Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

What is It and How is It Used in Self Assessment?

Women with questions
Have questions about your career? The MBTI can help you find answers. Lisa-Blue / E+ / Getty Images

The MBTI, which is formally known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is a personality inventory. Career development professionals may use it, as one component of a complete self assessment, to help a client choose the right career. The MBTI is based on Carl Jung's theory of personality type and was developed by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.

Jung's Personality Types

Carl Jung believed an individual's personality was made up of his or her preferences, or the way he or she chooses to do certain things.

He theorized that there were four pairs of opposite preferences that indicate how an individual:

  • energizes (Extroversion v. Introversion),
  • perceives information (Sensing v. INtuition),
  • makes decisions (Thinking v. Feeling) and
  • lives his life (Judging v. Perceiving).

Four preferences—one from each pair—make up someone's personality type. This is indicated by the four letters that refer to each preference (note the letters in bold type above). There are 16 different personality types in all:

Each personality type is unique. It is the combination of the four preferences that make you who you are, not the sum of them. Being one type, rather than another, does not bring with it any special status. It is not better to be an ISTJ instead of an ESTJ, for example. An ESTJ may function better in certain environments than an ISTJ would, while the opposite would be true in other environments.

Many career planning experts believe that when you know your personality type, as discovered through using this or another personality inventory, you can make better decisions about your career. For instance, this information can help you choose a career or figure out whether a particular job will be a good fit for you.

Using the MBTI

Since it is a psychological assessment, only a qualified career development professional, psychologist or other mental health professional can administer the MBTI instrument. Make sure the person you hire to do this is "MBTI Certified." The MBTI is also available online, for a fee, from the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), which was co-founded by Isabel Briggs Myers. This mode of administration also includes a one hour feedback session.

The professional who administers the MBTI instrument to you and provides your results will give you a report that includes your four letter code. The report should also give you a definition of all 16 codes. If you are using the MBTI to help you with career choice, be aware that while the entire code is important to know, the middle two letters (indicating how you perceive information and make decisions) are the most significant when it comes to career choice. You may also receive a career report that includes a list of occupations that are most popular for those with your personality type, as well as those that are least popular.

The Myers-Briggs Foundation Web Site.
Baron, Renee. What Type Am I?. NY: Penguin Books
Zunker, Vernon G. and Norris, Debra S. Using Assessment Results for Career Development. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company

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