INFJ Careers, Jobs, Majors

By A.J. Drenth

INFJs are skilled with people and enjoy helping others solve their problems. They often take up work in teaching, ministry, and counseling, career choices that allow them to improve and enhance the lives of others.

Like INTJ career-seekers, INFJs are not necessarily opposed to assuming positions of leadership. Their primary stipulation is that they are working toward an end that accords with their ideals. For this reason, they may be drawn to non-profit work, often rising to positions of leadership in which they do a little of everything—casting the vision, writing grant proposals, marketing, hiring, etc.

Challenges in INFJ Careers

INFJs are driven to see their ideals, produced by their Introverted Intuition (Ni), perfectly translated into reality. One of the more common frustrations of INFJs is the disparity between their idealistic visions and the less than ideal way things tend to play out in reality. For instance, those interested in teaching or politics may feel their hands are tied as a result of deeply-entrenched practices or power structures. The INFJ is left with the choice of spending their lives fighting what seems like an uphill battle or to opt for a path of lesser resistance.

In response, some INJs may try to content themselves with being mere producers of ideals without direct involvement with their actualization. In typological terms, they focus on N while downplaying the importance of S. This may be why INJs are so common among academics (especially INTJs), since the academy allows them develop their theories more or less independently of their application. INJ writers also enjoy the opportunity of expressing their ideals without direct concern for their application.

Like ENFJ career-seekers, INFJs are generally less interested in career hopping and trial-and-error experimentation than INFP career-searchers are. They prefer to lay down roots when possible, as changes in outward circumstances can be unsettling to them. Their anxiety toward outer instability may be exacerbated by a difficult economic climate, which may lead them to settle for mediocre jobs. Even those preferring to go back to school or do something different may avoid doing so because of looming economic fears.

INFJs can also find it difficult to directly engage or act on the world (Se). While difficult for other types to fathom, some INFJs feel themselves so foreign to the world that action seems hopelessly strange and unnatural. Some INFJs report feeling so detached from their bodies that action feels like an awkward, out-of-body experience.

INFJ Holland Career Code/Interests

To orient our discussion of INFJ 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, collectively 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 Career Code” (e.g., IAS, RAI). This can help individuals identify their best career match. While often possessing career interests in several different domains, of the six RIASEC categories, INFJs commonly gravitate toward Social, Investigative, and Artistic pursuits.

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. Those attracted to Realistic work 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. Hence, with the exception of architecture (which itself is not a purely Realistic career), INFJs generally avoid Realistic careers.

The Investigative domain incorporates analytic, scientific, and academic interests. Investigative types enjoy working with ideas, theories, facts, or data. As Fe types, INFJs are typically less interested in the hard sciences (e.g., physics) than they are the social sciences (psychology, sociology, geography, political science majors, etc.). They are more apt to display Investigative-Artistic (IA) interests than IR interests. INFJs with IA or AI interests commonly major in the humanities, social sciences, philosophy, religion, critical theory, the humanities/liberal arts, investigative journalism, or non-fiction writing. Law and medicine are generally not the best fit for INFJs, as these professions are better suited for TJ types.

(This Personality Junkie post is continued on the next page.)

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Comments

  1. Kay says

    Jonathan and Siesie: Thank you for your posts! I am an INFJ and I work as a restaurant manager. No matter how successful I know I am, the longer I do it the more it is clear. Just because I have “made” myself good at this over 15 doesn’t mean I should do it for a living, yet I feel trapped without a solution. The more time that passes the more it eats away at me. Loud, fast paced, inconsiderate work environment stresses me to no end. But after reading your posts I feel a lot less crazy. Every shift is a new lesson in me judging myself and the anxiety can be overwhelming. But I did feel better knowing it’s not just me out there alone. Again, thanks for sharing!

