6 Essential Tips for INTJ Career Success

an INTJ heads to work

For the INTJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, one of our biggest goals is often career success. INTJs value this kind of success because it offers measurable proof of our ideas in action. Unfortunately, we face roadblocks in the workplace that other personality types don’t. So how can you tap into your INTJ strengths to succeed?

For the past year, I’ve studied ways to be more successful as an INTJ. I took courses, read books, and spent as much time as possible with others who have succeeded. One of the most stunning things I learned came from career coach Penelope Trunk, CEO of Quistic: almost all top business leaders are INTJ or ENTJ personality types. And other research shows that INTJs are among the highest earning introverted personality types.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

I’ve become convinced that INTJs have what it takes to succeed — if we can just get recognized in our extrovert-obsessed workplaces. Here are six strategies I’ve learned to do just that.

Career Tips for INTJs

1. Delegate repetitive tasks.

As big-picture thinkers, most INTJs aren’t good at small repetitive tasks. We thrive when we have interesting, challenging projects to tackle. But as perfectionists, we also want things done exactly right. As a result, we may find ourselves doing all the boring work ourselves instead of trusting someone else to do it.

But this is a bad habit, and one INTJs need to break if they want to succeed. It keeps us locked in busy work when we should be tackling bigger problems.

The answer is to delegate. Delegation is a powerful skill for an INTJ, because it lets you focus your attention on the most important work like strategizing and planning. But not every career lets you delegate the same way. It depends on whether you’re a manager, self-employed, or have a traditional job:

Managers

If you’re a manager, you should already be delegating! Focus your own effort on planning, and let your staff do the implementation. Whenever possible, do not engage in the work yourself — instruct, guide, and be clear about exactly what results you expect. Then get out of the way.

Self-employed

If you’re self-employed, consider getting an employee. You can hire a virtual assistant for just a few hours a week. This was a breakthrough moment for me — I write ad copy and PR, and I used to draft everything myself from scratch. Now I hire less experienced writers to do the first draft. I go in and revise things to sound exactly right. This saves me countless hours and lets me focus more on my creative work (something I deeply value).

Traditional job

If you have a traditional job with no staff under you, you cannot directly delegate. But there are two things you can do to get repetitive work off your plate:

  • Actively seek out larger, more challenging projects. One strategy is to go to the person whose job looks more interesting than yours and ask them how you can help. Now make this work your priority over busy work. For example, a friend of mine decided to automate reports that his office previously did by hand — even though this was not in his job description. He built a simple computer program and saved his department dozens of hours a week. It led to a promotion and a more interesting job. No one cared that he got behind on email.
  • Make a list of your most annoying non-work tasks. Evaluate how you could fit a housekeeper, virtual assistant, or childcare into your budget. Don’t think of it as a luxury, think of it as an investment. Spending a small amount of money could buy you a lot more free time for the projects you actually care about (in or out of work).

2. Identify the successful people above you.

I don’t know what personality type your boss is. But probably somewhere up above them, making major company-wide decisions, is an ENTJ or INTJ. There’s a reason for this — the NJ personality types are oriented around getting results.

One of the best career moves you can make is to learn to recognize other successful people. Once you find them, there’s a secret handshake you can use to get their attention. The handshake is showing them what you can do. Remember that plan you came up with for improving the database? The one that your supervisor said was “not what we need to focus on right now”? Email them and say, “I just had this idea. I think it will have [specific result] for our department.”

They may or may not use your idea. But if you do this consistently, don’t be surprised if they ask you to come meet with them.

3. Partner with extroverts.

If you ask INTJs what’s holding them back (which I did, via an INTJ Facebook group), they give remarkably similar answers:

  • “I’m not good at promoting myself.”
  • “I don’t like networking.”
  • “I don’t have social skills.”

These may be our weaknesses, but for other personality types (especially extroverted ones), they are strengths. Partner with these people.

The great thing about natural extroverts is that if they like you, they usually want to talk you up. So ask them to come with you to the networking lunch or industry happy hour. Let them work the room and wait for the introductions to roll in.

