Of course, everyone―by which I mean employers and job counselors and matchmakers―would like it if a simple written test allowed us all to be sorted into bins that reliably predicted the best route for our personal and professional lives. Until that day arrives, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment (based on the work of Jung) is a first-order approximation of that desired tool.
My first exposure to it was unwitting. In April 1979 I moved to California for a job with CMP Publications, which I expected would last six months, tops (it lasted 20 years). David Dietz, business editor of the San Francisco Examiner told me I’d be his next hire. In June, he had the courtesy to call and tell me management had insisted on a woman instead.
In the meantime, I had met the business editor of the San Jose Mercury-News, Jim Mitchell―who chided me for years over the time I took a call from him in my hot tub. Like all applicants at that time, the paper had me take the MBTI, after which Jim offered me a job, which I declined as my now-wife had accepted my marriage proposal and declined a move 50 miles south.
I don’t know what my profile was then, but this year, it’s ESFJ (of whom, according to Reddit, 25% are gay). Those of you who know me will not be surprised that my strongest vector is extroversion (very likely), with a likely S, a somewhat likely F, and a likely J. MBTI research says the best match for journalists is ENFJ, so close.
Fast forward to 1991, when, at a staff meeting of Windows Magazine, we all took the professional, paid-for version of the MBTI (there are lots of less-rigorous free versions on the Internet). The biggest surprise: more than half our staff were introverts. Admittedly, most were more technology people than writers, but still…
The most useful thing I learned was that the way I was managing my direct report, Tom Lasusa, could be improved based on his profile and mine. I adjusted my management style based on this advice.
The MBTI also offers marital advice, via a large table that matches up spousal profiles which puts my wife and I in “uh-oh” territory. The much-less-well-researched alternative sorting mechanism, astrology, helped me meet her: she was looking for a Virgo when we met.
So, our rock-solid 44-year-long relationship seems to indicate that science isn’t everything when it comes to matters of love.
Finally, a little MBTI humor