INFP Personality Traits, Career Matches, and Jobs to Avoid

Katie McBeth  | 

J. R. R. Tolkien, Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, Björk, Tom Hiddleston, Fred Rogers, and Alicia Keys all have this in common: they’re believed to be famous INFP personalities. If you took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and were given the result of an INFP, then you may feel a certain connection to some of these celebrities.

INFP stands for: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), and perception (P).

INFPs are true idealists and optimists. No matter how bad the world gets around you, you’ll always try to find the silver-lining or the helpers. You may often be referred to as shy, but inside you have a fiery passion for what you believe in and an active imagination. When making decisions, you’re guided by honor, beauty, morality, and virtue. You aren’t driven by a need for recognition, but by knowing that your intentions are good.

Only about 4 percent of the population falls under the INFP category, which can make it difficult for you to find people that you can relate to on a deeply personal level. However, when you do find like-minded people, you may feel an instant connection or understanding with that person.

If you’re an INFP, you may be wondering what this personality indicator says about your life and career. What are your personal strengths and weaknesses? How can you apply your characteristics to your career, and how can you pursue a career that plays off your inherent talents?

Let’s dive into the idealistic minds of INFPs!

INFP Personality Traits

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

The MBTI test has 16 possible personality results, which determines your results based on the following:

  • How you focus your attention or re-energize (extraversion (E) / introversion (I))
  • How you perceive or take in information (sensing (S) / intuition (N))
  • How you make decisions (thinking (T) / feeling (F))
  • How you orient yourself to the outside world (judgment (J) / perception (P))

As an INFP your results are as follows:

  • You tend to be more quiet and reserved, you prefer small groups of friends over large circles of friends, and you expend energy in social situations, but recharge when by yourself (introversion)
  • You tend to think in abstract concepts, or think more “big picture” and don’t worry about the small details — often concentrating on a further possibilities instead of immediate realities (intuition)
  • You often give more weight to social implications than logic, especially in cases where personal considerations or feelings are concerned (feeling)
  • You tend to withhold judgement or put off important decisions, preferring instead to keep your options open so that you don’t limit your possibilities should your circumstances change (perception)

Healers

INFPs are often referred to as “Healers” or “Mediators.” You’re the sort of person that only wants to see the good in the world, and is devoted to being the good in the world. You may often speak in metaphors or use symbolism to explain an idea. You’re creative, a visionary, and you’re driven to understand yourself and your place in the world.

Tight-knit

INFPs share many similar characteristics with ENFPs, except for their extroversion. Whereas ENFPs have the ability to focus their attention on groups of people at a time, INFPs can only focus on a few people at a time. Any more than that, and you may feel burnout or suffer from severe stress. Your social groups are much smaller and tight-knit, and many of your friends may rely on you to always have an optimistic view of the world. If you become overwhelmed by all the bad in the lives of your friends or the world in general, you might start to feel dejected and withdraw from those around you.

Solitary

You may also find that you often go into deep thoughts that are philosophical and hypothetical in nature, but if you focus on them too much you go into a sort of “hermit mode.” Once you dive into those modes, it’s hard for you to crawl your way out of them, and friends and partners may struggle to bring you back to the real world. However, because you enjoy symbolism and your imagination so much, you often thrive when you can let your thoughts meander through strange and wonderful ideas. You may even feel drawn to sci-fi or fantasy literature, as the imagery and worlds are fascinating to you.

Lost in Thought

However, being drawn into your mind can also mean you neglect certain day-to-day activities or self-care that are important. You may find that you’re so lost in your thoughts that you’ve forgotten to eat or drink for hours. Luckily, once you can pull yourself out of your mind, you can bring back with you a new level of compassion, inspiration, and beauty. You’re also an exceptional communicator — possibly even being adept at learning new languages. You use your vivid imagination to inspire and share compassion with others, and you always seek to find harmony in your relationships and calling. It’s no wonder that so many INFPs become imaginative and talented writers, poets, and musicians.