  2. Siesie says

    Would you say INFJs (or IN types in general) are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to finding/keeping a job, due to the emphasis most jobs place on extraverted sensing and extraverted thinking? I know there are niche jobs we’re very well suited for (I feel like I would be a great psychologist), but in the general job market it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a place for us. We all have to depend on menial jobs for at least a portion of our lives, which are more taxing on IN types than others because we’re expected to use our inferior functions as quickly and flawlessly as any other type. I’m willing to put in the extra effort to do my job, but I’m sometimes anxious that my best isn’t good enough and that I will either be fired, or simply get fewer hours and lower-paying positions than the types more qualified for that sort of work.

    • Siesie says

      On second thought, it seems like INTJs would do well with secondary Te, and ENTPs would have more of a struggle.

    • Jonathan says

      This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, too. Having read this article, it seems that rational, logical planning may be important for INFJs when it comes to finding the right career – either that or a whole lot of trial and error, which runs counter to the basic INFJ need for stability and a feeling of getting at the core of something, rather than spreading oneself too thin.

      For example, I decided to come to Korea and become a translator on a whim and now that it has (miraculously, in retrospect) happened, I realise that the culture of the country I chose and the nature of the work I am now trained to do may not have been entirely appropriate. Am I to sink back into a low-paid job? If not, will my next move be just as much a shot in the dark?

      And as for the feeling that one may be fired any moment – I had that even when I was in charge of a group of other translators. I think it has a lot to do with having a perfectionist streak and too weak a grasp of the pragmatic requirements of a given situation, and thus an inability properly to gauge how much is “enough”.

      Siesie, have you found any good resources on this kind of thing, at all? If so, I’d be much obliged…

    • Siesie says

      I find myself in the same dilemma. I earned a degree in a subject that I now believe would be a terrible career for me, even though it’s related to my passion. I know which subjects interest me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m suited to the jobs that deal with those subjects. The daily routines, bureaucratic procedures, and detailed application of ideas are what I really struggle with. And that’s what most jobs are all about!

      “I think it has a lot to do with having a perfectionist streak and too weak a grasp of the pragmatic requirements of a given situation, and thus an inability properly to gauge how much is “enough”.”

      That’s exactly what my problem is. In college, it was so bad that I would stay up all night perfecting an assignment, unsure how much the professor expected, only to find that other students quickly did theirs a few minutes before class and the professor expected no more than that. I’m extremely perfectionistic, yet I feel incompetent in most situations because I have no grasp of Te procedures and I often botch Se tasks (regardless of how hard I try).

      I’m afraid I haven’t found any good advice geared at INFJs in this predicament. When I’ve tried to discuss the issue with people, they have accused me of making excuses for myself instead of taking responsibility for my success. A few INFJs could relate, but they felt at a loss about how to improve their situation.

      Even careers I think I might be suited for are becoming increasingly bureaucratic, so I’m afraid if I pursue them I’ll feel so overwhelmed by that aspect of the job that I’m miserable. I find it hard to talk about this problem with others because it sounds like I think that sort of work is below me, I have unrealistic expectations of a perfect job, or I’m not willing to put in the extra effort to become proficient at that kind of work. But none of those are the case. I’m always invested in the work I do, even if it’s entry level; I just find it extremely difficult and stressful to carry out Te and Se tasks in a fast paced setting. I have to put forth an inordinate amount of effort just to keep up with everyone else, and even then I’m prone to mistakes. It’s mentally and emotionally taxing. I know all jobs are supposed to be stressful to some extent, but the amount of stress that I feel in the typical job environment, even for entry level jobs, is far greater than it should be.

      If anyone else wants to weigh in with experience/advice, it would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jonathan says

      Siesie,

      I’m so glad you replied! I can related to *so much* of what you’re saying, especially:

      “I find it hard to talk about this problem with others because it sounds like I think that sort of work is below me.”

      But there *has* to be a way forward. I’ve found some resources on YouTube that have been quite helpful to me. Is there any way I could send you a non-public message? :o)

      Jonathan