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Work is Personal for an INFP

Work is Personal for an INFP

By Donna Dunning

Here is a story from my website by a reader with INFP preferences. I enjoyed reading about the range of creative pursuits, so clearly integrated with personal values and an interest in helping people, and making the world a better place. These are common themes in careers for people with these preferences.

Personality Type: INFP

“As an avid reader with many interests, phenomenal powers of observation and perception, and great creative talent, I truly struggled with the idea of choosing ONE career path over all others, which seemed to be the direction that my High School counselors and most of society wanted to push me in. How was I supposed to know at 17 what I wanted to do for the rest of my life?

Almost 25 years later, I *still* don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I’m content with that. I took a year off before going to college because I wanted to work and get a better feel for what I wanted as a career. Already working as a professional photographer, I sold cameras and did custom darkroom work. Working in that environment gave me lots of opportunities to interact with the public, but I had large periods of time alone to recharge, so I never got overwhelmed. I also learned from working with the public and trying to run a business, that you just can’t please everyone and you have to stick to rules or people will try to cross the line. Your price is your price, and you have to stay with that. There will always be someone who wants it for less, even if you sell it to them at wholesale cost. There will always be people who want to come in the store early, or keep you open past closing. You can bend on certain things, but helping to run a small business allowed me to understand that you have to have a certain amount of order.

I’ve worked as a professional writer, photographer, picture framer, book editor, law clerk, and then took the leap into veterinary medicine in private practice. I now work for one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world as a licensed veterinary technician with expert knowledge in anesthesia. This has allowed me to help new generations of doctors master their techniques, and helped the current leading physicians in various specialties (neurosurgery, cardiology, transplant teams) develop ground-breaking cures for diseases like Type 1 Diabetes through pancreatic transplants, laparoscopic partial lobe liver transplants, and developing cures for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Though I’ve strayed from my training in Film and English, I’m content with the idea that we sometimes end up in careers that are far different than what we set out to do. The common thread in all of my jobs is that I’ve been able to serve the greater good of mankind, serve the public, yet still have periods throughout the day where I was often completely alone to recharge my batteries. I tend to get frustrated when upper management nitpicks about rules and regulations and following everything to the “letter of the law”, when all of the rules ultimately contradict one another. I ultimately try to determine what the rules are designed for (patient safety, personal safety, keeping clients from overstepping boundaries, etc.), and act according to what seems the most reasonable course of action.

I have generally left a job because it starts to conflict too much with one of my core values. I would literally rather collect trash and serve society, than to be forced to make decisions that are designed to turn a greater profit at the expense of the clients or patients or whomever I am supposed to be serving. However, I do not simply seek out a new job every six months; I’ve been in the veterinary/medical field for over 10 years.”

If you found this career story interesting or helpful, there are several other stories on the Enhancer Career Success Stories and Strategies page.

I would greatly appreciate more stories from people with preferences for ISFP and INFP. If these are your preferences, please consider adding your own career story to the post.

My Narratives of Type: Enhancers (ISFPs and INFPs) page has additional quotes from people with these personality type preferences.

Looking for work that attracts INFPs? Check out the Occupations that Attract Enhancers page.

My Enhancers at Work post shares ideas of what INFPs look for at work.

Not your type?

Check out the Personality Type tab at the top of the page to find more information on your personality type preferences.

An extensive discussion of personality type and career choice can be found in my book What’s Your Type of Career?

This entry was posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 7:41 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Work is Personal for an INFP”

  1. Christy says:

    That’s a beautiful description. I identify with a lot of it, though I’m not an INFP, particularly what she says about leaving a job that doesn’t align with core values, no matter whether it earns greater money or not.

  2. Brian says:

    For me as an INFP, I stress the idealism. The idea of ‘career’ is repelling to me, though I crave to be seen and recognized for what I can do/create. The artist/dreamer/idealist has every opportunity to feel slighted and less-than in this world. And the successes of others always do sting. The pain is doing your art and never feeling like you’ve done it well enough, and of course you’re not being given the opportunities that others seem to be ‘given’. Even others in the arts, other dreamer idealists like yourself. Of course you wouldn’t trade who you are, but it can hurt, who you are. What I’m working on is curbing my over active imagination (which makes the art – music specifically) away from how small I can feel in the world, and how different I feel from others (and wish to be!), and using it to fuel the beauty I see and emotion I feel that others don’t as easily feel or see. Or care to feel or see.

    Like you said, INFP’s can spend so many years (especially high school/college) not knowing where they fit or who they are according to job/career/evaluation standards (trivial things like ‘majors’ and ‘career strategies’). It’s so important for INFP’s to know themselves and be true to themselves, at all phases of their very unique and personal journey.

  3. Nonen Titi says:

    INFPs seem to be on an eternal quest to finding what is good for them. I was just wondering where the word enhancers comes from, Donna? Why did you choose that?

  4. Kazz says:

    Oh yes, the necessity for short breaks away from the madding crowd, whatever profession you currently find yourself in, is essential to an INFP. If time away has not been immediately available to me, I have created reasons for it in every (diverse) role of my working life and also in the hardest role of all, as a mom. If the work is also for the greater good and based on empowering those it serves, rather than bottom line profit, it is a job made in heaven for an INFP!

  5. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Nonen, We (my partner and I) chose the name Enhancers, for those who share the dominant function of Introverted Feeling (Fi), to describe the ISFP and INFP personality type patterns. We felt the name reflected the generous nature of people with these preference patterns. They often enjoy working behind the scenes enhancing the lives of others and contributing to harmony and good will.

