Why being an ISFP has helped my journalism career

Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacan, Mexico. Photo by Melissa DiPento.

During my final semester at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, I will be sharing what I’m learning, hearing and understanding by diving deeper into the journalism higher education community. This is one in a series of journal entries for my practicum course.

For class, we were recently asked to take the Myers-Briggs personality test and then reflect on how our personality might influence our work as social journalists and how we interact with others when paired up or grouped in teams.

(Note: Every newsroom should do this. When we took this test in class and discussed it with a few peers, we saw each other in a different way and began to understand one another a bit more.)

I’m an ISFP personality and I think this assessment is spot on. I’m charming, sensitive to others, imaginative, passionate, curious and artistic. But I’m also, according to this assessment, fiercely independent, unpredictable, easily stressed and overly competitive. To top it all off, I have fluctuating self-esteem. Sheesh.

Now that I’ve laid that all out, I’d like to consider how this has helped me in my work this year trying to better understand the journalism higher education community. You can read more about that here.

The first step in better understanding a community is learning where they convene to share ideas, connect and more. I learned early on that journalism educators and journalism students utilize social media quite a bit. They find connection in Facebook groups geared toward them, #EdShift chats, Slack channels and more. Educators and students also meet in person at conferences and events.

As an educator myself, I found it easy to dive in and engage with students and educators in this way. Things would have been different if I walked into a university and had to knock on five professors doors.

It’s important to remember that you must dictate how you interact with your community based on where they convene. If I was only trying to reach students about a specific issue and wanted a large sample of responses, I may have opted to set up a listening post on a campus to learn more. The community itself must always dictate how you interact with it.

If I had to start this listening project all over again, I would have dove in a bit sooner with a question I had. I knew I wanted to discuss diversity in journalism schools. As an adjunct with five years of teaching experience, I’ve seen the need to address inclusivity first-hand at the four schools I’ve taught at. I was too nervous to bring this up at first. I felt as if I needed to earn the trust of the community at first before diving into a complicated issue such as this.

I do believe it’s critical to find a way to establish trust when seeking to learn more about a community. The goal is not to just jump in and ask for quotes when the need arises. Each journalist builds trust in a different way.

For me, I started by partnering up with the #EdShift chat host to supply questions and support on one of the monthly chats in April. Things went well, and she asked me if I was interested in hosting further chats. This was unexpected, but of course I said yes as I saw it a way to build community. This gave me the opportunity to contact professors each month and ask them to participate in a chat on a topic they cared about. I also started posting the chat recaps and other content in two Facebook books geared at journalism educators. I became recognizable in the group and felt more confident sharing and asking questions.

I also sought out an opportunity at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with the Tow-Knight Center. This part-time role has allowed me to work directly with a group of 17 educators we selected to receive ONA scholarships, which provided them with the opportunity to attend the conference in D.C. last month. This experience has been invaluable and has helped me expand my network, too.

I continue to ask questions, share thoughts and more in the Twitter chats and Facebook groups. Because of these connections, I’ve been able to build up my platform Reinventing J-School, which I created to support and serve educators. I’m still listening and refining my platform, but that’s all part of the process.

Teamwork has always been a challenge for me, and likely for many of you, too. I am a perfectionist, and I have my own way of doing things. I don’t always have a plan, but I like to let my curiosity and creativity lead the way. I feel most productive when I’m leading a project, but I must remember to be humble and listen when I’m not in that position.

I can sometimes clash with others in group settings. I’ve often been told that I can be bossy. I prefer to work independently, but also very much value what I can learn from others in group settings.

Nine times out of 10, ideas and projects I create with others are more inventive, worthwhile and meaningful when I collaborate with others. Collaboration isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always worth it. Groups function best, I think, when they are comprised with people with really different backgrounds. Hey, it might be interesting for a journalist, farmer, elementary school teacher, astrologist and politician to work together.

I tend to want to take the leadership role in group settings because I may not fully trust others to show up with the same enthusiasm and creativity I have for a project. This mentality must go. My ISFP personality rears its ugly head here as I tend to be competitive and stressed easily.

An approach I’ve tried to take with group work – and this is inherent to design thinking – is to ask questions before coming up with solutions or a way to do something. One of my ISFP traits I’m most proud of is my curiosity. I need to let that overpower my need to dominate. I am genuinely a curious person, so I’m trying to approach group projects with a bit of curiosity.

What are we trying to solve? What is your idea for how to approach this? What are you thinking about? What do you think we are missing?

If we start with questions instead of solutions, everyone has the opportunity to be heard. These questions might lead to new questions and then who knows where. How exciting!

Who’s ready for some collaboration? I am.

Engagement Journalism at the Newmark J-School. Journalism must be engaged, innovative and equitable.