Why Intuitive Introverts Need Meaningful Work

IntrovertDear.com intuitive introverts meaningful work

If you’ve ever dreamed of more than just earning a paycheck — and instead embarking on your life’s calling — you’re far from alone. That’s because many introverts, especially introverted intuitive personality types, have a strong need for meaningful, intrinsically-rewarding work that allows them to act authentically.

Of course, many extroverts also crave meaningful work. However, for introverts, that feeling is often even more intense. That’s likely due to introverts being more sensitive to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine than extroverts. As a result, they just don’t crave the same things that extroverts chase, like popularity, money, and status. Sure, they want a good paycheck, too, and they’d love to get that promotion, but introverts tend not to seek these things out in and of themselves.

What makes matters worse is other people may not understand the introvert’s need for authenticity on the job. This may lead well-meaning friends or family members to pressure them to take the faster or more traditional route to financial success. (“Why don’t you become a lawyer like your father!”) Once again, introverts are left feeling alone, isolated, and misunderstood.

What role does personality type play in the introvert’s need for meaningful work, and how can introverts discover authenticity on the job? Let’s take a closer look.

The Role of Personality Type

The need for meaningful work tends to be especially strong among individuals who identify as one of the four introverted intuitive personality types in the Myers-Briggs system, i.e. an INFJ, INFP, INTJ, or INTP.

Intuitive introverts have an innate need to identify and hold firm to their own preferences and convictions. They’re wary of “selling out” or “selling their soul” just for the sake of a paycheck, explains Personality Junkie blogger Dr. A. J. Drenth.

This isn’t to say that ISFJs, ISFPs, ISTJs, and ISTPs (the “sensing” introverts) don’t want their jobs to be meaningful as well. Sensing introverts want to do something that matters, too — and SJ types especially want to know that they’re getting results. The key difference is, sensors don’t have as high a need for authenticity compared to intuitives, according to Dr. Drenth.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

Of course, when it comes to personality type, always keep in mind that a system like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator only describes a person’s general characteristics, so things may be different for you, depending on your circumstances. You might be an INFJ who’s completely content with your traditional 9-5 job because you see how your routine work helps advance a greater cause. Or maybe you’re an ISFP who feels stifled in your career and dreams of a job that allows you to pursue your own creative interests. Personality type is only one factor in explaining why some people crave meaningful work.

Look Inward to Find Direction

Finding the right career can be a difficult, drawn-out process for intuitive introverts. It’s not unusual for them to choose one, settle in, then later change their minds and decide it wasn’t the right path for them after all. Often, this cycle repeats many times before they’ve found their calling.

Especially at a young age, intuitive introverts tend to feel they must discover exactly what it is they have to offer the world before they can choose a meaningful career path. As introverts, they turn inward, trusting themselves and their convictions more than they trust the external world.

“They see self-knowledge as a prerequisite to authentic action,” writes Dr. Drenth in his eBook, My True Type. “Without an adequate map of themselves, they feel lost and aimless. For them, external circumstances are far less important than self-understanding and self-direction.”

But once they have a strong sense of who they are and what they should be doing, they feel they can be happy almost anywhere.

Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to look to the external world for inspiration and direction. Many of them are naturally more concerned with fitting in or keeping pace with what others are doing. As a result, extroverts are often quicker to choose a career path — and may be quicker to reach certain financial milestones.

Self-Knowledge Takes Time

If you’re an intuitive introvert, you know the downside of trying to discover who you are — it can take a long time. Clearly defining yourself and your career path can feel like stumbling around in the dark or shooting at a constantly moving target.

Eventually, many introverts are feel forced to make certain choices or settle for a job that’s far from ideal.

They may experience a sort of divided life comprised of their “day job,” on the one hand, and their true passions on the other. This situation is common and often unavoidable, but it’s still extremely frustrating for intuitive introverts who want their inner self to be accurately reflected outwardly, where it can be seen, appreciated, and validated by others.

Without that external validation, intuitive introverts may feel incomplete, being unable to reconcile their inner self with the persona they show to the world.

Meaningful Career Ideas for Introverts

So what’s an intuitive introvert to do?

Unfortunately, there’s no quick answer or even one definite path to success. But if you’re looking for your calling, one solution is to consider a creative or entrepreneurial career that gives you plenty of independence. Many introverts thrive in self-made positions that involve writing, music, design, technology, coaching, or consulting — really, anything that allows them to share their inner world and interact meaningfully with others.

Creative work allows individuals to “harness their emotions without getting lost in them, not only producing something beautiful but discovering who they are,” suggest Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, authorities on the Enneagram and authors of the book Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. “In the moment of inspiration, they are, paradoxically, both most themselves and most liberated from themselves.” 

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Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.