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 more drawn to Realistic work than are N, F, and J types. Hence, INFJs typically have little to no interest in Realistic work.
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.
In concert with those displaying Investigative interests, individuals with Artistic interests often have an intellectual or cultural-orientation. The Artistic theme strongly correlates Myers-Briggs Intuition, as well as, to a lesser extent, Feeling and Perceiving. The Artistic interest domain requires little explanation. It captures those with unconventional and creative interests, including actors, painters, dancers, poets, sculptors, writers, designers, and the like. Unsurprisingly, Artistic types are highly represented among students studying the arts and humanities. Those interested in library science also tend to fall under this interest domain.
INFJs commonly possess Artistic interests. Even if not great artists themselves, INFJs may choose to study the arts. As discussed in my latest eBook, My True Type, they often possess exquisite and refined tastes, displaying a deep appreciation for quality artistry of all sorts. As N dominants, most INFJs are gifted with language and writing. As J types, their natural writing style is fairly structured and analytical. While holding their own with regard to “creative writing,” their aptitude may be greater in non-fiction writing, be it critical, descriptive, or theoretical.
Individuals in the Social interest domain enjoy working with people. This domain is often conceived as the conceptual opposite of the Realistic domain, although some individuals enjoy working with both people and things. Social interests are common among teachers, healthcare workers, clergy, trainers, human resource professionals, and caretakers, to name a few. The Social domain relates to preferences for Extraversion and Feeling. Among the most popular careers, jobs, and majors for INFJs, are those in religion/ministry, teaching/education, mental health counseling, and medicine/healthcare.
The final two Holland domains, Enterprising and Conventional, are typically not the first choice for INFJs. The Enterprising domain entails 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 stock trading. Enterprising individuals often prefer Extroversion.
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 (especially Si), Thinking (especially Te), and/or Judging. Hence, ISFJs are typically a better fit for Conventional careers than INFJs are.
What follows is a list of INFJ job/ career choices and college majors organized according to the Holland interest domains:
Realistic: (no recommendations in this domain)
• Sociologist, political scientist
• Researcher or research assistant
• Psychologist: research, personality, social
• Instructional designer
• Art/Museum Curator
• Critic: art, film, literary, food
• Editor, writer (especially non-fiction)
• Blogger (see my post, Tools & Considerations for Prospective Bloggers)
• Psychologist, clinical or counseling
• Human resources professional
• Teacher/college professor: art, religion, English, literature
• Priest, pastor, rabbi, minister
The Inferior Function in INFJ Career Decision-Making
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, as I’ve explained in other posts, is that such decisions are being driven by our often overlooked influence of the inferior function. This may lead Myers-Briggs Intuitive types, for instance, to be drawn to careers better suited for Sensing types, and vice-versa.
INFJs are susceptible to the insidious influence of their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), in their career decision-making. Namely, they choose careers that are rooted in the wishes and desires of their Se rather than those of the top two functions, Ni & Fe. In doing so, they may end up in careers normally population by ESPs, leaving them feeling stressed, depleted, and unfulfilled.
For example, an INFJ friend of mine opted try her hand at culinary school in hopes of becoming a pastry chef. She had always enjoyed baking and making her creations beautiful. Her taste for fine food and concern for aesthetics are both related to her inferior Se. As she underwent her culinary training and later worked as a pastry chef, she realized how unrealistic and unhealthy this career choice was for her. It was physically demanding, fast-paced, required constant Se attention to detail, and was forever frustrating because of her Se perfectionism. She realized that this was not a good career fit and she was better suited for working with people (Fe) and ideas (Ni) than one characterized by concrete action (Se).
As another example, INFJs are often drawn to the visual arts or interior design. This allows them to work at converting an ideal (N) to a concrete reality (S). But such work requires careful attention to Se detail. One could argue that it is heavier on S than it is on N. Add in INFJs’ perfectionism and the pressure of trying to make a living from it, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. A better career choice for an INFJ might involve studying, teaching, theorizing, or writing about art/design. While still incorporating their Se inferior, these alternatives incorporate more Ni and Fe, making them ultimately more satisfying and less prone to the addictions and extremism of their inferior function.
Making money is another inferior function related problem point for INFJs. INFJs love to live in beautiful surroundings. They often have refined and expensive tastes. Financial security is also important to them. Since all these things require money and are intertwined with their inferior function, money can be a dangerous thing for INFJs (the same would hold true for INTJs). In order to avoid money-related addictive behavior, INFJs may do best as salaried employees. This reduces the incentive for workaholism that could easily manifest if working on commission.
In the end, INFJs are wise to consider the degree to which their career choice is being dictated by their Se and whether it is likely to introduce Se-related problems. While it may be okay for INFJs to have some amount of Se activity in their work, having too much can easily contribute to burn-out, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
Next year (2015), I will be publishing a book about INFJs, including more on INFJ careers. If you wish to receive notice of its publication, be sure to follow us or sign-up for our blog updates here.
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