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.