The GREATEST post about INFP CAREERS in the history of EVER

Picture of man on top of mountainThis amazing post was written by Aelthwyn on Personality Cafe. I asked her if I could post it because it truly speaks to exactly what I desire in a career and my very feelings were echoed around the board.

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The cunundrum I think a lot of us have is that it’s hard for us to do what we love for a living because it frequently requires us to go by other people’s guidelines and ideas and such, which makes it no longer our own creative expression and cheapens it for us. And if we do that all the time we want to do something else in our free time, so we don’t end up ever really getting into our flow and feeling really alive in the activities we love. However, we also have a hard time doing something that isn’t something we really love and believe in because then we are pouring our time and energy into something that doesn’t matter and that leaves us empty.

Likewise, we are neither interested in directing others nor following directions. The trouble for us with this is that most of the time being in charge of your own work/business requires practical knowlege, organization, and ability to get out there and convince others they need your goods/services – none of which are our strong point. We also tend to like security, which entreprenuership doesn’t often have. Not to sound too bleak, but it feels like a catch 22 as they say.

What we really need is someone interested in helping us in the practical matters of personal business, or as mentioned above being part of a small company where we can be seen as individuals, have a caring family feel, and have a chance to be recognized for our creativity and inginuity without having to be too bold or have authority over others. Other than that, what we need are Patrons, someone rich who wants to help support us so that we don’t have to worry about the mundane money-making aspect of life.

A lot of us Idealists probably find money a rather unworthy goal, and thus have a hard time with almost any job setting (even if it seems initially to be something we like) because a lot of time it starts to feel like it’s all coming down to money – how much work can they get out of us, how much money can we get out of them….and that just clashes with our value system. In a sense it starts to feel like baking brownies every day when you don’t like chocolate – why am I doing this again? I don’t even really care about this!

I think the common reccommendation that INFPs would like to work in people oriented service jobs is a bit off the mark. We do usually care about others and enjoy showing our care, but we are still introverts and we don’t generally like a lot of shallow interactions – which means that service jobs may be fullfilling and draining at the same time. I think we are much more likely to feel fullfilled serving a small number of people that we know well, such as family and friends. Honestly, I’ve always thought my ideal job would be either as a nanny or a stay-at-home mom. I love to invest in a few people who are close to me, and enjoy taking care of things for others – being the behind the scenes support system for those that do go out and do other things.

I definately don’t have any good answers to this Ultimate INFP dilemma, I’m going through this myself. A couple years ago I felt like I’d lost my soul working in a book store (hey it sounded great, I love books and I was back in the stockroom alone wih my own music, sounds good….but the burden of more and more procedures, and pressure to be more and more productive, and negative managers sucked me dry of life and creativity). I’m still attempting to get my own sewing/craft business going, and wanting to look into photography but feeling overwhelmed by that.

I think perhaps a lot of us could use a good career counselor who understands and respects our needs, but knows a lot of possibilities and can make the connections for us that are hard for us to make ourselves. sigh…..

Something I did at one point shortly after quitting my old job was to make a list of things that I really needed in a job – not interests, but practical aspects.

Some of the things I found important for me were (in no paticular order):
Working on Projects Alone – I don’t do well in groups, I either end up doing all of it, or get totally ignored.

Autonomy – I hate being constantly directed, I want to see what needs to be done and do it in my own way in my own order

Projects not Hours – I hate stopping when I’m in the flow, and I hate having to hang around when there’s nothing to do. I’ll put in a lot of extra work if you let me, but don’t make me waste my time pretending to look busy just because you want a body there during ‘work hours’.

Free Schedule – I need to be respected to have my own life and priorities. I will do the work – but does it really matter when? I hate having to eat when I’m not hungry, or not be able to take a break at an opportune stopping point.

Creativity & Intelligence – I need to be allowed to come up with creative solutions and ideas and have them listened to and appreciated. I hate being treated like an idiot just because I don’t have a big pay-check.

Personal – not Impersonal – I hate the impersonal ‘business’ attitude

My Own Space – I need to have a pleasing personal environment, some place I can feel comfortable in order to be able to feel positive and stay energized and focused. Working in drab, company standard environments, or having to listen to popular music all day makes me angry and depressed and distracted and….I just break down very fast.

Ideals & Values – I can’t invest in or promote things I don’t believe in, I can’t be asked to go against my values

Positive People – A Negative critical atmosphere really takes the life out of me, strained feelings in the air make me physically ill. I need to know that I am appreciated.

Security – stress over money is not something I do well with, being afriad of not being able to pay my bills tends to immobilize me and distract me from creative inspiration.

……who knows what job has all these things?

I’ve also considered what seems to be what I’m made to do, what do I do naturally that gives me fullillment in life?
1. Loving and encouraging others
2. Appreciating the beauty in the world and helping others to see it, also reminding people of the simple joys in life
3. Creating – coming up with stories, imagining, designing many kinds of things, arranging, making things beautiful
4. Thinking deeply and coming to an understanding of things

Surely these things are useful. Surely there must be a way to make a living through them???


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347 thoughts on “The GREATEST post about INFP CAREERS in the history of EVER”

  1. I am in the same boat with most of you. I’m going to include my story, as it might be helpful to some.

    In college, as an undergrad in a competitive and serious theater program, I hit a point in my junior year where I just felt like, in spite of being good at what I was doing and getting good feedback, I greatly disliked the competitive, networking nature of theater. (Not all theater is like that, by the way, or even most. It’s actually more about building relationships than networking, which is why I think it’s a very good fit for artistic INFPs, especially designers, but for performers, there is pressure to be “on” a lot of the time.) I also suffered from severe inferiority issues and anxiety (I did not know that’s what it was at the time). I consulted career services out of desperation, took the MBTI, and scored as an INTP, which I believed I was for many, many years. It wasn’t until I was having trouble even thinking about going to work without breaking down emotionally that I finally started therapy and realized that part of the reason I was unhappy was because I thought I had to be unemotional. I grew up in a house full of NTs. Both parents and a brother. I was constantly told I was “too emotional” — it was really difficult, especially when anxiety hit in mid-childhood. I had no words to convey what was happening to me, and they were all totally mystified as to why I was crying every day.

