How Enneagram Type Impacts Your Career Decisions

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 04, 2019

The Enneagram can help uncover stress and growth areas to guide you on a career journey tailored specifically to your strengths. Personality type and career preferences have a strong connection, and personal satisfaction plays a huge factor in this equation. 

In terms of making effective career choices, the Enneagram provides a well-rounded roadmap for choosing a path which best targets your natural abilities—as well as the greatest areas for potential improvement. One of the most distinctive features of the Enneagram personality model is its description of your primary motivations. In the pursuit of a lifelong, satisfying career journey, it’s a breath of fresh air amidst the ever-expanding frenzy of standardized recruitment assessments.

As mentioned in a previous article, there are three triads into which the nine Enneatypes split:

  • Gut (Instincts): Types 8, 9, 1
  • Heart (Feeling): Types 2, 3, 4
  • Head (Thinking): Types 5, 6, 7

As a general rule, the Gut triad focuses on power, the Heart triad on connection, and the Thinking triad on understanding. These triads of primary motivation build the foundation upon which your actions and identity develop and unfold in the external world. 

How then, does your Enneatype impact your career decisions? Well, there are some clear patterns and tendencies that emerge from the different Enneatypes. Many of them map reasonably well to the Holland Code RIASEC system (which stands for Realistic-Investigative-Artistic-Social-Enterprising-Conventional), so you can use insights from both systems to get a really clear picture of your career needs and matches.  

Note: If you’re familiar with your particular wing (i.e. the adjacent Enneatype), feel free to take a peek at your neighboring type’s preferences.

Type 1 (The Perfectionist)

Typically conscientious and methodological, the Perfectionist enjoys highly-structured environments where they can clearly demonstrate their competence to colleagues and supervisors. Their cup of tea? Regulations and procedures. They’re independent, focused and get the job done right. 

Ideal careers correspond to the Conventional (C) and Realistic (R) Holland codes. Think law, medicine, accounting, IT quality control and the military. This sometimes comes in a package deal with an investigative (I) element.

Type 2 (The Helper)

With a very high emphasis and connection to the Big 5’s Agreeableness trait, the Helper loves to be generous with their time to improve others’ lives and make a lasting, positive impact. 

Counselling, healthcare, psychotherapy and veterinary fields of work play to their innate strengths. These careers match very well with the Social (S) Holland code, which is sometimes followed by a Realistic (R) component.

Type 3 (The Achiever)

Sophisticated and accomplished, the Achiever probably has the Instagram-worthy social feed and a lifestyle to match. They have sophistically refined taste and a sharp eye for quality. These artisans thrive under high-profile positions where they can flex their ambitious muscle and relentless drive to succeed and achieve higher and more ambitious goals.

You can find them feeling truly alive in entertainment, business, communications, sports and coaching. Holland code equivalents are Enterprising (E) and Social (S). They’re also known for their aesthetic appreciation, which opens the door for Artistic (A) careers.

Type 4 (The Individualist)

Creativity’s scattered all around the house, and everywhere else. The Individualist flourishes under conditions without strict regimes, because it allows them to process their thoughts and feelings to produce the best art to the world. It’s the intense thought process through every highly personal curation that counts—the inner voice that begs to be heard. 

They can channel this sense of authenticity through digital design, architecture, writing, dance, music, videography, and the like. Holland code equivalents include a strong Artistic (A) and sometimes a secondary Social (S) component. 

Type 5 (The Investigator)

The Investigator is all about patterns, connections, and basking in the realm of ideas. This can make them seem completely detached from the outer world (spoiler alert: they are). They can become so absorbed in a personal project or pursuit, their sense of time blurs and activates laser-focus. 

Unsurprisingly, they’re your quintessential researchers, scientists, technical writers, analysts, and economists. This carries over primarily from Holland’s Investigative (I) and Conventional (C) codes. 

Type 6 (The Loyalist)

Resourceful, skeptical, and precise—the Loyalist is extraordinarily detail-oriented and prepared for any crisis. They might read survival guides in their free time and can troubleshoot through almost any scenario. The key factor they consider above all else is a sense of security. 

They can put their abilities to good use in computer programming, finance, law, academia, research, and security. Holland code equivalents include Realistic (R), Conventional (C), and Investigative (I).

Type 7 (The Enthusiast)

What’s the next exciting adventure? That’s the question on every Enthusiast’s mind. Acute and open-minded, they’re drawn to novelty like moths to flame. They enjoy being on the move, soaking in all that life throws at them (lemons, tomatoes, whatever!). Careers that pull them in offer an endless supply of new experiences, with new ideas around every corner. 

Public relations, marketing, design, archaeology, and travel writing are just some of the few areas where Enthusiasts can channel their energy into. Social (S) and Enterprising (E) are the two top focuses, with Artistic (A) coming in at a close third. 

Type 8 (The Challenger)

Let’s not get stereotypical here—but the Challenger is the boss—bar none. And yes, they’ll make it known. Bold, daring, and powerful, they’re natural leaders with thick skin and an unmatched willpower to influence and disrupt the status quo. With a sharp mind and clear-cut goals, they’ll do whatever it takes to cross that finish line.

They often find tremendous success in business (especially entrepreneurship), politics, or national intelligence agencies. The Enterprising (E) and Social (S) Holland codes are strongly correlated with this Enneatype, as well as Investigative (I). 

