6 Ways to Succeed in Your Career as an INTJ Personality Type

INTJ career success

Last week I wrote about what holds INTJs back from achieving our goals. But to an INTJ personality type, the biggest goal is often career success. INTJs value this kind of success because it offers measurable proof of our competence. Unfortunately, we also face roadblocks in the workplace that other personality types don’t. So how can you tap into your INTJ strengths to succeed?


For the past year I’ve studied ways to be more successful as an INTJ. I took courses, read books, and spent as much time as possible with others who have succeeded. One of the most stunning things I learned came from career coach Penelope Trunk, CEO of Quistic: almost all top business leaders are INTJ or ENTJ personality types. 

I’ve become convinced that INTJs are wired to succeed—if we can just get recognized. What follows are six of the best strategies I’ve learned to do that.


What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test from our partner Personality Hacker.


1. Delegate boring work.

INTJs aren’t good at small repetitive tasks. We thrive when we have interesting, challenging projects to tackle. But we also want things done exactly right. As a result we do all the boring work ourselves instead of trusting someone else to do it. This is a bad habit. It keeps us locked in busy work when we should be tackling big problems.

The answer is to delegate. Delegation is a powerful skill for an INTJ, because it lets you focus your attention on the most important work like strategizing and planning. But not every career lets you delegate the same way. It depends on whether you’re a manager, self-employed, or have a traditional job.

Managers


If you’re a manager, you should already be delegating. Focus your own effort on planning and let your staff do the implementation. Do not engage in the work yourself—instruct, guide, and be clear about exactly what results you expect. Then get out of the way.

Self-employed

If you’re self-employed, get an employee. You can hire a virtual assistant for just a few hours a week. This was a breakthrough moment for me—I write ad copy and PR, and I used to draft everything myself from scratch. Now I hire less experienced writers to do the first draft. I go in and revise things to sound exactly right. This saves me countless hours and lets me focus more on my creative work.

Traditional job

If you have a traditional job with no staff under you, you cannot directly delegate. But there are two things you can do to get boring work off your plate:

  • Actively seek out larger, more challenging projects. Go to the person whose job looks more interesting than yours and ask them how you can help. Now make this work your priority over busy work. For example, a friend of mine decided to automate reports that his office previously did by hand. This was not in his job description. He built a simple computer program and saved his department dozens of hours a week. It led to a promotion and a more interesting job. No one cared that he got behind on email.
  • Make a list of your most annoying non-work tasks. Evaluate how you could fit a housekeeper or virtual assistant into your budget. This is not a luxury, it’s an investment. Spending a small amount of money could buy you a lot more free time for the projects you care about (in or out of work). The same applies to daycare for INTJ parents.

2. Identify the NTJ’s above you.

I don’t know what personality type your boss is. But I do know that somewhere up above them, making major company-wide decisions, is an ENTJ or INTJ. There’s a reason for this—the xNTJ personality types are oriented around getting results.

One of the best career moves you can make is to learn to recognize these types. You don’t have to be 100% accurate. The more you practice—and especially the more you interact with other INTJs—the easier it will become. And you will spot a fair number of us in management positions.

Once you find them, there’s a secret handshake you can use to get their attention. The handshake is showing them what you can do. Remember that plan you came up with for improving the database? The one that your supervisor said was “not what we need to focus on right now”? Email the xNTJ and say, “I just had this idea. I think it will have [specific result] for our department.”

They may or may not use your idea. But if you do this consistently, don’t be surprised if they ask you to come meet with them.

3. Let other personality types promote your work.

If you ask a room full of INTJs what’s holding them back, they give remarkably similar answers:

  • “I’m not good at promoting myself.”
  • “I don’t like networking.”
  • “I don’t have social skills.”

These may be our weaknesses but for other personality types they are strengths. And you probably have at least one extroverted friend. Partner with this person.

The great thing about natural extroverts is that if they like you, they want to talk you up. So ask them to come with you to the networking luncheon or industry happy hour. Let them work the room and wait for the introductions to roll in.

