The Career Mistake You Didn’t Know You Were Making: Stereotyping

As humans we try to organize information in a way that’s easily understandable. We have preconceived notions about people who dress a certain way, who come from certain geographies and who work in certain departments. In our effort to comprehend the world we generalize and put people into neat categories.

Even in the professional world, as unbiased and open-minded as we’d like to think it is, stereotypes about coworkers and departments creep up. Stereotyping at work, like all stereotyping, is harmful. It can hinder us from understanding others and ourselves. Sometimes the people whom we least expect to be fit for a role are the people who really thrive in them. Let’s take a look at two workers from within Simply Hired’s own ranks.

The Sociable Software Engineer

In the tech industry engineers are seen as the brilliant brains and builders of the company. They often are perceived as nerdy, studious, idiosyncratic, reserved and antisocial. Recruiter Avni Shah says that to some extent these assumptions about engineers are true and points out that fitting into these personality types can be a good way to fit in with a team or department. Shah said, “Personality shapes you and people tend to gravitate towards a role that fits their personality.”

But what about the case of the super social engineer?

Justin is a software engineer who describes himself as “outgoing, social, loud, boisterous and talkative.” He also says that the stereotypes about engineers are fairly accurate but adds that those generalizations are not true of all engineers. For himself, he admits he doesn’t fit into the stereotype. Justin says that he dislikes sitting still at his computer all day, a common misconception about his department and peers. He is also known to dedicate his weekends to sports and social outings, contrary to the assumption that engineers prefer to be alone.

Despite all these indicators that his traits don’t befit an engineering role, Justin leads many projects at Simply Hired. He cites his gregariousness as a strength that helps him excel in his work. His social nature and outgoing personality make him a strong communicator and better collaborator. He asks questions and becomes aware of how his work fits into business goals. Justin demonstrates how his seemingly unusual personality has shaped him into an excellent engineer.

His advice? “If you have an extroverted personality and want an engineering job, go for it 100 percent. Don’t become discouraged. You will end up in a high demand position with desirable soft skills. See it as opportunity to buck the trend.”

The Shy and Soft-Spoken Salesperson

Salespeople are often seen as outgoing, engaging, chatty, smooth talkers and assertive sellers. Shah says that displaying these traits during interviews will help give the impression you are suited for a sales job. However, she said, “During the interview process you want to portray yourself as accurately as possible” because recruiters are aware that “what you see is not always what you get.”

What happens when a salesperson is more of a listener than a talker?

Joy is a sales development representative who views herself as “a little shy at first, detail-oriented, diligent, a good listener and patient.” She acknowledges that many see the sales department as loud, energetic, ostentatious and suave, sometimes unknowledgeable and always looking to make a sale. Joy says that she doesn’t have the traditional make-up of a salesperson and falls somewhere in the middle between completely quiet and extremely talkative.

She says that her sales peers generally fit into those descriptions, but it’s not wise to stereotype the team. “Some actually take the time to learn the product,” she said. Joy also says that in sales you need patience and meticulousness to follow up and remember your last conversation with a prospect. She doesn’t push sales that are unfit for customers, claiming that transparency is what helps her to succeed and better relate to her customers. Ultimately what makes Joy different from the typical salesperson enables her to succeed in her position.

“To be successful in sales, it comes down to hard work, confidence and understanding your customers’ needs,” she said.

There are specific hard and soft skills required for any job, but an individual can offer so much more than what their job description dictates. Oftentimes we assume that a person’s role also defines their personality. This is misleading. What seem like atypical personality traits can reveal themselves to be unexpected assets. What makes you different can be your strength and give you an advantage over others.

Don’t underestimate others or yourself by falling victim to generalized assumptions. No personality type is better for a given role than another, and there is no cookie cutter personality when it comes to a career path. In the end, if you play to your strengths you can find success on any path you choose.