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How your dominant intelligence dictates the right career for you

By Winnie Makena | March 24th 2021
A light bulb in a maze.

If you have been in the workforce for longer than you had planned and it’s now that you are asking yourself whether this is the right career path, then you may need to reflect on your type of intelligence. People often maintain the incomplete sentiment that success is coupled with a standardised score or a high IQ career. But one modern theory promotes the idea of multiple types of intelligence that consist of a variety of abilities.

In the book, Frames of Mind, published in 1983, Harvard education professor Howard Gardner first described his theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner broadens the definition of intelligence and outlines several distinct types of intellectual competencies. Understanding the different types of intelligence allows you to identify what kinds of careers you might consider and develop based on your individual qualities.

Howard Gardner’s Eight Intelligences each represent different ways of how a person best processes information.

Spatial intelligence (Picture Smart)

Spatial is defined as something related to space. If you have a good memory regarding the way a location is laid out and the amount of room it takes up, this is an example of a good spatial memory. Spatial intelligence thus refers to the capacity to think abstractly and in multiple dimensions. In the everyday world, think of your colleagues or friends who are designers and have a high preference for visual depiction like the Apple system, or the friend who loves movies or goes to the museum, or any good map reader for that matter. People with spatial intelligence, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Amelia Earhart, and French fashion designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel have an ability to think in images and pictures, to visualise accurately and abstractly.

Possible careers:

· Pilot

· Surgeon

· Architect

· Graphic Artist

· Interior Decorator

Naturalistic Intelligence (Nature Smart)

Notable individuals with naturalistic intelligence include Charles Darwin, British biologist Jane Goddall and Nobel prize-winning chemist Gertrude Elion. They have the ability to understand the nuances in nature, including the distinction between plants, animals, and other elements of nature and life. You may recognise this in one of your friends who loves to select fresh food at the farmer’s market to prepare a delicious meal, the coin collector who loves to spend hours categorising his coins and medals, and of course the people who have a natural insight into their body and health.

Possible careers:

· Geologist

· Farmer/Florist

· Botanist

· Conservationist

· Animal trainer

· Marine biologist

· Veterinarian

·  Nature photographer

A person holding light bulb with graduation cap.


If you love to do Sudoku or other logical puzzles then you qualify for this intelligence. Logical-mathematics have the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, the capacity to discern logical and numerical patterns. People with this intelligence, such as Albert Einstein, French scientist Marie Curie and Bill Gates, are skilled at developing equations and proofs and solving abstract problems. Examples from our daily life are found in the person who reads the stock market figures in the newspaper before the news.

Potential career choices:

· Computer programmer, analyst, technician

· Mathematician

· Economist

· Accountant

· Scientist

· Engineer

· Lawyer

· Statistician

Musical Intelligence (Music Smart)

“Music smart” is not limited solely to people who create music. Anyone who enjoys music, at any level, exhibits Musical Intelligence. If listening to music gives you a bounce in your step, and the enthusiasm to tackle your to-do list, you are musically intelligent. It is the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm and beat, pitch and timber. People with outstanding musical-rhythmic intelligence include African singer Miriam Makeba, Dutch violinist Isabelle van Keulen, Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin. They enjoy making as well as listening to good music.

Possible careers:

· Singer

· Music critic

· Music publisher

·  Music promoter

·  DJ

·  Music teacher

· Music therapist

· Recording engineer

· Songwriter

· Sound editor

Hand-picked wooden cube block.

Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)

Do you know anyone who writes long e-mails, often quite interesting, and beautifully crafted letters? Or perhaps your great uncle is a great storyteller who describes his hey-days in great fervour? Then you have likely seen linguistic intelligence at work. Such individuals have well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to sounds, meaning and the rhythm of words. They are typically good at writing stories, memorising information and reading. Examples are American journalist and producer Oprah Winfrey and Danish poet Hans Christiaan Andersen.

Possible careers:

· Editor

· Public speaker

· Politician

· Preacher

· Historian

· Journalist

· Lawyer 

Intrapersonal Intelligence (Self-Smart)

Self-smart people have the capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes. Think of extraordinary individuals like Albert Einstein or Socrates People with intrapersonal intelligence, such as Aristotle and Maya Angelou.

They have the capacity to explore one’s inner world and feelings. Intrapersonal intelligence is not particular to specific careers; rather, it is a goal for every individual in a complex modern society, where one has to make consequential decisions for oneself. In daily life it could be the person who now and then asks you to leave so she can have some time to herself and sort out her thoughts and returns refreshed with unexpected and well-thought-out ideas.

Possible careers:

· Therapist

· Personal/Career counselor

· Psychologist

· Entrepreneur

· Writer

· Theorist

Circuit board concept.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart)

This is the intelligence everyone wishes to have and become instantly renown. It refers to a person’s ability to process information physically through hand and body movement, control, and expression. Like Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and I. M. Pei, people who have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence express themselves in body movements like dancing and sports and activities that involve movements of bodies. They prefer to do rather than see or hear. Think of someone who likes to play football or stays in the garage working on small intricate parts for months.

Potential careers:

· Dancer

· Physical Therapist.

· Mechanic.

· Athlete.

· Farmer.

· Coach.

Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart)

Not to be confused with intrapersonal (self-smart), interpersonal personalities are the opposite and detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, desires and intentions of others. Famous examples include Princess Diana, politician Hillary Clinton Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa and Oprah Winfrey.

It could be that hairdresser you tell about your work, marriage, and children because she really listens or that salesman who can sell you things you do not need but are convinced you are happy with. They are completely aware of who they are and unlikely to be weighed down by impostor syndrome.

Potential careers:

·Team manager

· Negotiator


· Publicist

· Salesperson

· Psychologist

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