SPP: Okay Donna well I know that you deal a lot with personality typing and things like that, something that I’ve talked a lot about on this show, finding your passion and the career that fits you. I was hoping you could kind of give a more I depth understanding of what it is that you do, and then also how you got to where you are today.
Donna: That’s a long story. What I would say if I were trying to summarize what I do, I do all sorts of things, but my goal is to help people learn about themselves and figure out who they are and what kind of lifestyle fits for them. I think that in a variety of ways I used to do a lot more individual counseling and I did a lot of assessments as a psychologist for adults who had learning difficulties. They were having difficulty looking for and trying to maintain employment or with executives who were looking for new challenges.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a wide variety of clients I’ve worked with from people really struggling to people who are really successful, midlife career changers, young people. I’m very fortunate that way. One of the tools I use is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Tool which is an assessment that helps people look at having that naturally approach life and work and that they understand that that gives them some insights into what directions might fit best for them.
So through that work I’ve started to do more training and training of career counselors and training of human resources professional so that they can use the Myers-Briggs tools and I can help them figure out how to use clients self-understanding of their clients, self-understanding, and I’ve put some of that stuff into writing so that it can be more widely accessible. Now I’m mostly fascinated with social media and like to get those ideas out there online too to help people because not everybody ahs that time or resources to access career counseling because it’s not easy to get advice now on how to figure out what to do.
SPP: Right. Then how did you get to where you are? How did you kind of come across all this? Did you know it was the field you wanted to go into, or how did that work?
Donna: When I was really young I wanted to be a marine biologist.
Donna: My very first university lab in the very first term I had to pick a frog and it was on the table. And I had to scramble its brain out and stuff, and I just went like oops this is wrong I’m not going into this field and took a psychology course and went wow this is cool. Then I was lost from there on it was like all of this for me. I love people. I love trying to understand people, hear their story, figure out who they are, and where they’re coming from, so it’s always been a fascination.
SPP: That’s great. Now for example, what about somebody who, I’m sure you see a lot of it, somebody who feels kind of that they’re in the wrong career. I think happens, I don’t know maybe it’s just because I’m becoming aware of it, but it seems to happen more often than not these days. What is the first piece of advice you would offer somebody who feels stuck or that they’re not at their true calling, but doesn’t know exactly where to go from there?
Donna: Well you know it’s quite funny but I think it’s actually one of the most difficult things to do is to know yourself. I mean you have to understand yourself. And there’s so many pressures out there to be who you’re not, you’re born in a family and maybe your parents wanted you to get what they couldn’t or they wanted you to be who they are, or they just see that they want. I mean I think that most parents want the best for the kids, but they may have a pretty clear idea of what that looks like, whereas it might not be what suits the child.
Then you get into school and the teachers have a certain way of looking at things, and you get into a peer group, then the societal images come at you. I think it’s just really, really hard to sort out yourself. So I think that’s the first thing to do is try and sit back and see “What’s important to me?” Although it sounds like a really simple question I think it’s going to be hard to answer.
SPP: What do you think the first steps are in trying to figure out yourself? I know you are a big believer in the Myers-Briggs and things like that, are there other avenues to learn about what you like and what you’re good at?
Donna: Oh for sure. The Myers-Briggs is just one piece. I get really concerned when people only use one tool. Then they build, it’s sort of like a Myers-Briggs it’s a hammer then you see the world as a nail, you really want to be careful not to be one way of looking at yourself. At first I think it’s that realization that okay, how do I sort what I want to know from what’s around me? And then just your experiences what have you enjoyed, what have you not enjoyed? What’s a struggle for you, what seems to come naturally? What are you interested in? What’s important to you, your values?
So I think there’s so many different. Like you could take all this online tools and things, and there’s lots of good ones out there, but the bottom line is processing them all. I ran career planning workshops for years and there’s tons of tools out here. I did a project for the government where I had looked at all that government tools that career counselors are using and there were over 100 different tools.
So there’s tons of tools, they’re not the issue. But the issue is once you finish the tool you have to say “So what? What does that tell me about myself?” So if you take an interest inventory and it says, oh you should be a clergy and you’re not really into formal religion, then you have to say to yourself, okay well what’s this telling me then. I’m interested in what? You have to take it and think about it.
