By A.J. Drenth
The ENTP personality type is versatile and intelligent with a broad array of interests. While capable of excellence in any number of careers or majors, they often find it difficult to zero-in on the right one. Like ENFPs, they seek to use their creative gifts and abilities in ways that bring personal fulfillment and contribute to the greater good. Unfortunately, many jobs fail to consistently inspire them, leaving them feel restless and dissatisfied. Even those with a college degree can struggle to find enduring career satisfaction.
Like INTP career-seekers, ENTPs can need a great deal of time and experimentation to narrow their career interests. Despite this, it is possible for ENTPs to find a satisfying career niche. It may simply take a number of years, even into their late twenties or thirties, before their niche emerges with greater clarity. Thus, for many ENTPs selecting the “right” college major fresh out of high school can be difficult.
As with ENFP career-seekers, many of ENTPs’ career-related difficulties can be attributed to their dominant function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). The interests of Ne types tend to be broad and expansive and their appetite for novel explorations insatiable. While Introverted Intuition (Ni) can be associated with a desire to penetrate ever deeper into a given subject, Ne tends to be more expansive and dilettantish. Like other NP types, ENTPs feel compelled to explore all their options before making any permanent decisions. They need to experiment and experience life in order to “find themselves.”
While ENTPs enjoy having opportunities to engage with others, they dislike working in highly structured organizations, thick with rules and protocols. ENTPs are sensitive to what they see as meaningless or unnecessary red tape or bureaucracy. Like other NPs, they seek ample creative freedom and autonomy in their work.
Overview of ENTP Career Interests
Instead of beginning with a discussion of specific career choices or college majors, it is often better to start with a look at the personality functions that characterize a given type. For ENTPs, this includes considering their Ne, Ti, and to a lesser extent, their Fe.
First and foremost, ENTPs enjoy exploring a wide range of ideas or possibilities (Ne) with others (Ne/Fe). They love to brainstorm and debate, while aiming to move toward consensus (Fe). While ENTPs are naturally open to all sorts of ideas (Ne), they hope to see people come together around a common set of values (Fe). They may even have utopian ideals involving a community of people who love to discuss ideas, but can still work together to find common ground. Therefore, ENTPs are often drawn to religion/ministry, politics, journalism, or education.
In addition to their love of intellectual ideas, ENTPs value humor, wit, and creativity. This often leads to interests in the arts and culture. In this vein, ENTPs can make great comedians, actors, satirists, script writers, or talk show hosts (e.g., Jon Stewart).
ENTPs who develop their Ti can make excellent philosophers, analysts, writers, and journalists. While many ENTPs prefer speaking to writing, with sufficient practice and discipline, they can make for strong writers.
While ENTPs often display scientific interests, they are more apt to function as popularizers of science than they are as scientists. Formal scientific study tends to be too methodical and tedious for ENTPs. Moreover, like INTPs, they are less interested in discovering or working with facts than they are in exploring a broader range of ideas that pertain to humanity.
What may be most important for ENTP career seekers is to find work that allows for regular use of their creative acumen. Unfortunately, since their creativity pertains more to Fe than Te, their ideas may seem less immediately “practical” or technical, which, in the modern world, often translates to diminished financial reward. In some senses, ENTPs are more like artists than they are scientists. And making a living as an artist is rarely as easy as it is for a scientist, since science is valued as more practical and tangible. Hence, ENTPs may find themselves in a similar career debacle as the IN types, struggling to balance the difficult realities of the modern working world with their desire to function authentically according to their personality type.
Because ENTPs may not find a ready fit into pre-existing career slots, they are wise to think carefully about their monetary decisions and lifestyle, even from the time they graduate high school. They might consider, for instance, whether they want others to be financially dependent on them, especially when they are still working to find themselves and their career niche. Of course, forgoing long-term commitment in relationships can be quite difficult for ENTPs because of issues related to their tertiary Fe (they may struggle with similar relational issues as INTPs in this respect.)
ENTP Holland Career Code/Interests
To further our discussion of ENTP career interests, we will now turn to six interest themes described by John Holland and the Strong Interest Inventory. The Holland themes include the Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C) domains, collectively known as “RIASEC.” After identifying one’s preferred interest domain(s), 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 match.
Realistic (R) Careers
Individuals with Realistic interests prefer physical, hands-on work. They may enjoy computers and electronics, construction, etc. Research suggests that Myers-Briggs S, T, and P types are somewhat more drawn to Realistic work than are N, F, and J types. As Perceiving types, ENTPs are somewhat more inclined toward Realistic work than ENTJs are. Many ENTPs love being physically active and enjoy being outdoors. Nevertheless, Realistic interests are rarely primary for ENTPs, making our list of Realistic careers for ENTPs a rather short one:
- Computer science, systems analyst
- Environmental science
- Software design
Investigative (I) Careers
The Investigative domain incorporates analytic, scientific, and academic interests. Investigatives enjoy working with ideas, theories, facts, or data. As with the Realistic domain, Thinkers outnumber Feelers when it comes to Investigative interests.
