by Lee Desser
I first took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in graduate school, when I was working as a career services graduate assistant at the University of Southern California. It blew my mind. I realized that my friend from college who consistently showed up 15 minutes late to our noon meetings was probably not trying to disrespect me. Woah! Instead, my preference for Judging (J) was clashing with her preference for Perceiving (P). While I appreciate an orderly, scheduled, and systematic world (very J-like), she prefers a spontaneous, flexible, and casual one-typical P! I realized that rather than thinking that she subtly did not like me or value my time, I could have perhaps been more open-minded and adapted those Thursday noon-time lunches where I ate pasta and salad, to inviting her over to lunch for sandwiches or maybe even adapting to her schedule and showing up a few minutes later.
Fast-forward a few years later; I’m a career adviser at a graduate school and wanting further training with the MBTI. I investigated my options and realized that while in-person training generally costs $1,795 ($1,495 in Florida), online training costs $850 plus ~$170 for class materials. After applying for staff development funding from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, a graduate school that’s part of Middlebury College in Vermont, I was ready to move forward! Here are a few pros and cons to the training:
Con #1: Examples are Too Gendered
Many of the examples are too gendered i.e. there are a lot of female clients who are ENFJ’s and into counseling. For instance, in Module 5 – Presentation 1, this was one of the examples: “Betty is a ‘doer’ and ‘helper’ who struggles with science and becomes a kindergarten teacher. She is a feeler. Al studies aeronautical engineering and physics and works in research and development. He’s a thinker. He becomes a manager and consultant.” This reinforces the idea that women go into helping professions and men go into math and science careers. Is this what they’re trying to show?
In the revision I’d love to see a woman studying engineering and a man studying social science. This typical gendering happens in Modules 1, 3, and 8, as well. To their credit, I let GS Consultants (the online trainers) know about this, and they are updating and editing the “stories.”
Con #2: Cost is a Bit High for Limited Length of Program
If I could change one part of this program, I would make it less rigid. I’m guessing someone who prefers Judging created the training! It would be nice to have more time with the material. There is a strict 60-calendar-day time limit, requiring about 45 hours of coursework. Additionally, if a student does not log into the CourseSites system every 14 calendar days, they will not maintain their eligibility in the program. At one point work got crazy and I was taking longer than expected on the final assignment. I e-mailed administration and asked how much longer I had before I was kicked out of the system (three days? four days?) and they couldn’t tell me. They said I would have to remember the last time I logged in. If they are going to take such a tough approach to kick people out of the training if they don’t login at least every two weeks, then I think there should be a way to find out if your time is almost up. Luckily, I was OK and successfully completed the training.
Pro #1: Much More Sophisticated Knowledge of Type Dynamics
One thing I learned in this program that surprised me: I had no idea there was such a thing as the hierarchy of functions of each type.
Essentially, as Myers writes in the seventh edition of Introduction to Myers-Briggs Type, “Type describes 16 dynamic energy systems, not 16 static boxes. Each four-letter type is not the result of adding its four preferences together. It is the interaction of the preferences with one another” (52).
Type is much more complex than it may first appear and having an awareness of type dynamics, dominant functions, auxiliary functions, and hierarchy of type provides greater insight into to an individual and how they might react under stress.
Pro #2: “Steps in Interpreting the MBTI” Worksheet
The most useful sheet I received as part of my training was the “Steps in Interpreting the MBTI.” This document explains a step-by-step process to interpreting the assessment, including how to describe the work of C.G. Jung, the focus on type preferences, and the importance of verifying type. It also includes hints for providing MBTI feedback based on the age of the client and how to work with clients who have slight PCI’s or preferences. After taking the online training, I feel more confident advising a client who has unclear type preferences.
Pro #3: Wonderful Feedback From My Instructor
I really appreciated all of the individual feedback and attention to detail from my instructor. Even though it was an online course I felt more connected to the material from the individualized comments on my various assignments. For instance, he pointed out that I should always capitalize the preferences when using them as nouns, i.e., Extraversion, and that the longer a bar graph is, as in the Judging/Perceiving dichotomy, the respondent is more clear about her preference.
Overall I would recommend the training, though I wish I could have done it in-person. If anyone has completed the in-person training, I’d be curious to hear about your experience! Also, if you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Lee Desser, Career and Academic Adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey