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Review: Starting out with 'Who am I?'


"What's Your Type of Career?"
By Donna Dunning
Davies-Black Publishing
362 pages, April 1

March 20, 2001
Web posted at: 2:56 p.m. EST (1956 GMT)

In this story:

'Eight ways of working'

Best for last?

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(CNN) -- "It All Starts With You," as Donna Dunning titles Part One of her new book, "What's Your Type of Career?" Curiously, she's onto something immediately: A lot of us forget that it should start with us. We find ourselves years into a career that we stumbled into -- before we look around and wonder how we got where we are.

So while this book may strike an accomplished careerist as being rather pedestrian and obvious, it could have a peculiar allure for the worker who isn't sure he or she is in the right field. In fact, it's one of those books you may wish you'd encountered -- and paid attention to -- in your teens.

graphic How much do you think a personality inventory can help you pick a good career?

A lot. This kind of analysis is great.
Depends on the person and situation. Some respond to it, some don't.
Not at all. This stuff is mostly psychobabble.
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"What's Your Type of Career?" couldn't be more straightforward. Dunning sets it up in workbook format. You start by sorting out your personality type through a series of checklists meant to discover how you're most comfortable working with people.

Then, you read "your" chapter, in which Dunning says "you will confirm your preferences and gain greater insight into what, specifically, makes a career satisfying or unsatisfying for you."

Granted, she's sounding a mite oracular here, but these are just about the most commonly accepted breakdowns of major personality types available -- the ones you're usually told about by people with Magic Markers and easels on those endless company retreats. And in Dunning's book, they're more manageable than they were at Camp Grip 'n' Grin.

'Eight ways of working'

Dunning's approach is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, one of the most widely used personality inventories around. Based on Carl Jung's work, it was designed by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers more than 40 years ago -- a handsome career legacy, in itself, for that mother-daughter team.

In fact, it's worth noting here that the imprint under which Dunning's book has been released, Davies-Black Publishing, is owned by Consulting Psychologists Press -- which in turn holds trademark rights to the Myers-Briggs.

And true to form, there's that inevitable Myers-Briggs moment here, when you're looking at "ESFP," "ENFJ," "INTJ" and "ISFP" and wondering if this exercise is worth it. These are various combinations of the standard eight factors in relating to the world:

graphic Talk to us about personality and career. Can you find your best career path through personality analysis, as Donna Dunning's new book "What's Your Type of Career?" suggests? Join the conversation.

•   Extroversion
•   Introversion
•   Sensing
•   Intuition
•   Thinking
•   Feeling
•   Judging, and
•   Perceiving.

You choose between each set of two -- you're either more extroverted or introverted, more sensing or intuitive, more thinking or feeling, more judging or perceiving.

Dunning then defines your four-factor combo. If you decide, for example, that you fall into the ENFP camp -- extroverted, intuitive, feeling and perceptive -- Dunning identifies you as an "explorer," pith helmet not included, "constantly scanning the environment, looking for associations and patterns." If you decide you're an INTJ -- introverted, intuitive, thinking and judging -- she dubs you a "visionary," one of the folks in the world who "like to take time to think about and find meaning in data, ideas and experiences.

Dunning does have one neat trick up her sleeve. In the penultimate chapter of the book, Chapter 11, she offers some tips for self-assessment -- and she breaks these down into the same group of eight types of personality she has delineated earlier in the book.

Once you've chosen the combo of factors that seem most germane to how you understand yourself, you get into Dunning's chapter about that combo, go through a few more checklists and end up with a few supposed career directions to think about.

Let's take the exotic-sounding "visionary" as an example. You'll first encounter some rather predictable professional areas to consider -- Dunning suggest you think about architecture or design if you're an artsy visionary; medicine or education if you're fond of counseling professions; writing or law if you tend to enjoy research and analysis. No surprises here.

But then she does come up with some interesting variants. There's the "compassionate visionary," for example, representing only some 1.5 percent, Dunning tells us, of the U.S. population. This character, she writes, will tend to "focus on creating and implementing projects or other activities that will help people. Another group, "logical visionaries," are a little more common, Dunning writes, making up some 2.1 percent of the population and tending to create new theories or test out ideas.

Best for last?

Not for nothing does Santa Claus come you-know-where in the parade. And this nugget of Dunning's book isn't nearly as happy a sight as the guy in red might be to kids at the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But Dunning does have one neat trick up her sleeve. In the penultimate chapter of the book, Chapter 11, she offers some tips for self-assessment -- and she breaks these down into the same group of eight types of personality she has delineated earlier in the book.

•   Our visionary, for example, is told to "seek and use metaphors and images to guide your planning ... remember to focus on facts and details as well as themes and meanings."

•   An "expeditor," as she terms one of the more extroverted personality types, is advised to "make your assessment logical ... think of what you want to be most competent at."

Donna Dunning  

•   An "enhancer" -- a personality among the introverted crowd -- is told to "focus on the values of the people around you ... are you getting a chance to meet your needs?"

•   While an extroverted "responder" is counseled to "find practical reasons and applications for your self-assessment ... assess doing, try things out."

By putting into practice some of what she's been preaching, this way, Dunning at least appears to add some credibility to her apparent commitment to these personality descriptions and their place in considering career directions. The effect is a bit like the old vacuum-cleaner sales guys who'd turn up at your door and throw a handful of dirt onto your carpet to force a demonstration of the machine in question.

So while not something that's going to shift the ground careerists walk on, "What's Your Type of Career?" may be of special use to new careerists, those looking to make some changes ... or even someone wondering if it's all been a terrible mistake.

Dunning's parting words are "Make career-shaping a lifelong activity." No one will go wrong with that advice.


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