    After college, I tried a year in theater, but I disliked the environment even though I enjoyed the work. I cared for a sick relative, indulged in my other hobby (writing), and finally went to grad school for English because someone suggested it. Earning my masters was enjoyable but I was tired of being in school and wanted to not be poor anymore (ha), but my training had left me with no other clear career path but college teaching. I was fortunate to land a full-time job at a college doing just that. I want to include that experience because some of you have wondered if being a professor might be an option for you.

    INFP as a college professor:
    First, just know that yes, it is a great career for INFPs. You can spend a lot of time on what you enjoy; you have a great deal of flexibility in your schedule compared to most full-time jobs (especially other education jobs); your teaching load is typically much less than that of a secondary or primary teacher (and there is less face-t0-face with colleagues); you get to spend more time with students one-on-one; there is not nearly as much bureaucracy (paperwork) to deal with (although there is definitely some); you can be creative within your field; and having an understanding of the Big Picture of your field is a definite plus, because most of the time it is the big picture you will be trying to convey to students in creative ways. This is life in a small college (not publish or perish Research 1 university). And it is a small college professorship that I would suggest to my fellow INFPs (although I’m sure you could be happy in a large college too).
    That said, there are some cons (as there are in all jobs). First, it is the nature of education (and perhaps all work) that you will often be expected to take on extra tasks without compensation. You might end up feeling used. So good boundaries are a must. Second, if you don’t enjoy working with students who are being “forced” to take a class, or who may even have remedial needs (a whole other can of worms), you might want to specialize in a subject that isn’t typically a core subject (English, math, social sciences, or hard sciences), but the truth is that, no matter what you teach, you will probably end up with at least one class of unmotivated students and that can be really draining. Third, there is a lot of grading, but compared to most jobs that involve clerical work, this is really not that bad. And you get to invent the testing methods, which is fun, I think. Fourth, be prepared for the fact that the people in charge may not share your values or view points. They may care as much about the students and the quality of the education as you do, but they may also be (and probably are) extroverts, sensers, and judgers. They see the bottom line. They are probably traditional thinkers and feel uncomfortable with out-of-the-box stuff. They will make decisions you don’t agree with, and there’s not much you can do about it except to keep bringing them well-researched proposals.
    As an INFP, after a decade of teaching, I needed a break from the classroom. I like being in one-on-one or small group settings best, to be honest, and because I taught a core subject, I typically got larger, intro-level classes, and a large swath of remedial classes. I realized over time that I like many things about college teaching, but I’m just not happy teaching remedial and intro-level courses at that volume. So, I moved on.

    I hope this helps anyone considering being a professor. If you love philosophy, art, history, anthropology, or science, but you want to feel like you are helping others (making things better), and you want a somewhat stable, very modest income with benefits, I recommend becoming an expert in your area of interest and teaching college. There are certainly challenges for INFPs, but there are many talents we have naturally (creativity, logical thinking, being detailed-oriented about our projects, being project-motivated, empathy, writing ability) that lend themselves really well to being a professor (a job that is 20-50% researcher/writer/artist, 40-60% teacher/counselor/coach). And college teaching is very forgiving of some of our less desirable (by society’s standards) qualities, like absent-mindedness, or dislike for chit-chat.
    Practical advice if this is the path you go down:
    1. You won’t make a lot of money. You are sacrificing money for having a work environment you do well in, a lot of autonomy, and having time to pursue your interests. Just be realistic (don’t believe the figures you see online — they are an average of some wildly divergent incomes and institutions). Set yourself up for success by investing in the best education you can for the least amount of money. Avoid taking out loans altogether, if you possibly can. (Before you laugh, it can definitely be done. I did it both undergrad and grad.)
    2. Be wary of job security. Small colleges are more relaxing to teach at, but they are more vulnerable too. Some have closed quite suddenly, and more are projected to close in the future. Once you teach at one institution (get your foot in the door), of course, you can teach anywhere (you can teach entirely online, if you want, or part-time while you are teaching at a different school in person). But most of the online jobs will be part-time (adjunct) without benefits (your yearly salary for a full-time work load as an adjunct will probably be less than 30k a year), so do your best to prepare for that.
    Just be confident in yourself and use the opportunity of teaching somewhere to develop new skills and interests. When and if you need to change jobs, you’ll be a lot more ready to do so.

