How INTPs Can Step Out of Their Heads and Take Action at Work

If only ideas and logic were enough to create the perfect career! Unfortunately for INTP personality types, that’s not easily the case. INTPs must spend a lot of time being very jaded about this fact — because they have the highest career dissatisfaction of all the 16 personality types!

So what can INTPs do about this? It is trite of me to say that INTPs just need to get out of their heads and start turning their amazing ideas into reality. 

Instead, we’re going to talk about how INTPs can check whether some false assumptions have infiltrated their decision-making data and learn how to leverage the part of their personality that wants them to take action. Here are 4 tips to help INTPs step out of their heads and take meaningful action. 

Ignore what other people think

Ignoring what other people think? Easier said than done, right? Hey, it’s nice to fit in. Even though INTPs are fiercely independent they can still get trapped into worrying what others think, wanting to fit in and pleasing others. 

But to have a successful career in which you feel confident in who you are and what you’re creating, you need to ask those other voices to get out of your head — and out of your data. 

Redefine what success means to you 

Your family, friends and society have their own particular views about what success looks like. For most people, success is defined as earning a lot of money. While there are INTPs who do make a lot of money, that often isn’t intentional. Rather, it is a by-product of the INTP being fascinated with a single problem for so long that they discovered how to help other people solve their problems. 

Check your assumptions about success and where those assumptions came from. Throw out any assumptions that aren’t serving you, and then develop your own definition and framework for what success means. Ignore other people’s opinions and decide for yourself what a successful career looks like for you. 

Be clear on what you don’t want

Oftentimes, it’s easier for an INTP to know what they don’t want than what they do want. If this is true for you, start by grabbing a pen and paper and making a list of the things you don't want in your working life.

Asking these questions can help:

  • How closely do you want to work with people? Do you want to work with people one-on-one (like a counselor) or do you want to design from a distance (like an architect or engineer)? Or something in between?
  • How much socializing do you want in the workplace? 
  • How much structure are you willing to accept at work? 
  • Do you want to work on a team or independently? Or a mix?
  • What companies or industries are you not interested in?

Examine all the elements of working life, and write down what you don’t want for each of them. Then make a “maybe” list. What things might you want in your career?

To shift things from your maybe list to your don’t-want list, look for low-cost ways to experience each item for yourself. Check out the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra for a suggested process on how to do this. 

Start before you have solved the problem

Finally, let’s talk about productivity, motivation and taking action. INTPs get a bad rap about not being productive, but let’s ignore all of the EJ definitions of what productivity looks like. Because IP productivity looks very different. As far as I’m concerned, thinking something through is being productive. But it‘s only half of the success equation. 

Let’s go back to the basics, where does motivation come from? Unfortunately for INTPs, it has very little to do with logic, and everything to do with feelings — especially your feelings. Learning to take advantage of your feelings is key to creating a successful career. 

One way to do this is to start before you’ve fully solved the problem. When you feel that spark of energy inside you from an idea that has come together, or when your curiosity is peaking, now is the time to act.

Share the idea with a friend, brainstorm improvements with colleagues, create a sketch, do some research, run an experiment, push yourself outside your comfort zone in some way, take risks, be okay with failing, and be willing to learn from whatever happens. 

Another option is to find what fascinates you and go all in. Become an expert in that one thing. Sharing your research, your perspective, and your prototypes with real humans. 

Because your greatest career satisfaction comes not from inventing the perfect solution that no one ever sees, but from creating a new way of doing something that solves a need — an underserved need in society. 

Even though INTPs struggle to feel like they fit into traditional careers, it’s important to remember this: the world needs INTPs. We need your perspective, curiosity and inventiveness. And remember: done is better than perfect. Just make stuff and see what happens.

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