- College professor
- Life coach
- Physical or occupational therapist
- Yoga instructor, homeopathy
- Nurse, nurse practitioner
- Mediator, diplomat, peace studies
- Psychologist, clinical or counseling
- Counselor, social worker
- Speech language pathologist
The Role of the Inferior Function in INFP 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, as I’ve explained elsewhere, is that such decisions are being largely dictated, even if unconsciously, by the inferior function. Because the psyche desires balance and wholeness, the inferior can have an equally strong pull as the dominant when it comes to decision-making. This can lead Feeling types, including INFPs, to be drawn to Thinking-oriented careers.
More specifically, INFPs’ career choices are commonly influenced by their inferior function, Extraverted Thinking (Te). They can be disposed to choosing careers according to the wishes and desires of their Te, as well as their tertiary Si, rather than those of the top two functions (Fi & Ne). In doing so, they may find themselves in careers typically heavily populated by TJs.
Te is the most “left-brained” of all the functions. It rallies for external order, control, and predictability. Although INFPs may at times consciously reject Te methods and systems, they are unconsciously drawn to facts, systems, and standardized ways of operating. More generally, their inferior Te can be seen as questing for “objective” truth. This explains why INFPs might select careers that are ideally suited for Thinking types (e.g., computer science, mathematics, finance, the “hard” sciences, engineering, etc.). Although INFPs may perform competently in such fields, most will end up dissatisfied because the work either fails to capitalize on their true strengths or forces them to rely too heavily on their inferior function.
The struggle between the dominant and inferior functions with regard to career decision-making involves a battle between conscious and less conscious values. The inferior beckons INFPs to take up left-brained pursuits (i.e., objective systematizing), while their top two functions are clearly more right-brained (i.e., concerned with empathy, the arts and humanities, etc.). So which of these should INFPs heed when making career decisions?
By definition, the top two functions of a given type are better developed than the lower two. If this were not the case, the individual should be typed an STJ rather than an INFP. Consequently, it is not only in the individual’s best interest, but also society’s best interest, that each type chooses work that capitalizes on the strengths and values of their top two functions. So despite any temptation INFPs might experience to pursue Thinking-related careers, jobs, or majors, they are better off selecting Feeling-related endeavors. Or, for those who have already trained in a Thinking-oriented field, it is usually possible to find creative ways of using Fi and Ne that still incorporate T-related knowledge. For instance, an INFP scientist may opt to write novels incorporating scientific themes.
Final Thoughts on INFP Careers
INFPs may be slow to accept the possibility that there may not be an ideal pre-existing career path or college major for them. Their interests may simply be too idiosyncratic to fit squarely into any predefined mold. So rather than force-fitting themselves into a particular career or college major, some may opt to “settle” when it comes to a day job while pursuing their true passion on the side. The structure of having a day job may actually help INFPs be more disciplined in setting aside time to explore their creative passions.
INFPs who are sufficiently shrewd and ambitious may find entrepreneurship a viable career option. Entrepreneurial INFPs may try their hand with a variety of different art forms or business ideas: graphic and web design, freelance writing or journalism, photography, blogging, music, self-publishing, etc. (see my post, Tools & Considerations for Prospective Bloggers). Others may opt to start their own holistic health or counseling center. Others may sell and distribute their artistic creations via online venues such as Etsy. Several of my INFP blog contributors have reported good success and career satisfaction as web-based entrepreneurs.
One type of entrepreneurship that seems particularly appropriate for INFPs is the “slash career.” One type of entrepreneurship that seems particularly appropriate for INFPs is the “slash career.” They may, for example, view themselves as “author/ lecturer / expert/ consultant.” Slash careers may be particularly appealing to P types, who are known for their versatility and adaptability.
Lastly, I wished to briefly discuss the issue of whether INFPs are well-suited to work as doctors or physicians. Medicine can be attractive to INFPs since it combines their interest in helping others (Fi) with their interests in facts and logic (Te). Despite this, mainstream modern medicine will likely seem too impersonal, reductionistic, and drug-focused to many INFPs. While I am slow to recommend any field of medicine to INFPs, those who take this route may find satisfaction working overseas, in under-served areas, or in public health/non-profit clinics.
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