  2. Hi All,
    I’m an INFP, my background is as a grief coach, interior designer, and funeral director. Early on I was in medical/dental. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a rural community, and in a family with a strong faith and family ties. It doesn’t mean life wasn’t tough, and that we didn’t have our ups and downs; but it did teach me that if the horses needed to be fed or they will die, then you just got up to do it. Being the only “overly sensitive” one, did present challenges, to say the least. Yet, my parents always did their best in their practical nature, to guide me into becoming stronger. Sometimes it worked, other times it failed miserably. Lol. Often I learned along the way, and on my own. I just didn’t give up…So, instead of getting into those details, I would like to share some insights I’ve learned over the years–both from personal experience–and what others have taught me. Beneath it all though, my faith does keep me grounded and gives me peace, no matter what comes my way on the exterior. So that has to be added. Now, first and foremost, if anyone is dealing with anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. remember to deal with this first. Behavioural health is just as critical as physical health–and it will affect all that you do. Get that under control, and usually other areas start to fall into place too. As well, if you are in a personal or business situatiin that is unhealthy or even abusive, then take care of that first too. No one should be subjected to that, and those who need to be held accountable, should be… But, perhaps my practical and proactive nature, added to my extremely sensitive and empathetic side, can help someone out there with these main topics:
    1.) ANY field/job/career is going to have good days and bad. They will also have its fair share of bureaucracy, grievances, and pettyness. It’s just life. It is what it is. So, you need to learn to balance the good and bad. Even as an entrepreneur or retiree, there will always be pros and cons. (I’ve been self-employed and worked for the corporate world.) You need to learn doable coping mechanisms, tailored to your individual needs and desires. For some that means a hobby, dancing on the weekend, jogging daily, volunteering, filling your life with your particular faith, painting, traveling, hiking, etc. Put it in your calendar, if you must. Honour yourself with doing even free activities, to protect your mental and emotional health. 2.) As much as its annoying, a pain (or for some math-folks, enjoyable), we MUST learn to budget our money. If we don’t, it just adds stress. Capital S. If one can’t manage a small account, how can one manage a large one? Its that simple. I’ve known folks who work as waitresses, go on trips to Europe on tips; and other folks who make millions and squander it. I’ve also known folks, including myself, with severe health challenges, or others with child or elderly care debt, still enjoy small outings or occasional trips or treats. Sometimes it’s relative, but being a good money manager lets you feel in control. Feeling in control, leads to less anxiety, stress, and good feelings of security. Buy books, go to the library, watch You Tube, hire a bookkeeper, get a business coach, or just a friend that’s good at business, to hold you accountable. It can be downright sucky to write it all down, and keep track of where it goes. But I can tell you, that even forcing yourself to save just 1%, adds up. If you have a habit like excessive shopping, smoking, drinking, or anything done in excess, then sit down and calculate how much you spend. You will often be shocked. Take even a portion of that, and save. Watch how much it grows. Even if you have health related costs like I do, even the 1% works. When you’re in better circumstances, do 10% or 30%, etc. 3.) Many of us are usually good at many things. One of my employers once advised me to choose the one that will make enough money to pay the bills, and maybe have a little more. Use that money wisely, so you have time and energy to do other things that will bring you joy–because life will always have joy and pain. He said that it’s not always about feelings, but simply a choice. Then tailor that choice, to make it work for you. Use it as a stepping stone, if need be; but stay focused. 4.) Remember that WHO you are, is different from what you DO. If you’re living a life that is honest, charactered and filled with integrity, then it doesn’t matter if you’re a housekeeper or doctor. Pay your bills, treat your family and neighbours with love and respect. It’s all important for different reasons. Each person has value and worth. Know who you are inside, and not base your value on what others say or what you might perceive they are saying. That part can take experience and maturity; but we all know that if you don’t stand up for something, you will often fall for anything, eh? Inner strength is often more important than outer strength. 5.) Besides writing out a budget, write out your needs and wants. Realize those are two different things. Then ask yourself what can you live without? (This works like a dream for relationship a too.) Why? Because absolutely nothing on this earth is going to be perfect. One person or career, may have 99% of what you want…then another will have a whole different list of 99%. 6.) Finally, remember that a career and calling are two different things. If you’re lucky that you can do both at once, then its truly a blessing! Usually though, you can simply apply your calling in any situation and career. That’s how you find fulfillment in almost any circumstance. Be mindful of joy, no matter how small or in what form.
    Best wishes!

  3. It is so hard for me as an INFP to deal with this topic which keeps me struggling still. I am 27 and I have a girlfriend. I graduated with a computer science degree and worked as a programmer for around 3 years after graduation. I felt stressful and drained cause I could not see any value which makes the society better so I quit the job last year.

    I work as a music teacher in music centers until now. It is fun and valuable as I can use the time to teach and educate the kids to be better in behavior.
    But the fact is the pay is much lower than before and it makes me tense. I can foresee if I want to have a family or marriage, the salary is not enough to support a family.
    Besides, my parents will be retired that make me have to be responsible to take care of them financially. I am so struggled and wonder if I should go back to do the computing job? or should I find more jobs (which probably may not be music-related cause it is not easy to find students)?

  4. I am honestly so sick of articles saying that INFPs aren’t interested in money. I am an infp but money is incredibly important to me. It has been SO DIFFICULT so figure out my life plan. I want to travel, raise children, not stress about my retirement etc. So I sick of these stupid generalisations. I live in australia and housing is incredibly expensive. If I don’t earn enough, I’ll be renting for the rest of my life with little left for my retirement. Also I will never be able to travel or raise children. So yes as an infp, I care about money. Very much. However not for the status, but to enable me to freedom and flexibility.

    To be able to spend more time creating meaning with my life with the things/those I love. To be able to ever afford any of those things I would need to make at least $100,000 a year OR marry someone wealthy… Or win the lottery. I don’t want to rely in someone else, I want independence financially. I don’t want to stress about money. So yes, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME IN ORDER TO LIVE THE LIFESTYLE I DREAM OF.

    Stop saying INFPs don’t care about money. We generally don’t care for excessive greed and selfishness. Like billionaires who use child labour or the kardashians with ugly mass produced $50,000 handbags made from the tears of children. I would say most INFPs love money for the freedom and relief it can take from life so be don’t have to work for the rest of our lives somewhere soul sucking without any meaning.

  5. INFP reporting in.

    I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments yet. As for the post, it resonated with what I feel and believe. I went through A LOT of schooling and I couldn’t attain a career that fits me. I’m currently working part time and going to a pretty good school for an AAS in Dental Hygiene. I went through Psych already and am actually really glad to be out of there. I knew in the long run that it would mentally wear me out and build up inside my head. If you’re an INFP who can do it, then great for you, go for it! It’s not for me. I think if an INFP doesn’t mind some of the politics, a teaching job as a professor or an adjunct/instructor would do very well. I actually find myself liking the job a lot! The downside, the politics and how some universities are governed which I couldn’t stand.

    As I got older, I found that I’m able to articulate my Te a lot better in terms of giving “coaching” directions which is why I would suggest a college level teaching job. The environment is really great too considering it isn’t super immature kids (most anyway). I chose DH because I’m skilled with my hands and I hate being pressured to critically think and make immediate decisions in abstract or social relational terms. DH to me feels a lot more grounded and so it’s easier and less stressful to make those calls. Don’t get me wrong though, I love critically thinking of abstract and social ideas.. I just want it to be on my own terms and in my own time so I can give it much more quality and depth of thought.