4. At networking events, be the smart one.

You can’t always count on a friend to network for you. But you don’t have to learn to be a social butterfly. There are better ways to build the connections you need:

  • Research the people you want to know. Don’t go to an event to meet as many people as possible — that’s an extrovert’s approach. Instead, go with a plan. Look at the speakers, companies, or individuals who will be there and decide who you want to meet. Then research everything about them. Prepare questions to ask and topics to talk about. Your knowledge will make you more interesting, and you’ll focus your effort where it counts.
  • Go to events just to observe. Move from conversation to conversation keeping your ears open for the most interesting person in the room. Then get involved in a conversation. The right connection is worth a hundred business cards.
  • Don’t fake it. Because INTJs love learning, we tend to be experts in certain subjects. We are also smart, blunt, and to-the-point. That isn’t popular in every setting, but it’s an asset in business. So embrace it. Look for chances to speak from a position of knowledge. Don’t debate or critique, just state your opinion on matters where you have expertise, then let others talk. When you embrace your INTJ strengths, you will impress people.

5. Learn to “do” feelings.

INTJs are known for being reserved emotionally. Yes, we do have emotions, but for us, it’s a private matter. For example, it’s extremely rare to catch us gushing our happiness or crying when we’re upset.

But as every INTJ knows, at some point, you will have to deal with emotions on the job. You might have a sensitive coworker, a wild and passionate boss, or a staff person who gets stressed easily. This is not what we want in our workplace as INTJs, but it’s not usually something we can avoid.

What we can do is learn to handle it. Penelope Trunk had great advice on this front, too:

“You don’t have to feel feelings. You just have to do feelings.”

I’ve learned from experience that when a colleague has strong feelings, the work will not get done until those emotions are acknowledged. The person needs to feel heard. And you can help them feel heard, even if you don’t want to get touchy-feely:

  • Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to radiate empathy, but make sure to rein in any annoyance, sarcasm, or lack of interest.
  • Set a timeframe. People want their feelings to be valued (yes, even INTJs!). But on the job, they also understand that there’s work to be done. When a coworker needs to talk about their feelings, say, “I tell you what, I only have 15 minutes, but tell me what’s on your mind.”
  • Listen. Stoically listening does not make you seem cold. It’s actually quite wise.
  • Don’t offer fake comfort. If you’re not good at giving comfort, don’t. It will seem fake. I’ve learned that the best response I can give is often, “I’m sorry. That’s hard.” This expresses understanding without pretending I can make things better.
  • Don’t push solutions. Venting emotions is about getting them out, not about putting new ideas in. As an INTJ, you likely see the underlying problem, or even think it’s easy to solve — but don’t suggest solutions unless they directly ask for them. Even then, tread lightly.

6. Remember the most important step for INTJ success.

I’ve used each of the above steps to help my career. But one thing makes them all more effective: spending time with other like-minded people. 

The INTJ personality type is very rare. In your entire life, you may only meet a few other people who think like you. So seek them out — particularly people who are mature and successful. They don’t have to be INTJs; we can also click with other intuitive types such as INFJs, INTPs, or even ENTPs.

But if you do find other INTJs, the benefits of conversation within our type can be powerful:

  • We’re all just as direct and honest as you are.
  • No one thinks you’re “cold.”
  • INTJs have a lot more shared experiences than we realize.
  • We make great book recommendations. Seriously.
  • Other INTJs have faced similar obstacles you have. And they have solutions.

Every week, I check in at a private Facebook group with almost 200 success-oriented INTJs. I found the group through Penelope Trunk’s career course for INTJs, “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ),” but there are free options out there as well.

INTJ, what did you have to learn to become more successful in your career? Please leave a comment and tell me your experience. I’d love to talk.

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Andre Sólo is an advocate for introverts and highly sensitive people, and the co-founder of Highly Sensitive Refuge. He writes about heroism, spirituality, introversion, and using travel as a transformative practice. In 2013, he released Lúnasa Days, a novella set at the height of the Great Recession. Reviewers have described Lúnasa Days as "a masterpiece of magical realism." In his spare time, he pesters his cats, makes up stories, and swears he's fixing his bicycle.