Career Choices: Soothing the Phoenix

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 13 Comments A+ a-



Well, it's another bright, sunshiny day outside. Coffee is steaming, laundry is leaping around in the washer, and I'm sitting here thinking about my job.

Stay-at-home mom. Hmm.

It's not very glamorous. The salary is negligible...and I never get a raise. It's way more than 8 hours a day. Still, there are benefits to being out of the regular workforce, and as an INFJ, this makes a huge difference in my life. In fact, it's one of the choices I made to help me deal with my emotions.

This is hilarious...and eerily true!

Yesterday I posted about my background of intense emotions--and how my faith helps with that by enabling me to place my value in (and therefore throw my emotions at) something that can withstand them without breaking or losing integrity.

Today I want to talk about our careers. Choosing the right environment for our intensity, empathy, intuition and idealistic tendencies is important. If we can channel our emotional intensity into an appropriate outlet, we may be less apt to find that intensity blowing up in other areas of our lives.

The internet has quite a bit to say about which career paths might be good for INFJs. I've read article after article on it, and though the lists are all different, here are a handful of careers that pop up with amazing consistency:

Counselor
Psychologist
Teacher
Minister/Clergy
Writer
Artist
Social Worker

Note: this is not an all-inclusive list.

When I look at the list, I see a few common threads. First is the goal of helping or inspiring others. INFJs have an innate desire to contribute to the greater good. I also see flexibility. Perhaps some careers would offer more of this than others, but INFJs need to balance their hard work with alone time and would thrive in an environment they can control. Another thread I see woven through here is insight. As intuitive as INFJs are, with our unique ability to envision future events, the roles listed above give us a way to guide people/ideas/things in the appropriate direction.

Here's something else...I don't see our Se function playing an overbearing role in any of them. The careers listed above are primarily ones where we would use our Ni/Fe combination.

Dr. A.J. Drenth calls our Se an "often overlooked, yet extremely potent, inferior function" that can mistakenly draw us into Sensing careers that are ill-suited for the INFJ personality type. I found an article he wrote concerning INFJ careers, and this paragraph caught my eye:


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.
When I think of being surrounded by ESP's all day (like my friend Wendy), I want to cringe. A few hours is okay, but 40 hours a week? I'd run away screaming after the first month!

My first job out of college was in computer programming. I found programming to be creative and challenging with minimal need for interaction with others. My position was on a team of people who supported a particular software platform used by executives. We created/fixed programs, took hotline calls from techs all over the country, and made desk visits to fix problems or install updates. I had a wonderful, understanding manager and a clear corporate ladder to climb. It was the ultimate job for me - a unique mix of isolation and interaction that satisfied all my functional needs.

Obviously, the dream job didn't last long...maybe 3 years. The IT department outgrew itself and began specializing and trimming. My job duties shrank to nothing but programming and tech support. Great for an INTJ, maybe, but not for me. I stayed with the company for 7 more years, but I never loved my job the way I did those first few glorious years. The more cuts the company made, the more confined and restrained I felt. When it came time to quit and take care of my special needs son, I wasn't sorry to see the job go. I was ready for a change. Technical meetings and sitting behind a laptop all day with little outlet for creativity or inspiring interaction were sucking the life right out of me!

If I could do it all over again, I'd still have chosen programming, but with a more creative aspect behind it, like graphic or web design, and an environment that allowed for witty, inspiring conversation that sparked my creative flow.  A combination of interaction/creativity that results in helping someone is the best job for me. And after the day was over, I'd be writing in the evenings :-)

LOL! I think an INFJ created this!

Overall, being a stay-at-home mom isn't all that bad. I can usually get the alone time I need to recharge. Blogging and writing keep my mind active and give my creativity free reign. The biggest challenge is finding those witty, inspiring people that sharpen me. You know, the way iron sharpens iron. I've found that chatting with people at the coffee shop on Saturday mornings is a big help. My circle of 'coffee friends' is growing. I especially enjoy the elderly gentlemen who invite me to sit and partake of their conversation. Their sage wisdom and charm adds so much to my day.

