Most INFJs long for a career that lines up with their personal vision and profound sense of mission. They want to employ their insight into the human mind as well as their abundant creativity to make the world a better place.
For eight years, I've taught elementary school. It's been a good fit for me in many ways, but it’s also been challenging. I work with people all day long, teach the same content every year, and have to manage 25 students from 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. By the end of each day, I’m physically exhausted.
Like many INFJs, I wrestle with that nagging question, “Am I doing what I am meant to do?” So over the past few years, I’ve spent numerous hours researching careers for INFJs. Apparently, I’m not alone. INFJs Google “INFJ career” more than any other INFJ phrase except for “INFJ personality.”
Does this mean that you and I are doomed to work dissatisfying careers all our lives? I don’t think so. I believe you can find a career that makes your INFJ heart happy, but you have to know what you need and want in your work to pull it off.
To that end, take a look at the following five things I've learned most INFJs desire in their work. May they lead you to a career that makes you want to spring out of bed each morning.
1. Freedom to learn and grow
INFJs are super intuitives, to borrow a Tieger, Barron, and Tieger term. Our primary mindset - or cognitive function - is something called introverted intuition (Ni). Ni strives to understand the world and the reasons why it works the way it does. It’s an information gathering mindset that craves knowledge.
For this reason, we need regular opportunities to learn and develop new skills. When I sit down at my computer to research personality, a new technology, or something else that interests me, I often lose track of time. Hours go by without me noticing, and I miss breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I love learning.
Our Ni is also futuristic. Combined with our preference for feeling, it enables us to see possibilities for people and motivates us to pursue personal growth. If your work doesn't encourage you to grow and pursue your potential, you'll never feel satisfied and always wonder if you could be doing more. You need work that encourages you to step outside your comfort zone and grow by leaps and bounds.
2. Opportunities to create
Another aspect of Ni is that it’s a highly creative mindset. It thrives on new, exciting ideas and connections, and it generates both regularly. Because we have highly creative minds, we come alive when we create. I detest rules and procedures that tell me exactly what to do, step-by-step. In contrast, I need the freedom to come up with original solutions that help people grow. When I write new blog posts, create videos, and record podcasts, I know I’m doing the kind of creative work I was born to do.
Creative work for INFJs takes many forms. Some paint and draw or play music and sing. I spent a good year and a half trying to become a professional songwriter. Other INFJs write, take pictures, design, plan, or do something else that grants their right brain carte blanche.
No matter what we do, you and I need a creative outlet.
3. Opportunities to help people
While creativity is a big part of the equation, it's not the whole enchilada. We need regular opportunities to help people too. More specifically, when we get to use our creativity in the service of others, we're happiest.
We can do this two ways: directly and indirectly. Direct help may take the form of in-person meetings, video conferences, emails, and phone calls. Picture a counselor or psychologist with one or two other people. Indirect help, conversely, means that what we make helps other people. For instance, you could write a book that teaches someone to think positively or relate to their loved ones more effectively.
I got a lot of joy out of writing The INFJ Personality Guide that helps other INFJs understand themselves, reach their potential, and live a life of purpose. I love the fact that it’s helping people “get” themselves and how their minds work, even while I sleep. (You can grab a free copy of the guide here.)
4. The right balance of alone time and social interaction
While INFJs long to help people and desire to see them grow, we also need extended periods of alone time. Unfortunately, many INFJs end up doing work that satisfies one part of their personality but leaves another empty and longing for more.
This has been my experience teaching in a public school. I enjoy working with students, but by the time afternoon classes role around each day, I’m spent. I need far more downtime than most of the people I teach with.
While you’ll probably never be content working with people all day, neither will you be happy with eight hours of isolation. You need at least a bit of social interaction with people you trust and enjoy being around who can help you process your thoughts and feelings and vet your ideas.
In an ideal world, according to Elaine Schallock of PersonalityJunkie.com, you’d start with two to three - maybe even four - uninterrupted hours of alone time devoted to researching and creating. Then, about halfway through the day, you’d connect with people in one-on-one or small group settings.
5. Control over the process and the product
Finally, you and I are most satisfied in our work when we can control “the process and the product,” say Tieger, Barron, and Tieger the authors of Do What You Are. We can picture the results of a long-term goal before we even begin working, and we enjoy brainstorming ways to achieve it. We also love creating a product that measures up to our high personal standards, regardless of whether it’s a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind chair or a Myers-Briggs personality course.
When we work for someone else, we often end up serving the bottom line and company deadlines. Consequently, our goal is always “good enough” and organizational procedures spell out the how of our work. But when we work for ourselves, we can focus on serving others and developing a product we’re proud of.
While I know that I want to keep teaching, I also know that I need more control over the how and what of my work. For that reason, I’m starting to make online courses. Thanks to the internet and ever-improving technology, I’m taking advantage of opportunities previous generations of INFJs never knew. And you can too!
What’s the most important component of a satisfying career for you?
Grab a free copy of my INFJ Personality Guide, and learn more about what makes you tick!