SPP: So for somebody at home who might not have the access to a professional career counselor or might not have the funds to do so, what are some tools you would recommend to just maybe get started on this journey of learning yourself?
Donna: Yeah. I do recommend the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I mean that’s a tool I found really helpful. Because what it looks at is how you naturally approach things. So how you approach work, how you approach life? You can do it online. You can do the official one online at MBTI complete Web site it’s under $100 dollars. Then think about don’t just take it at face value, because what the tools give you is what you put into the tool.
If I can just give you one example of a career finding workshop, I had a fellow who came into a workshop, and he went to interest and values and lifestyle, strengths and aptitude testing. It was a two day workshop right. But he came in with the mindset is I want to be a forest warden. I want to work in the forest ranger and the park right.
Donna: So anyway after all of these things he was thinking about okay this is sort of arranged. He answered it all. So finally he gets to the end where you go into the research part of it and the first thing is realizing that he wants to go to the university for four years and he doesn’t learn that way. And he goes So I don’t want to do this. Now want am I going to do? I’m thinking okay you got to go all over again and just kick that out of your head when you start looking at things.
So you have to sort of start open minded and not have one particular idea in mind when you start. I guess I keep saying you really have to think about what you’re getting from the tools out there. So go online it’s going to take some tools but think about them. But one thing I find is really helpful is the Holland’s Code to use. Have you heard of those?
SPP: I have not, no.
Donna: Okay. So what Holland did years ago is a tool called The Self-Directed Search and I believe we can take them online too. But what he said is that you can divide people and work and to sort of the big fixed interest themes, so there’s people in occupations where there’s social and enterprising and investigative and artistic and conventional and realistic. So you can take short inventories and things. There’s one in my “What’s Your Type of Career”, just a short inventory or you’ll find them online.
Then you can go into a huge database, something like the O*Net, if people haven’t heard of that it’s one you should really, in the US especially although the jobs they’re common across other countries, but it’s called O*Net. You can put in those three letter codes and it’ll tell all sorts of occupations…
SPP: Oh wow.
Donna: …with codes. Yeah so that’s fun. I have that on a blog on my Web site sort of a short summary of those six codes and then how you can put them in there to access the O*Net. Then its occupational research too that people need to do, because a lot of us don’t look for consumer work that we’re unfamiliar with. That really limits us right.
SPP: Yeah. Actually that was one of my questions for you. I never had anyone really say “Hey think about what it is.” I mean nobody forced me into anything, but why do you think that is? Why do you think these tools aren’t more often used for young kids or high schoolers, even in colleges?
Donna: Yeah one of my pet peeves.
Donna: I think that the schools are just trying to deal with their curriculum and it’s just never been – I mean I’m in Canada so we’ve had some creative management courses, one course in your high school, or whatever. At that point the kid is not in the mindset to start with, and also it’s usually given to a teacher who has a spare and needs an extra course to pick up. And isn’t really a career counselor because it’s not something you get into the public schools unless you work in the guidance department, and they’re pretty busy with some problems.
Donna: So it’s just not part of the curriculum. I gave up on having school educate my kids a long time. Don’t get me wrong I think there’s so many really skilled teachers and I think teachers, most of them are really passionate about what they do and they’re trying really hard, but you get a classroom with a whole bunch of kids and a whole bunch of special needs and you’ve got this great range of skill levels and behavioral issue, and everything else, and you’re just trying to meet a guideline where they have to write an exam again and it’s really tough.
I’ve been in a public school for short periods of time as a teacher and you don’t really have the luxury of doing, if you want to call it mall guidance or lifestyle building, it’s just not part of the curriculum.
Donna: I think that’s wrong but it is.
SPP: Yeah. No I agree.
Donna: I don’t have strong opinions about this at all do I?
SPP: No believe me that’s why I’m interested in it because I feel the same way as you, it’s kind of mind blowing. So many people even write into the podcast because I talk about it often, and they say “Yeah can you get somebody on who can help us out a little”, because nobody knows where to start.
SPP: I guess along those lines say somebody comes into a workshop of yours, and I know you mentioned some things that are commonplace in your profession but I know I don’t know much about, and I’m assuming many people don’t. I guess could you walk us through what you get them to do? I know you mentioned listing your interest and things that you don’t like, and kind of exercises you might have on the deal.
