Personality assessment helps teens find a career path

As students near the end of high school, many for the first time start thinking seriously about the future, about what they want to do when they grow up and how they plan to get there.

And, more often than not, the answer is a nervous shrug: no idea.

With high school guidance counselors overburdened, it falls to parents to act as job coach, to help their kids narrow their options so that they feel less adrift as they embark on their next chapter.

The challenge is to get students — and parents — to think beyond external rewards, like salary and prestige, so they explore careers that are fulfilling on a deeper level.

Because a teen's interests and skills are often transient and changing, a more useful approach to identifying fitting career paths is to focus on the teen's personality, said Paul Tieger, an expert in personality typing and author of "Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type" (Little, Brown, $18.95).


"If you know your personality type, you have an extraordinary advantage in finding something intrinsically satisfying," said Tieger, the Connecticut-based creator of

On Tieger's website, people take a personality assessment that evaluates how they interact with others, make decisions and take in information, classifying them as one of 16 personality types based on the Myers-Briggs model, which measures four aspects of personality: extrovert or introvert; sensor or intuitive; thinking or feeling; judging or perceiving.

The resulting combination points you to jobs meant to be in sync with your nature. For example, extroverts need a lot of people contact, so they might make good sales people, while introverts need depth and focus, often preferring to work behind the scenes. Sensors thrive on concrete details and facts, so they might consider accounting, while intuitive people prefer ideas and concepts, and so are more inclined toward the arts or advertising.

Armed with a list of personality-appropriate jobs, teens can then research to find out what the job entails, or arrange to shadow someone for a day to see what strikes a chord.

"The main question is, 'What do I do that makes me really feel alive, that energizes me?'" Tieger said.

The more teens know about themselves, the thinking goes, the better choices they'll make about their future. Getting real-world experience, such as through internships or Outward Bound ( courses, is key, said Nicholas Lore, director of the Rockport Institute (, a career design and research firm in Rockville, Md. Lore is the author of "Now What? The Young Person's Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career" (Fireside, $16).

High school students likely won't — and shouldn't — nail down a specific career path; exploring your interests and life's purpose is partly what college is for. But it helps to develop a general idea, so when the time comes to pick a major they can choose something relevant.

"Basically what you're starting out with is a compass needle that's going around in circles, so anything you can do to make the swing of the compass needle smaller will be really helpful," Lore said.

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