    I think in general, INFPs are much more physically handy than believed. I don’t recommend anything too physically strenuous like dock worker though. I for one really like working with my hands and sometimes leading and training, which is what I equate with college teaching and dental hygienist jobs. I also really loved carpentry and things like that too. Building and designing was a big thing for me and so is Philosophy which is my true passion. INFPs tend to excel in areas where it matches our values and we deem practical to our skills and to work. If it doesn’t make sense (seem superfluous) to me or seems irrelevant, I don’t care about it or bother to understand it.

    As a note, the schooling for DH is pretty much “no-lifing” but the work is when you apply it which is much different. So don’t get scared off by rigorous schooling if it’s not reflected by the work life you’ll lead in that field. When push comes to shove, I’ll do almost anything to stay away from homelessness, because it’s an easy hole to fall into and then fall even further down as you go.

  6. I know that this comment may be a couple years too late now, but I’d still like to say thank you to you, Mike Gulbin, for creating this resource and for putting up Aelthwyn’s oh-so-relatable post. I read a number of the comments, and one thing that I rarely saw reiterated from Aelthwyn’s post was that the people oriented service jobs that many consider INFP’s best suited for is somewhat off mark. I identify with almost everything I read about INFP’s…Except for that. Now, I do have Social Anxiety Disorder on top of a heavy dose of introversion, so that could make me more of a minority in this regard, but I can’t imagine this holding too true for many of the more introverted folk out there either.

    I work as an IT help desk technician for my city’s Police Department, and while I’m privileged to work with many great people, I find myself mentally exhausted by the end of the day. Aelthwyn’s post really struck a chord with me. I haven’t been in this field for very long, but I can’t help but wonder if this is really the kind of work I’m best suited for.

    When I was 19, I sat down in front of my older brother and my dad and told them what I wanted to do with my life. I told them that I wanted to learn woodworking. That I wanted to sell what I craft on my own shop on Etsy. That I wanted to devote my life to creating things for people. I’ve always been pretty adept at reading people, and although they just mentioned job security, their faces said so much more. “Are we going to have to support her for the rest of her life?”, “Is she going to bum her way through her entire life?”. There was pity there, and a touch of derision. It terrified me. I threw away the entire idea and continued to drift aimlessly for another five years, too scared to actually devote time and money to something I would just fail at. I worked a customer service job here and there, utterly hating it. It wasn’t until my brother gently delivered a terrible insight that I finally got up and started school. He told me that in relationships, I seemed like the kind of girl that wanted to be taken care of. The part that hurt worst was that he was right.

    I was raised by a feminist mother and an overly critical and patronizing father. I, of course, adopted my mother’s beliefs. I want a relationship where everything is equal. I work as hard as you do. I spend as much as you do. I take care of the kids and clean as much as you do. Did I really want to be the person in the relationship that let the guy suffer the job while I followed my passions and held us back financially? I had never put it into perspective, but it was true that I had let that happen in a few of my relationships, and it pissed me off. I immediately signed up for a computer animation degree. I stuck with it for about a year, but ultimately realized that the career was too competitive and that I’d have to leave my family and move to a big city to have any chance at succeeding.

    The following year, I signed up for a degree as a computer service technician. I put my all into the program, determined to change my life. It worked. A whole world opened up to me. My instructor noticed my attitude and set me up with my current job. New opportunities still seem to be coming from every direction. For a time, everything was great. My dad started to show me respect. My mom cried that all her babies were doing so well and getting their lives started. I felt great for accomplishing something and for making my family proud… But then the feelings of doubt started to surface. Do I really wanna do this for the rest of my life? My entire day is tense and awkward due to my social anxiety. At work, I’m as fake as fake can be. People think I’m quite nice, if not a touch boring. I get home and as soon as I shut the door I’m screaming complete nonsense because I’m just completely overwhelmed with relief to finally be alone. Giddy is the only appropriate word. I can almost feel the mask coming off. The answer is a definite no… I do not want to do this for the rest of my life.

    I’m scared though. I don’t want to disappoint my family. I don’t want to choose poorly. I’m confused and I don’t know where to go from here. Other jobs seem appealing but then I read more and discover that there’s something I don’t think I would WANT to handle.

    I’m stuck between wanting to make my family proud, validate myself by pursuing challenging occupations, and pursuing my actual dreams. See, every night when I goto bed, I always fall asleep to the same fantasy. The story, (minus the back story 🙂 INFP’s, amiright?), is that time stands still for me. I live in a house alone where I can have anything I want. I use all of this time to create and learn all the things that interest me. With foam, wire and paper, I carve out enormous trees that span the length of my walls and ceiling. I paint them blues and purples and greens and cut out each individual leaf from different gem colored fabrics. The trees look as though they are encased in my wall. I paint all the walls and ceiling, and hang battery powered oil lamps and create my own goddamn enchanted forest. I build silicone mushrooms with led lights. I learn how to work with cast and I create replicas of the armor from my favorite video games. I learn to sew and I cosplay Samwise Gamgee as I have my own personal LOTR marathon. I spend years on this huge colored pencil portrait of my mom. It allows her to see herself as I see her. It shows her just how much I love her. I try my hand at sculpting with clay. I create a cake topper that is personalized to be an exact 3d replica of my brother and his fiance’s engagement photo. I learn how to create objects for 3d printing. I learn the violin. I learn a new language. I slowly drift to sleep, content. Then I wake up and mentally prep myself for going in to work in a grey, bare office filled with small talk and unsatisfying work all. Day. Long.

    The fact that this is literally the most comforting thing I can think of to fall asleep to is very telling, yes, but it’s hard to think of a life where my family worries for me. A life where whatever man I end up with has to worry about the financial struggles where I live my dreams. My pride gets in the way. I don’t know what to do or what career would be most true to my heart, I just know that I have to find it. I worry that I never will.

    Almost positive that this thing will never get read to this point. I guess, In my defense, I’ve never told anyone any of this. I didn’t intend to spew emotions everywhere :/ i just started typing and all of a sudden I had a flood on my hands 🙂 It felt good to get that out though. I’m so thankful to have taken those personality tests years ago. I’m not alone 🙂 Thanks again, Mike. Well done.

    • Hi Crystal,
      I’m a few years late too but reading your comment brought tears to my eyes because i thought i was the only one that felt like this. I feel less alone in the world knowing you’re out there feeling the exact same way about work and a career that i am.

    • I did read your post all the way through…because I could so relate to it. I am now 76 and retired and it feels like I can breathe for the first time in my life! When I was young I chose teaching elementary school because as a divorced mother I needed to prioritize care and support of my children. I enjoyed many aspects of teaching but found that every day, all day with 30 children, parents and staff and then coming home to deal with my own children was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. Eventually, I returned to college ended up as a counseling psychologist working as a substance abuse counselor in an alternative high school. At first I loved that career as it “fit” with my personality and I felt that I was making a real difference in my students’ lives. However, eventually rigidity and politics (especially under “No child left behind”) began to interfere in my ability to really help my students and to push me into practices that were meaningless (ie: being pressured to spend my time using “lesson plans” designed by people who had never had experience in mental health/substance abuse treatment to “help” students who may have slept on the the street the night before). So my last 10-15 years in the field, I felt like I was letting my principles and students down and constantly felt guilty and inadequate. But I hung in there in order to earn enough to support myself, to see my kids/grandkids through college. And also, importantly, because I did not know what else to do that I would pay enough and be an improvement to my situation. During those years I became terribly burnt out and depressed, but had to get myself together each day to carry on for the sake of my students. I became two people: the one who was supportive and strong during the day, and the one who fell into mindlessness and exhaustion at night and on weekends. Since I retired I feel like I have been reborn! I can now take time to think about and do the things that are important to me, and have enough time and focus to take care of myself. I feel emotionally and spiritually strong again and live a satisfying lifestyle. I now volunteer for our local Hospice program and I love it. I feel that I am doing something meaningful and helpful for others, work with people with like values who respect others as they are…and as an added bonus, I set my own hours. I know this doesn’t help those who are younger and still have to face the work world. It is a tough world out there for INFPs. Just know that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel. Take care of yourself as well as you can…if you can’t live the life you were made for now, hopefully you will be able to some day.

      • I think that this is inspiring. 😀
        And what you did is commendable- you worked for to put food on the table and support your family. It may not have always been exhilarating, but you stayed true to your priorities.

        Thanks for posting this!

    • I might be three years too late but in the exact same spot you were at that time. And it is extremely frustrating, not to say my very own people say that I feel like dead inside nowadays. And at this point in life, I have lost confidence, am I thinking the right way or am I just being too stubborn. I don’t know. But Your post made me feel a little better, knowing that I am not all alone. And maybe I will have that courage again to see through, all this fog.

    • Hey, Crystal, I’m super too late, but it sounds to me like you are a wonderfully creative person. I love your room as you described it. I think your dreams are beautiful.

    • It’s 5 years after your post and I struggle with the EXACT same things. Except I am 48, single and teach kids all day. And I have two teens and am a single Mom. So the pressure to reliever and not disappoint family is real. And honestly never goes away.

      I’ve been teaching elementary art for two years. And have now realized that K-6 set is draining the life out of me.

      So I am looking into re-selling clothing and my art online. Teaching art to adults and using my MFA degree. Even tutor online to adults.
      Whatever I can do to make that money but without being stuck being in all day with children.

  7. Hi Blake. I can really empathize with you on this. Though we are in different fields we seem to be going through a similar scenario. I have been in accounting for 35 years. I started in a nonprofit and learned on the job. No degree. I’ve been a manager for most of that time, but that is due to technical skills. I’m very good at what I do, but the last 14 years have been going in a slow downward spiral. As an INFP, I’m not so good with the people side of management. The “F” means that I’m too empathetic. I’m fine when everything is going well, but really struggle with performance reviews and challenging conversations.
    My boss has been leaning more & more heavily on what she perceives as my management skills, to the point that it feels like bullying. I recently read that INFPs have a hard time not taking (constructive) criticism personally. Anyway, I realized that I will never be able to satisfy my boss’s expectations and requested a transfer to a non-management position. Unfortunately, it is taking much longer than expected to find a replacement. So I’m stuck here.

    I’ve been praying about what to do, considering a career change, but not sure what will work for me. I’m almost 60 so that is a little scary too. I’m reading up on INFP and careers to get a better idea what might work better for me. I have nothing definite yet, but I am in the process.

  8. I’m having a really difficult time with life right now. Its funny, I read this article, and seriously felt like someone just reached in my head and pulled all my opinions and challenges out. There were many great comments here, although there are sooo many I can’t read them all. So I have been working as a martial arts instructor for 10 years running a 2nd school for my Sensei. A year ago, I got separated. Divorce still isnt final. I have a special needs child, my ex hasnt worked in like 6 years. She is having a hard time finding work. So I moved back into my parents, and still pay all her bills until the lease is up. Over the last year, the school has been starting to decline, to where I have now just had to take my 2nd pay cut. As an INFP, I really relate to the idea of working for cause and not for money, but not being able to pay bills makes you think about money more than I wish I had to. So my boss has started. Coming out to my school to see if he can help reverse the problem. He says my teaching is incredible, nothing to be fixed there. He says the biggest issue is with rapport. He says I need to spend more time talking to parents, engaging in conversation, and building relationships. I already knew this, and truly do it to the best of my ability. But my introvert shines all the time. I engage in conversation with one parent, another parent chimes in, and all of a sudden I’m excluded from the conversation and walk away. I hate small talk, and it seems thats what I have to do. On top of that, he wants me to keep popular radio on all the time to bring some life into the dojo. That station really makes me sick and stresses me out, I hate pop music! Now on top of that, he wants me changing the style of classes, doing more games, basically taking away everything I enjoyed about the job to begin with. Rather than being about teaching quality martial arts, he wants it to become about promoting people even if I dont think they’re ready, and just doing what we can to make people stay and people pleasing in order to make the most amount of money, and I’ve realized I am just not cut out for this. Its making me miserable, and I really feell like killing myself sometimes. I never would, because I wouldnt do that to my daughter, but thats how unhappy I am right now. But now I’m stuck: at my peak, I was taking home 50k per year, and that is what I need to pay my bills and support my kid, I’m 32 and have no degree. I dont have the time to go back to school because I have to make money to pay for court mandated expenses, and all the jobs I see hiring either require a degree or experience in a field I have none, or don’t pay enough. If anyone has any suggestions on even a path I can start following it would be a huge help, because right now I just feel lost, trapped in an unhappy situation, and I don’t know which way to start moving, but just sittting still is causing me to go crazy.

