As far back as I can remember, I was always talking and dreaming about what I would do with my life. “I’m going to be a doctor!” I’d say, quickly followed by an about-face, “No, I’ll be a famous author! But only after I travel the world doing some kind of mission work!” From an early age, ENFPs like me have a sense that their life must be full of creativity and adventure, with a good dose of humanitarianism thrown in, if they are to thrive.
Which should make job-hunting easy right? Wrong! Too often, jobs that look great on the surface are not always as they appear. That’s bad news if this outgoing, people-centered Champion personality gets stuck in a mundane, creativity-limiting job that’s nowhere near as exciting as it seems.
Don’t be fooled by a fancy college commercial or colorful cardboard display at a job fair. Not all careers offer the promise of an excitement-filled future. If you’re on the hunt for a job that will keep you happy, you’ll definitely want to think twice about these particular ones which could possibly end in major disappointment for an ENFP.
If it was still a ‘Mad Men’ type of world, Madison Avenue would be overrun by ENFPs! What better job is there than one where you spend all of your working hours bouncing creative ideas back and forth with co-workers while sipping whiskey?
In the TV version of the advertising world, the most boring part of your day would be having the same lunch two days in a row. The bustling pace of creating original copy and art on a deadline is enough to intoxicate any ENFP into signing a contract in this field.
The truth, however, is that modern digital marketing and advertising looks much different than it used to. Instead of pitching an idea for an ad in a boardroom, you’re more likely to be pouring over spreadsheets of Facebook ad conversion rates and SEO optimization. Tracking, tweaking and analyzing data isn’t quite as exciting as the vision of throwing creative ideas and designs around with colleagues until you nail the right one.
While this kind of job may work well for the analytical INTJ and INFJ, it’s not such a great match for the curious ENFP. Crunching data and writing pieces to get clicks on Google, rather than to passionately or creatively express oneself, may not be a career that will leave this personality feeling fulfilled.
No doubt this one will generate shock when first read, but hear me out. In the days of Little House on the Prairie, when a teacher could create and execute the curriculum any way they wanted, this job would have been a great fit for the novelty-seeking ENFP. As a profession, teaching hits all the noble and idealistic buttons -- teachers change lives and have a tremendous impact on the community. For the ENFP who cannot wait to change the world and do good, teaching can seem like a great opportunity to make a real difference.
And it is like that …for the first year or two. After that, the problems start to show up. The frustration of being confined to a system that has so many restrictions on what and how you teach. The monotony of teaching the same lessons over and over, year after year without much room to add in your own creativity. The loss of the new and exciting, which inevitably wanes after you’ve been at it for a while.
These days, there’s so much emphasis placed on test scores that most curriculums leave little room for the teacher to insert his or her own ideas. This is a tragedy for the ENFP. While we are fantastic at mentoring and good at teaching in general, having our hands tied because of bureaucracy may result in frustration and disappointment.
I have a friend who majored in education then headed to boot camp for the Marines. While there, she met her now husband and together they spent years serving our country. Not even two years into his job, her husband -- a man who had tattooed Semper Fi across his back in his youth -- became extremely unhappy with his chosen profession and did not want to serve in the Marines anymore. It turns out, the problem wasn’t that he did not care about the Marines anymore, it was that he felt restricted and frankly bored by military life.
As an ENFP, my friend’s husband liked the idea of serving his country and working for a greater cause. Unfortunately, he found his daily job in the Military Police so routine and mundane that he lost his desire to work. Luckily, he was able to move to Reserves and find more meaning in a life as a stay-at-home dad to four girls.
It’s not surprising that such an innovative personality type would feel stifled by the strict demands of the military. Life in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines is one of disciplined regimen without much room for personal input, which is never a great combination for the free-wheeling ENFP.
A Farmer or Gardener
The ENFP usually loves the outdoors. Fresh air, sunshine, the greens of the earth and blues of the sky are all mood boosters for this outgoing personality type. At some point, virtually all of us dream about raising plants and tilling the earth for a living.
The problem here lies not with the outdoors, but with the monotony that occurs day after day in farming and gardening. There is a very particular way that food and plants have to be grown, and math and science prevail in this area. There isn’t much artistic license that can be taken when growing living things.
A career as a farmer or gardener will fill your lungs with fresh air and give you purpose for sure. But it will never quench that endless thirst for knowledge and self expression that the ENFP will always seek.
A career for everyone
Just like every personality is different, so is each ENFP. While many may not flourish in a particular work environment, some will. So even when we’re looking at the jobs that are least suited to a personality type, there will always be an exception to the rule.
You may know an ENFP who has been teaching for 20 years and still loves it. Or you may have a friend in the military who is thriving. There will always be some people who make a career work for them, even if it defies all odds of their personality.
For the most part though, there are jobs that are just not going to suit the average ENFP well. The list above is a great example of careers that look great on a job-fair poster, but may not convert to a life fulfilled. And if there’s one thing I know about ENFPs, it’s that they must have a life of purpose: always learning, growing and on to the next big adventure.