Anyway, as I was nosing around online, I found another article that listed 7 recommended job parameters for the INFJ employee. They seem relevant enough to share:


We INFJs find work more satisfying where we have these parameters included in our job.
  1. Work in a harmonious environment of like-minded others
  2. Use a skill in which you feel technically/functionally competent or can become competent
  3. Be challenged to innovate, identify possible solutions, develop others’ potential
  4. Exercise analysis of ideas and people and their inter-relationships
  5. Be a part of a close-knit team that processes and discusses ideas/solutions
  6. Help others learn and develop their potential, more than manage others’ work
  7. Include regular variety between working with others and alone

The article goes on to list out some natural abilities of the INFJ and their definitions. Each INFJ will be different, of course, but in general these seem to apply to us:


Some Natural Abilities of INFJs
Natural abilities that INFJs use to achieve job satisfaction, and which define our natural strengths, are like the following. We would be more effective in jobs that incorporate these abilities (listed in alphabetical order).
NATURAL ABILITY
Definition
Assess
Evaluate the nature and relationship of the parts to the final goal; seek to thoroughly understand; to dig, ask, and think through. 
Coach
Encourage others; help motivate people in a good direction. 
Contemplate
Mull over data; think about information; exercise and stretch brain “muscles”.
Envision
See potential and possibility; see viable/feasible ideas and solutions to problems.
Explore
Investigate by close examination; discover and gather more information.
Impact
Help people; develop potential in others; positively influence.
Interact
Discuss; exchange ideas; learn from others.
Observe
Study by close examination; listen, elicit, take note, and check out.
Organize
Order and harmonize thoughts and think ahead on a plan towards a realistic goal.


Because we're such an intense, passionate group of people, we need to think carefully about the jobs we're doing and the environments we're putting ourselves in. Overwhelm us and we'll withdraw, taking our creative flow with us. Stifle us and you're asking for an 'emotion explosion' later...or worse, secretive vengeance (my Phoenix is particularly proficient in this area). To keep our emotions focused and productive, we need jobs with balance, purpose, flexibility, appropriate human interaction, and intellectual pursuit.

Another great doodle.  And a terrific example
of iron sharpening iron.

What I've found personally is that the more satisfied I am with my work environment (which is presently my home), the less likely I am to aim my emotional intensity at others like a shotgun. Find your peace. Surround your work area with fulfilling things. Reduce the potential areas of conflict. Remove or minimize volatile people and relationships. Instead of caging the beast, soothe it...until it purrs like a kitten.

This is not selfish, people. It's reality. You are super heroes, remember? Don't let your Phoenix get in the way of that :-)

Until next time,

M.

Image Credit: SAH Mom, ESTP Shadow, Programming, Ideas Unfold


13 comments

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
July 25, 2012 at 12:41 AM delete

Just noticed that there are no comments yet... What a shame, since this is such a fantastic post! You are truly a captivating writer. Thanks for your efforts. P.S. love the graphics :-)

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Meridian
AUTHOR
July 26, 2012 at 9:02 AM delete

Hi there - so glad you enjoyed the post! I haven't been out here for very long, so maybe that's why I don't get many comments. Or maybe my perspective only entertains a small percentage of quiet INFJs :-)

I really, really appreciate your encouraging words...they made my heart smile! Thanks for stopping by!!

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
January 8, 2013 at 8:08 AM delete

Hi, I think you really deserve more comments after I read your blog about INFJ... can I have your opinion? I am kinda of INFJ too but what is your opinion for an INFJ becoming a game developer?

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
February 4, 2013 at 1:33 AM delete

A few years back, when I was called into the HR office for the umpteenth time because someone or some people had an issue with me, I've been trying to figure out what to do with my work life and what small things I could do to make it better for me and for others. When I get overwhelmed at work, and I do get overwhelmed a lot (because of demands put on me either by my own doing or others and some people's negativity), I retreat. I can't function properly. I procrastinate. I get angry. I want to up and quit my job. I'm a litigation paralegal as well as an assistant to a very busy and in-demand trial lawyer. I'm good at what I do, very good, but soooo many days I feel I should be doing something else. Something creative or more helpful in some way.

I used to love my job when I started 14 years ago, but I started as a Word Processor and I worked my way up to the job I have now. I love the people I closely work with, but two years ago a certain person was hired to take over for a lovely lady who was retiring. I cannot stand this person, probably because she doesn't pull her weight, pushes jobs she should be doing onto others who are already overworked. I'm very loyal to the firm I work for and when I see her acting that way, it makes me so angry.

I've felt and noticed a change in our department over the last couple years. It's been subtle and has been happening at small increments, kind of like a bubbly brew, but lately I've truly felt it, mainly because of her negative and sometimes caustic attitude. Something's got to give, or I've got to go. OK, what's my point? I think because I'm unsatisfied with part of my job or all of it, I want to "aim my emotional intensity at others like a shotgun", actually just her. I think what I do for work is tightly would around who I am.

