Our research in applying the Personality Insight assessment instrument has uncovered counter-intuitive results. Much advice to career seekers points them to develop and work in areas of their strength. While this is good advice for some people to follow, we have found that a far stronger motivation for many career seekers is to seek out areas of employment that expose them to areas where their strengths are less than average; areas where learning and applying what was learned does not come naturally. Career seekers of this type might ask: “Why am I not so interested in doing those things that I know that I can do well?” “Why do I keep working at something that hardly ever works out for me?”

There are a few terms that should be clarified, so this realization about the ideal work world for many people makes sense. The terms: core modes, dominant modes, blind spots and sensitivities don’t refer to specific personality characteristics, but rather the relationship that one has with their own personality characteristics.

A “core mode” is a strength that is so obvious to a person that he or she can’t not use it. (The double negative is intended.) This is a major strength and everyone has two such strengths, one that is dedicated to learning and one that is dedicated to applications. Sometimes the two different approaches are the same for a given person. These are the serious issues for a person; they are the things one finds oneself doing in emergencies when there is no time to waste.

A “dominant mode” is a high strength, sometimes stronger than a person’s core modes, but one in which the person does not feel compelled to use, even though great enjoyment is derived from using it. This is the place where one likes to play.

A “blind spot” is a mode in which a person has no natural interest. Like the blind spot in one’s eye, it can be experienced but not without great indirection. This is a mode that is not obvious to a person. Here is where people bump into walls.

A “sensitivity” is a mode that is known to the individual, but one in that is problematic to the individual. It is a less than average capacity. It seems to the person, that no matter how hard one tries, there is always something that seems to slip through the cracks. These are the characteristics where one can expect parents and teachers to complain most about performance.

All of the above may be applied to either one’s approach to learning or application. Most people favor different personality characteristics when learning compared to applying what is known.

It’s the core modes and dominant modes that most advisers will identify as pointing to a successful career. Why not work in an area where you have naturally high capacities? Here’s why. For some people, there can be nothing more boring! This is not applicable for all people, because of differences in personality structure, but for those with a particular personality structure, choosing a career could become very easy if they realized just one small thing about themselves. The best career choice is the area where one both has a sensitivity in the way one learns in the area and also the way one applies oneself.

So why does this backwards idea make sense?

Sensitivities are the areas of activity that are like mysteries to to the person who has this relationship to a given personality characteristic. One knows what is happening in these areas is real because there is a sense of the need for it. Although the person is able to function in this area; success is hit and miss. In spite of all the trouble one has in this mysterious area, sensitivities are sources of endless fascination. It feels like gambling when one operates here. Most of the time the person gets by, breaks even. Often they lose, things don’t quite work out. But every now and then, the person hits the jackpot here. It is overwhelming and surprising how well things worked out, and it’s imagined, “I can do this again!” These sensitive modes are below average ability where most of the corrective advice that was received growing up occurred; the areas where the same mistakes were repeated, over and over.

The technique for making this seemingly backward approach to a career work out, is to let the area of double sensitivity be the field to enter as a career, but use one’s core and dominant modes to serve that field. This places the worker in an environment that will never be dull, while using higher capacities to serve that environment. Boredom never sets in because the outcome is never fully certain, which is challenging to ones strengths. Every success, reveals more of the mystery. Although, the mystery is deep, one’s strengths are capable of meeting the challenge. By establishing this relationship between one’s strengths and sensitivities, this type of worker will always go the extra mile to ensure success. There is a deeper appreciation of the real nature of each problem tackled in a sensitive area. By not working directly on the area of sensitivity, the core and dominant strengths overcome the difficulties that arise. Because of the deep interest in the results, the client is served well, and the insights gained in the process are usually insightful in a way that focusing purely on one’s strengths can never be.

The Personality Insight assessment instrument, is able to measure a person’s fascination with certain kinds of activity; not a specific career, but any career where the qualifying activity is a central experience.

Imagine workers who are expert in Total Quality Management (TQM) who are personally unable to make things on demand. They think that the ability of systems and machines to make the same part, over and over within tight tolerances, for as long as one wishes, to be nothing short of miraculous. Each new part to be produced is a new and exciting opportunity to make the world better in some way, not just for one other person but for many people.

Also there are career counselors who finds it problematic to make long-term decisions, but are captivated by the decision processes that others go through to make life decisions for themselves. Every career client is a new and unprecedented search for life meaning.

Consider family counselors who are baffled by the choices that families or groups might choose for themselves. The family counselor sees each group or family as an opportunity to find a new and exciting way for people to interact creatively and beneficially with each other. Each family situation is seen in terms of the specific individuals involved, not just a formulaic service.

Those career professionals who maintain a high level of excitement and enthusiasm about their work over the life of their career, communicate that excitement to their clients. The very people that you think might be the worst person for a career are paradoxically the best. Not because they directly work with what to them seems miraculous, but because they use their best skills and abilities in the service of the mysterious, turning numbing drudgery into contagious joy.