4. Be the smart one.

You can’t always count on a friend to network for you. But you don’t have to learn to be a social butterfly. There are better ways to build the connections you need:

  • Research the people you want to know. Don’t go to an event to meet as many people as possible. That’s an extrovert’s approach. Instead, go with a plan. Look at the speakers, companies, or individuals who will be there and decide who you want to meet. Then research everything about them. Prepare questions to ask and topics to talk about. Your knowledge will make you more interesting, and you’ll focus your effort where it counts.
  • Go to events just to observe. Move from conversation to conversation keeping your ears open for the most interesting person in the room. Then get involved in a conversation. One interesting person is worth a hundred business cards.
  • Don’t fake it. INTJs tend to be experts. We are smart, blunt, and to-the-point. That isn’t popular in every setting but it’s an asset in business. So embrace it. Look for chances to speak from a position of knowledge. Don’t debate or critique, just state your opinion on matters where you have expertise, then let others talk. If you fake being warm and chatty you will end up exhausted, but if you embrace your INTJ strengths you will impress people.

5. Learn to “do” feelings.

At some point in your job you will have to deal with emotions. You might have a sensitive coworker, a wild and passionate boss, or a staff person who gets stressed easily. This is not what we want in our workplace as INTJs. But it’s not something we can avoid.

What we can do is learn to handle it. Penelope Trunk had great advice on this front, too:

“You don’t have to feel feelings. You just have to do feelings.”

When a colleague has strong feelings, the work will not get done until those feelings are acknowledged. The person has to be “heard.” And you can help them feel “heard” without getting touchy-feely:

  • Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to radiate empathy. You just have to rein in your annoyance, sarcasm, or lack of interest.
  • Set a timeframe. People expect their feelings to be valued. But they also understand that there’s work to be done. When a coworker needs to talk about their feelings, say, “I tell you what, I only have 15 minutes, but tell me what’s on your mind.”
  • Listen. Stoically listening does not make you seem cold. It’s actually quite wise.
  • Don’t offer fake comfort. If you’re not good at giving comfort, don’t. It will seem fake. I’ve learned that the best response I can give is often, “I’m sorry. That’s hard.” This expresses understanding without pretending I can make things better.
  • Don’t push solutions. Venting emotions is about getting it out, not putting new ideas in. You may see the underlying problem, or even think it’s easy to solve, but don’t suggest solutions unless they directly ask for them. Even then, tread lightly.



6. Remember the most important step for INTJ success.

I’ve used each of the above steps to help my career. But one thing makes them all more effective: spending time with other INTJs. 

The INTJ personality type is very rare. In your entire life you may only meet a few other people who think like you. So seek them out—particularly mature, successful INTJs. The benefits of conversation within our type are powerful:

  • We’re all just as direct and honest as you are.
  • No one thinks you’re “cold.”
  • INTJs have a lot more shared experiences than we realize.
  • We make great book suggestions. Seriously.
  • Other INTJs have faced the exact same obstacles you have. And they have solutions.

Every week, I check in at a private Facebook group with almost 200 success-oriented INTJs. I found the group through a career course (listed below), and I have never had a more valuable resource.

Resources for INTJ success

These are the resources I’ve used to become more successful:

Career Seminar for INTJs. Our partner Penelope Trunk of Quistic offers a four-part webinar, “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ).” The course addresses hurdles INTJs face in the workplace, business, and with work/life balance. She also teaches you how to “type” other people. Includes access to the private INTJ Facebook group. Learn more about the course.

The Car Model. Our partner Personality Hacker taught me more about my personality than any other website. Their “car model” of the human mind helps you get the most personal growth from your strengths and weaknesses. See their free and paid content for INTJs.

INTJ Community. For a free INTJ forum, check out the INTJ channel on the Introvert, Dear community.

How have you grown as an INTJ? What did you have to learn to become more successful on your career? Do you consider yourself successful now, or do you still face roadblocks? Please leave a comment and tell me your experience. I’d love to talk.  retina_favicon1

 Read this: How to Make Your Ideas Succeed as an INTJ



10 Comments

  • bengadwah says:

    INTJ here trying to find a job in the city. This was very encouraging to read, thank you.

