Can NF Types Excel in Business?07 August 2017 / By Mikayla Gowaty Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 07, 2017
If you’re an NF type, like I am, then you’ve probably seen all the articles that recommend we pursue careers in health care, counseling, or other selfless, “people-helping” fields. That advice works out just great for some people.
But what if you’re an NF who wants to excel in business. Is it possible?
As an INFJ with a marketing degree and about four years’ worth of business experience, I’ve struggled with this question a lot.
In college, I decided on a marketing major because I was attracted to the creative element, the psychology of buying and selling, and the fact that marketing is relationship focused. I also wanted to work in an organization that had the power to make a real impact. These aspirations all fit my NF function very well. And to be honest, the people I was studying with all seemed to share my common goals.
Once I graduated and got into the real world, it turned into a different story. Marketing seemed to be nothing more than selling and spamming. It became about one thing and one thing only – and it certainly wasn’t client satisfaction. Money was the main motivation. And it gave me no motivation whatsoever.
I wasn’t ready to give up on the business world just because my INFJ motivations were at odds with my industry’s motivations. I still see myself as a businesswoman. So I felt pressure to change myself; to be more cutthroat, produce work faster, and develop a thicker skin towards conflict and greed.
When none of my efforts worked, I started to feel inadequate like I just wasn’t cut out for business. I went from being a good student who was confident in my abilities, to feeling like a complete failure while less-talented people around me were succeeding.
But then something magical happened. I started to realize that I wasn’t failing; I just wasn’t utilizing my NF strengths. I was spending my days being unmotivated, unproductive, and completely out of my element, when NFs are all about being visionary, creative, and inspiring. Once I shifted my perspective, I began succeeding again.
I don’t believe my story is uncommon, which is why I compiled a few pieces of advice.
1. Join a company with a real mission.
When I say real mission, I don’t necessarily mean one that is giving shoes to African children or saving elephants. I’m talking about a company that truly provides a quality service. Something that will allow you to be proud of the work you’re doing and that will allow you to see the positive impact you’re making on the customer.
Most of my experience is with start-ups. This is a good option for NFs as it gives you the freedom to think and be creative, and also allows you to wear multiple hats and have real impact on the organizations you help. Nothing is worse for an NF type, than feeling like another link in a chain. Just make sure you’re not neglecting your own financial needs. It’s still your career and if a start up is lacking funds to pay you what you’re worth, seek out a different option.
2. Work with your passion.
Maybe you think business is your passion, but there is a huge difference between working with a company that sells something you have no interest in, and working with a company that sells something you’re passionate about. Passion is something that NFs cannot fake, so make sure it is there when you’re working with a product or service. Since the money isn’t enough to motivate you, truly caring about the product will give you purpose. It will also help you when interacting with the customer.
3. Separate yourself from the atmosphere.
This may be the most difficult part but once you master it, no business environment will be too rough for you. Business tends to breed competition and self-promotion. Every boss is going to be demanding sometimes, and there will always be a difficult customer. You can’t avoid this, so it’s important that you learn to separate the atmosphere from your personal feelings to avoid burn out. This is a whole lesson in itself, but just consciously being aware of it will help you immensely.
4. Be in an environment that makes you feel.
Unless you’re at the C-level, most jobs in business tend to be reactionary. Whether you’re dealing with a customer concern or some other problem, it is going to be out of your control. Some days may be good, some stressful, some even bad, but if it makes you feel then you will be OK. What really kills an NF type is an emotionless environment. We may be intelligent, but we are dominated by feelings. Working with people is a must.
5. Investigate the company culture before you accept the job.
I know this is typical advice for every interviewee, but there are certain things an NF type should look for and steer clear of when deciding on a new position. You want to look for a company with a mission that aligns with your own personal values. Never take a job based solely on the paycheck. Not all companies are created equal. Some stress sales goals and the bottom line, and make these objectives more important than the customer’s experience or the quality of service provided. This obviously would be a terrible environment for an NF type.