Donna: Right. So basically when I look at career planning when I’m introducing it to anyone the first thing you have to do is self- assessment. So there’s a whole bunch of tools and things you can use there. And I’ll just kind of go through the steps of it all and then I’ll go back with self-assessment.
SPP: Okay great.
Donna: You have to assess yourself and then you have to say “Okay, so what kind of options are out there for someone if you have 10 things you’d kind of like to have some work. What might fit with that? So you have to have some knowledge of the world at work. So you have to find some options and you have to do some research and figure out a match or something that will align to it.
Then you have to do some decision making, pros and cons, how it will affect the people there’s a whole part of that, but you also are taught how to make a good decision. Then after that there’s a whole actual planning they have to be able to figure out how do I learn the stuff I need to get in there? Is it formal education? Can I learn some other way? Do I need to just write a really good resume? Do I need to go out there and schmooze? How do I market myself? So that’s the whole process from the beginning to the end.
So back to the self assessment that’s where you really, and I think the main thing you want to look at is what interests you. Who are you? When you watch TV what shows attracted you? Are you someone who just took and watched Ted Talks for fun? Are you someone who really likes to get out and be active? Where do you get your energy from? Then what’s important to you personally, your values? Again it’s really hard to sort these out from all the societal to value, money and success as measured by status. Really looking at is that true for me, what is it for me that would make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile? Is it happening somebody? Is it figuring out or really are there any problem? Is it being able to kind of sit back and analyze the situation? Is it jumping in there and fighting a fire.
Everyone has to achieve something that kind of makes them feel like they’re contributing something. What is that for you? Is it your family? And you know what there isn’t one time that you can finish your career planning? I’m in my 50s and I’m still changing my career as your situations change. I was in different things and when I was single, when I was a young married, when my kids were older. So it always changes to, so you have to keep doing this and working through it.
Then look at skills, what are you good at and why are you good at it? I mean I can be good at some things and really not enjoy them. So you really have to stop there and say, because I think that’s a big check. A lot of people get in who have been educated and have a skill set, I call it the Golden Handcuff, you might be really good at something and you might have the skills for it and it might make you more money than anything else you could do right now, but at the end of the day you go home and go oh I hate doing this.
Donna: It’s forage.
SPP: I think that has affected a lot of people. I know a lot of people who have gone that route.
Donna: Oh yeah. You come home and you say “I hate my job” and you open the mailbox and there’s six bills, and you go okay well so be it. SPP: Right.
Donna: I mean I call that the Golden Handcuff because it’s just – and then you have to stop and say “Do I need two cars? Does our family need two cars? Do we need this mortgage? Where do we want to be?” It’s so basic to really stop instead of just going through your life, because everyone’s pretty busy but to take that time to stop and say “What is this life like? Do I want to travel or do I want to stay in one place? Am I homebody, am I a go getter? Do I really want to nurture my kids more? What do I want to do right now?” And it’s hard.
SPP: It is difficult for sure. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about personality typing and the Myers-Briggs because I know you’re very well versed in it.
Donna: Yeah that’s my passion.
SPP: So could you tell us a little bit more about it and kind of how it works? I’m just more interested in the workings of it I guess.
Donna: For sure. So how the Myers-Briggs works is it’s really quite simple. It’s for opposites. So when you look at people and if you’ve been in a family or if you have kids or you know anybody. Just look at people and sometimes they just approach things in a way that just seems weird, like odd. People are like what are they thinking? What the Myers-Briggs does is helps you understand just natural approaches that people have to things. So it isn’t explaining everything, or it isn’t defining who you can be, it’s just simply looking at how you can naturally approach things.
So there’s four pairs you either focus yourself outward or inward as a preference. So everybody has to go outward and talk to people and do things and everyone has to stay inward and reflect and think about what they’re going to do first. Everybody does both what they call Extraversion and Introversion in this model, but you prefer one. So you know those people, those little kids who just sit there and watch everything going on, and that’s a processing that the processing it’s taking it in. And the other kid is out that they’re jumping off the walls and he’s processing it out there. So that’s the first pair right.
Again it doesn’t say if you’re an introvert you can’t be a teacher, it just says if you’re an introvert you teach they’ll tire you out more and it’ll take more of your energy from you and you’ll need some time to recuperate after. You probably prefer a smaller group. So it doesn’t dictate a career to you but get a sense of where you’re energized.