  • […] Read this: 6 ways to succeed in your career as an INTJ personality type […]

  • […] Read this: 6 ways to succeed in your career as an INTJ personality type […]

  • Mzw says:

    Wow, what an insightful and helpful piece, it’s like a how-to guide! When I first started working at my current job, the entj (big boss) didn’t pay much attention to me. It’s been about 18 months now and several of my projects have caught his attention and he has started to seek me out. We click, I don’t know how to explain it, I admire his ability to eloquently impress a room full of people with no prep, while he admires that I have obviously thought things out throughly with clear steps and attention to detail that make sense and are efficient. I like that he gets things done, he likes that I get things done.

    I can see that I have begun to gain his trust, it’s unusual for someone who isn’t a manager to have his attention. He has also talked me up, something that I rarely see him do regarding individual employees. As far as I can tell he is the only entj in our organization. I’m the only intj and I am also female, I wish there were more xntj in our organization, it would help so much and I would love to work with others that are more like minded with similar goals.

    My frustrations currently lie with my direct supervisor above me and her two pet employees who are dysfunctional, irrational and very much sensing and feeling types, who don’t care about details, and jump before thinking, leaving others to clean up after them. I like the advice about dealing with feelings, I need to work on that, as it would help with these issues. Thanks for writing this, I feel as if I’m on the right track!

    • I’m glad it helped, MZW. Can you identify what type your direct supervisor is? This will help you understand her motives in trusting these two dysfunctional employees. (The most likely motive is ego.) But stick with the ENTJ, you will eventually hop above your boss and the ENTJ will help “pull you up” as you go.

  • Mzw says:

    Andre,

    My best guess is that she is ESFJ. I will continue to stick with the entj and grow that relationship. Unfortunately, the only spot, “up” is my ESFJ supervisor’s position and I do not really know if it is what I want or not. What I would like to see is a new position created as a manager in my dept. We only have my dept head now who is the ESFJ. Our dept is the only one without a manager under the dept head and we really need a manager.

    She is overwhelmed (entj and other dept heads pile stuff onto her and she doesn’t know how to say no, which is her biggest weakness) and due to that, has made herself unavailable to her own staff, particularly newly hired staff who are on my team.

    I’ve had to step up to fill those gaps for my team. I am the team lead, but have been reminded several times by her that I am not a manager, yet she tells me, “mzw, you need to make this work!” She is unhappy about it and my gut feeling is she is feeling territorial and miffed at the idea that I fulfill the role that she thought was her role, but she has neglected that role so I stepped in. She is often disorganized and gets details confused, the team sees that and trust that I’m the person who knows all the details of our project, not our supervisor.

    My team is most comfortable coming to me to ask questions, we work closely together and have very open communication. I did not do this to defy her, but to mentor and help my team to succeed, as the title of team lead would imply. We have been through high staff turnover (I have no say in who is hired for my team, my supervisor does the hiring) and in the end, I am the one who ends up having to deal with the consequences of who I get stuck with that my supervisor hires. Two have been great, two are awful (her pets). I honestly feel stuck right now. She seems annoyed that my team has been successful not due to her, but due to a lot of behind the scenes work that *I* have had to fill in and do. I think the entj realizes that I play a strong role in the success of our project, as he directly goes to me when asking questions about our project and I either answer his questions or point him in the direction of which team member he should speak to depending on which part of the project it is. I do not think he woild be surprised with how much I do. However, it concerns me that this came as such a shock to my direct supervisor, she has been blind to this and I have lead this team for 18 months successfully and I guess she thought that it was all due to herself? She seemed to think that everything was running on autopilot and doing just fine… in reality I am the person keeping thr project running and successful. Even our financial stakeholders know this and I am the go to person in the team, not my supervisor.

    I do not go over her head, important matters are brought to her attention, but the vast majority of day to day planning and collaboration for our project is handled by me. The rest of the staff see why I have had to do this and they feel that I do a good job. The staff is afraid to add more to our supervisor’s plate and they’ve seen her get confused about.project details, so they know she does not know as much about the project as I do. At the same time I feel that I am caught in the middle and being shot as the messenger. The Entj probably has no idea about this dynamic between my direct supervisor and myself. She often hides dept issues from his view, she has covered for her two pets dozens of times from him. I just want to do my job and do it well. The fact that my direct supervisor has told me that my standards are too high doesn’t sit well with me, this is what she throws at me to excuse the two coworkers who are low performing…

    • We always have high standards but you’re handling it well. If the financial stakeholders and a higher-up ENTJ know you’re the one driving the department’s success, and half your team loves you, then you’re doing things right.