Other companies have a high turnover rate because they evaluate employees on measurable results – again, steer clear. Any company environment that encourages competition between employees is a red flag and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, you should look for companies that encourage a team mentality and truly care about the service being provided.
Once you find the right company, you can use your strengths to provide some much-needed humanity. At the end of the day, all business is about people and that makes it just as great of an environment for an NF as a hospital or clinic. The most important thing for a business to succeed is a loyal customer, and providing great customer service and a great product is the best way to get them. NF types can provide great value to any business organization by using emotional intelligence, fairness, and trustworthiness. Just be sure to focus on your strengths and you will succeed.
Brian Stephenss (not verified) says...
Mikayla - Great article and superior summary. I share similar personality characteristics and of always been drawn to business. I seldom got motivated just for the sake of making money. I opened a business brokerage years back because I was disappointed in what I saw in the marketplace and thought I could add value by doing a great job. I spend a lot of time caring about my clients as they plan to retire and love helping future business owners exlore the path of self employment. That's pretty exciting stuff and when done well, that's proven to be a great way to earn a living. Plus as a business owner, I am free to learn, educate, helo others, and be creative as I see fit and as the need arise. I also work with people who are now entering a second career - now considering business ownership and entrepreneurship. It's amazing to see how many people think that they just can't make it in the business world because they been told that their personality and/or their experiences do not eqiup them to make a good match for self-employment. I found a personality profiles help people understand their natural weaknesses and strengths so they can plan accordingly for successful self-employment in a wide variety of industries that excite them.
Marinda van Harskamp (not verified) says...
Thank you so much for your blog. Reading it, I realised that I have done exactly as you advise. My preferred type is ENFP and am a Finance professional with a passion for Accounting! Highest level of education is Executive MBA and working on senior management level in a big international company. Next to that my professional, more rational role, I have developed myself as ICF certified coach and trainer working with NLP and I am MBTI Step II certified practitioner. Fortunately I am also able to work as coach and trainer in the same international company!
As long as I can remember my mission is to get Accounting@theTable in orgaisations. However having the ENFP personality, it felt like this could not work, as I am too different than my Accounting colleagues. It has taken several years and a lot of coaching to be able to embrace the fact that bringing Accounting@theTable is my mission. Being an ENFP and having the knowledge and experience in Accounting is actually an enormous advantage. I am approaching the Accounting profession from a different perspective than other Accounting professionals. Now I have written a book about the Accounting Architecture Model, which I develop myself, taking it more from a people point of view. Analysing the mix of Accounting co-workers from a MBTI perspective is really exciting and I am really working a lot with this now. Next step for me is on the way, offering Accounting trainings from the different perspective, mixing it with my ENFP strengths, like coaching and NLP techniques.
Yes, NF's can excel in Business as we combine our strengths and talents with the business and this makes us unique :-)!!!
Defeated INFJ (not verified) says...
Thank you for sharing this wisdom with us.
I am an INFJ. I am a mid-life career changer. At mid-life, I am still trying to find an employer that fits with my values. Every employer that I have worked for incorporates policies that turn employee against employee and make the work environment a competitive dog eat dog place. It makes me miserable and I wilt in a place like that. I have actually become physically ill and have developed health issues from all of the years of working in such competitive environments.
I am never promoted nor viewed as valuable by my employers because I refuse to compete. This is true even when I am the most seasoned and talented employee on staff. I lead by example, but am never given the opportunity to lead.
I am an INFJ that has given up trying to make it in the business world. I am even considering moving out of the country, since I have been told that my cooperation over competition attitude does not fit with Capitalism. I am meant for something, but not for dog eat dog employers that don't care about their people at all.
JudyHanks (not verified) says...
You haven't landed in the right job. Things fall into place when your passion gets to dominate- it is a domino effect because it affects relationships and how you are perceived by others. Joy is the key and finding that in your career. Good luck in that journey. Sometimes you fall into the right spot- it's has happen twice for me. The first time the job lasted 10 years and then I had to move for the marriage. The second time lasted twenty years. Then I had to move again, the third time took eight years to find the sweet spot, not immediate like the first two long stints of passion, but it finally happened- so do not give up! Good luck!
