Obliger, Questioner, Upholder or Rebel? Career change tips to suit your type

How are you approaching your career change? Are you systematic and logical or curious and sceptical? Are you determined to go your own way? Perhaps you need someone to hold you accountable to get stuff done. While most successful career changes involve some measure of all of the above, most of us have a tendency to favour one of these approaches over the others.

Find your tendency by taking Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies quiz and check out the other three in her nutshell guide. Are you an Obliger, a Questioner, an Upholder or a Rebel? Perhaps you have aspects of two or more tendencies.


According to Rubin, your tendency defines how you habitually respond to your own and other’s expectations. Like all personality profiling quizzes, this one won’t tell you everything you need to know about complex, multifaceted you. But it may give you an insight into how you get stuff done and how you might do things differently and better.

As a career changer you need to structure the way you explore new options, get support, and stay accountable to your goals. These ‘tendency based’ tips may help you do that.

While you’re ace at meeting external expectations, you can struggle to stick to the ones you set for yourself. Because you spend lots of time and energy doing things for others, you tend to skimp on self-care and to lose sight of your own aims and direction. These three tips may help you keep your career change project on track.


Be accountable
Set up a career change cheer squad or a reciprocal deal with a friend who’s keen to stick to a goal. Alternatively, ask a friend you can rely on to be a tough taskmaster to help you stay accountable. Most of us need an occasional nudge, but for Obligers regular check ins are essential.

Bookend your week with text messages – a Monday ‘to do’ list and a Friday review to make sure it’s done. A scheduled ‘signed in blood’ weekly coffee catch up to review what’s working and what isn’t and brainstorm what’s next.

Keep yourself and your accountability partner honest. Find your equivalent of Rubin’s ‘swapped gym shoe’ strategy - exchanging a shoe at the end of every session to ensure both of you turn up next time.

Be wary of letting others set your path
Back yourself to know what’s right for you. This advice from one of my clients highlights a sizable challenge for Obligers hardwired to rise to other’s expectations.

While support and advice from your professional network and friends and family are vital, be wary of letting it set your direction. Don’t be deterred from following up intriguing leads because some else thinks they look bonkers.

Protect against burn out
As an Obliger you’re keen to help. You say ’yes’ often and easily when people ask you to do something. This means that setting and sticking to boundaries can be tricky.

As a career changer, volunteering your time and skills is an excellent way to test a potential career. But don’t automatically say ‘yes’ to everything on offer. Before you accept a volunteer role or offer to work on a project, ask yourself, ‘will this work help me move forward by testing out a career area?’.

Of course, you won’t have a definitive answer until you’ve given it a go but trust your gut here. If the thought of spending all day doing the core tasks in the role doesn’t feel right, dig a bit deeper, before committing to something that doesn’t inform or energise your career change.

Finally, stay focused and avoid over extending yourself by reviewing what’s already on your plate before you agree to do something new.

You query everything and value reason, research and data as key decision making tools. You’re unlikely to act on anything until you’re 100% convinced it aligns with your ‘why,’ so your quest for the ultimate answers can bog you down.

These tips could up your career change momentum.


Remember your ‘why’
Remind yourself why you’re changing careers. This will help keep you focused on the big picture and protect you from drowning in details.

Stick a post-it on the bathroom mirror and eyeball your ‘why’ every day. Apply the ‘why’ test to each and every career change activity. If you’ve set up a meeting with a new contact, remind yourself about what you’re expecting to learn there. If you catch yourself disappearing down a cyber rabbit hole remind yourself why meeting real people matters.

Be wary of analysis paralysis
Analysis paralysis - the art of overthinking everything, stops lots of career changers in their tracks. However, your Questioner’s passion for data gathering makes you especially susceptible.

Researching a career change option? Set a deadline, when it’s up, get off Google and into the real world. Before you do, read the next tip.

Ask, don’t interrogate
Asking heaps of questions is a core career change activity. It’s an unbeatable way to build relationships and open doors.

You need answers, fair enough. Sometimes though, persistent questioning can feel like interrogating. To you, it’s a genuine attempt to gather and digest the facts. To others, it’s an inquisition.

Practice asking for information without making people feel threatened. Replace bald ‘whys’ with something like ‘Can you help me understand why you do things this way?’ or ‘I’m keen to be thorough and across all of the things that matter most in this role?’ or ‘I’m curious about how that works?’.

You need to go your own way. You feel constrained by all expectations, so you tend to resist them on principle.
Park your natural ‘yeah but nah’ response and give these three things a go. The results may surprise you.


Own your decision
No one is making you change careers. You decided to move and it’s your job to make it happen. Nobody is imposing anything on you. You’re free to make different choices and do this your way.

Remind yourself about this regularly.

Batch the boring stuff

Do your least interesting career change jobs in a block, online searches, applications, etc. Set a time limit then smash it.

As a rebel, you thrive on exceeding your own expectations and outperforming others. Doing routine tasks speedily and well, leaves you free to work on the exciting bits, following up off beat leads or developing your side project.

Be wary of kneejerk refusals

In the spilt second before your urge to resist ideas or advice kicks in, check your gut reaction. Is there anything there that accords with who you are or where you’re headed?

Could a proposed course teach you something you’re keen to learn? Would that part time role enhance your reputation or open a door you’re curious to go through?

In short, if someone else’s idea complements your freewheeling way of doing career change instead of derailing it, consider taking it for a spin. It may be someone else’s ‘questionable’ suggestion but it’s still your decision to run with it!

You excel at meeting expectations. You’re self-motivated and thorough and you play by the rules. You thrive on order and routine. But career change’s ups and downs can rattle you.

These three tips may help you navigate career change’s unpredictable waters.

Pace yourself
Like Obligers, Upholders are prone to taking on too much. As an Upholder, you want to do the job well, whatever it is. You can also find it tough to trust others to do things to your own high standards.


Before you accept a volunteer or work shadowing opportunity, or schedule five or fifteen ‘coffee and conversation’ meetings, decide if it’s feasible for you to do it. How packed is your schedule? Can you devote the time and energy each activity requires? Can you acquit them at a level that meets your stellar expectations?

Be wary of being too rigid
Check your mindset for flexibility and resilience when things go awry. Upholders can struggle to step back or switch direction when things don’t work out as planned. You can get grumpy and defensive when someone suggests you’ve made a mistake.

Most career changes take unpredictable turns that call for rethinks and resets. Accepting and learning from setbacks, and skilfully moving on are integral to handling the ’change’ in career change.

Tolerate lesser mortals
You could meet lots of them during your career change. People may not reply to your enquiry, fail to follow through with a lead, or cancel an appointment. Not everyone has your Upholder’s gift for getting things done. Follow up and forgive.

My career change clients can choose to discover and work with their tendency. If you’d like more information on this or any other aspect of how I work, book a chat.

By Jo Green, Career Change Coach

I know that when you find what you love, heart and soul, your life changes. I work every day with people who are reshaping their current careers, starting new enterprises or searching for a new direction. Basically I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead!

As a Careershifters and Firework Advanced Certified Coach and experienced career changer myself, I can help you figure out what fulfilling work looks like for you.