By Dr. A.J. Drenth
The ENFP wants to find a career he or she is passionate about. Settling for a mediocre career choice seems unacceptable to this personality type. As for INFP career-seekers, money is rarely a strong motivator for ENFPs, who generally care little about material comforts or possessions. They’d rather be doing what they love and living in a shack than get rich performing unsatisfying work.
ENFP college students may struggle to identify a college major that can satisfy their broad-ranging interests and abilities. Like ENTP career-seekers, the broad and expansive nature of ENFPs’ interests stems from their dominant function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). While Introverted Intuition (Ni) can be associated with a desire to go ever deeper into a given subject, Ne tends to be more expansive and dilettantish. Like other NP types, ENFPs feel compelled to explore all their options before making any permanent decisions. They need to experiment and experience life in order to “find themselves.” Hence, it can be unrealistic for ENFPs to expect any single college major to satisfy all their interests and curiosities.
Despite the challenge of funneling their wide interests into a specific career, job, or college major, ENFPs can excel and find satisfaction in a broad-range of careers. ENFPs are generally intelligent, creative, good with people, and can have a knack for entrepreneurship. Those who develop their tertiary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), can also make excellent leaders.
ENFP Holland Career/Code Interests
To orient our discussion of ENFP career interests, we will now draw on six interest themes described by John Holland and the Strong Interest Inventory. The Holland career interest themes include the Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C) domains, commonly known as “RIASEC.” After identifying one’s preferred interest domains, these letters can be combined in a way similar to the personality types to form a multi-letter “Holland Code” (e.g., IAS, RAI). This can help individuals identify their best career choice.
Individuals with Realistic interests enjoy physical, hands-on work, often involving machines. They may take up careers such as computer science, engineering, architecture, and construction. Realistics tend to enjoy working with “things” more than people. It is therefore unsurprising that this interest domain is correlated with a preference for Thinking over Feeling. Research suggests that S, T, and P types are somewhat more drawn to Realistic work than are N, F, and J types.
As Perceivers, ENFPs are somewhat more inclined toward Realistic work than ENFJ career-seekers are. Many ENFPs love being outdoors and immersing themselves in nature. While Realistic interests are rarely foremost for ENFPs, they may opt to take up Artistic or Investigative work with a Realistic element. They may, for instance, pursue careers in forestry, environmental science, or landscape architecture. Various types of art, such as the technical side of music, might also entail a Realistic component that ENFPs find interesting, allowing them to marry their NF with their Te tertiary. This was embodied in the life and work of Steve Jobs, who was compelled to marry his interests in art and technology.
The Investigative domain incorporates analytic, scientific, and academic interests. Investigative types enjoy working with ideas, theories, facts, or data. As with the Realistic domain, Thinkers outnumber Feelers when it comes to Investigative interests. Those who enjoy investigating “things” will generally have a Holland code of IR (Investigative-Realistic). They may study mathematics, the physical sciences, technology, engineering, computer science, etc.
In general, ENFPs shy away from the hard sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, etc.) in favor of the life (e.g., biology), health, or social sciences (history, economics, psychology, sociology, geography, anthropology, archeology, political science, etc.). ENFPs with IA interests may study the social sciences, philosophy, critical theory, theology, investigative journalism, or take up non-fiction writing. Investigative ENFPs may also pursue careers in journalism, research, or scholarship. Generally, law is not the best fit for ENFPs (law is better suited for T types, especially TJs).
Like Investigatives, those with Artistic interests often have an intellectual or cultural-orientation. The Artistic domain strongly correlates with Myers-Briggs Intuition, as well as, to a lesser extent, Feeling and Perceiving. It captures those with unconventional and creative interests, including actors, painters, dancers, poets, sculptors, writers, designers, and the like. Artistics are highly represented among students studying the arts and humanities.
Research suggests ENFPs enjoy and excel in Artistic occupations. Creative careers allow them to directly utilize their Ne-Fi combination in creative and meaningful ways. Those interested in the arts may be drawn to music, theater/drama, visual arts, healing arts, graphic design, interior design, and the like. Others may opt to study creative writing, poetry, or literature, perhaps even at the graduate level. ENFPs are typically strong writers.
Individuals in the Social interest domain enjoy working with people. Social interests are common among teachers, healthcare workers, and clergy. The Social domain relates to preferences for Extraversion and Feeling, making it a good fit for ENFP and ESFPs alike.
ENFP Socials gravitate toward healthcare, ministry, counseling, or education. As Intuitives, they tend to prefer working with high school or college level students, those who are more capable or interested in abstract learning. Those who opt to teach lower grade levels can nonetheless use their Ne creativity for their students’ betterment.
While some ENFPs may find a satisfying niche in healthcare, many will find healthcare too concrete or practical (i.e., too “Realistic”), lacking the creative and abstract elements they crave. Hence, ENFPs are generally better suited for mental health careers such as psychology (SIA), counseling (SAI), or psychiatry (IASR).