  9. Thanks for this insightful post. It describes me to a T, and that is not easy to do.

    I’m in my late 30s and am still struggling with “what to be when I grow up.” I’ve been a lifeguard, swim instructor, rafting guide, climbing gym manager, an ESL teacher, a high school English teacher, and now an editor of educational databases. I loved the outdoors jobs, but found the high people contact incredibly draining. Teaching high school was altogether a nightmare: the constant people contact, the demand for charisma and energy, the disciplining of bad behavior, the criticism from parents and administrators who cared more about grades than learning, the interminable workload, the crappy essays, etc. The only parts I remember fondly were the Ah-Ha! moments some students had during book discussions, and the few, well-written essays from conscientious students.

    My current position as an editor of educational databases at a small company has been the best fit yet, with the glaring exception of the toxic work environment created by my narcissistic, manipulative, impulsive boss and his even more narcissistic, presumptuous, and controlling wife. I love that I get to work in a quiet environment, with mostly natural lighting, with intelligent and kind colleagues, on various projects with an educational or international focus that require research, working with freelance writers, and editing. I love that my schedule is somewhat flexible, and that I often learn something new and interesting about the world. However, I detest that I am pressured into doing substandard work because of emergency time constraints imposed by impulsive and misleading salesmanship on the part of my boss. I detest that the business model is fast and cheap, and that the focus is on quantity rather than quality. I despise my boss’ attempts to deceive his employees and clients to make a buck, and that I am responsible for providing him with the fodder to do so. I despise his wife’s false and manipulative attempts at intimacy, inevitably followed by interrogation or requests for favors. And I resent that work drains so much energy from me that I have precious little left to exercise, keep house, socialize, and do the projects that I want to do, none of which seem remotely financially viable.

    So there you have it. With very few exceptions, INFPs have the choice of selling their souls to survive, or keeping their integrity and subsisting by a thread. It’s no wonder I object to a system whose lack of values forces me into this predicament every day.

    • wow, loved reading this comment. the last paragraphs sums things up nicely. but the optimist in me will continue to look for silver lining.

  10. I was a commercial & intellectual property lawyer, & now I’m a workers compensation insurance public servant. As you can guess, both were/ are a disastrous mistakes for an INFP like me. The research/ tactical aspects of being a lawyer were vaguely interesting to me because they involve a level of creativity (not as exciting as researching art – which in hindsight I would’ve tried my luck at making a career out of i.e. art history lecturer or art curator), but it had it’s moments of intrigue. What I hated was the adversarial nature of the job. Meeting opposing counsel would give me heart palpitations & headaches. Desperate to escape, but with no transferable skills, I took up a public servant admin job processing injured workers compensation claims. I’m no longer terrified at work, but my brain is atrophying. It’s monkey work – heavy workload, endless, repetitive & painfully dull. The workplace is very strict & rigid too. Anyway, I’m thinking of doing a masters of teaching to be a kindergarten teacher. My friends & family think I’m nuts, given the salary I am/was earning, but all things considered, I think it’s the perfect fit for me. Money doesn’t mean much when you’re miserable all the time. I’m constantly itching to exercise my creative brain, I enjoy project-oriented work & I’m tired of the suffocating procedural rigid worker-bee environment of the public service. I fancy the freedom of running my own classroom with my own lesson plans without colleagues & strict procedures breathing down my neck. As long as my students test well at the end of the year, & they’re having fun in my classes, it doesn’t matter how I get there. Lately I’ve been daydreaming a lot about potential lesson plans. Cooking classes, music, arts & crafts, maths/ literacy/ PE classes – I enjoy thinking about these thinks, which is more than I can say about thinking of ways to deny injured people their government benefits.

  11. I am an INFP and am 29. Thank you for this page and all the insights. I highly relate to much of what is said in this comments section and find it illuminating to read of others plights and confusion over a “career path.” I’m currently in the same predicament, but have not had a job in several years (which I feel somewhat ashamed about). I have had an ongoing health issue for the past six years which has been life altering and it is rare, so many doctors I have gone to do not know how to approach treatment. It is fortunately not life threatening, but it is life altering and it has alienated me in my daily life, socially and work-wise.

    I did finish my undergrad. degree this year in Arts & Media Studies and have been applying to many jobs, nonprofits, community based organizations, art based organizations, working with people with disabilities. But I truly have NO IDEA what I want to do now. I just want to be able to make a living at this point and move out of my parents house. I have been so fortunate to have such supportive, loving parents through everything, but I echo others sentiments about being “babied” growing up. We INFP’s are stronger than we, or others give us credit for, maybe we appear vulnerable and overly feeling?

    My girlfriend of 6 years wants me to move down to where she lives (around a major city). I want to be together too and I understand her frustration in having to wait for me to finish school and be on the other end of my health condition. At this point, I am considering moving down with her, taking something to “pay the bills,” and work somewhere, like at a Trader Joe’s or something. Part of me wants to be an Art Therapist but this would require Grad. School and I was just in Undergrad. for many years since I had to take medical leaves, and then took only a couple classes at a time because that’s how I knew I would be successful finishing. But, after getting some more work experience, grad. school can be a future possibility.

