ISFJ Personality Traits, Career Matches, and Jobs to Avoid
If you’re an ISFJ, then you’re in good company, as these famous people are all believed to share your personality type: Vin Diesel, Halle Berry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Beyoncé, Rosa Parks, Michael Caine, and Agatha Christie.
ISFJ stands for: introversion (I), sensing (S), feeling (F), and judgment (J).
ISFJs are called defenders and protectors — they are altruistic, kind, engaged, and generous. About 13 percent of the population classifies as an ISFJ, according to the Myers-Briggs Manual. Their introverted personality may make them appear reserved or sensitive, but they’re also analytical and can easily create and maintain strong social relationships. They’re open to new ideas, receptive of change, generous, have excellent people skills, and are extremely hard workers.
If you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, then you may be wondering what this personality type says about you. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and how can they be applied to your career? How might your personality affect your life and your livelihood?
Let’s see what being an ISFJ means for you!
Table of Contents
ISFJ Personality Traits
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks
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 ISFJ 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 be more concrete than abstract — you often focus your attention on the small details rather than the big picture, as well as focusing more on the immediate needs rather than future possibilities (sensing)
- You often give more weight to social implications than logic, especially in cases where personal considerations or feelings are concerned (feeling)
- You rely on controlling what you can by making decisions early, predicting outcomes, and sticking to plans — predictability is your preference over spontaneity (judgment)
ISFJs are well known for being dedicated workers. For you, your work or personal responsibility might be more than a necessity for earning money or getting by; instead you may see it as a personal reflection of your values. You’re eager to prove yourself, and willingly go above and beyond if it means leaving an impression on others.
You rarely, if ever, allow a project to go unfinished. You aren’t an idle person either, as you’re always working on something or trying to meet a goal. You can still procrastinate from time to time, but you’ll always get your assignment turned in before the deadline.
However, along with your kindness and eager attitude comes humility and selflessness. You don’t like to take the spotlight — just like many other introverts — and you may even underplay your achievements. It can be easy for more dominant personalities to take advantage of your kindness and humble attitude, which can eventually hurt your confidence when they inevitably take credit for your hard work.
Devoted to Family
Despite your introverted nature, you are actually naturally a social person, and you may even have an inherent talent for remembering people and faces. You most likely have a strong connection with friends and coworkers, but you’re mostly devoted to your family.
It’s within your family that you can truly exercise your strongest qualities and flourish. You create meaningful and deep connections with those you love, and in turn you may feel appreciated and supported. When you can feel supported and recognized — without the pressure of being in the spotlight — then you can really feel satisfied with life.
ISFJ Financial Habits
Your personality is the sort that is both organized and strict: you like to stick to a schedule and take care of stressors before they become too insurmountable. As an ISFJ, you want to spend as much time with your loved ones (or doing what you love) as possible, and often times the more practical aspects of being alive can take up too much of your time.
Luckily, your attention to detail and organization can come in handy when it comes to your finances. You may not want to spend too much time organizing your checkbook or paying bills, but you know how important it is to stay on top of these tasks. This is why it can be so beneficial for you to create a strict and detailed budget for yourself. Additionally, if you take the extra step of creating automatic payments on accounts and signing up for or creating an online budget planner, you can spend even less time worrying about your money, and more time being with your family.
However, your personality can also get in the way of financial success: mostly due to your very traditionalist leanings. You may open a credit card or savings account with an old bank, and never decide to look for better options elsewhere. In the long run, you’ll be losing out on golden opportunities, and you may find it daunting to find better deals. The best thing you can do in this situation is to be diligent and research all your options. Where can you get a better deal on a credit card, or how can you negotiate a lower APR rate? Should you switch banks if it means you can get a higher-interest on your savings account?
Another problem you may face as an ISFJ has to do with your love of family. Just because you’re so supportive of your family doesn’t mean you have to squander your own money just to help them succeed. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure or ruining your credit score by enthusiastically helping your family during any financial endeavor they make, and do your best to separate your personal relationships from your finances.
ISFJ Strengths and Weaknesses
“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.” – Michael Caine
Of course, just as with any other MBTI personality type, your personality comes with its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Here are the pros and cons to having an ISFJ personality:
The moniker of a “Defender” fits the personality of an ISFJ perfectly. You’re a helper, through and through, and you love to share your passion, knowledge, time, and experience with others who are in need or eager to learn.
You’re reliable and patient; meticulous and careful. You acknowledge that even small details are essential to the bigger picture, and you won’t let anything slip through the cracks if it means missing your intended goal. Your standards are high, but you will still strive to exceed those standards. However, you’re also not afraid to bend the rules if it means you can help and protect others. Although your personality type has “judgement” in the name, you’re not someone to easily judge other humans, as you often choose empathy in situations that call for it.
