I recently came across a sentence that arrested my attention. Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron, in their book, Do What You Are, wrote that INFJs “prefer to focus in great depth on one thing at a time, which can result in periods of single-mindedness.”
It stopped me in my tracks and made me think about the kind of work that I, as an INFJ personality, really love. And when I say “work I love,” I’m not talking about the things I have to do just to pay the bills. I’m referring to the kinds of things that bring me to life — like researching, synthesizing, and creating.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
As the quote suggests, I love work that allows me to focus deeply on one thing at a time, and it’s usually something that’s project-based in nature. If you’re an INFJ (or a similar personality type, like an INTJ), I’m guessing that you, too, enjoy deep-dive projects for the focus they afford you.
So what kind of project-based work really fires up an INFJ? In my work with INFJs as a career coach, I’ve identified five things this personality type needs. When an INFJ’s job allows them to do these things on a consistent basis — or when they have hobbies or side projects that do the same — they’ll feel fulfilled with their work, because their natural talents are being put to good use.
The Kind of Work That Excites an INFJ
1. Research that leads to learning something new
In the driver’s seat of our personality is a cognitive function — or mindset — known as Introverted Intuition (called Ni for short). Ni is an information-gathering mindset that seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe (yes, really). It longs to know why and explore deeply, so this mindset leads INFJs into constant, thorough research — especially of subjects that interest them. (The same goes for INTJs, who also have Introverted Intuition as their dominant cognitive function.) It’s why, as an INFJ, one of my five StrengthsFinder strengths is “learner.”
Every INFJ knows that a good project starts with research because you can’t create until you’ve gathered enough ideas and information to do the work right. A great project is research-driven and well-thought-out, and INFJs get a lot of joy out of digging in and learning something new — especially when it relates to the arts and humanities.
2. Getting to be creative
Creative projects call for original, out-of-the-box thinking. To be a success, a creative project needs to be novel and interesting. Generating new, never-been-thought-of-before ideas is an INFJ strength, too.
This is because Ni excels at making connections. And creativity boils down to making connections that no one else has made before — at least not in this exact way. Creativity is about combining seemingly unrelated ideas. When working on a project, INFJs harness their Ni to transition seamlessly from research to connecting ideas.
3. Projects that lead to a deep state of flow
What most people are looking for in their creative ventures and in their work, in general, is a state of flow where their minds are “firing on all cylinders.” They need the right balance of challenge and interest that leave them so caught up in the moment that they lose track of time. Projects do this for INFJs.
Projects in a quiet setting with plenty of time and space to think afford us the opportunity to solve problems, create, synthesize, and envision. We need the quiet because, although we love people, we’re introverts. Too much stimulation will drain us and send us into shut-down mode, but just the right amount leads to a state of flow, where we’re completely immersed in what we’re doing and loving it. Again, the secret is to focus deeply on one thing at a time.
4. Projects that provide freedom and autonomy
When you’re working on a project, you can work with other people, or you can work by yourself. If what you’re working on is your own creative endeavor — and not one a supervisor has assigned you — you can work on it when you want, where you want, and how you want.
This is the ultimate trifecta. I didn’t realize how important these three things were to me — and a lot of INFJs — until recently.
When I do work, I want the freedom to control “the process and the product,” as the authors of Do What You Are put it. I like to have complete creative control and to be able to make something that measures up to my INFJ standards. In too many other areas of life, external pressures force me to work in noisy environments with lots of people making subpar products, so when I get to work in quiet, by myself, making something I’m proud of, it’s a very satisfying thing. Can you say the same for yourself?
5. Projects that lead to a sense of accomplishment
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Everyone enjoys a sense of accomplishment, but for INFJs (and other “judging” personality types), it’s absolutely crucial. Despite the fact that we INFJs are largely open-minded learners, we can’t overlook the “J” at the end of our four-letter personality — we are, in the end, judgers who like to get stuff done, and we won’t be content sitting on creative ideas indefinitely. Unlike endless recurring tasks and chores, projects end. And when they do, we can see and enjoy the final product. We also get to check the project off as “complete.”
When I started my blog about INFJs, wrote a book about INFJs, and launched a podcast with Introvert, Dear co-founder Jenn Granneman, those were big moments for me, ones I look back on with satisfaction and gratitude. Have you created or finished something you look back on with delight? Finished projects are milestones, confidence boosters, and motivators for the future. I guarantee they’ll feed your INFJ heart.
You might like:
- Why Intuitive Introverts Need Meaningful Work
- INFJ: 6 Therapist Tips to Express Your Emotions (When You Don’t Want to Rock the Boat)
- 4 Curious Traits of the Enigmatic INFJ
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