From our wallets to our t-shirts, we are a label conscious society. Although I shun accessories with designers’ names or initials, I proudly wear clothing with college names and causes I support. Like my bumper stickers (see “Bumper Stickers”), my clothing offers a glimpse into what matters to me. These labels – from caps to socks - are harmless and in good fun. The labels that concern me go beyond prestige initials or team logos. As a life coach, I shudder when clients tell me who they are based on previous personality and career test results. No one can be summed up in a few syllables or, in the case of Myers-Briggs, four letters. Some people have even changed their intended career paths when test results indicated they did not have the requisite personality profile or academic aptitude. Test results should never trump passion.
These tests have some value, but not in the way they are often used and applied. It may be comforting for an introverted woman to understand why she prefers small dinner parties to large social gatherings. The young man deciding on a career path may find it helpful to know he shows a strong spatial aptitude. A CEO may find it useful to get scored feedback on her management style.
The problem arises when this information is used disproportionately to shape someone’s self- identity and life choices. The introverted woman may now second guess her desire to pursue local theater. The spatially oriented young man may feel pressured to become an engineer when he really wants to be a teacher. The CEO may over-focus on her scored weaknesses even though they are not affecting her productivity or work relationships. Seeing test results in black and white somehow gives a stamp of truth, an absolute objectivity, to them. This is who you are. Live with it.
But humans are not so simple. Not every important trait can be measured or quantified. (See "Measurements") People are far more complex than the answers to a series of questions. No test can measure the degree of passion, the vastness of love, the joy of creativity, and the depth of empathy. The introverted woman may shine in front of an audience of thousands. The young man with the superior spatial capacity may become the sixth grade teacher who inspires young lives. The CEO may run a successful company where morale is very high despite her “measured” weaknesses.
Personality and career testing is on the rise. It is common for job applicants to be tested to determine if they will fit into company culture. These test results may be useful, but they hardly paint the full picture of anyone.
The next time a client tells me his or her test results, particularly of the four-letter variety, I will share mine with them. I am DMBA – Doing My Best Always. Or am I LTLD – Loves To Laugh Daily? Maybe I am AFAA – Advocate For All Animals. Oh heck, I am all of them. What are your letter scrambles?