Finding Your Own Path: Using the Myers-Briggs Step II and Strong Interest Inventory in College Career Counseling
By Darlene Garcia and Catharine Beecher
In the U.S. higher education system, students are challenged to declare a major or choose an occupation in their sophomore year in college, sometimes even before starting college. That’s an onerous task, especially if done without sufficient self-knowledge or guidance. Perhaps that is why at least 60% of college students change their major at least once before graduating and, on average, students change their major three times during their college career. Many graduate, even begin work, and find that they have made a poor vocational choice. That’s discouraging and costly for both students and their parents. Such a situation is less likely to occur at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where career counseling, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Step II combined with the Strong Interest Inventory, provides students with effective, empowering guidance.
Why This Approach?
Using these two assessment instruments in combination enables the counselor and student together to look at the student’s strengths, interests and values in depth. Based on where those traits intersect, themes emerge that indicate jobs or occupations in which the individual is likely to be happy and successful. However, the goal is not to prescribe a direction for students, but to supply them with the information and understanding necessary to be self-directed, to make career choices with a sense of self-efficacy. Therefore, throughout the process, students are asked how they “think” or “feel” the inventory results “fit” them.
Since traditional college students are in Erikson’s identity versus role confusion stage, they may still be developing a sense of who they are as individuals. Using these two inventories with youth, to deepen self-knowledge, emphasize positive attributes and possibilities, and uncover themes, helps them understand the key components of their identity related to career. Chope posits that “career identity is the kernel of all that you hope to be or become, the nucleus of your ... confidence” (Chope, 2010). Many Colorado College students going through this process experience an amazing amount of insight and growth in a very short time, which can elicit intense emotions. Further, this new sense of self-awareness is energizing; it propels students into more self and world of work exploration.
Why The MBTI Step II?
For many clients, the MBTI’s four dimensions are sufficiently informative, but for those whose identities are not fully developed, the Step II report explains gradations in the clarity and components of one’s Myers-Briggs preferences through five different “facets” for each of the type dichotomies. While individuals feel validated by “in type” facets, it is the “out of type” facets that best describe the subtleties that make us unique and can truly individualize the career exploration process. For instance, we (the authors) are both questioning feelers, meaning we’ll spend more time asking questions and looking for possible solutions before making a decision than do most feelers. Knowing such nuances has helped us hone our career niches and contribute to collaborative efforts. The same can be true for our student clients.
Students who come to the Colorado College Career Center, stymied about career choice, are first instructed to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory online. An interpretive meeting with the counselor is scheduled, during which the inventory results are reviewed in depth. We begin with some questions about the individual’s background, educational experiences, issues or concerns, and family, including family influences and expectations regarding occupational choice. We explain that in using the MBTI we’re trying to determine what it is that the individual does naturally well, how he/she uses and generates energy, takes in and processes information, makes decisions, and manages his/her world. We’ll integrate that with information about what she/he enjoys and is good at doing, as well as with values that are revealed in the process. The result will be an “all-around”, holistic picture of the unique individual. Handouts used to help explain the individual’s inventory results and deepen understanding of strengths, interests and values include:
Descriptors of the Myers-Briggs preferences, which the individual reads through, choosing statements most like her/him, to gain a basic understanding of type.
The individual’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Step II Profile report and the Strong Interest Inventory Profile, College Edition, with the Strong and MBTI Career Report, combining results of the two. (Links to sample reports of these two instruments are provided in the References list.)
A chart of the 16 Myers-Briggs Types.
Descriptions of one’s four letter Myers-Briggs type, showing potential strengths and “stretches” (we prefer this word to “weaknesses”), what is needed for a career to be satisfying for this personality type, and some occupations to consider.
As noted, the process of explaining the reports is punctuated by questions from the counselor such as, “Which of these statements best describe you?”, “How did you feel when hearing that?” and “What stands out to you in this list?” The student’s interpretation of what is being said, her/his learning, is paramount.
Finally, we’ll put all our information together in a Venn diagram illustrating personality preferences, interests and values. The intersection of these circles represents the individual’s personal career themes. In the combined report this shows up as about a dozen core descriptors from which a list of possible majors and occupations is generated and which guides the next phase of career exploration.
For eighteen months students have completed a brief survey after this in-depth counseling session; 100% said that this process was helpful. One student said, “Analyzing the results with you really reassured me that I have made the right choice about my major and possible career choice...and it was also fascinating to learn so much about myself.” Reported a senior, “I feel like I have a better idea of the careers I should look at based on my interests and values. My job search will be more focused now.” Although the process can take up to two hours and costs about $40 per student, the anxiety, confusion, frustration, time, and effort saved by the students' choice of more focused coursework, internships, and entry level jobs is invaluable.
Chope, R. (2010). The Complicated Identity of the Career Counselor. Career Developments, 26 (3). NCDA.
Vogt, P. (2004). Five Reasons You Should Change Your Major. Young Money. Retrieved June 22, 2010 from http://www.youngmoney.com/careers/career-advice/037_217/
Sample reports of the instruments used can be viewed on the CPP website:
MBTI Step II Profile
Strong Profile, College Edition, with Strong and MBTI Career Report
Darlene Garcia, MA, MCDP, MBTI Master Practitioner, is the career counselor at Colorado College. She has provided education, advising and career counseling for 25 years, administering and interpreting the MBTI daily for almost ten of those. She has presented workshops on using the MBTI to understand leadership, teamwork, career issues, writing and learning styles, and has taught psychology, human relations and counseling classes at the college level. She received the Outstanding Career Practitioner award at the 2010 NCDA conference. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Catharine Beecher, MD, NCC, LPC, a senior instructor at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, teaches Career Development in the Masters in Counseling program. Her 30-year career has run the gamut of helping professions, from physician to counselor educator. She uses a strength-based, efficacy-focused approach with students and private clients, often employing the MBTI and Strong to help them understand their positive traits, guide career choice, and enhance learning and communication. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.