  6. Donna Dunning says:

    Thanks for your comment Kazz. I think you eloquently express the essence of Introverted Feeling (Fi) in your last statement. I also appreciate that you share how important it is to take short breaks to energize yourself. Others may learn from this. You may like my post: Which Types Seek Solitude? Several INFPs have commented on that post about how important time for reflection is for them.

  7. Nonen Titi says:

    Thanks Donna,
    I am just curious, because you say you came up with that name – in your practice, I am assuming – so how do you relate to the MBTI or the Keirsey names? Did you take the theory and then added your own take on it?
    I ask, because that is what I have done, but many people frown upon that and say you have to stick with what the established organizations use – and then they fight amongst each other about who is right. So, I was happy to find you seem to do what I did.
    I did not come up with new names but with an extended explanation (extended from Jung’s vision) about why these different types exist, how it works inside the mind and how their development has an evolutionary necessity.

  8. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Nonen, I developed the names to make it easier for my clients to understand and remember their type preferences and understand type dynamics. Many of my clients were interested in practical information and were not keen to learn a lot of theory up front. The ideas of dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior can be confusing to someone new to type. However, I felt it was essential to ground people in the dynamics of type.

    I started with eight names and two words to describe each of the 8 dominant functions. The Enhancer name was chosen to describe the IFP pattern of dominant Introverted Feeling (Fi) along with the two words Care and Connect. Then I added the names Insightful (INFP) or Practical (ISFP) to the name Enhancer to show the auxiliary functions. Somehow a Insightful Enhancer means more than just the letters INFP to someone new to the model. I can also use this language to talk about type development using the names … i.e. as an individual who prefers INFP matures they find themselves drawn to the practical as well as insightful side (development of the tertiary) of the Enhancer pattern. The inferior function can then be included using words such as challenges or developmental stretches etc.

    I can see why people find it confusing to use names and I always have a reference back to the four letter types. Many people have used different names and this does add to the confusion. Naming types, to some people, seems overly limiting for the same reasons people like to say: “I have preferences for INFP” instead of “I am an INFP”. The second is more of a label and doesn’t fully capture the individual nature of every person who prefers INFP and also makes it sound like INFP is a defining characteristic. I agree with the importance of not boxing people in, but also find that naming things is useful when learning and helps people understand and remember type concepts.

  9. Jennifer says:

    As an INFP, I’ve always been on a quest to “find myself”. I’m getting used to it, finally. “Career” makes my skin crawl — don’t make me choose just one thing and stick to it. I’ve done accounting, marketing, human resources, property management… I studied history in college (yeah, I don’t see the connection either!). I work so that I can do the things I love — I haven’t been able to find a job that in itself is something I love, but it allows me the time and space to give to my where my heart and my creativity are drawn, which currently is through my church and my jewelry business, respectively. I definitely need time alone for my creative juices to flow, but then I need an outlet to express them, so back into the world I go. And I need people, but in controlled doses. I’ve learned that too little leads to depression (for me) and too much leads to stress. Getting out in nature, usually a little bit each day, helps bring me back into balance. I really resonante with what Brian said. I try to embrace my inclinations (usually successfully) and am trying to find new ways to bring them forward.

  10. David says:

    Wow I talk to a lot of people about Myers-Briggs. They know about it but, aren’t steeped in it to the point of labeling people 26 hours of the day. I enjoy studying the personality types because it helps me to understand myself and others. “Type” doesn’t define you. If that were the case, we’d all be clones. Your “type” simply gives you a better understanding of what your tendencies maybe, to a certain extent. Life’s to short to stress over 4 letters. As far as Myers-Briggs goes, I think it’s a great tool! But you need to read it, understand it . Let it breath and leave it be. As an INFP, I’m proud of my uniqueness. I also feel that, as far as careers go IT’S DEFINITELY ON POINT. At one time or another I’ve involved myself with nearly all the careers as future professions, even hobbies, before I ever knew what Myers-Briggs was. Currently, I study acting, and I’m damn good! Relax.

  11. Carolyn says:

    I’m an INFP and I can clearly relate. I feel I am truly unique and feel a little alone at times in my thinking. Maybe one to not fit in. I struggle with the concept of being tied to one thing. I also struggle with finding that clear path I tend to swap and change what I want to do and never complete things such as study. I am studying counselling and very much enjoy the studies but often stray away from it and get bored with it. I often lack the ability to see the end result and get too caught up the moment and need to wander off and do other things. I find this to be a curse some days and have to push myself to work at looking at what I will achieve if I finish it. I am very creative and an extremely intuitive person and enjoy learning about different personalities and why people are the way they are. I definitely need interaction with others but I also need down time to recharge. I find being too social and being around too many people and crowds extremely draining at times. I have realized now as a 45 yr old mum to embrace life and accept myself for who I am. To appreciate my abilities to see things that others maybe don’t see – an empathetic nature that people tend to resonate and get drawn to me for.

  12. Moritz says:

    I wish that I will always just follow my inclinations of the present moment – no matter how crazy they are. We change every second of our life. And so it is only natural that our interests will change. In some ways, I’ve always wanted to live life like an adventure. This makes me feel insecure sometimes, not grounded. I need to jump over the shadow of my fears more often. As Steve Jobs said: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

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