      My thought: ask the ENTJ to do lunch with you. (Or coffee or whatever seems appropriate; after work drinks might be more up an ENTJ’s alley as long as it doesn’t seem like you intend it to be a date.) When you are one on one, don’t say anything negative about the ESFJ (but if he asks, damn her with faint praise). During the meeting suggest what you want. It could be creating the manager position you suggested. Have two good reasons to back up why this will help the organization.

      If the ENTJ runs with your idea the manager position could get created. Even if it’s not under the ENTJ’s control he will know the person to talk to. But honestly, I see it as more likely that you will either leapfrog above the ESFJ next time something opens higher up, or that you will just replace her in the near future.

      There are a lot of assumptions tied up in those suggestions/predictions but that’s the direction I would expect it to go.

  • MZW says:

    Andre,

    I appreciate your thoughts. So, some more background, about 6 months ago, ESFJ supervisor told me that she had asked ENTJ big boss to create a manager position. He said, “no.” I think that she recognizes that our department needs it. Her biggest problem is that she is too, “nice,” and has played a large role in creating her own situation and she also gives up very easily, and so everyone knows that she is a big pushover. She NEVER says, “no,” So, ENTJ and other dept heads constantly dump work onto her that she keeps accepting, and she spends a lot of time stuck in mtgs, which is not unusual for dept heads, however she also spends an inordinate amount of time with her two low-performing pet employees… who BTW have NOT improved, due to her hand-holding, coddling methods. In fact, her approach has created a co-dependent, enmeshed relationship where she has become emotionally attached to them, since they are needy and everyone else in the dept sees this and are disturbed by the never-ending excuses made for them and outright favoritism.

    Meanwhile, my higher performer team members who are new and SHOULD be getting more of her 1-1 attention, haven’t gotten it. I brought it to her attention last week, and I found out through one of my team members that ESFJ supervisor completely interpreted what I said incorrectly when she got pulled in for a 1-1 (supposed to be weekly, I think that this was the first one she has had in over a month). Apparently, ESFJ thought that I meant that she did not give enough support to team member about one particular project that was just completed.. I did not say that, I meant support in general, esp since this employee is still under new employee probation and she is doing fine, but should be getting more of supervisor’s time… which is why I have taken her and another new team member under my wing to mentor and guide them, as they have been left on their own. New team member told me that knew right away I must have said something, but that ESFJ did not interpret it correctly. I’ve observed that ESFJ supervisor is *only* focused on what is right in front of her nose, and not the big picture, which explains why she thought only of the one project, not support in the general sense, which is what I meant.

    I have expressed my concern to her that the high turnover issues should be a lesson that “we” (even though I meant HER) need to focus on making sure new employees have lots of support and a solid orientation. She got sensitive and said, “MZW, are you trying to say that I do not do a good orientation?” I did not say, “Yes, your orientation is crap.” However, it IS crap! My orientation was half a day of signing forms with HR, then two days of going over some acronyms with ESFJ and then I was left to sink or swim on my own… I have never had a job with no orientation before, but she thinks this is adequate. She is lucky that I have been very successful at my job, but it has been no thanks to her, but to my own critical thinking skills and hard work. I was the only one that lasted the first year, we lost the other two. When we lost the second one (who was a high performing team member, we are still in touch and friendly, I do not blame her for leaving and she has actually been one of my best support people, since she understand exactly what the issues are, having been there herself), I told supervisor more investment needed to be put toward a strong orientation and support for new employees, because I did not want to see this project become a revolving door. She told me, “MZW, I have no control over that.” I felt like shaking her and telling her, “You DO have control over it, show support and mentor your new employees, invest your time in them and set them up for success, not failure!” She does not see it this way at all. I told her I did not want to be a part of a revolving door (staffed) project and she threw it back at me that if I left, then I was just be contributing to the problem! Yet, I am the one who has been left to pick up the pieces each time this happens due to lack of staffing and high turnover, and I do feel like it is her fault. She has not done a good job hiring people, so far only 5 of the 8 that have gone through this project (including ones that are no longer here) are competent, the other 3 were disasters and should never have been hired, and would have caused a lot less stress to the team to never have had to deal with these bad employees to begin with. That along with her lack of mentoring and orientation, it’s almost like she is setting people up for failure.

