By A.J. Drenth
In my recent post on creative careers, I suggested that one of the most challenging decisions for Introverted or Intuitive career-seekers is whether to pursue a traditional versus unconventional career. In this post, we will explore this issue in greater depth, including its relationship to intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards.
Extrinsic rewards can be material (Se), social (Fe), or utility-related (Te). They entail an outward or extraverted focus. Intrinsic rewards, by contrast, involve an inner sense of pleasure, value, and meaning. We commonly associate intrinsic value with hobbies, with things we do primarily for pleasure rather than for some external end.
Traditional careers promise much in terms of extrinsic rewards. They are often perceived as less risky and more stable than unconventional careers with respect to income and benefits. Traditional careers also provide a ready-made platform for social connection and recognition. When one becomes a physician, for instance, she is instantly granted a certain social status. Professions such as medicine also provide a support network of colleagues as well as pre-formed pathways for professional development. A potential downside to traditional careers is they require a willingness to compromise individual interests and preferences in favor of collective rules and standards.
Intrinsic value is more introverted in its locus. It therefore come as little surprise that Introverts tend to evaluate careers according to their potential for intrinsic rewards. In many cases, such careers are unconventional in nature. Similar to hobbies, unconventional careers are often centered around individual tastes, preferences, and interests. Many artistic careers are unconventional, characterized by individuals concerned with “following their bliss” regardless of extrinsic concerns (e.g., “the starving artist”). Careers like freelance writing, Indy/self-publishing, blogging, etc., would also fall under the unconventional umbrella.
Even if unconventional careers are, on the whole, less stable with regard to extrinsic rewards, they can actually be more stable when it comes to engendering intrinsic value. Extrinsic reward seekers have no guarantee of job security. Intrinsic reward seekers, on the other hand, are less reliant on the system for their livelihood, deriving more of their strength and meaning from within.
There are times, however, when those in unconventional careers can feel lonely or disconnected from society. Unlike traditional sorts of work, unconventional careers contain fewer pre-fab routes to social connection or validation. Those in creative or idea-centered careers may also struggle with feeling that their work is unimportant to others, since it is often less tangible or application-driven than traditional sorts of work.
With that said, it is important to recognize that intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are not mutually exclusive. Focusing on the intrinsic value of one’s work does not preclude the receipt of extrinsic rewards. In fact, I often recommend that those in unconventional careers learn how to market and distribute their work. One of the beautiful things about the Internet is it makes doing so rather convenient and affordable.
With respect to personality type, Extraverts, Sensors, and Judgers (especially TJs) are more apt to pursue traditional career paths, while Intuitives and Perceivers (e.g., ENFPs, ENTPs, INTPs, INFPs) are more apt to consider less conventional or non-traditional options.
The following table highlights some of the key differences between traditional and unconventional career paths: