When Personality, College and Careers Meet

Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are? When I was a boy (back around the time that electricity was becoming popular), I would happily spend my summer months reading Archie and Superman comics. I also spent far more time than I should have lying in my family's hammock, which was conveniently located under an apple tree in our back yard. Its shade provided an ideal atmosphere for me to read my piles of baseball books, most of which were about Mickey Mantle. I would also keep daily track of the Major League standings, both the Yankees (obviously my favorite team) and the Pittsburgh Pirates, since I lived near Pittsburgh.

These are wonderful memories of childhood for me. I'm sure that many of you, both students and parents, may have similar fond memories. But, again, the questions begs: Why are we now the way we are? Or, why have we turned out to be who we are and what effect does who we are have (or did it have) on our college and career choices? Let's take a moment to explore that, especially for you parents out there.

There are billions of people in the world. Even so, there are amazing similarities among us. Modern psychological research has produced a classification system that assigns all of us into one of four basic temperaments, which lead to one of 16 personality types. So what does this mean to you?

As the parent of a high school student, you may have already discovered that your child gravitates toward some tasks or situations more easily than others do. This relates to his or her temperament and personality. Have you ever heard someone say, "Alice has the right temperament for (this or that)"? This implies that the person and the task have a good fit. They just seem to go together naturally.

Helping your child to know who he or she is can go a long way in helping you understand what path you they may want to follow through college. How can you find out more about who you are? Probably the best book on the subject is "Please Understand Me" written by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.

This little paperback contains a self-test called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter that will detect which of four main temperament types you are. David Keirsey, a great pioneer of temperament theory, dramatically extended the work done in that area by the noted Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Also try the Keirsey web site at You'll find profiles the temperaments and personality types into which we all fit.

The theory says that all of us display one of four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. Each has its own core values and behaviors. Preferences also play a big part in each temperament. These preferences often determine which career path will prove most rewarding and successful for each of us.

Here are some very simplified guidelines about temperaments and the careers that often provide happiness and success for them. Artisans prefer careers where there is some risk involved and where they can make an impact: actors, performers, surgeons, athletes, stunt people, artists, and so forth. Guardians love to guard the welfare of the social unit and are frequently fond of police work, elementary teaching, security work, nursing, and related health services.

Idealists are big on meaning and significance and helping others become what they need to be. They like the ministry, counseling, psychology, social work, writing, and college teaching. Rationals have a hunger for knowledge and control over nature. They like to be lawyers, architects, college professors, scientists, economists, and philosophers. The Keirsey book and web site can clarify these for you.

Take the time to help your child find out who they are. It can save you much stress and money later when the meter starts running in college. Oh, yes. Finding out who you are, yourself, isn't such a bad idea either.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.