Ambition isn't a problem for most INFPs - it's anxiety. A highly sensitive, compassionate and emotional creature, you have a low tolerance for conflict and a strong need to please. As such, going to work can feel like walking on eggshells. You don't want to say or do the wrong thing so you might not say much of anything - and this paralysis can have a detrimental effect on your career.
Career fears can read like a list of deadly sins for the ambitious INFP. Here are the seven common job worries you might face, and what you can do about them.
As an Intuitive Introvert, you often think about things far too deeply. You don't want to turn a report in because it doesn't feel 100% perfect. You're worried that you've messed up in a review meeting. You don't think that you do the job as well as Mike or Lucy or Susan. This level of self-doubt is a huge confidence killer. Feelings of inadequacy will cause your anxiety levels to skyrocket and you'll stop putting yourself forward for projects you are perfectly capable of completing, damaging your chances of promotion in the process.
Get over yourself: It's really important to keep a record of all the contributions you've made. When you have your end-of-year review you can point to the things you did that made a positive difference. Also, it's empowering for an INFP to look back and say "oh yes, I turned that project around" or "I stepped in at the last minute to help out with that particular crisis, which shows that I'm resourceful."
2. Putting yourself out there
Most INFPs are terrified of networking. Just the thought of it makes you nervous. You worry that you have nothing interesting to say. You worry that you're bothering someone by trying to talk to them. And sometimes you don't feel emotionally invested in bringing new people into your life, even if your career would benefit from it.
Get over yourself: You don't have to dominate a conversation to make an impact. In fact, most people appreciate the opportunity to speak about themselves without having their conversation partner butt in. One useful trick is to identify a small number of people you need to network with and approach them individually. Focus your efforts on that person and listen acutely. You have a knack for putting people at ease and this will help you find common ground. If it gets overwhelming, remove yourself from the situation. For an INFP, networking is best done in short, sharp bursts.
3. Settling for less than you desire
A satisfying career for an INFP is one that requires passion, dedication and aligns closely to your ideals. Unfortunately, too many INFPs drift in bureaucratic tedium with no sense of personal connection to a job that wasn't meant for them. When that happens, you can't shake the nagging sense that you've sold out. The quality of your work might suffer because if a job doesn't speak to you, then it isn't really worth doing.
Get over yourself: First of all, are you sure that there is a disconnect between your job and your ideals? Could you add more variety to your role or switch assignments to gain that sense of personal connection? Secondly, career development doesn't only happen on the shop floor. Community projects, mentoring, event organizing - these extra-curriculars are great outlets for your idealism and can help add real value to your organization.
4. Getting in over your head
So you got the dream job, the promotion or the raise. Now you actually have to deliver. And you're worried that you have got yourself in way over your head. In fact, you can't really understand why the firm chose you when they could have promoted someone more exuberant, more dynamic or more socially connected. You have a bad case of imposter syndrome and it's making you avoid situations where you might appear vulnerable.
Get over yourself: Breathe! Uncertainty is a factor in any job transition and you can't insulate yourself from that. However, it is clear that you impressed several people on your route to the top. With that much goodwill behind you, you can be certain of a strong safety net if things go south. If you genuinely lack the necessary skills, ask HR for some additional training, find a mentor or ask dumb questions of your boss. Start chipping away at the unknowns and you'll soon find greater confidence in your own abilities.
5. Achieving work-life balance
INFPs have two different types of work - the type that pays the rent and the type that truly inspires them. For a few lucky INFPs, those are the same. Other INFPs need to find a balance between the things they must do and the things they can truly wrap their hearts around. This is especially difficult for the younger INFP who may be spending a lot of time on the more mundane aspects of their job.
Get over yourself: No matter how busy you are, you must make time for yourself. It can be just 10 minutes a day, but this time must belong to you. Use it to reflect on your life and to nurture your relationships, health and happiness. Giving yourself time to focus on your ideals will help you come up with creative ideas for better career management, expressing your individuality and experiencing joy.
An INFP is never going to be the type of person who lets criticism slide away like water off a duck's back. You care what people think about you. Criticism, or even the threat of criticism, cuts deep because you have a habit of taking it personally. Your boss didn't like your report? Does that mean they don't like you? Have they noticed the personality flaws that you've tried so hard to hide? If you find yourself imagining the worst case scenario every time someone delivers criticism, then you have a problem.
Get over yourself: If you don't accept criticism, you will never seek feedback. And without feedback, you're not going to get better at your chosen career. In fact, you'll stagnate. The key is to not take the criticism personally but to turn it into a great learning experience. Remind yourself of all the helpful criticism you've received in the past. Take time to reflect on what is being said and remember, it is your work that is being criticized, not you.
7. Being someone's boss
INFPs are the ultimate people-pleasers. You have a natural tendency to identify and empathize with others, and you can get very anxious when you can't keep everyone happy. This can be troublesome in a work situation when you're expected to manage according to a rigorous process, which may run counter to the needs of people. Conflict is another sore point. You find criticism hard to deliver, even if a team member warrants the negative feedback.
Get over yourself: Which management books have you been reading? There are plenty of ways for INFPs to crack the management code without having to sell out their principles. Your emotional sensitivity is a strength. Many teams thrive within a democratic leadership structure as it helps unlock creativity and allows each member to put forward their best ideas. Check out Four Ways that Feeling Leaders Can Make the Most of Their Strengths and Four Ways Introverted Leaders Can Make the Most of Their Strengths for further reassurance.
If you're not already working towards overcoming these fears, what's stopping you? Incorporating these tips into your career will help you do your job better - and might just lead to your next promotion.