Jara (not verified) says...
Hello Victorious INFJ! I am an INFP with a marketing and sales background who went through a similar experience as you, searching for "the perfect fit" business environment for more than a decade.
I've worked with large corporations, small companies, nonprofits, and freelance across many industries. My most rewarding experience was managing my own bookstore because I had the authority to set the (countercultural) values and standards.
I trained my sales staff to be collaborative by redirecting their natural competitiveness into interdependence. They had to work together to complete tasks efficiently and provide a great customer experience, so the most collaborative team-player automatically shined. I promoted her into the Assistant Manager position. Everyone blossomed even more under her supervision. When she first started, she was so insecure that she believed that she is an introvert - but she's an extrovert! The most introverted staff member completed her internship by organizing a community event in the store. The most competitive intern came in as a sarcastic know-it-all who mocked slower members and graduated to a helpful troubleshooter and trainer in a month! On and on...
After a few more zig-zag moves in my journey (education nonprofit program manager, marketing production manager for financial research firm, etc.), I moved on to full-time ministry (e.g., Sunday school education! Evangelism! Etc.). I definitely use everything that I have learned in the business world to help me understand what NOT to do when communicating the Good News to people.
The head of my official church ministry is a Product Marketing Manager. I understand how she thinks because of my marketing and sales background...and I know what it takes to bring out the best in her, so that she can lead us well.
All that's to say don't give up searching for your life purpose, calling, or best-fit environment! Everything that I experienced (all of the "random" jobs) wasn't actually random. It was all training for The Next Step in My Life Adventure. ;-)
Romans 12:1-2 MSG
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:3-8 NLT
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Romans 8:28-30 NLT
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
Aisha (not verified) says...
This blog really resonates with me. I felt unsatisfied in a legal career and decided to pursue a marketing career to satisfy my creative side but I've struggled to cope for all the reasons you mentioned.
How do you find freelancing? As an ENFP I feel that it would better enable me to pursue clients and topics that interest me but I would worry about the lack of social interaction. With a new baby though I think it's likely to be a better option for the flexibility I now need.
Jara (not verified) says...
Freelancing seems to be made for the ENFP type.
A few months ago, after church, I spent the afternoon with a Christian ENFP woman in a hotel. I contacted her to thank her for her guidance in 2011. She "intervened" and redirected me away from pursuing a career in politics.
She suggested that we meet up. She chose the place and time...but arrived 30 minutes late. I usually do not wait for late people but God told me to give her 30 minutes. She walked in exactly when I started to gather my stuff to leave.
Within minutes of us greeting each other in the hotel lobby, a Hindu friend of mine who I hadn't seen in years (but prayed for that morning in church with someone who has a Hindu boss!) walked right up to me and invited us to a Hindu wedding fashion show in the hotel meeting room. She was my manager in the political campaign that I was serving in when I met Ms. ENFP! We followed her in and enjoyed ourselves.
Ms. ENFP connected with the organizer of the fashion show (who immediately asked her to pray for him), the models, women running the merchandise booths, etc. When we moved to the hotel restaurant afterwards to eat lunch, we prayed and sang gospel songs. Turns out, our server is a lead singer of a local band. She loved Ms. ENFP's voice and requested pop songs, so she could record Ms. ENFP on her phone. That turned into Ms. ENFP giving career advice to the server who was all ears.
A legal writer sitting behind us overheard our conversation and ended up interviewing her. She was so impressed that she hired the ENFP's services on the spot. That interruption came at a perfect time because I was feeling drained after so many interactions with all of these "random" people who kept coming up to us (I am INFP), so I left them to continue their conversation without me.
Ms. ENFP has several career paths and talents (teacher, counselor, author, singer, etc.). She just naturally makes connections with people who are interested in her ideas (like me), but she never gets tired of people (unlike me!).