Donna: Then there’s people who focus first on what’s practical in the medias and the details and what’s there, and there’s people that focus on ideas and possibilities, and they’re much more random in the way they approach data. So they call those sensing and intuition just how you take in information.
Donna: Again there’s no good or bad or right or wrong. You have to do both if you don’t pay attention to the details you’ll never find your keys. If you don’t have ideas and possibilities you’ll never kind of go anywhere in the future you have to have some kind of goal, but you the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator the Personality Type Model will tell you you’d prefer one over the other. Then there’s how you evaluate information and make decisions.
So that’s how this real logical process is through what’s important to you, your values and how the people around you would be affected. Again, you have to be logical and personal, objective and subjective about things, but you’ll likely prefer one over the other. So really that’s what Young says that’s all we do we either take in stuff, deal with what’s coming in for our data, or we evaluate it and decide. That’s kind of what people do.
Donna: Those are the two middle pieces in the code. You get a four letter and the last letter tells you if you like to be structured, organized, make plans, have everything under control or not. If you’d prefer to be more open ended, flexible and approach life in a kind of information ticking way. So you’re always looking for new ideas or expanses and being more spontaneous. So when you take the four letters you come up with a four letter code that those are your four preferences. Then they all interact in a pattern so it gives you 16 different personalities’ patterns.
But actually it’s in a whole other research element, they learn different ways, they prefer different kinds of work, they approach situations differently, they communicate with people differently. But it doesn’t define you in the sense that says you prefer to deal with the abstract information. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t learn to follow a sequence and be practical that that part of your life. You have to learn to use all of these eight parts of the pair, but you’ll have a natural pattern of the ones that kind of what Cskikszentmihalyi used to call it the Flow. You’ve heard of him he’s a psychologist that talks about the Flow Experience.
SPP: Yes absolutely.
Donna: You know that time flies by and you’re just feeling like okay, this is working for me. Where you’re just feeling energized and it’s easy and it’s natural that’s when you’re using your preferred ways of doing things.
Donna: Then your non-preferred ones you use them and then you have to learn it’s harder, you have to put more energy into them, you have to struggle more. Then if you end up in a career that you use your non-preferred ways of doing things chances are it’ll be fairly structural.
SPP: Well you know in preparation for this interview I did go on and it was about time I did the Myers-Briggs, so I took it and I just wanted to get a quick – I know our listeners might not be interested – but a quick from you what you think. I got ENFP, what does that mean?
Donna: So remember we talked about focus outward/inward.
Donna: So E is we’re focused on ideas and possibilities. You tend to evaluate information and make your decisions about what’s important to you personally and the people that are close to you. You like to keep your options open. So I’ve heard ENFP say to me “Well I have enough ideas for both careers and I’m not going to take it in this lifetime. There’s a 100 careers right.
SPP: That’s really true.
Donna: Or other ones will say – and that’s one of the things I love is stories, so when I write my books I collect – I’ve been lucky enough to work for a lot of people and collect lots of stories, so my books are just peppered with stories. But one ENFP said to my “What I do is I fly about a 1000 miles high and I’m about half an inch thick.” That’s just how she described. She was just up there looking at all of the possibilities or the options.
So the driver of that personality is the intuition. So we talk about the one part of the personality that’s sort of core to it, how you approach things, and I call them Explorers. So it’s just ideas, generated by ideas always wanting a new idea. I have one interview with a little story about my daughter who’s an ENFP on my Web site and she’s 24 and she has had maybe, I don’t know 20 jobs. Started out small and done really well, so she’s travelling around the world right now and it’s all about ideas and possibilities for her.
SPP: Right. Wow!
Donna: And structure and planning and being routine and they think that is absolute painful.
SPP: Yeah. Well you sold me on it now because I mean you pretty much hit the nail on the head and we’ve only been talking for 20 minutes.
Donna: Wow that’s amazing.
SPP: It is.
Donna: It’s quite funny because my son, I love personality type stuff because it really does help people get a sense of well no wonder that’s frustrating for me, or no wonder that we have trouble talking or whatever. He has preferences for the exact opposite, so he’s ISTJ.
