How knowing my thinking style helps me advance my career

As an organizational psychologist, I have always been interested in understanding people and behavior. I continually reflect on my own behavior in the same way.

Awareness of my individual thinking style — and how that style relates to others — has helped me advance my career and be more effective, successful and happy on the job and in my everyday life.

You can use many tools to assess your thinking style, personality, and problem-solving approach. These include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Hogan Assessment, and Six Thinking Hats. At Kimberly-Clark, we use the Original Thinkers quiz to help jobseekers land on one of eight distinct thinking styles and apply this knowledge to their careers.

Understand your weaknesses

By nature, I am an “adaptor” — someone who loves exploring every side of an issue, adapting to the latest input, and finding answers to challenging questions. I have always gravitated toward roles where I can help others reflect. I’m energized when exploring problems from different angles and perspectives. I enjoy the opportunity to create something new by listening to others and adding my perspective to add value.

My thinking style leads me to be calm when things are chaotic or stressful. Give me a tough problem, and I’ll try to tease out the opportunity. I can adjust my approach to focus on what’s important to my co-workers or to the success of a project and lead people to a common goal. By looking at a problem with a new lens, I can often provide a spark to get things done and move project forward.

While my highly adaptive and inquisitive personality has helped me thrive in many situations, it creates challenges in others.

I struggle when I receive little feedback and information, or when I feel micromanaged. And my ability to continually adapt and adjust when working with others can come across as being overly agreeable or less than steadfast in my opinions. (In fact, I reach conclusions after careful consideration, review, and assessment.)

Understanding both sides of the equation — how my personal thinking style works well in certain situations and less well in others — has helped me navigate my career and identify roles and projects where I can contribute, grow, and shine.

Put your thinking style to work

For instance, after doing something for an extended period of time when there are limited learning opportunities, I know that I have a personal tendency to get bored. I have to remind and coach myself to focus on execution to ensure that details of plans come together as expected and not get side tracked by a new problem to solve.

I also know when approaching a new role or problem, I have the ability to look at the problem with a fresh set of eyes or perspective. By knowing myself, I can flex my approach to the situation and ensure my “hows” align with others needs of the team and situation.

We spend time thinking about all sorts of things every day: how we’re going to meet that big project deadline, organize the next staff meeting, save money for a vacation trip, take care of an aging parent or relative, or reorganize the contents of our closets. We should also give some thought to ourselves.

The more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to adjust your approach to ensure you make meaningful connections with others and maximize insights.

Leverage your strengths

If you’re currently employed, you can use self-knowledge to evaluate your present role and discover how you can better leverage your strengths to position yourself for advancement. You can also use this information to enhance relationships with supervisors, work more effectively with co-workers who think differently and present ideas in way that ensures clarity and buy in.

If you’re looking for a new opportunity, insights into your personal thinking style will help you identify the types of roles and organizations in which you can contribute and thrive. You’ll even be better prepared for job interviews by understanding the cognitive strengths you bring to a new position.

Continue to reassess your strengths throughout your career as your skills and experience grow. A deep understanding of your individual thinking style will help you find more satisfying positions, work with organizations that empower you to maximize your talents — and ultimately unleash your full potential.