INFP Strengths and Weaknesses

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Fred Rogers

Every personality type in the MBTI manual comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Learning those pros and cons can help you work on becoming a more well-rounded person, and help you understand how your natural skills can be used in a career. Here are the pros and cons of having an INFP personality type:

INFP Pros

Open-minded

Your personality is the type that is naturally gifted with an open-mind. You’re not one to live by the rules, but instead be shaped by your principles and values. You’re not quick to judge others (perception over judgement), and will always give the benefit of the doubt unless your values are directly challenged. Because of this, you may find yourself supporting other’s rights, as long as those rights aren’t a direct threat to your own or those you care about.

Innovative

You’re also a visionary, and when combining your vision with your open-mindedness, you may find that you’re an extremely creative and unconventional person. These traits are highly regarded, especially in the arts, and many people may be inspired or fascinated with the tapestries that you can weave with your mind. You can often connect dots or find singular themes between otherwise very obscure or far-reaching perspectives.

Devoted

With your creativity also comes an inspiring and energetic passion for your beliefs. You are not afraid to dedicate your entire being to projects that inspire you. Easily consumed, you may devote all your time, energy, and emotions to those projects. However, you’re also the first to lend a helping hand to those that need it. You’re not one to take the spotlight — and indeed, with your introversion, it would be very daunting to do so — but you’re not afraid to be a major player in the background. If you were in a band, you would be the drummer: vitally important to the music and sound, but hidden a bit behind the rest of the musicians on stage.

Democratic

Additionally, you’re very democratic and willing to allow all parties the opportunity to give their perspective. You value harmony over disorder, and (true to your name) you try to mediate tense situations between friends or loved ones. You have no interest in gaining power over others. Your idealism also comes into play in almost every interaction you have, as you’re always wanting to see the good in people or situations. You’re fairly resilient to hardships, as long as you’re not too overwhelmed by sadness or unfortunate situations.

Zealous

Lastly, you’re an exceptionally hard worker. Your far-reaching and positive vision helps you stay dedicated and persevere through hard tasks, and you’re much less likely to give up when the going gets tough. It can help you stay motivated if the task you’re working on is somewhat meaningful or aligns with your values, and you’ll feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment when your project has reached its completion. Your courage to complete even the hardest tasks is inspiring to those around you, and you may find that many people look up to you for your positive and rosy outlook on life.

INFP Cons

Excessive Idealism

Although your idealism is one of your strengths, it can also easily be one of your weaknesses. Your rosy outlook can be good, but you’ll often find yourself being let down again and again, as sad and horrible things continue to happen in the world. You may even find that you idolize your partner or friends, and forget that nobody is perfect and free of making mistakes. When they do something to let you down, you may feel especially disheartened, but it’s important to not place your loved ones on pedestals.

Overly Generous

Additionally, your nature of giving can come back to haunt you, as you may find that your altruism forces you to neglect other areas of your life that need attention. You may be so taken by a project or cause, that you miss opportunities to really connect or care for those that are closest to you. Plus, once a cause or idea captures your attention, you may forget to take care of your daily tasks and maintenance. You could easily be someone that starts work on a project, barely eats or sleeps, and then finds yourself surrounded by dirty dishes and trash a few weeks later once the project has been completed. It’s very easy for you to get swept away by your imagination.

Ignores Details

However, you’re also someone who focuses mostly on the big picture (intuition over sensing), and so you’re not interested in focusing on the little details. You’re not interested in data points or small tasks, despite the fact that those small tasks are what lead to completion of your intended goal. It can be especially hard if those facts or data contradict your beliefs or values, and you may prefer to ignore them, despite their importance.

Reserved

INFPs are also notoriously hard to get to know. Your introverted nature and active imagination make it hard for people to really break you out of your shell. You’re also self-conscious, which can hold you back further from connecting with people. This may fill you with a certain level of guilt, as you feel like you’re holding yourself back from people and are unable to give more to those you care about.

Sensitive to Criticism

Lastly, INFPs are not very good at receiving and processing criticism or challenges; you often take them very personally. Your natural inclination to avoid conflict also doesn’t help you in this situation, as you may try to find a middle ground between your values and the criticism you’ve received. Instead, you should feel inspired to reassess your position and learn from your mistakes. This, of course, is much easier said than done, but you’re not the only personality that struggles to take criticism. It’s a tough weaknesses to master, but it can be extremely valuable soft skill to have — especially in your career.

