This is a response to a post by Mike on INFP Careers as discussed in INFP, The Healer Idealist discussion group on LinkedIn. The post was called, “The Greatest Post about INFP Careers in the History of Ever.”
What a fantastic world it would be if there were places where we INFPs could live our ideal lifestyle as described in this post!
I think every ESTJ (opposite type) manager should read the article as part of their management course but I wonder if it would seem impossibly, impractically self-indulgent to an ESTJ to imagine that anyone could find a job that would fulfil these desires. I don’t imagine the writer actually expects to ever find such a job, and I recognise that this is probably just a flight of fancy but still it made me want to laugh; not derisively but ruefully. Yes, I’m sure the sentiments contained in this post resound for almost all INFPs; they certainly do for me but at the same time, I’m old enough and ugly enough to know that the world doesn’t work that way and we have to get in line with the world rather than expecting it to get in line with us.
Why do I mention ESTJs? Well, many of the managers against whom this article rails from time to time are ESTJs. They tend to think heirarchically and to assume that we would have their job if we were clever enough or as hard working as them. As I see it, part of the INFP’s challenge is to find enough compromises that she can make (without losing herself) to be able to function sucessfully in the world.
For a while after I first found out about type I used to go round saying to myself, “I’m an INFP in an ESTJ world” (you need to say this in an Eeyore voice to be able to get the full effect). I felt hopeless and doubtful that I would ever be able to find a niche where I could be useful and fulfilled at the same time…….. And this is where the key lay, for me; “a niche“. The kinds of roles where INFPs typically feel happy are niches. It is harder for INFPs to find the niches where they can excell and be comfortable at the same time because niches are, by definition, small. Given the statistics about the prevalence of ESTJs and the relatively small numbers of INFPs, it makes sense that there are fewer INFP roles in the world. If it were otherwise we wouldn’t be able to fill all the INFP shaped holes. Also, like it or not, we need the practical, down to earth types to take care of business and put food on the table. Think of it in cave man terms. They painted the sides of the cave only after they had gone out and killed enough animals to ensure survival. That’s why we are in the minority; it’s simple Darwinian evolution – survival of the fittest.
Before you go out and shoot yourself, it’s not that desperate – read on – you’ve come this far with me, you might as well go all the way now.
The writer said that she, “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“. Well, I am a career coach, will that do?
This brings us back to the niche. The corporate world may have a few niches where you can be yourself and still earn a living; roles such as welfare officer, staff development, even training manager can work for INFPs if the organisation has a sufficiently caring ethos. The important thing to do is to research the organisation thoroughly before deciding that you want to work there.
Then there’s the public sector. In the UK (I don’t know so much about the US or other parts of the world) you can find roles such as Careers Adviser in schools, colleges and universities, Connexions (although the government is currently dismantling it, bit-by-painful bit) and the little known service for adults, called Next Step. This, along with counselling, offers an opportunity to help people significantly and mainly on a one-to-one basis, which is not too challenging for most introverts as long as you can get a bit of peace and quiet in your free time.
Volunteering in your spare time is another way of finding the fulfilment that may not be possible right now in your job. This can sometimes lead to paid work after a while. Even if that doesn’t happen you will develop good transferable skills along the way.
Finally, there is the creative side of the INFP to cater for.
Having been a careers adviser in a college where there was a large number of art and design courses, I know how attractive these pursuits are to INFPs. I also know how difficult it is to make a living this way. If you decide to embark on a creative career, follow the advice of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent!” If you can be excellent and can learn to market yourself effectively, this could be your answer.
I have offered a few alternatives, none of which meets every requirement of the original post and therefore some sort of compromise is required but that’s OK – we’re Ps so we can be quite flexible and adaptable.
One of many points that Aelthwyn, the author of the post, made that is very true is that we do need the support of other types to make our dreams come true. But that’s OK too. INFPs can be very persuasive when we try, and there are enough supportive, strong extroverts out there who will recognise our worth and support our efforts. So my alter-ego, Eeyore was wrong – it’s not all hopeless!