    The point is, I am ready for a change and feel like my life is passing by quick. I would like to move and have my own life, as I’ve been too dependent on my parents. I’ve always struggled with anxiety/depression (ever since I was a teenager) but have come to the conclusion this is not really a “chemical imbalance” as much as it is a sensitivity to the environment, mood, and emotions of others. I would say I am an empathic person and pick up constantly on how people feel (without even intending to), which can make even going out sometimes draining.

    I posted here because I am in need of advice and have been feeling too confused for a long time. For any INFP’s dealing with health issues, anxiety or stress, exercise, eating healthy and clean has been a great outlet for me. Thank you to anyone who reads and thank you for this supportive page!

  12. Thanks, Mike, for the great posting and ensuing discussion. I have to say that I saw myself in many of the postings, but the one that resonated with me the most was the original one from Mike. I am and have always been obsessed with entrepreneurship, ideas, inventions, innovation, you name it, and an constantly dreaming up dynamic solutions to all manner of problems. I’m blessed with exceptional lateral thinking skills and a rich imagination. In some ways, I see myself as a ‘freak’ version of an INFP, as being so focused on developing some kind of product that can be released into the marketplace is somewhat of a deviation from the INFP’s stereotypical interests in writing, art, etc. That said, I also have powerful interests in the field of science, astrobiology, paleoclimatology, climate change, renewable energy, sustainability, food security, graphic design, holistic health and medicine, naturopathic medicine, harvesting of wild medicines from nature, philosophy, geopolitics, self-propelled sports of varying kinds (ie: cycling, hiking, paddling), innovation science, stem cell research, epigenetics, etc, etc, etc.. My work history has been frustrating to say the least, as I just can’t seem to integrate any of the aforementioned interests into a paying role. Often it feels as if I need at least 25 more of me in order to do the things I want to to do, either that or 25 more lifetimes to pursue these things. Occasionally I feel more like an ENFP or even an INTP, but repeatedly doing this test more or less shows I have an INFP disposition at my core. But I’m still puzzled about this MBTI classification for myself. My past jobs have included IT admin, teaching of environmental science, graphic design, outdoor marketing roles, as well as teaching a variety of outdoor sports. I’m a quintessential ‘all-over-the-mapper’. After a recent ocular issue (that was successfully treated), I felt a powerful urge to enter into a field of research geared towards resolving the issue that affected me, despite not having any formal training in biology or any other life sciences discipline (I majored in liberal arts in university, but wished that I had done arts and science instead). I still feel an intense urge to somehow, some way, become engaged in laboratory-based research that could potentially arrive at a disruptively dynamic solution to a common eye-related condition. But is this a practical and achievable direction for me at this stage of my life, especially with all of the other ideas I’d like to go after? Could I enter this field as a non-traditional mature student, and bypass the lengthy course of study usually required? Sometimes I feel I wish I could just win the lottery, and then build my own lab and start learning about and working on this problem from scratch, operating with the conviction that my drive, problem solving skills, and eclectic background would allow me to eventually connect the necessary dots in the necessary ways to arrive at a viable solution. I’m mid-forties, married with kids, and feel like a finely aged bottle of red wine about to come into its prime, but just need to find the area I’d like to focus on and stay there! Any advice anyone? If so, thank you!

    • Thomas I really identify with your interest in science & desire to make a difference through lab research. I did a career change for this reason. Before, I worked in a pharmacy and, although I enjoyed it at first, the job soon degenerated into money-making rather than patient care. Plus I would find it draining serving customers, especially as I suffer from mild social anxiety disorder. This put me in a dilemma, wanting to help people but at the same time struggling with people-facing work. I decided to switch to science because scientific research has a huge impact on people’s health, I realised I could still help people in a more behind-the-scenes role.

      I did a degree in Health Science with the Open University which I loved. I hated the regimented and spoon-fed style of learning I experienced at school, but doing distance learning allowed me to be much more of a free spirit. I think this is a great way for an INFP to learn and would definitely recommend it.

      I don’t know what country you’re in, but in the UK most labs employ laboratory assistants who only require a low level of education. Also NHS employ medical laboratory assistants. If you want to skip further education you could try these roles, however if you want to be a lab technician you will need a degree. A good option would be to work part-time as a lab assistant and study part-time, that way you can start in the career straight away but still have the option becoming a technician.

  13. Oh man, I’m so feeling my INFPness coming through as I’m typing this. I have an English degree, aspired to be a writer, moved to NYC and started working in publishing in marketing, got married to a total extrovert and had a son. 20 yrs and 6 different industries later I’m still in marketing and divorced. I never seemed to find the right place fit and felt like people just didn’t get me. I do kind of march to beat of my own drummer and like solitude, but love ideas, stories, art, exploration and adventure. Oh, did I say I’ve had a profound hearing loss since 2 and wear hearing aids. I’ve always thought that was the reason for my distance, dreaminess and not feeling connected/engaged. When I started my current job 4 yrs ago, I hit gold. I was marketing to other INFPs – academic librarians. Not only that my team was small and we were all home based – I could work from anywhere by myself. I was thrilled and doing great work. Over the course of last year, however, my company went through a change and now I’m part of a larger global marketing team of a dozen highly driven people – and I happen to be the only guy. My boss is a young, hard driving, results driven MBA. She also happens to be a bit of a bully which so does not sit well with my conflict aversion – crazy! So before I started looking around for a new job – the right one this time – I thought it’d be a good idea to take the MB personality tests. Guess what? Glad I landed on this page. Thanks!

  14. A psychologist friend suggested a personality test to me. I took it twice and receive the same results both times: INFP
    I searched a variety of websites seeking clarification of what this meant. Now I feel overwhelmed, yet enlightened. Every ounce of this new description of me is spot on!!!!!
    I am a flight attendant with a regional airline. Everyone says “you will make more money if you go mainline”. I always reply “I don’t care about the money and I like the small crews. I like being able to get away from my co-workers but also being within reach if needed and part of a unified team, with little to no supervision.” For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I was the only person that seemed to understand what I was saying……..WOW….INFP explains it so well!!!!!