Best INFP Personality Careers

“I don’t go by the rule book … I lead from the heart, not the head.” – Diana, Princess of Wales

INFPs are known for being imaginative and inspiring artists, writers, and poets, but there’s many more callings available for you out there in the world. You may find that your natural mediation skills plays well in other areas — such as politics or mental health counseling. The biggest key for you is to work in a field that aligns well with your belief system and values. Once you can find a calling, dedicate yourself, and stick with it, you may find that you can be extremely successful over time.

However, just like any other personality, your career options are not limited to the results of a personality quiz. INFPs can perform well in any industry, and the trick is to play off your natural talents to find a calling that best suits you and to stick with it to become an expert. No matter what your MBTI result maybe, there’s a future for you down many different career paths.

Best Career Matches for INFP Types

It can be difficult for INFPs to really find a calling, and much of that is due to your active imagination and your lack of patience for academia and bureaucracy. You just want to exist as you are: free to follow your imagination and live out your creative dreams. However, access to the career of your dreams might require you to dedicate years to higher-education, and you’ll need to find a link between your passion and your professional life. For some INFPs, this can be extremely difficult, but if you stick with it, you may find that all the years spent in school were well worth the struggles of earning your degree.

Additionally, INFPs are eager to follow their passions and not be restrained by their career, but this can often mean that they fall into positions that aren’t meant for them. Instead of finding a job that boosts your passions, you’ll find yourself succumbing to the daily drag of a nine-to-five job that only pays the bills. However, you have skills that are well worth investing in both from a business and personal perspective: you’re independent, imaginative, and eager to help other people who need assistance. You just have to find a job that allows you the opportunities to utilize those skills.

Other aspects that INFPs look for in a job include:

  • Careers that allow for personal growth
  • Careers that allow for selfless sacrifices or endeavors (helping others)
  • Independent work over team-oriented businesses or projects
  • Jobs that take advantage of their creative solutions to solving problems
  • Low-stress environments
  • No restrictions on creativity
  • No tedious activities or bureaucracy

Some of the best career paths for INFPs include:

  • Arts, Communication, and Design: INFPs are normally naturally gifted with a strong empathic side, and you can utilize this to not only create genuine connections with others, but also to enhance your career by creating deep and meaningful work. It’s no wonder that INFPs make exceptional writers and artists: you can connect deeply with people through your work, and never run out of inspiring material. Whether in fine arts, music, or in creating imaginative screenplays for movies, you can use your imagination and empathy to your advantage in many different callings within art, communication, and design.
    • Arts
      • Animator
      • Fine Artist
      • Musician
      • Performer or Actor
    • Communication
      • Editor
      • Film Designer, Assistant, or Editor
      • Interpreter or Translator
      • Journalist
      • Photographer
      • Public Relations Specialist
      • Writer (Online Blogger or Author)
    • Design
      • Fashion Designer
      • Graphic Designer
      • Interior Designer
  • Business and Management: Bureaucracy is certainly not something INFPs enjoy, but you can still find your calling in certain areas of business and management. Primarily, you can utilize your desire to help others by becoming a career coach or counselor, or by being a business trainer for new hires and recruits. You will not only be able to work independently with others, but you will be able to genuinely help them improve their life and better themselves.
    • Career Counselor
    • Human Resource Specialist
    • Training and Development Manager
  • Community Action, Education, and Social Services: INFPs are full of compassion and understanding, as well as a bit of patience for others that are struggling or young students. All these traits together make INFPs into wonderfully compassionate community activists, teachers, or mental health counselors or therapists. You have the ability to navigate through the emotions of others, encourage them to think deeply about their own thoughts or behaviors (your strong intuitive side helps here), and show compassion without judgement through all their trials and tribulations. Plus, your constant rosy outlook on life is contagious, and can help others feel inspired to fight on — despite any tumultuous days ahead.
    • Community Action
      • Archivist or Library Curator
      • Community Service Manager
      • Librarian
      • Non Profit Manager or Employee
    • Education
      • Elementary School Teacher
      • Preschool Teacher
      • Professor or College Instructor
      • School Counselor
      • Special Education Teacher
    • Social Services
      • Mental Health Counselor or Therapist
      • Psychologist
      • Social Worker
  • Health Care: This industry can be tricky for INFPs, as certain callings might wear you down too fast (either from bureaucracy, or from the constant sadness that leads to severe burnout in callings such as hospice nursing). However, INFPs are also eager to help people, and health care if the perfect calling to provide you with access to humans that need help. The trick is to find a division of health care that provides you with direct human contact, requires minimal teamwork or red tape, and ends with a positive resolution. Traditionally, physical therapy or disability assistance are the most rewarding jobs for INFPs in health care, but you can also excel as a midwife, nutritionist, or veterinarian.
    • Audiologist
    • Chiropractor
    • Genealogist
    • Massage Therapist
    • Midwife
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Nutritionist
    • Occupational Therapist
    • Physical Therapist
    • Speech-Language Pathologist
    • Veterinarian or Veterinarian Technician
  • Sciences: Your desire to know more about people and their emotions, relationships, or inner thoughts is something that can be easily applied to many modern sciences: especially anthropology (the study of humans). Not all sciences will speak to your desire to know more about people or your creative side, but the few listed here have the ability to take play well off your talents and skills.
    • Anthropologist or Archaeologist
    • Geographer
    • Historian
    • Sociologist
    • Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist

Highest Paying INFP Careers

Unlike ENFPs who can utilize their charisma and extroversion to really get ahead in a career, INFPs are a little more comfortable working in the background. Unfortunately, INFPs tend to make low salaries, and much of this can be due to your desire to simply do what you love. You’re not as driven as other personalities to achieve greatness or status, but instead just want to be happy and comfortable. You may not be very inspired by a traditional capitalist way of living, and wish instead that you could just explore every creative idea you have for the rest of your life.

However, just like any other personality, the secret to success is devoting time and dedication to your craft. The longer you spend learning and growing in an industry, the more of an expert you can become, and the higher a salary you can earn.

Of course, many INFPs might not feel inspired to stay with one calling for the rest of your life. However, if you can start your career path by focusing on your passions, dedicate yourself to the craft, and follow through with an academic foundation, you might be able to find a path that can guarantee you a comfortable living. The trick is to find what drives you and discover a company or industry that can encourage your curiosity and desire to constantly seek out creative solutions or innovation.

Although you might not be able to lead a Fortune 500 company, you may be able to become a New York Times bestselling author, or even an innovative anthropologist that discovers a new scientific theory. There are many possible futures available to INFPs, and you’ll be able to find the perfect one for you with time and dedication.

INFP Careers to Avoid

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

It should be noted that INFPs — or any other personality, for that matter — can succeed in any career. However, there are some careers that might better match your personal talents, mode of thinking, or natural behavior. If your career is not playing off your natural inclinations, then you could find that job draining, unappealing, or might even suffer from burnout. It could be that you need to quit your job and switch career paths.

Traditionally, INFPs thrive in creative environments that allow them to independently follow their ideas. This means that more bureaucratic jobs, or jobs that are tedious and based on numbers and meeting metrics or goals are less appealing to INFPs. Instead, you should avoid the jobs that are sales, goal, or data-oriented, as they won’t appeal to your intuitive or feeling side. Additionally, jobs that require you to work with others or work in groups can be overwhelming for your introverted nature, and you may perform better in one-on-one scenarios.

Because of your natural talents and skills, these jobs are most likely not the best career options for INFPs:

  • Auditor
  • Chemist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Dentist
  • Electrician or Electrical Engineer
  • Engineering Technician
  • Financial Manager
  • Judge
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Materials Engineer
  • Military Officer
  • Police Officer
  • Sales Manager
  • Systems Analyst

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Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth

This post was updated July 19, 2018. It was originally published June 13, 2018.