Last week I wrote about what holds INTJs back from achieving our goals. But to someone of the INTJ personality, the biggest goal is often career success. INTJs value this kind of success because it offers measurable proof of our competence. Unfortunately, we also 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.
I’ve become convinced that INTJs are wired to succeed—if we can just get recognized. What follows are six of the best strategies I’ve learned to do that.
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1. Delegate boring work.
INTJs aren’t good at small repetitive tasks. We thrive when we have interesting, challenging projects to tackle. But we also want things done exactly right. As a result we do all the boring work ourselves instead of trusting someone else to do it. This is a bad habit. It keeps us locked in busy work when we should be tackling big 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.
If you’re a manager, you should already be delegating. Focus your own effort on planning and let your staff do the implementation. Do not engage in the work yourself—instruct, guide, and be clear about exactly what results you expect. Then get out of the way.
If you’re self-employed, get 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.
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 boring work off your plate:
- Actively seek out larger, more challenging projects. 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. 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 or virtual assistant into your budget. This is not a luxury, it’s an investment. Spending a small amount of money could buy you a lot more free time for the projects you care about (in or out of work). The same applies to daycare for INTJ parents.
2. Identify the NTJ’s above you.
I don’t know what personality type your boss is. But I do know that somewhere up above them, making major company-wide decisions, is an ENTJ or INTJ. There’s a reason for this—the xNTJ personality types are oriented around getting results.
One of the best career moves you can make is to learn to recognize these types. You don’t have to be 100% accurate. The more you practice—and especially the more you interact with other INTJs—the easier it will become. And you will spot a fair number of us in management positions.
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 the xNTJ 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. Let other personality types promote your work.
If you ask a room full of INTJs what’s holding them back, 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 they are strengths. And you probably have at least one extroverted friend. Partner with this person.
The great thing about natural extroverts is that if they like you, they want to talk you up. So ask them to come with you to the networking luncheon or industry happy hour. Let them work the room and wait for the introductions to roll in.
4. 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. One interesting person is worth a hundred business cards.
- Don’t fake it. INTJs tend to be experts. We are 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. If you fake being warm and chatty you will end up exhausted, but if you embrace your INTJ strengths you will impress people.
5. Learn to “do” feelings.
At some point in your job you will have to deal with emotions. 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 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.”
When a colleague has strong feelings, the work will not get done until those feelings are acknowledged. The person has to be “heard.” And you can help them feel “heard” without getting touchy-feely:
- Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to radiate empathy. You just have to rein in your annoyance, sarcasm, or lack of interest.
- Set a timeframe. People expect their feelings to be valued. But 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 it out, not putting new ideas in. You may 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 INTJs.
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 mature, successful INTJs. The benefits of conversation within our type are 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 suggestions. Seriously.
- Other INTJs have faced the exact same 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 a career course (listed below), and I have never had a more valuable resource.
Resources for INTJ success
These are the resources I’ve used to become more successful:
Career Seminar for INTJs. Our partner Penelope Trunk of Quistic offers a four-part webinar, “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ).” The course addresses hurdles INTJs face in the workplace, business, and with work/life balance. She also teaches you how to “type” other people. Includes access to the private INTJ Facebook group. Learn more about the course.
The Car Model. Our partner Personality Hacker taught me more about my personality than any other website. Their “car model” of the human mind helps you get the most personal growth from your strengths and weaknesses. See their free and paid content for INTJs.
How have you grown as an INTJ? What did you have to learn to become more successful on your career? Do you consider yourself successful now, or do you still face roadblocks? Please leave a comment and tell me your experience. I’d love to talk.
Read this: How to Make Your Ideas Succeed as an INTJ