Want to work for yourself? Draw on the strengths of your introverted Myers-Briggs personality type.
Thanks to COVID-19, there are now several million fewer jobs in the United States than there were back in February 2020. You might be one of those statistics, but if not, you almost certainly know someone who is.
And whether you are just setting out on your career or getting nearer to retirement, jobs can be hard to come by. It’s hardly surprising then that many people are considering starting their own business. But where does that leave people who are introverts? Surely, most entrepreneurs are loud, assertive extraverts — and the louder and more assertive they are, the more successful, right? If you are an introvert, is it even worthwhile considering striking out on your own?
Well, yes. And, no, being loud and assertive does not equate to entrepreneurial success.
In fact, some of the most famous entrepreneurs show all the signs of being introverts. In research that we carried out a couple of years ago here at The Myers-Briggs Company, we found that introverts are just as effective as entrepreneurs as extraverts are. Though extraverts were a little more likely to become entrepreneurs, there was no significant difference in financial performance between businesses started by introverts and those started by extraverts.
But our research found that introverts and extraverts did have quite different strengths (and possible weaknesses). If you are an introvert thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, it might help to know what those are! Here are the likely strengths, and some actionable tips, for introverts becoming entrepreneurs based on their Myers-Briggs personality type.
The Conserver: ISTJ and ISFJ (Introverted Sensing)
For Conservers — ISTJs and ISFJs — the past is a living, breathing thing. They rely on their rich, deep memories of past experience to make sense of the world and plan their actions. There is no one reason as to why Conservers decide to become entrepreneurs, though they are a little more likely than others to have done so for contingent reasons, such as being laid off from a previous job. Many do, however, go it alone for more positive reasons, such as having a greater degree of autonomy.
- structured, organized, detail-conscious, see quality as important
- able to draw on past experience, knowledgeable
- reliable, hard-working, deliver on schedule
On the other hand, you likely prefer tried and tested solutions, may be risk-averse, and may find the uncertainty of setting up a business stressful. In fact, one ISFJ in our study described their weak spot as an entrepreneur as “too much thinking and not enough action.”
More than any other personality type, Conservers will rely on their past experience. As an entrepreneur, they will want to build on this, and so the type of business they create will tend to depend on their existing skills and knowledge rather than something radically new and different.
- independent accountant, or financial analyst or advisor
- genealogist, family historian
- Try new things, and seize any and all opportunities
- Spend some (but not all) your time on building a network of contacts
- Consider how you can structure your work or set up a “safety net” to deal with unexpected situations. This could include, for example, contingency planning, having friends you could consult with, or creating a database of relevant information.
The Visionary: INFJ and INTJ (Introverted Intuition)
Visionaries — INFJs and INTJs — are ideas people… on the inside. They have a rich inner vision, a world of connections and possibilities that is only rarely revealed to other people. A great many Visionaries have thought about becoming an entrepreneur, and many have taken the plunge. The businesses they have started are quite varied in their purpose and industry sector, but there is one common theme. Many start with an innovative new idea, and those that are successful allow the Visionary to follow their passion and keep being creative. This is typically something that most felt was lacking in their previous jobs.
- tenacious, persistent, and work hard till the job is done
- able to enjoy creative problem-solving and constructing a vision
- often able to draw on a high level of personal integrity
However, you may sometimes struggle to describe the vision that you have in your head. So before you start, thoroughly think through how you’re going to do this, mapping it out visually for yourself and practicing your elevator pitch, if necessary. If you are looking for someone to help finance your business, they may require facts, data, and short, to-the-point explanations. Additionally, promoting or marketing yourself may sap your energy, so explore all of the different ways in which this can be achieved, and look for ways you can leverage technology to automate certain tasks.
- Don’t overthink the negative possibilities in a situation.
- Remember that other people can have ideas, too.
- Don’t forget to share your own vision — even if it’s not quite complete yet.
The Analyst: ISTP and INTP (Introverted Thinking)
For Analysts — ISTPs and INTPs — the desire for autonomy and being your own boss are often the most important reasons for becoming an entrepreneur. If they are allowed to, Analysts will spend much of their time organizing their thoughts and logically analyzing problems for themselves until they understand all the issues. Also, they may or may not remember to communicate their decisions to anyone else.
- brings a logical, objective focus to problems
- is flexible, adaptable, and open to new ideas or experiences
- will often have deep expertise or competence in a specific area
However, you might not enjoy networking or promoting yourself, but this is a necessary evil for a new entrepreneur and needs to be done. Think of this “ask” as a challenge to be solved. And when you make a decision, don’t forget to tell others that you have done so!
- independent researcher/consultant
- You might want to put off “boring” administrative tasks and do something more interesting instead, but resist this temptation. (The admin does have to be done!)
- Try to avoid being too internally focused — check out what’s going on in the outside world and make connections with others, even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone.
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The Conscience: ISFP and INFP (Introverted Feeling)
The most important thing in life for the Conscience types — ISFPs and INFPs — is to live in a way that fits with their values, and in so doing, helps them reach inner harmony. They will find it difficult to do anything that is at odds with this. ISFPs and INFPs often cite reasons like “making a difference,” “living and breathing my values,” “wanting to help people,” or “doing something I am passionate about” when stating why they became entrepreneurs. Some also become self-employed in order to better meet their family’s needs: either financially or by being able to be more flexible.
- strong underlying principles and values
- the ability to connect well with others, especially on a one-to-one basis
- able to build success from a specific skill or knowledge area
However, be aware that you may procrastinate, especially to avoid conflict. If possible, avoid taking on work that goes against your values; if you do, this may expend your energy and interfere with other work. Ultimately, it may be better to turn down work from someone you do not trust than to take it on to the detriment of other projects.
- landscape architect/garden designer
- life coach
- Think of how you can build trust and rapport on an individual basis, like by identifying your values and seeking out people who seem to have these values, too.
- Think of people you connect with, consider what it is about them you like, and make connections with similar people.
You can download these tips here.
The Key to Success: Hard Work and Self-Awareness
Our research shows that it is not extraversion or introversion that really influences whether people choose to start their own business, but two other aspects of personality. People with MBTI type preferences for Intuition and Perceiving are more likely to become entrepreneurs, especially if they want to be their own boss, are happy to take risks, and see themselves as creative.
But whatever your personality type, a desire to become an entrepreneur is not the same as success. That is more likely to come from hard work, a degree of competitive ambition, and recognizing your individual strengths and possible blind spots.
Of course, starting your own business is a big step, and many people may start by being self-employed contractors or gig workers, or freelancers carrying out short-term jobs or contracts. This is another area where we have carried out research, and in a future article I will be sharing tips for introverted gig workers.
You might like:
- Self-Employed Career Ideas for Introverts Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type
- 7 Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs to Succeed in an Extroverted World
- These Are the Ideal Careers for Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type
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