Donna: So he likes to know what’s coming, he likes to expect what’s coming. He’s one person that will really look for stability and routine and structure in his life. Then he got this off his sister, it’s like where did they come from, it’s day and night. What he’s looking for is career path that’s going to move slowly along to where these goals. He’s got a full time job and he likes his job and he wants to stay there for awhile, and he’s taking another course and he wants to add some expertise, and then he wants another job. He has a very different look at what the world of works should rule out for him than my daughter who’s like, whatever.
Donna: They’ll be some coming up.
SPP: That’s how I think. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. I did want you to talk, first I know you have two I think your two newest books are the one “10 Career Essentials” and you also have one called “What’s Your Type of Career?” Is that correct?
Donna: Right. Yes and “What’s Your Type of Career” isn’t new its 10 years old, but it’s a new edition. So I’ve updated all of the data in it the occupation. So I’ll talk about “What’s Your Type of Career” because it’s the one that talks about what’s the kind of work that might suit you.
SPP: Okay great.
Donna: So what it is an introduction to the personality type and I call it the eight ways of working because you can put the 16 into pair it. There’s been a whole bunch of research done on what people are more attracted to what kind of work. So you can take say accountants and pick a sample of them and look at what their personality types are. Then you can look at what the personality types are normally in the population and say “Okay, there’s a lot more of a certain type in here that you’d expect.”
So then you can actually find that research that says there’s more going to show up and this kind of work. Most of the research also looks as satisfaction so they’re in that work and they’re happy with it. So then I can give people some sense of some ideas. Not that you want to necessarily take a list of jobs for your type and say “I have to pick one of these”, but it gives you a sense of where people are sort of aiming up with your personality preferences the kind of works that seems to fit for them.
It talks about how they like to approach work and what makes them happy. I’m actually doing a series right now on my Web site if you wanted to buy books and you just want to look at their type. It has just 20 tips for the kinds of work that would suit someone with a personality type.
SPP: Oh wow! Could you share with the listeners what the web site is?
Donna: www.Dunning.ca and then it goes to the career finding process and how to make a good career decision and how to research, how to make decisions. It customizes it depending on what your personality type is. Because if you’re an outgoing want to try things kind of personality we’re going to do your career planning differently than someone who’s more wanting to reflect and get a lot more depth of information, and look at things online. Or go and merely talk about something in a lot more detail with an individual sort of thing.
Donna: So it’s just how to do your career planning depending on who you are, if that makes sense? SPP: No it does.
Donna: That’s “What’s Your Type of Career”. Then the “10 Career Essentials” is basically how to be successful at work. This is all the steps they should have taught us at school. So it’s real basic stuff like taking self-direction and having a positive outlook and self- responsibility, and how to communicate and learn, gives you thinking effectively and do good work and thrive and change and promote yourself. So it’s the thing that they should have in the curriculum to be successful at work. I call them Career Success Strategies Work Skills.
SPP: As we mentioned think that the school system fails us oftentimes on that, so that I believe is a must pickup for anyone who hears about it for sure.
Donna: The nice thing about that one too is so say you have preferences for ENFP and you did a chapter on doing good work or producing well, I’ll talk in there about the fact that follow-through probably isn’t one of your greatest strengths. That you’re more invested in initiating a new project than you are in – ENFP’s they tend to get less excited about following through something that’s already established than they are about starting something else that’s new.
Donna: When I get to that chapter I give each type some specific tips for their type because some of the skills may be more or less challenging to different types, but build that piece in to there as well.
SPP: Wow! That’s fantastic. I’m super interested in it. I know I’m going to be picking these up because it’s a passion of mine. We’ll be sure to put links to both of your books and your Web site on our Web site because I think as I mentioned we get a lot of people who comment that they want to learn more about this, and I think this will be really helpful.
SPP: So Donna I know we’ve kind of gone over time but it’s something I really enjoy. So thank you again so much for being on the show.
Donna: It’s great to talk to you.
SPP: Best of luck with all this in the future. I appreciate you helping the lost souls of the world.
Donna: Well it sounds like you’ve got lots of ideas so I’m excited to follow your career too because you’re trying something really interesting, so congratulations on that.
SPP: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Donna: Yeah thank you.
SPP: All right have a good day.
Donna: You too. Bye-bye.