5 Ways INFPs Can Thrive in Extroverted Jobs

An INFP in an extroverted job

INFPs may not be the most vocal people in the room, but their listening skills and empathy are often welcomed. 

INFPs are a small minority, constituting about 4-5 percent of the population. Think about it like this: If you meet a hundred people, only four of them will be a fellow INFP like you! 

The fact that we are so idealistic, warm, creative, and full of empathy and love makes me think that the world cannot handle more than a few of us. We are like Superman. Whoa, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, as we also tend to be cranky, unfocused, and self-isolating. 

The truth is, I would be perfectly happy to be on my couch reading books all day (and night). If food and income could be taken care of — and I never had to leave the house — future generations would probably find my skeletal remains right there on my sofa. 

However, we all need to earn a living. No matter what kind of job an INFP gets — working on their own or as part of a team — it is highly likely that some part (or most, to be precise) would involve people. And it is a bit ironic (if not downright messed up) that even with such superhuman levels of empathy, we generally can’t stand to be in the midst of people. That’s like Superman having a fear of heights.

I have had a good career (more than a decade of it), and when I look back, much of it was spent in extroverted environments — and in extroverted roles. Here are five ways INFPs can thrive in such jobs.

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5 Ways INFPs Can Thrive in Extroverted Jobs

1. Find a mentor to be your ally, as well as to help you grow in your career.

More often than not, work conversations are transactional, and INFPs like more relational things. Small talk is not our forte — we long for deep, meaningful conversations. Yet not liking to engage in small talk can become problematic when we want to be considered for leadership roles.

Plus, INFPs like to feel that our work has purpose and meaning… and that’s where getting a mentor comes into play. In my first job, just by sheer luck, I found one. With him, the conversations ranged from philosophical ones to future-oriented ones — and he also helped me overcome the mundaneness of the work.  It was easy to talk to him about anything. Our conversations made him see my potential, and he helped me grow in my career. He was a Superman who wasn’t afraid of heights, an introvert who used his empathy to listen without judging, and then to help when help was asked for. 

Mentors are essential. Superman needed a Lois Lane to become accepted and liked by people who were otherwise afraid of him. It may feel that the world is run by boisterous people — hello, extroverts! — but look around and you may be pleasantly surprised. You will find many introverts successfully navigating the extroverted world. Find them. They don’t have to be in a higher position than you, either. They can be a work colleague or anyone whom you admire and who can help cheer you on. 

2. Be well-prepared for everything, from work lunches to meetings.

It is a given that we do not like talking when put on the spot and that we process our thoughts a lot before we actually speak. What is also a given is that meetings are often inevitable in the workplace, just like death and taxes are in life. This means you have to deal with a lot of different personality types when it comes to your colleagues, managers, and clients.

At first, I would attend meetings mechanically, mostly taking notes and trying to avoid conversations. I had a lot on my mind that could have been (and should have been) spoken — but I’d say nothing. My manager (who was also my mentor) noticed and talked to me after a few meetings. What he told me that day changed my career around. “I gather you do not like speaking up on the spot since you want to think before giving your opinion. So I suggest you prepare well beforehand. Look at the meeting agenda, jot down your thoughts on what might come up during the meeting, gather data, talk to a few colleagues, and you’ll be all set.”

As introverts, we don’t like spontaneity — and the antidote to this is to prepare well. Since then, I have taken his advice to heart and have found myself participating more, all because I started to plan in advance. And this can apply to more than just meetings. It can apply to lunches with colleagues and even small talk in the break room, too.

3. Befriend a detail-oriented colleague.

While Superman is not really afraid of heights, he sure is wary of kryptonite. For INFPs, details are their kryptonite while foresight is a strength. We can see patterns where others can’t, and this helps us a lot when it comes to planning and strategizing. 

I had already understood this fact before I grew in my job and started managing teams. I made sure that some people on my team were operational and loved details as much as I hated them — and they became indispensable to the productivity of the team. 

What if you do not have a team? Well, find a detail-oriented colleague to look over your work before submitting it. In return, you can help them with their “kryptonite.”

4. Use your superpower of empathy.

While in a work meeting with my colleagues, my manager said this about me, “Initially, I thought he was a silent guy who was more into himself and his work. But, before long, many of you were turning to him for advice.”

The solitude-loving nature of an INFP is often misunderstood, but our empathy is often welcomed. The workplace is not easy — there’s the pressure of deadlines, bitter colleagues, repetitive work… 

The extroverts get stressed, too, and seem to appreciate an empathic ear. And trust me, there is no ear as sympathetic and empathetic as that of an INFP. People have confided in me much more than I thought they ever would, and about all kinds of deep topics. Oftentimes, they don’t need a solution to a problem — they just need someone to listen. Over the years, empathy has won me a lot more hearts than any other INFP trait of mine.

5. Make time to recharge, both during and after work.

Even though you may try some of the above, there will be times when nothing works and situations will be beyond your control. This has happened to me more times than I care to remember. But what saved me in those desperate times was the environment I created — before and after work.

It was not always possible for me to make an INFP-friendly environment at work, but at home, I always made sure to have one. A cozy (read: messy) home, a worn-out couch, an old table, a faded sofa, and loads and loads of books — my very own “introvert zen zone.” Even if I couldn’t make the entire house one, I ensured that a small part of the house remained true to my INFP needs. In this fortress, I would recharge in the company of great books, music, and deep, long conversations with my family.

So find your fortress, as recharging is a must for us.

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