When I first started at my current company, all of the new employees, including myself, took the MBTI® assessment to learn about ourselves and how better to communicate with colleagues. I had preferences for INFJ, and I remember thinking to myself as I read the type description and attributes, “This is almost creepy how well this type describes me.” Then we learned about the four mental processes that make up each MBTI type (these are different from your individual letter preferences, but more about how each of those letter preferences interact with one another).We specifically focused on the first two mental processes: the favorite process (similar to the strongest part of your personality, almost like your personality superpower) and the supporting second process. For INFJs like myself, my favorite process is introverted Intuition. My second process is extraverted Feeling. While Feeling isn’t my strongest preference (the favorite process is the strongest), it’s the part of my personality that everyone else sees and why my co-workers always scoffed at the idea that I could be an Introvert.
Without getting too deep into the psychology, anyone who has introverted preferences will introvert their favorite process and extravert their second process. Anyone who has a preference for extraversion will extravert their favorite process and introvert their second process. Basically, those who prefer introversion keep their favorite process turned inward so what others see is what is facing outward, the process that they’re extraverting, which is their second process. The opposite is true for extraverts – they’re favorite process will always be what people see because it’s the process that they show the outside world, while their second process is the one that they keep internally directed.
To me, this made a lot of sense. I had recently graduated from an MBA program in Silicon Valley, where networking and professional connections were highly encouraged—and trust me, I could network with the best of them! But when given the option, I’d always prefer to stay home and read and cook or do other solitary activities instead of going to any networking event. I knew that the networking would be beneficial and that choosing to stay home every time wouldn’t help me get the most out of the program, so I would tell myself, “Just go for an hour, meet two new people, and then you can go home.” I’d always go to the event a little early so there would be fewer people in the room when I arrived and I wasn’t walking into a room full of strangers. I’d have a glass of wine, get to talking with one or two people, and then as more people arrived, they’d come over to our little group to make their introductions. Before I knew it, an hour or two would have gone by and I would feel like “mission accomplished,” and then head home to watch Stranger Things.
As far as my career, I’ve always been in marketing, and to me that made perfect sense given my preferences for INFJ. Marketing requires visual creativity and storytelling that allows us to try to put ourself in someone else’s shoes (which INFJs are known for). It allows us to see the big picture regarding campaign strategy, the look and feel of marketing content, and what we want the end result of our marketing campaign to be (all of which works well with the Intuition preference). In addition, I’ve always worked for companies where I felt the products made a positive difference in people’s lives (which is a common value important to people with the two middle letters N and F). Lastly, my preference for Judging is always appreciated during yearly marketing and budget planning meetings, as well as when we plan marketing content for the blogs and websites. To me it seemed that marketing was a perfect fit for someone with INFJ preferences.
So imagine my shock when during this training with my new company, I found out that Sherry in Accounting also had preferences for INFJ. Up to that point, I felt like I’d understood how my preferences for INFJ had led me to a career in marketing pretty well, but it seemed to me like torture to have a career in accounting. It required attention to detail and seemed to lack creativity—it just didn’t make sense. Maybe Sherry was an INFJ but didn’t really like her job? So I asked Sherry about it, and here’s what she told me:
“My accounting colleagues are a wide range of personality types. I chose to pursue the accounting field because it was a solid career choice that I knew wouldn’t be very risky in terms of income or providing for myself or my family, and I had an aptitude for math.”
For Sherry, her preferences seemed to affect her career choice more in how she thought about the future and how much risk she was willing to take when thinking about providing for the people she cared for. It was less about what the job is and more about why she chose that job. In addition, careers in accounting are generally more individually focused, requiring quiet concentration and attention to detail.
Over the years I’ve met many other INFJs in many other industries and careers, and while the MBTI tool can definitely help us understand our strengths and potential blind spots, it’s just one part of who we are as complex individuals, and there are so many other parts of our personality—interpersonal needs, interests, behaviors, upbringing, and more—that make us individuals. It makes sense to me that the MBTI tool is more of a friendly guide than the strict “boxes” I’ve heard people complain about. In addition, there are other tools to help measure vocational interests. When you’re deciding on a career, MBTI type is a great place to start with ideas about how you work best and what your strengths are, but it shouldn’t be the final say.
Here are two more comments from INFJs I know in other careers.
Chanda, Inside Sales Representative working with government agencies:
“Honestly, I couldn’t do just any sales position. It had to be a sales position that I can truly have an impact by helping others. Understanding customer needs and coming up with the best solution to support them is my only goal, and I’m sure other salespeople have the same goal. However, I have to strongly believe in the product or service I’m speaking of—meaning I personally would most likely use this product above any other similar product or service. In my world, it’s not just knowing the talking points for selling something but truly having an understanding of what I’m selling, being able to listen to what the customer needs and the positive impact the customer will have using our solution.
“I’m a true INFJ and I know my process pair (NF) plays a huge part in my passion for helping others and the need to know any product’s impact on the people using it before recommending anything.”
Veronica, Camp Counselor and Assistant Teaching Aid to elementary and middle school students:
“I’m introverted, and I’ve always been very shy around adults. This has affected all aspects of my life, from social events to professional settings. I realized many years ago, though, that I can open up more with children, and since then education has been my profession of choice. With children, I am not worried about being judged or making small talk during social situations, and my creative side is also coaxed out of me as children are generally less worried about how they’re perceived and take more chances with creativity. When I’m able to be my true self (an accepted Introvert who can express creativity), I’m the most productive, but more important, I’m happy with myself and comfortable with the work I’m doing and the difference I’m making in the kids’ lives.”