  15. I agree with you my friend! The word “job” for an INFP, such as myself is a dirty word. It doesn’t matter what type of job it is, there will always be something about it that is unsatisfactory. So in all reality, INFPs should probably just get a day job (that pays the bills), so that they can be free to work on what is actually meaningful to them — unless they are willing to get A LOT of schooling, so that they are able to share their philosophical side, and still get paid for it. I read somewhere that INFPs are the most philosophical of all the types. I’m not sure about that, but man, I can’t stop philosophizing — not even for one day!!

    I personally find that I need a lot of freedom to explore the interests I have, and in a lot of ways the only way to do that is to have the means (financial security), and the time to do so. I am not good being creative on demand. It has to flow through me naturally, so being creative as a career doesn’t seem to fit, but I keep going back to it, since I need to fill fulfilled.

    For example: I too love the same things that have been mentioned in this post. I thoroughly enjoy beautiful things, and want to share beauty, so I thoughts the arts were for me. In fact, I study art most of my life — by drawing, painting, photography, graphic design, fashion. But the only thing I came away with in this arena was that I was good with color, and creating a mood. Drawing itself was challenging. I tried, and tried to be good at it, but have only become okay — and as an idealist, that is NOT good enough. So I have now left the drawing to my baby sister, who is a ISFP. It comes so naturally to her, although, I still love photography, and fashion.

    I decided these two areas of the arts fit me, as an INFP, a bit better, since I can gather things that are already created, and make something out of it. I am finding it is slightly tricky for Ne’s to know the end from the beginning, which allows for a step-by-step process to be managed properly, whereas, I am more of a pieces person. I gather pieces to make a whole — similar to the divergent vs convergent theory. So I am trying to apply this to the areas that I am interested in.

    The other area I have considered is writing. This is because I greatly enjoy anything imaginary. It is much better to live in a world that differs from your own. I once told a friend that if the world we lived in had fairies and magic, I would daydream about a world that didn’t — just because it is not what is regular or mundane. He said, “So you’re saying you’re like Arthur Weasly?” Anyway, yes writing would seem to be ideal, and it has been noted in several sources that this is the best field for an INFP. The sad thing is I can’t seem to make it work for me. I want to really bad, but no matter how many times I sit down and start a story, I cannot seem to finish it. I have decided it goes back to the Ne vs Ni thing. Ni’s are great at this because they see the beginning from the end, so they easily tie in all elements of the plot, and such. Ne’s are great with coming up with ideas, and are excellent in zoning in on versatile characters, but to actually flesh this out in a structured planned out manner is rather daunting. I have come to feel Ne’s do better with philosophical writing, such as poetry, journalism, or self help material (I have also been considering editing, or book reviewing). Things that zone in on working with pieces (Ne), and sharing their internal gift (Fi). Now I am just saying this from my experience as an INFP. It could be totally different for other INFPs. F.Y.I. I received a bachelors in English Literature.

    Okay, one more avenue I have been venturing into: music. I just started going down this avenue after being in an intimate relationship with a ENFP. He was very into music, and is constantly working on composing — mostly for games or movies, which is a better way to compose for Nes, since it grabs onto something that is already there, and creates something new from it.

    The connection I have noticed that links these interests is the ability to be philosophical, CREATE A MOOD, take pieces of things, and create something original from them, share beauty, having a project, always learning something new, feeding idealism, and…

    Here are the jobs I have considered, and feel I might be satisfied in (if I had the means to achieve them): Professor, Journalist/Blogger, Editor (book reviewer), Photographer, Buyer (a person who decides what should be sold in stores, such as clothes, books, and anything else you may be interested in), reading stories to children, and if your are brave enough – an actor (I LOVE the theatre). As well as, I’m not sure what this job would be called, but someone who decides genres of things, such as music (like in Spotify where there are links to suggest other artists, or music that correlate with the music you’re interested in), or movies (similar concept with Netflix and Amazon). Oh, and I can’t forget composing (mainly for movies, or the like).

    Sorry this post was super long! I really didn’t mean to share so much. I hope you were able to get through some of it, and relate to parts. And to tell you the truth, I am trying to hold myself back from sharing more…lol. But I understand the lack of attention span INFPs have, so I’ll refrain.

  16. This is amazing! I just quit my job thinking what a terrible worker/employee I am (4 years of recruitment) and kept thinking I’m depressed or something and will never be satisfied with life. I just took the test yesterday and I cannot believe I can finally accept me for who I am and stop trying to fit into the power-money-status driven world and keep feeling like I’m not good enough. I always wanted to do something creative – but there’s no security (money-wise) like you mentioned.

    Anyway I am glad I am doing it when I’m still young and have little responsibility. Now I will take a break and understand exactly what and how I can be more productive and happy (while being terrified all the way). You made my day!

  17. I think INFPs shouldn’t concentrate on their jobs so much and invest more of their time into hobbies. In our culture, we identify too much with our jobs, anyway. Even if you love your job to begin with, it eventually cuts you down like a guillotine. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to love your job all the time, because work isn’t really meant to be fun. This is coming from an INFP. I wish that weren’t the case, but it’s the truth. Most people don’t even realize that what they’re doing doesn’t benefit society at all and they get so wrapped in their jobs. I think we INFP’s don’t do that, because we don’t like lying to ourselves as much. Most people lie to themselves or they think something is wrong with them when they hate their jobs, failing to recognize that its a systemic and not individual problem. Freud may have gotten a lot of things wrong, but he was spot on throughout Civilization and Its Discontents. There’s always a tug of war between the society and the individual and the society normally wins. That’s part of the problem. We shouldn’t be working as much as we did a hundred years ago, because I think we’re like 400% more productive than they were then; that means we should be working 3 hours a week and not 40. It’s crazy how much people invest themselves in their job, because they don’t want to admit that they’re spending so much time in something that is mostly just wasted time.


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