4 Questions INTPs Must Ask Themselves Before They Can Find Their Ideal Career

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on May 16, 2016
Category: INTP

For the INTP, choosing a career is not as simple as looking for the highest salary or the strongest job market. Because you are an independent, creative thinker you need work that will allow you to theorize, innovate, and problem-solve (preferably on your own). Stuck in a job that's too process-driven, detailed, or menial, you can quickly become listless and unmotivated, and perform poorly.

So how do INTPs navigate the rough and rocky road of job hunting? Start by asking these four questions to help you figure out where your ideal job prospects lie.

1. Is There Enough Autonomy in the Work?

For the solitary, flexibility-craving INTP, autonomy is about twenty times better at predicting happiness than income. The trappings of the corporate world - strict hours, over-the-shoulder supervision, unrelenting politics - are major workplace stressors that will leave you feeling frustrated. That's why INTPs gravitate towards careers that allow them to forge their own path to innovation such as university professorship, scientific research, technology roles, or corporate strategy (ideally with your own practice).

Of course, autonomy is often something you earn as you rise through the ranks. Be wary of writing off a career just because it kicks off with some grunt work, but do keep an eye on how much freedom you will have in the future.

2. Is the Role Challenging Enough?

The top three reasons for career dissatisfaction are the lack of challenge in a job, followed by not using your skills and doing the same thing every day. Everyone burns out in a job like this, but INTPs are especially vulnerable since they thrive on opportunities to learn and build new skills. Getting stuck in a repetitive, dry, and non-challenging job is a sure-fire path to misery, with absolutely no hope of achieving a higher job satisfaction and greater engagement with your work.

So, how do you sort out the stale from the stimulating? It's a question that causes most of us to bang our heads against the wall. The best answer is, research like a demon. Read up about various jobs and learn about the working conditions. Join industry-related groups on LinkedIn so you can see what industry personnel are doing between the hours of nine and five each day. Better yet, find opportunities to intern or work shadow. There is value in getting hands-on exposure before having to make a career choice, so you can be absolutely sure you won't be stuck behind a desk every day.

3. Does the Career Let you Follow your Passion?

For some personality types this is a trick question; they don't have to follow a passion to have a great career. But for INTPs, it's essential that the job interests you on a gut level. The bigger problem is that you are likely to have interests in everything. It can be really hard for INTPs to isolate one single career niche or interest area when they fall in love with all sorts of potential jobs at the drop of a hat.

Conventional advice is to make a list of your interests, then hit up the top three and see if there's a career match. This is good advice, especially if you tackle the issues systematically - what are you good at? What do you love to do? When have you felt the happiest? What jobs might replicate this situation?

If you still have a million ideas even after all that soul-searching, don't sweat it. In the current world of work, recognizing that you may not be a one-career person may turn out to be a blessing. Studies indicate that with the new "gig" economy, most people will have 10 different jobs in their lifetime, in two or three different industries. Look for jobs that allow you to learn, grow and diversify, and you'll be able to take your skills with you if you decide to jump ship in the future.

4. What's the Culture of the Organization?

Even in the right job, it is possible for an INTP worker to feel stressed out, let down or under-stimulated. Usually it's because the culture of the organization does not nurture their signature skills or support their professional development.

When applying for a new job, take some time to assess the culture of the organization you'll be working for. Companies that exhibit the following characteristics are more likely to boost your job satisfaction:

  • Pioneering and cutting edge: It makes sense to work for an organization that will value your creativity, analytical brilliance and out-of-the-box thinking. Sounds obvious, but it's surprising how many people don't consider this.
  • Culture of continuous development: Since you are always pushing to know more and do more, it's essential that you work in an organization that will satisfy your craving for betterment.
  • Low focus on process: You loathe rules and work best when you have the flexibility to do the job when and how you want to do it, so look for employers that are light on the precise details of execution. Bonus points if the company will let you work alongside someone who will refine and implement your brilliant ideas.
  • Flat hierarchy: Smaller technical or creative workplaces are more desirable than bureaucratic monoliths. Look for companies that do away with the immediate hierarchy and allow their employees to self-manage.

The bottom line is, if you can find a career that's challenging, process-light and has a varied set of problems to be solved, it's probably worth a roll of the dice. But don't fall into the trap of thinking there's only one career path for you. INTPs are often far happier when they accept that they don't have to stick to one job or interest their entire life. Keep learning and enjoy the ride!

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Ralph Rickenbach (not verified) says...

I could not agree more. If only I had known this some years ago.

My decision for a career path was just fine. I became a computer programmer with the PC revolution and therefore a sought for species. This brought with it all of the above.

But then, the new economy bubble burst and IT in Switzerland became boring repetition.

I agree with modern career paths of changing jobs and professions - if you are talking North America. Here in Europe, one can easily change career paths, if he brings at least 10 years of experience and a formal education for the new job. And is young on top of it.

I have been trying to change my field of work for the last 15 years. This is a sensor's world.

Randy van Egten (not verified) says...


I experience this fight for the right job every day and I also had a challenge with various studies, which I did not even finish.

What can I do?

kevin smith (not verified) says...

Very helpful article

KathleenS (not verified) says...

The expression "follow your passion" is a huge turn-off. I do not relate to it, and it tends to sound rather disingenuous.

Guest (not verified) says...

This is good advice. I recommend the INTP reader to follow closely. Thanks!

Guest (not verified) says...

What if there's no passion? I've always had trouble being passsionate about something.

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