I need to figure out what will make me happy, if I can't change it at the job I'm at, then I have to find it elsewhere. I want to go back to school, but it's so scary to speak my needs and desires to my bosses when they rely on me so much. Ugh. Sometimes it's so gosh darn difficult being an INFJ.

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justathought
AUTHOR
April 12, 2013 at 12:11 AM delete

Your post is definitely introspective and insightful, and gels with a fellow INFJ's thoughts :D Wish you all the success with your coffee-inspired insights in the future as well. I'm currently looking for opportunities to expand my career and do something that meshes better with my urge to change the world. I tried staying-at-home-mom, but the tedious tasks of cleaning, washing and sorting drives me insane, although I really appreciate the opportunity to be quiet when I need to. Maybe working for myself might be an answer... but doing what?

I'm a qualified teacher - completely folded in the school environment - it was way too intense, stressful, overwhelming! Now I'm a mere tutor - much more relaxed, but.. I'm still missing something...

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
August 1, 2013 at 11:44 AM delete

Great thoughts. The part about needing both alone time and interaction is very insightful, and helps explain why some jobs have been more satisfying than others. Thanks!! I really did get a lot out of this!!

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Hunter Aran
AUTHOR
October 5, 2013 at 3:24 PM delete

I rarely put my thoughts out here in the nether that is the internet, which I suppose makes me an obvious INFJ heh. But I wanted to thank you for your informative and amusing post. It's given me a nod that the new career I'll be pursuing is what I should be going for to be (finally) engaged and fulfilled in my job. I'll be going back to college for a CS degree and debating on what I'd have more fun doing: software development or game design...so much learning to do and I can't wait! Thanks again for the post and well wishes for you and yours.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
December 5, 2013 at 2:24 PM delete

Thank you! I'm a 19 year old INFJ trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and your post really helped. I'm also considering computer programming, but focusing on the web design part as well. The creativity and boundlessness really appeal to me.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
December 20, 2013 at 12:23 PM delete

justathought: I am you or will be you. I am currently a teacher who survived fine premommyhood. Now that it's postmommyhood, I'm finding myself depleated. I want to put 100% into being a mom. However, I am scared to leave my job because I know I will feel like something is missing just as you are. Although things aren't working now, I guess the bigger picture I need is to trust myself. I would love to know what you are up to now.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
February 18, 2014 at 6:40 AM delete

Hi, I am 29 years old and after many years of struggling i found myself in the job of content writing for websites. This is a highly creative profile but alas! i don't have any conversation with anybody in the office due to my profile as i send and receive my work through mail and so i decide to enter into Public relation profile in any PR agency or become a PRO in any company. What you think about it? I have already worked as an accountant and as a stockbroker but due to repeated work in accountancy and share trading as stockbroker i couldn't survive in these fields. what is your take on it?

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Ellen Merritt
AUTHOR
August 19, 2015 at 12:36 AM delete

May I chime in? As a fellow INFJ, and an empath to boot, I am not generally good working in the field of human services. Too draining. Man, the stock market? You have to be some sort of superhero!! I can't think of any environment less suited for our type...

I have worked in several different areas over the years and have yet to find my niche. Graphic design and computer game development sound like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the mention.

Have you tried looking in your community for groups doing things you are interested in, Anonymous? This involvement might allow you to get your feet wet without diving right in. Good luck!!

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
March 26, 2016 at 2:23 PM delete

Thanks for your insight! I'm 39 and due to health issues I wasn't able to stay in my chosen field and since then I've just gone from career to career. (One that I can work and go to school at the same time due to a need for insurance.) I find management particularly stressful when they have a lesser set of values than me. I'm finding, as an INFJ, that this is not working for me. You're the first person who actually said that you'd still go into programing. At present I'm looking into IT forensics. It would be helping others and yet still a job where I could apply a lot of INFJ characteristics. The only downside so far is that it seems to be a difficult field to get in to. I'm working with some people now to see if I can get assistance to go to college full time instead of trying to balance work and school and end up with more health issues. Thanks again for your post!

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Meridian
AUTHOR
March 26, 2016 at 4:20 PM delete

You're welcome! I hope you get the assistance you need so you can put those INFJ superpowers to work. A career in IT forensics sounds fascinating...best of luck in your pursuits! :)

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