    Anyway, I am rambling, but back to your suggestion. I don’t know if I feel comfortable asking ENTJ big boss to lunch (he doesn’t really do lunch with employees from what I can tell). I honestly don’t know if I would even want the manager position if it were created, esp with still having to deal with being under ESFJ dept head. I feel like her lack of organization, confusion to details and her supervisory style would still negatively affect me and the staff, as she has a history of letting her dysfunction spill over onto others without even seeming to realize it. She lacks self-awareness.

    So, something new is on my radar. A job just posted in a partner organization that relates to one of my projects. I thought that they had already hired for the position, but probably not, seeing how I just saw it posted a couple days ago. I think that I am so disenchanted at this point, I need to get out. The other position would not be a step up and I would be a program coordinator, and not have a team, but I could focus on, “fixing” a program that I have been trying to fix from the outside, but instead from the inside of the other agency if I took this position. I welcome that challenge, since I know exactly what needs to be fixed, as I’ve helped to identify weaknesses and gaps in their program and system during my work in the past 18 months in my current job. My contact there has even joked several times that I know more about that job, than people in their own organization know about the job.

    If I get an interview and reasonable job offer (unfortunately, there is a chance of a decrease in pay) and leave my current agency, ENTJ will probably want to do an exit interview, as I will be the third person who has left my dept in less than one year. If I leave, I would still like to continue a positive working relationship with him, as it is a partnering organization where I am going. I would consider coming back to his agency again if/when he cleans house and addresses some of the issues I’ve posted about, so that would still be a consideration. I just hope that he will not be offended if I leave I do know that he did not get upset when my last coworker left and did an exit interview with him, he had mentioned just a few weeks ago thta he’d be open to hiring her back (she took a much higher paying job, so I highly doubt it, but like me, she is willing to consider it if the dysfunction is addressed). Some BG, my ESFJ supervisor is probably 2 years away from retirement, but I do not think I can hang on much longer under her and frankly I do not know if I want her position, she has done such a bad job of advocating for herself, that there are so many extra duties attached to her position than there should be. She has set her own self up for failure in many ways.

    When my last coworker quit, she had an exit interview with ENTJ and he did address a couple issues, so I know he is open to feedback from employees who are leaving. When she left, my gut instinct at the time was to walk off of the job. I am not an impulsive person, so it says a lot that it was what I wanted to do. I had to talk myself down and instead promised myself 6 months to see if things got better. It has been almost five months and things are worse, so I do not feel like I’m being irrational to seriously consider leaving. Since then I’ve had to on board 3 new team members, two are thriving, one is incompetent, a drama queen and has a bad attitude and has rejected mentoring. I have expressed my concerns to ESFJ several times and been met with irritation and excuses. The incompetent one is causing all sorts of tension on the team, but she seems to have the backing of ESFJ. I have been looking for another position, but my field is not well represented in my area, so there are very few opportunities.

    I even asked our funders last week if there were any jobs opening up, and my contact there (that I trust to keep things on the down low) said that within the next few months they would be posting a job for a position that they’ve struggled to hire for and people keep quitting since it’s difficult. However, I have proven myself to the funders and my contact said she would let me know when the job posts, so I would have a good chance at the job, as I have the licensure/certification needed and a proven track record. However, that job requires over an hr commute each way and would affect my family life negatively (I am married with young children). So, maybe all of this strife at my current job is a sign that I need to bow out and step out of my current agency and spread my wings elsewhere.

  • At my last job (legal document services), instead of using an extroverted friend to promote me, I studied a coworker ENTJ’s approach and emulated it in short spurts/emails. It took a bit of fine tuning.

    I had the pleasure of working with at least two other INTJ females and a couple of INFJs. I’m pretty certain our service line’s director is a female ENTJ. It was eye-opening to watch my coworkers respond to her.

  • Toni Webb says:

    Great article, thank you!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply