Degrees of difficulty and picking your Career Environments

It'd be simplistic to assume everyone is just in one of the four categories, but everyone does have characteristics of them, to varying degrees. The dominant character motif is usually the working model.

What's important is that it's personal characteristics, both your own, and those of others, which determine a good fit for a career environment at any given point in time. A career can be a very bumpy emotional ride for those who aren't mentally suited for the environment.

Stress is no joke, and many people find themselves in career environments where the old Fish Out Of Water analogy is pretty right.

The workplace can be stressful. Any workplace should be considered primarily as a combination of people, and people are usually the creators of stress for other people, intentionally or otherwise.

The degree of difficultly you experience in making a fit with your workplace is a good guide to the kind of stresses involved.

The simple fact is that the various types of person often don't fit together too well, and the relationships are naturally strained.

For example:

You're a mild introvert in a new work environment.

You find:

  • You have difficulty talking to one person,
  • Get no information from another, and
  • Get too much information from a third person,
  • And have a manager who's producing incomprehensible information and expecting you to do something with it

You can assume you have classic representatives of some of the four types. In this case you have two introverts, an extrovert, with an Extroverted Introvert as the manager. That's a mix of people which is particularly likely not to work too well, and it's a stress factory. Unless you're an Introverted Extrovert, you're not likely to be able to make much contact with the two introverts, the extrovert will be the only friendly one, and the manager will drive everyone up the wall on a daily basis.

Now let's say you're an accountant, and a good one. The lack of communication creates instant professional problems. You don't know why things are happening or not happening. You know your job, and you need the information, but you get very little encouragement from everybody but the extrovert. You have almost no affinity with an extrovert, but at least this one's being civil and friendly.

You discover that one of the introverts is an extreme introvert, the totally uncommunicative one who's said maybe five words in the last month to anyone. The other introvert seems to be a closet bully, but not a problem. Just annoying, unhelpful, and negative. The manager doesn't speak any known language, and is always talking and giving instructions.

You decide, quickly, with so much evidence, that you're in the wrong environment, and you're right. You figure that your career is about to go nowhere in a hurry, if you stick around.

Any career environment works much the same way, good or bad.

Workplace relationships are matters of necessity, not choice. Some level of social compromise is usually achieved, but that's expediency, not personal choice, either. You generally can't pick who you're working with, and you definitely can't pick their personal character.

Career environments can be much the same, but with a career you have the luxury of making at least some of the major choices.

To find a good fit for your own career environment, the first and most important issue is talent. The most definite guarantee of a good career is doing something where you really can flourish. They have to be in the right environment for that to happen.

Your skills are priceless, don't ignore what they can do for you.

Some careers are highly competitive, and highly political, in terms of achieving anything, including just making a living.

Sales is a case in point. It's a pressure cooker of a career. Most people, in fact, aren't particularly well suited to sales. It's a career for expert extroverts, high level EIs, and the occasional IE who knows their way around the career environment. The successful people are driven people, and they drive everybody else, hard. Even average extroverts can learn to hate the career environment, because it's a constant force, not allowing them to maneuver. Introverts invariably hate it.

The exact opposite of sales is bureaucracy. Natural salespeople avoid bureaucracy as much as possible without actually moving to another planet. Introverts can function, grudgingly, because it doesn't really challenge them in any of their main interests. IEs aren't put out by it, but extroverts and EIs don't like the constant lack of stimulus. The whole environment is dead weight to them, and their skills aren't very much in demand. They can work as consultants or project managers, but not in the career environs.

The sciences are a truly diverse range of career environments. At the professional level, if they seem a bit bitchy at times, the careers themselves pay back with personal goals and achievements.

The commercialization of science, however, has added another, often unwelcome, element. The new factor is the sales ethos, to which the large numbers of introverts and IEs in the sciences have always been allergic on principle as a career environment. With the sales motif has come the budget mystique, another irritant. Many of the world's top scientists resent having to become accountants in their non-existent spare time. It's not their idea of a good career environment, and they know they could be more productive not sitting in meetings arguing about cost centres.

OK, so if this is all about picking a career that fits you, and all of these negative issues are involved, where's this logic going?

In a word, to reality.

The fact is that people aren't particularly well prepared for their career environments.

They know the things for which they qualified, they know their work. They do not know, and aren't usually given, a good look at the real career environment. What they get is a sort of tourist version.

Interns get a look at a sample, but that's about as far as it goes.

The professions haven't made much of a effort, however, in providing a warts and all look at the real workplace environments.

Everything is left to the individual to figure out what a good career is, and how to function in the endless varieties of environments.

For introverts, the only thing they have going for them is their endurance. All social environments can be a real strain on the introvert's sense of personal space and personal freedoms. Career environments can be better or worse, and the self-driven introverts will tolerate them until they can move around, even if they also dislike a nomadic career, until they find somewhere they can settle and get a career working.

Extroverts don't have the social problems, but their career needs are demanding. They must be able to operate in their chosen field, at their speed. Anything else will get on their nerves, quickly. They'll consider themselves to be underachieving at the slightest excuse, and they, too, will move on, fast.

IEs are very adaptable, and can usually work in any environment. That said, they're also very sensitive. Their empathy can spot a dead end very quickly. As mentioned, they'll fire a job, rather than it firing them, if they don't think the job goes anywhere.

EIs are the most changeable of the types, and they'll change jobs like clothes. It's pure pragmatism. They're sometimes the main problem for the other types, creating bizarre workplace and career environments, but they're quite good at getting themselves out of difficulties.

Picking a career can be difficult, but don't get dazzled by complexities.

Let's keep this as simple as possible.

  • You know your own personality type.
  • You know what you like, and what you don't like.
  • You know, at least to some extent, what you want to do.
  • The idea is to achieve your goals.
  • The main risks in any career are lack of achievement and stress, which you are quite rightly trying to avoid.

So how do you find a career, with the right environment, to allow you to achieve your goals and use your talents?

This is where your personality and your talents are your best friends.

It's even possible to defeat a totally hostile career environment, if you rely on your own abilities.

Not to disparage the people who try so hard to help others with career choices, there are some things people can't discuss with others.

Careers are personal, in a sense nothing else can be. Careers impact on people at a very intense personal level, and it's all internal. You're the one who has to make the calls, on that basis, because otherwise you're leaving yourself out of the equation, and it won't work.

Before you get too idealistic and starry eyed about a career or a career move, you need to get very busy checking out the realities of the situations which any career creates.

An example of a high minded career with a lot of spin about making money and social benefits would be a doctor.

Medicine is one of the most oversold, most hyped, of all career environments, and the realties are sometimes nothing less than brutal. Nothing is said about the endless hours of the GP, the murderous business environment, or the endless legalities and administration.

As a matter of fact, many GPs handle their business well, and soon get on top of all the non-medical things, when they find a system that works for them. But in the past they were never given much of an insight into the sheer hard slog of daily business, and let's face it, learning accountancy, law and medicine at the same time wouldn't be easy. They found themselves in oceans of bureaucratic processes, and it wasn't exactly what they had in mind when they decided to study medicine.

That is now a known reality of the profession, but the high volume administrative element snuck up on them in the 80s, and many weren't prepared for it and didn't appreciate it. People leave professions for much less compelling reasons than that, and the world can think itself lucky it didn't run out of doctors. All these things are major stresses, and they're all important.

Any career also brings with it environmental hazards.

You need to know risks, and be able to see the things that you don't like, clearly. At trainee level, these things aren't obvious. They can't be. You need to research your intended career in detail.

This is where your talents will be endlessly useful.

If you're really good at your intended profession, you'll be able to anticipate problems before they happen. That's the infallible mark of a real professional.

Try a case study of your profession, some situation where you can see what's happening, and make informed opinions of what you think the likely result of a situation will be.

If you're right, so far, so good. If you can regularly anticipate situations, even vague situations where the causes aren't clear, you're doing very well, and you will probably survive the real career environment.

Careers are not simple. They can't be, there are just too many factors involved, and infinite combinations of people and circumstances.

Stage Two of your checking out process is figuring out relationships in your career environment. Do you understand why there are relationship problems between an industry group and a management group? Because those are the real world's nuclear exchanges in most professions.

Doing OK, if you can see where the real clashes are.

Now, what about relationships?

Say you're an extrovert. Do you know any of the other three types, in your career path? You'll know at least a few IEs, everyone does, particularly extroverts, because IEs are always good friends.

The ones you need to meet are the introverts and the EIs in your field.

  • Can you understand a word of what they say, in the case of the introverts?
  • Do you see how the EI is operating, and with whom?
  • Do you know why the introvert works the way he/she does? (Not just any introvert, because they're all very different. This particular person.)
  • Do you need an interpreter to talk to either or both of them?
  • Can you predict how they'll react to any particular bit of information?

If you don't, it's no great surprise. These are the languages you need to learn in your career, and these people are the environment, to a very large extent.

These are the daily relationship issues in your career, and as you will have noticed from the original example, they can make or break a job. That means they can trash a career pretty effectively, too.

The real career environment is made up of the professional skills, the business skills, the social skills, and the relationships in that career.

You have to be sure of what you're doing, who you're dealing with, and where you're going, in any career.

It's not that difficult to find out. Consider it an extracurricular activity. If you don't know where you're going, or how you're traveling, you have no way of knowing where you'll wind up. Use your brain, when investigating anything to do with your career, and you'll find you can avoid most of the problems.

So get started checking out the environments. If you can see them coming before they see you, you're winning the career game.