During your normal daily routine or social interactions, do you notice people's individual and business needs? If so, mention your ideas of how you would serve them better. Many people say yes to kinder, more personalized or efficient services and are willing to pay the higher costs. Pray for ideas and opportunities to share your ideas with the people whose needs match your skills. God will connect you!
Debbie Neill (not verified) says...
Love, love, love this article! I am right there as well, wanting to start my own business but not finding the right fit. I have finally found a job that I love (tho people tell me it is below me because I have an MBA and I should be "more ambitious"). Still looking at the business aspect but finally decided to listen to my inner being and ignore the outside noise.
Jeff76 (not verified) says...
My situation is the same! What did you choose to do, if I'm not being to nosy?
Debbie Neill (not verified) says...
I joined a nonprofit and work an admin job that I love. I continue to work towards a business I may or may not start but am staying true to what I feel comfort with and called to. I also shut out the noise of everyone else and am listening to God and my inner voice. And I continue to learn new things and find certificates I can get in what I love. I am a learner at heart and try to remember everything is an adventure. If you fall off the proverbial bike, bandaid the scapes and get back on! :)
Tonia (not verified) says...
great article - thank you.
Paul INFP (not verified) says...
really good article. i am in manufacturing and have been for 30 days. as I became aware of my NF status about 2 years ago (I am INFP male 50 yrs old) I went through a lot of heartache thinking I should be a writer or counselor or some related "softer" profession more devoted to helping the broken. I went through perhaps a year and a half of intense discontent and dissatisfaction, wanting to walk off the job, stressing out my wife, really displaying a lot of the intense, erratic, and uncontrolled NF tension. over time I have been able to calm down, and by employing some of the precepts of positive psychology, most notably focus on the positive aspects of reality, I feel I have been able to turn a corner. today I focus on mentoring others, and even managing upward by a highlighting of the progress we are making rather than the problems. I had a discussion with my manager yesterday about whether positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement is more effective and helpful and not surprisingly I am a passionate advocate for the former. a benefit of my employment was the receipt of a very nice unexpected bonus earlier this year that allowed my wife and I to take a trip to British Columbia that was truly wonderful. Today I try to focus on the benefits of my role rather than the possible lack of fulfillment. It is an inside job - it is up to me although if I am in tune I can let the universe unfold in the way it is going to and hopefully be in sync with it.
thank you great read!
Anne Angerman (not verified) says...
I am an ENFJ and own my own business doing career coaching. I love it and it has done very well.I also have an admin. asst to help me with all my S details and keep me organized. I also have a special bookkeeper.
I love helping others change and I love the marketing and helping others to market a business. Am not sure if it wasn't a business helping others if I would enjoy it as much. Also love the networking..
jumpingjenny (not verified) says...
Absolutely! I am an ENFJ and own my own massage therapy business. LOVE helping people heal, mentoring my team, And being my own boss! Life is good! :-)
John M (not verified) says...
The comment about an "emotionless environment" certainly rings true for me, but what I would add is that it took me a long time to understand that I even had this need and secondly, that there could even be such a thing as an emotionless environment. Everyone else seemed so accepting of it at the time that I thought that I was the problem.
I would love to see a follow-on article regarding the issue of learning to read these sorts of emotional cues, cues that I was brought up to ignore.
Britta Roan (not verified) says...
Great article! Very helpful tips and strategies for NF's to harness their strengths and be
mindful of the work environments they are engaging in. Thankyou!
harshal kalinkar (not verified) says...
Thank you Mikayla for sharing your thoughts and experience. I am begining an MBA program and as an INFJ I have been wondering the same for last few weeks. Your article answered some of my questions. Thanks!
Eduardo (not verified) says...
This email popped up in my inbox with perfect timing. I am currently frelancing and as an NF, with lots of time in between jobs, I am realizing my lack of interaction with people does not make me happy. I need to find a position where I am constantly interating with people and working in a team environment. Thank you for the help and I look forward to more articles for NF people.
Julie Bernardin (not verified) says...
