Why Intuitive Introverts Must Have Meaningful Work

The INFJ, INTJ, INFP, and INTP are wary of jobs that feel like “selling out” or “selling their soul” for the sake of a paycheck.

If you’ve ever dreamed of finding your life’s “calling” — and doing more than just earning a paycheck — you’re far from alone. If you’re an introvert, especially an intuitive personality type, you probably have a strong need for meaningful, intrinsically-rewarding work.

What are “intuitive introverts?” In the Myers-Briggs system, they are the four-letter personality types that start with “IN,” specifically the INFJ, INTJ, INFP, and INTP. (If you’re not sure of your personality type, you can take a free assessment here.)

Here’s why these four introverts in particular crave meaningful work — and what they can do if they haven’t found it yet.

Why Intuitive Introverts Crave Meaningful Work

Being introverts, the INFJ, INTJ, INFP, and INTP have brains that are naturally wired to be more sensitive to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine than extroverts. As a result, they simply don’t crave the same things that extroverts chase, like financial rewards and social status. Sure, introverts want a good paycheck, and they’d love to get that promotion, but the difference is they tend not to seek these things out in and of themselves.

What’s more, on account of their personality preferences, intuitive introverts have an innate need to identify and hold firm to their own values and convictions, explains Personality Junkie blogger Dr. A. J. Drenth. They crave authenticity — staying true to their core self — and may be wary of what feels like “selling out” or “selling their soul” for the sake of a paycheck.

To be clear, this isn’t to say that ISFJs, ISFPs, ISTJs, and ISTPs (the “sensing” introverts) don’t want their jobs to be meaningful as well. SJ types, who feel best when they accomplish concrete tasks, especially want to know their efforts are producing results. The key difference is, sensors don’t have as high a need for authenticity compared to intuitives, according to Dr. Drenth.

Similarly, extroverts can desire meaningful work too. However, for intuitive introverts, that need tends to be a driving force that they attempt to organize their entire lives around, and do not feel satisfied until they accomplish it.

(However, as always, keep in mind that personality type is only one factor in helping you understand yourself, and no person fits perfectly into any “box”).

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

Introverts Look Inward to Find Direction

As any intuitive introvert can tell you, finding the right career can be a difficult, drawn-out process. No job is ever perfect, and what’s more, what may seem ideal to us at one stage of our lives can change at another. So, it’s not unusual for intuitive introverts to choose a career path, settle in, then later decide it wasn’t right for them after all. Often, this cycle repeats itself many times before something sticks.

Especially at a young age, intuitive introverts may feel they must discover exactly what it is they have to offer the world before they can choose a meaningful career path — which unfortunately runs counter to how our Western educational system is set up. As introverts, they naturally turn inward, trusting themselves and their convictions more than they trust the external world.

Dr. Drenth explains this phenomenon in his e-book, My True Type. “They see self-knowledge as a prerequisite to authentic action,” he writes. “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.”

The good news? Once intuitive introverts have a strong sense of who they are, many feel they can be happy almost anywhere.

Extroverts, on the other hand, being more “outward” personalities, tend to look to the external world for inspiration and direction. Many of them are naturally more concerned with fitting in, keeping pace with what others are doing, or following trends. Although this may seem shallow to the intuitive introvert, it does help them more quickly choose a career path and reach certain financial milestones.

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Self-Knowledge Takes Time

If you’re an intuitive introvert, you don’t need me to tell you the downside of trying to discover who you are: It can take a long time, and be a moving target. At times, it can feel like stumbling around in a dark room where the walls are constantly shifting. Unfortunately, many introverts eventually feel forced to make certain choices or settle for a job that’s far from ideal. As adults, we all have bills to pay, after all.

Then they may experience a sort of divided life comprised of their “day job,” on the one hand, and their true passions on the other. Picture an English tutor by day, and an aspiring author by night.

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. As much as they are “inward” personalities, without that external validation, they may feel incomplete, unable to reconcile their inner self with the outward 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 meaningful work and you haven’t found it yet, 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 authentically 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. Jenn is a contributor to Psychology Today, HuffPost, Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution, Upworthy, The Mighty, The Muse, Motherly, and a number of other outlets. She has appeared on the BBC and in Buzzfeed and Glamour magazine. Jenn started Introvert, Dear because she wanted to write about what it was like being an introvert living in an extrovert's world. Now she's on a mission: to let introverts everywhere know it's okay to be who they are.