Social ENFPs may also be drawn to various types of humanitarian or non-profit work. They often enjoy venues such as the Peace Corps or missions work, furnishing them with opportunities to travel and work toward causes they care about; they may even “find themselves” in the process. ENFPs also gravitate toward organizations focused on social justice, environmental protection, animal rights, etc.
The Enterprising domain entails the promotion of products, ideas, or services. Typical Enterprising careers include sales and marketing, business and management, law, politics, journalism, insurance, and stock trading. Enterprising individuals often prefer Extraversion.
ENFPs, along with ENTPs, are probably better suited for journalism than any other type. They love to travel, engage with people, explore contemporary ideas, and to write about their experiences. Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love is a perfect example of the sort of work and paripatetic lifestyle ENFPs enjoy.
ENFPs who are sufficiently shrewd and ambitious may find entrepreneurship an attractive and viable career option. Entrepreneurial ENFPs may try their hand with a variety of art forms or business ideas: graphic and web design, freelance writing or journalism, photography, blogging, music, self-publishing, etc. Others may opt to start their counselling practice or sell their artistic creations via online venues such as Etsy.
Entrepreneurship grants them the autonomy and freedom they desire, sans the strictures of organizational life. Marketing is an important element of entrepreneurship, one which ENFPs may actually come to enjoy. It is amazing how much more motivated ENFPs can be when given the opportunity to sell and advertise their own work (Fi) versus that of others. In fact, their dominant Ne may be the personality function best-suited for marketing and entrepreneurship.
One type of entrepreneurship that seems particularly appropriate for ENFPs is the “slash career.” They may, for example, view themselves as “author/ lecturer/ trainer/ consultant.” Slash careers may be particularly appealing to Perceiving types, who are known for their versatility and adaptability.
Individuals with Conventional interests enjoy administrative work. They do well with manipulating data and are organized and detail-oriented. Those in this domain often prefer Sensing, Thinking, and/or Judging. While ENFPs can use their Si and Te to competently perform Conventional work, they will rarely find long-term satisfaction in these sorts of careers and thus tend to avoid them.
While by no means a comprehensive career list, ENFPs may find the following careers, jobs, or majors worth exploring:
- Landscape architecture
- Forestry, parks, recreation; park ranger
- Researcher, research assistant, scholar
- Social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, geography)
- Investigative journalist, reporter, editor, news anchor
- Physician/ doctor of medicine, psychiatry
- Comedy writer, comedian
- Graphic/website design
- Creative media professional
- Photography, photographer
- Humanities/liberal arts
- Worship arts director
- Writer, novelist, blogger (see my post, Keys to Starting a Blog or Web Business)
- Playwright, dramatist, screen writer
- Self/Indy Publishing
- Teacher/college professor
- Priest, pastor, minister
- Life coach
- Mediator, diplomat, dialogue/peace work
- Psychologist, clinical, counseling, organizational
- Counselor, social worker
Conventional (typically avoided by ENFPs)
- Motivational speaker
The Role of the Inferior Function in ENFP Careers
There seems to be a fair amount of irrationality at play in career decision-making, with people commonly choosing careers poorly suited for their personality type. The reason for this apparent irrationality, as I’ve explained in previous posts, is that such decisions are being influenced by the often overlooked, yet highly potent inferior function. The influence of the inferior function can lead Intuitives to select careers better suited for Sensors, and vice versa.
ENFPs are susceptible to the mischievous influence of their inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), in their career decision-making. They are disposed to choosing careers founded on the wishes and desires of their Si (and/or their tertiary Extraverted Thinking (Te)) rather than those of their top two functions, Ne & Fi. In doing so, they may inadvertently find themselves in careers typically populated by STJs.
For example, ENFPs might wish to think twice before pursuing careers in medicine or pharmacy. Both of these careers may be attractive to their lower functions since they require significant fact retention (ST) and carry the aura of “objective truth” (Te). Both are also well-respected and traditional (Si) professions. If unconsciously drawn to medicine, ENFPs may then rationalize that attraction by couching it in terms of wanting to help people or “make a difference.” While ENFPs really do want to help people and make a difference, they are better off doing so in careers that utilize their creative, artistic, or people-oriented skills (i.e., careers that require significant use of Ne and Fi). Moreover, once ENFPs actually begin working as physicians, they are likely to find it too impersonal, reductionistic, bureaucratic, and drug-focused. No shortage of ENFPs have been lured into medicine only to wish they had done something different. ESFPs are generally better suited for modern medicine than ENFPs.
In short, one of the best questions ENFP career-seekers may ask themselves is whether a given career affords them the opportunity to regularly exercise their creativity. If not, ENFPs are apt to feel stifled and restless, since being creative is one of their signature strengths.