As a recently retired career coach and business consultant, who is an ENFP, I agree with Mikayla's wise advice. I've been a part of several small businesses and loved the experience. Curiousity, creativity, vision, and relationship-building are great assets to bring to work. The MBTI also helped me recognize potential pitfalls to ensure success. My thirst for learning helped tremendously. I have no regrets.
Brian Kelly (not verified) says...
Loved this article. As an ENFJ and a minister, the best thing I did was develop my musical skills by pursuing a grad degree in music. Working with people outside of church and most of them younger than me in music classes and productions has given fresh wind and refreshment and many positive experiences that complement my church work and service. The way I separate myself from my work environment and gain a fresh perspective and have an emotional and creative outlet is singing classical music and opera. Develop interests outside of work that positively and creatively use up the extra emotions we as NF's naturally carry around with us - music worked for me,
KristinaK (not verified) says...
Thanks for sharing. I was a middle school teacher before I decided to stay home with my son for three years. During that time I decided I wasn't going to teach anymore, so I got a Masters degree and just got a job doing marketing. I'm an INFP. This is exactly what I needed to hear!
Kate S (not verified) says...
This article really hits close to home. I recently turned 30 and I am still struggling with what kind of career I'd like to pursue. I feel hopelessly stuck in a rut and I recently left my hair stylist career in pursuit of a more stable paycheck at an office. It's a decent office and I like most of my co-workers, but the topic of our business is boring to me and I see a lot of shady things happening that make me not proud of my company. I've been feeling really discouraged for the past several years because I lack passion (I have chronic depression that I've been dealing with for a long time) and anything I do find remotely interesting seems to pay very little or is very hard to get a foot into or requires years and years of schooling that I cannot afford at this time.
Soon, I'm going to be helping my boyfriend refine his resume and find something he issuited for. I will definitely be keeping this article in mind and perhaps I'll be doing a bit of job hunting myself.
Sechale (not verified) says...
Thanks for this article! Am an ENFP (very close to INFP). Family are largely salespeople, ST types. From around age 8, from my environment I learned that sensitivity was weakness, and bulletproof lack of vulnerability was the only way to make it. So I got into a great job--for another type. Operating in ENFP stress-mode, which is rather like ISTJ. Finally had same job as my father at half his age, same company, and realized that I was just trying to please him. That I was simply a different kind of person, and that who I am is not weak, shameful, dominatable or wrong. I succeeded in business on paper but it has cost so much. Currently looking to switch industries.
sandy gardner says...
I am INFP.
I had a very successful career in sales.
INFJDude (not verified) says...
I simply resigned myself that work is a means to an end. Necessity of working did not allow me to go to college so I become a self taught IT person (sysadmin). The Ni Ti loop is how I get through the day. Supressing all feeling seems to be my key to economic success. The people I care about depend on me and I cannot take a paycut from mid career wages to pursure what I want. What I want doesnt matter. I work to support those I love.
Ghazal (not verified) says...
I really appreciate you for writing this article. This article and all comments made me feel that I'm not alone.
I was planning to withdraw from digital marketing for the reasons you mentioned.
I like all these strategies and data and creativity in DM but can't stand companies in my county, which is suffering economic and political problems. The morality is fading in our businesses due to these problems and this immorality is even worse when it comes to sales and marketing. It's a really tough situation for someone who cares about values.
Dorothy A (not verified) says...
Does anyone know how you find these sociall-responsible, culture-focused, and employee-driven companies that provide honest and well-designed products and/or services that actually contribute to humanity or the world in some way? It seems like finding a unicorn. I have found jobs in the past where I worked with some really truly amazing people, but I still ultimately had to leave because of shady business practices and unresponsive corporate structures. And even that wasn't as bad as working for the government! I totally agree with what this article is saying, but I have yet to figure out how to put it into practice.
For awhile I have wanted to design a database of organizations that is searchable by their corporate ethics, employee satisfaction, stances on environmental issues, etc. However, I am so not the person to be "designing databases" in any way, so if anyone wants to steal that idea by all means please do! Just let me know when it's finished so I can use it ?