Type 9 (The Peacemaker)

What do nurses, social service workers, and yogis have in common? They’re masters at keeping the peace, and gently encourage others to do so as well. When the group’s happy, they’re happy. As easygoing, caring, and all-around kind people, their high emotional intelligence betters the lives of others in an endearing way. Some Peacemakers find their path in the fine arts and writing, with their work expressing a gentle message of peace and serenity. 

Physical/dance/art/musical therapy, counselling, spirituality, business mediation, human resources, design, architecture, and teaching in the humanities are additional areas they shine in. They perform optimally in Social (S), Artistic (A), and Conventional (C) careers.

Next Steps

Armed with the knowledge of your Enneagram type, you can now use your natural strengths and preferences to your advantage by paving a path best suited to bring out the best in you. There’s a huge treasure cove of awesome Enneagram resources to inspire your next career move (or slight pivot). 

Start by asking yourself: How can you combine your talents to map out a path specifically catered to your unique talents? Who are some people you can talk with to further your understanding of your passions? What are the resources available and steps you can take to make this vision happen?

As with any typing instrument or assessment, it’s a good idea to use the system as a tool or guideline for navigating the career waters. Dig into what makes your top three Enneatype preferences click, and search for patterns between those. Compile and build a master list of list of possible choices, and rank them afterwards. 

Which Enneatype are you? Do you deviate from some of the descriptions above? What are some other links you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments below!

Lily Yuan

Lily Yuan is a personality psychology writer who tests as INTP and constantly questions her type. Learn more at Explore her blog at

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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.


Tim Wise (not verified) says...

I'm still struggling with the Enneagram even though I find it interesting. I'm an INFJ in Myers-Briggs parlance. The Four, Two, and Nine all sound like me, and I have many of the Five tendencies and some One perfectionism too--so that doesn't eliminate much. The creativity of the N is captured by the Four, and elements of the F soft-heartedness are captured by both the Two and the Nine. The structured nature of the J is reflected by the One. Introversion is probably reflected more by the Five than any of the other types, though the peaceful nature of the Nine could also be expressed by some withdrawal. With the Enneagram, it seems that we're trying to reduce our four Myers-Briggs letters down to just one--or two, you count the wing type, but why does it have to be an adjacent one?

Lily Yuan says...

Hi Tim, thanks for your comment. Welcome to the Enneagram!

At the beginning, it tends to be easier to work backwards and eliminate the Enneagram types which you identify the least with. In your case, it appears to be the 3, 6, 7, and 8. Introversion is associated with Enneagram types 4, 5, and 9—and to a lesser extent, the 1 and 6. Read into the three triads (Body, Heart, Head), and figure out what your core triad could be. Take the levels of development (healthy, average, unhealthy) into consideration, and read into integration (growth) – disintegration (stress) patterns.

As for wings, it may be easier to identify the strongest Enneagram type from each of the three triads first. INFJs use auxiliary Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which emphasizes your giving nature (Type 2) and desire to preserve harmony with others (Type 9). When Fe joins forces with your primary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni)—the creative side of your feelings (Type 4) can be expressed in intensely unique ways. The Enneagram can uncover the pain points in our egos and help release us of our limiting, self-imposed beliefs.

Remember: the Enneagram focuses upon identifying your inner motivationsvices, and fixations—which is challenging to come to terms with. Your Myers-Briggs type, in contrast, describes your behaviors, decision-making processes, and preferences. You may find it easier to study the Enneagram independently from your four-letter type, as they focus upon strikingly different aspects of your personality. 

For further reading, check out A.J. Drenth's articles on the correlations between the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram types under different levels of health. Also, feel free to use our Enneagram test and guide anytime!

INFJguestKelly (not verified) says...

I laugh, because every INFJ (myself included) flock to posts like these like Canada Geese at the local pond voraciously chasing bread handouts - they are manna to our souls, because creating and connectivity are what matter most to us (service and the arts) and anything we can find online to bolster that is dear, indeed. 


I am, of course, a Four. One plagued by self-doubt and a internal critic that was planted firmly there by the Mommy Dearest that spawned me. If I could ever CBT my way past that, I'd be a junior Oprah, that's for sure. Any advice on that, Lily? :)

Lily Yuan says...

Hi Kelly, thanks for reading! I'm glad you're enjoying our Enneagram posts. :)

Enneagram type Fours are intensely creative and emotionally attuned to the internal and external environment. When you progress in the direction of integration (i.e. growth), you borrow some of the One's pragmatism and drive to better yourself for the common good. This could very well be in the form of art with a strong message (as opposed to a purely cathartic release). 

Practice radical self-acceptance and forgiveness—you can learn to see your underlying connections with others by making a conscious effort to empathize and search for common ground. Lend a helping hand to others often, and stay open-minded when you meet new people. As a Four, you have a natural talent for transforming pain into art. Experiment with new paths and creative outlets, as your identity gradually develops over time. 

Have a look at our general guide and the different levels of development (healthy, average, unhealthy) for the Four. 

Best wishes in your career and personal journey through the Enneagram!

Davontay Smith (not verified) says...

After reading about Enneagram it was a good way to not just  understand  other people but a even better way to understand  who you are.I found out the  numbers was close later founding out my top two was 1 and 6. I found it very shoking  that it hit it right on the nail.  I  really do like things the right way.  I was raised by rules so i do beleive in following them.One thing I took from this is ,that we are all different. But at the same time we all value some of the same things.We may not agree with each other . Knowing and understanding the other person can later  help you come down with a better sulution.

Lily Yuan (not verified) says...

I'm glad you found the Enneagram helpful, Davontay!

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