know that personality inventories are only helpful when you use them properly and thoroughly. Prepare to get the most out of your experience by keeping these seven tips in mind.
1. Ditch The Knockoffs
One of the worst things that can happen after you decide to explore your personality is getting inaccurate information. Imagine wanting to learn more about yourself only to find that your results just don’t ring true for you or that you didn’t receive correct information. Do yourself a favour, if you’re serious about your personality exploration, skip the random free online "inventories" and quizzes and spring for a legitimate tool.
So what are some options?
A widely-used and scientifically-researched tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - or MBTI for short. The MBTI is used by professionals in universities and workplaces all over the world as a means to help people discover their personality types. Discover how you like to draw and spend your energy (are you introverted or extroverted?), take in information (are you fact-based or do you like to look at the big picture and the meaning?), use information to make decisions (do you make decisions objectively or subjectively), and how you like to interact with the world around you (are you the go-with-the-flow type or do you like to plan?).
Another popular personality inventory is the DiSC, a tool with a focus on helping those who take it learn how to work more effectively with others. DiSC is designed to be used by teams but benefits individuals by providing insight into their unique personalities and behaviors. You’ll learn about your workplace priorities, your motivators and stressors, how you react to people with alternative personality preferences, and how you can more effectively work with people with personalities that differ from yours.
A number of other personality inventory options exist. To find out which will work best for you, talk to a counselor, community employment center, or human resources professional. Note that legitimate personality inventories tend to have an associated fee, ranging anywhere from $15 (like the MBTI) to $50 or more (like the DiSC). Consult with your supervisor, your university’s career center, or your community employment center to see if you can take a personality inventory for free or at a reduced cost. Having to pay for an inventory can make the option of free online options appealing, but be careful; when they’re free and/or don’t offer interpretation services, you really don’t know what you’re getting.
2. Work With a Certified Administrator
It’s crucial that you don’t try to choose your own inventory or self-interpret your results. Personality inventories are complicated instruments that, when not used or analyzed properly, may be confusing, falsely interpreted, or detrimental to your self-awareness or mental health. Unless you’re a counselor, you likely don’t have all of the information you need to understand your results.
A university career counselor, business consultant, community employment center counselor, or employee of the inventory’s publishing company may be able to provide administration and interpretation services for you. Usually a university career center or certified inventory administrator will require that you meet with them to even see your results. This is to make sure that you have the opportunity to hear an explanation of how the result booklet works, understand the meaning of your results, and have plenty of chances to ask questions. Some inventory companies may offer online administration and interpretation. For example, you can take the MBTI via the Center for Applications of Psychological Type and receive a one-hour telephone consultation afterward. This type of accessibility is not available for all personality inventories.
3. Know Your Purpose
Since inventories vary in their focus and in what they measure about the personality, it’s important you have an idea of why you want to take one.
Do you simply just want to know more about yourself?
Are you looking to figure out how you can work better with others?
Do you want to find out what kinds of careers may best suit your personality?
These are just a few suggestions to get you started. When you link up with a counselor, certified inventory administrator, or consultant, you want to be able to tell them what you’re looking to get out of taking an inventory. That way they can guide you to choosing the right inventory and discuss your results with you in a way that is tailored to your needs.
4. Answer Honestly
Personality inventories don’t work unless you do, so if you’re not going to follow the directions and answer every question as accurately as possible, you might as well not waste your time. Some inventories may ask you not to think too deeply about your answers because they want you to answer based on your individual instinct, independent of external factors (such as how you’d like other people to see you).
When you don’t take your inventory seriously or take it too seriously, by thinking too deeply about your answers the likelihood for error in your results goes up. One of two things will happen. Either your results won’t reflect your personality as accurately as they could have or you’ll wind up receiving an error message stating that your results could not be determined. Avoid having to take the inventory all over again. Do it right the first time.
Even when you do answer accurately, there’s a chance your results will surprise you. You may consider your personality to be one way, and your results may indicate another. This is actually a great opportunity to decide what personality type, trait or preference makes the most sense for you, and that’s really what this process is all about.
5. Don't Pigeonhole Yourself
Your results may help you understand yourself and define your personal identity, which can be a great feeling. But strictly defining yourself by your results can be detrimental to your growth and success. Personality is a multifaceted aspect of the human experience. Depending on the circumstances (where you are, who you’re with, how you’re feeling, etc.), you may respond differently to similar situations. Don’t let your results block you into certain categories, and know that you have the power to ultimately decide what you believe about your own personality. View your results as a chance to better understand yourself so that you may live more authentically, not more restricted.
6. Take More Than One Personality Inventory
A single personality inventory isn’t the end-all-be-all of your self-discovery, and there’s a reason we not only have more than one type of personality inventory available, but also inventories designed to measure skills, values, interests, and so much more. When you take more than one type of inventory, you have the opportunity to think about all of your results and determine which results make the most sense for you. You’ll also have the chance to see how your personality may interact with other aspects of your experience, such as your interests, allowing you to make connections and develop a more complete picture of yourself. You’ll probably say to yourself at least once, "Now I know why I love _______ so much, it’s because my personality is ________!" Counselors, career centers, and employment centers often offer two or more types of inventories, so explore your options.
7. Put Your Results Into Practice
If you don’t use what you’ve learned about yourself, then you’re not making the most of personality inventories. As you’re choosing your next career move, consider how well your job and work environment options are aligned with your personality. Reflect on how your personality compares with those of your boss, coworkers, and friends, and how your similarities and differences impact your relationships. Talk with your friends and coworkers about your results (especially if you’ve all taken the same inventory) to learn about your individual differences. Strategize ways you can increase satisfaction in your work and personal life by making small changes reflective of your personality. If you want to further your understanding, you can even join in on conversations with online groups and forums and connect with people who have similar personalities. Inventory result printouts often suggest a variety of ways you can use the contained information, so read closely and take action. There are hundreds of ways to use your results constructively.
Personality inventories help people like you work and live more genuine, fulfilling lives. Just remember that all inventories are limited in their ability to measure the human experience and that regardless of your results, no one personality type, trait, or preference is "better" than any other. Work to understand and appreciate the values and benefits of your own unique personality, and based on your new knowledge make changes, even small ones, that improve the quality of your life.