As I alluded to earlier, many ENTPs find the hard sciences (i.e., physics, chemistry) too demanding in the way of precision, patience, and attention to detail, not to mention their relative disconnect from the world of people. Hence, ENTPs are more apt to find interest in the social sciences (history, economics, psychology, sociology, geography, anthropology, political science, etc.). ENTPs with Investigative-Artistic (IA) interests may also study philosophy, religion, investigative journalism, or interdisciplinary fields, such as environmental or peace studies. While ENTPs could feasibly make excellent trial lawyers, many lack sufficient concern for detail and tolerance for bureaucracy to make law a satisfying enterprise (generally, law is a better fit for TJ types). While by no means a comprehensive career list, ENTPs may find the following Investigative careers, jobs, or majors worth exploring:
- Theoretical physicist, mathematician
- Environmental studies/science
- Social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science, geography)
- Psychology: evolutionary, personality, social
- Investigative journalist, reporter, editor
- Philosophy, theology/theologian
- Religious studies, comparative religion
- Peace studies
- Stock trading / Investing
Artistic (A) Careers
The Artistic domain captures those with unconventional and creative interests, including actors, painters, dancers, poets, sculptors, writers, designers, and the like. This domain strongly correlates with Intuition, as well as, to a lesser extent, Feeling and Perceiving. In concert with those displaying Investigative interests, Artistics often have an intellectual or cultural-orientation. Like those with IA interests, those with AI types may also gravitate toward philosophy, the social sciences, or interdisciplinary studies. ENTPs may enjoy and excel in a variety of Artistic occupations:
- Comedy writing/comedian
- Graphic/website design
- Creative media professional
- Photography, photographer
- Humanities/liberal arts
- Creative writer, blogger (see my post, Keys to Starting a Blog or Web Business)
- Playwright, screen writer
- Self/Indy Publishing
Social (S) Careers
Individuals in the Social interest domain enjoy working with people. Social interests are common among teachers, healthcare workers, clergy, trainers, and caretakers, to name a few. The Social domain relates to preferences for Extraversion and Feeling.
Since ENTPs are Extraverts but not Feelers, they must tread carefully when it comes to Social careers. Since they are Extraverts with Extraverted Feeling (Fe) in their functional stack, they may be enticed by the prospect of various social careers, such as teaching, ministry, healthcare, counseling, or psychology. But they need to be careful that they aren’t choosing work that demands too much of their Fe, as this can leave them feeling more drained than invigorated.
ENTP Socials often gravitate toward ministry or education. As Intuitives, they generally prefer working with adults or higher-level students, those who are more capable of or interested in abstract learning. While ENTPs’ Si may be drawn to the promise of financial security in the healthcare industry, I generally consider ENTPs ill-suited for medicine and many healthcare careers. Medicine, at least in the U.S. and U.K., is generally tailored to the tastes of Te/TJ types, as it divides human health and illness into discrete, black-and-white categories. Moreover, much of medicine and healthcare is procedure-oriented, which could require ENTPs to utilize their S inferior more frequently than they would prefer.
Here are a few Social careers that ENTPs might find fulfilling:
- Teacher/college professor
- Priest, pastor, minister
- Life coach
- Mediator, diplomat, dialogue/peace work
Enterprising (E) Careers
The Enterprising domain involves the promotion of products, ideas, or services. Such individuals tend to be persuasive, assertive, and enjoy competitive environments. Typical Enterprising careers include sales and marketing, business and management, law, politics, journalism, insurance, and public speaking. Enterprising individuals often prefer Extraversion.
In general, sales and business is probably better suited for Sensing types than for ENTPs. While ENTPs may do well with marketing, they may ultimately deem it a rather vein enterprise. Along with ENFPs, ENTPs are probably better suited for journalism than any other type. ENTPs love to travel, engage with people, explore ideas, and to write about their experiences. They also tend to fare well with public speaking and interviewing.
Many ENTPs also find entrepreneurship an attractive career option. Entrepreneurship grants them the autonomy and freedom they desire, sans the strictures of organizational life. Entrepreneurial ENTPs may try their hand with a variety of art forms or business ideas: graphic and web design, freelance writing or journalism, photography, blogging, self-publishing, etc. Their Ne-Ti combination can also help with the strategic marketing of their work.
Here are a few options for Enterprising ENTPs:
- Motivational speaker
- Public relations
Conventional (C) Careers
Individuals with Conventional interests enjoy administrative work (Yes, some people do enjoy administrative tasks!). They are organized, detail-oriented, and skilled with managing and manipulating data. Those in this domain often prefer Sensing, Thinking, and Judging. In general, ENTPs are not well-suited for and tend to avoid Conventional careers.
The Role of the Inferior Function in ENTP Careers
There seems to be a fair amount of irrationality at play in career decision-making, with people commonly choosing careers that are ill-suited for their personality type. The reason for this, as I’ve explained elsewhere, is that such decisions are being driven by subconscious forces, particularly the inferior function. This may lead Intuitive types, for instance, to be drawn to careers better suited for Sensing types, and vice-versa. Therefore, it behooves ENTPs to ensure they are leading with their Ne and Ti functions rather than their Si and Fe when it comes to career decision-making. My ENTP profile explores some of the common tensions and conflicts ENTPs experience regard to their Ne and Si functions.