You’re also loyal and enthusiastic, as you are intrinsically inspired and emotionally attached to the beliefs or ideas that drive you forward. You are able to see the difference you can make in other people’s lives, and you strive to see it through to the end. Whether your goals are grandiose such as ending prejudices, or microcosmic such as helping your daughter learn to tie her shoes — you will devote all your enthusiasm and self to the cause. Anything less than your best and hardest work, and you’ll feel as if you’ve failed.
You’re also a very imaginative person, which both enhances and compliments your unending empathy for others. You can easily imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, and can fathom the ideas or motivations of others. You’re both fascinated and inspired by those external motivations, and you respect many different perspectives.
However, although you are imaginative, you’re also very practical. You’re not afraid of mundane and necessary tasks, especially if it means those small tasks can help you achieve your greater goal. Even those smallest tasks can be essential to helping others, and so you see all those small details as a beautiful and harmonious piece of the whole.
Unfortunately for “Defender” types, you are also too over eager to help everyone that needs assistance. You can very easily overload yourself with multiple emotional conflicts — both your own, and those that are from external sources — and your inner perfectionist will only cause you to fall flat of your own expectations as you’re unable to help everyone. Although you might be practical in solving problems, you’re not as well versed in being practical about your own limitations or emotional capacities.
Additionally, because of all the external conflicts that you’re willing to shoulder, you tend to shy away from expressing your own emotions. You don’t want to bother people with your personal troubles, because you’d much rather be helping those you love with theirs. Plus, you tend to be sensitive and private about how you’re feeling, so sharing your inner thoughts can be difficult and strange for you. However, internalizing all your feelings is only going to make many of your problems worse, especially as you’re unable to express yourself and will become stressed and frustrated. It can be helpful to find a healthy way to expression your emotions, so that you’re less likely to overwhelm yourself, and can better understand your limitations.
Another problem that many ISFJs come across is taking things too personally. Your penchant for seeing work as a reflection of your values also means that the line between professional and personal can be blurred. Having your idea criticized or rejected at work might be extremely difficult for you, even though the intention was to provide constructive criticism in a professional way. In many ways, it can be hard for you to single out your personal and professional lives, and your emotions can easily carry over between each.
ISFJs are also extremely shy and humble. Possibly your biggest challenge is the fact that you can’t express your emotions, are concerned with the feelings of others, fear the spotlight, and thus are unable to take recognition for your work, although you crave it. Your high standards often make you significantly downplay your successes, but you’re also not eager to look boastful or braggadocious of your hard work — despite the fact that you deserve to be.
In some ways, your traditional ways can also be a detriment: you’re reluctant or unwilling to change. It can be hard for others to change your mind — even if it really is for the best. Conflict might even have to come to a head before you’ll agree to consider a different viewpoint or new idea.
Lastly, ISFJs are often too altruistic. You’re eager to see the good in any person or situation, and so you may let certain mistakes or intentional harms slide. Additionally, you’re not willing to let other people help you when you need it, which can cause further emotional and mental exhaustion to yourself.
Best ISFJ Personality Careers
“If you had asked me back in grade school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said my first choice was an actor, but if I couldn’t be that, I’d want to be a superhero.” – Vin Diesel
As an ISFJ, you’re both a traditionalist as well as an altruist. You may be strongly attracted to jobs that have a history, and provide you with an outlet to do good, such as nursing, academia, and non profit charity organizations. 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. ISFJs 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 ISFJ Types
Because ISFJs make up about 13 percent of the population, and because your inherent talents make you a well-rounded and dedicated worker, ISFJs are the cornerstone of the modern workforce. You’re eager to serve and help others, and you flourish when people can appreciate and thank you for your assistance.
You find practical solutions to everyday problems, and you enjoy chances to calm frustrations or the opportunity to allow others to vent to you. You also have an excellent memory for faces, people, events, and even the most minor of details. No matter what workforce you join, you’ll be well-liked for your skills and dedication.
However, you’re not someone to seek out positions of authority. Although you might excel at helping others reach their greatest potential, you don’t like to be in the spotlight, and you have little patience for bureaucracy or corporate politics. Luckily, you’re also respectful of traditions, and so climbing the corporate ladder isn’t something you’re completely unwilling to do. Eventually you may work your way up to a more managerial position (without actively seeking it out), and you’ll do well thanks to your empathy and practicality.
Other things that ISFJs look for in a career include:
- Chances to be personal or one-on-one with individuals
- Companies that experience very little or slow organizational change
- Coworkers that are friendly and like-minded
- Established and well-organized procedures
- Extra-curricular activities provided by work, such as volunteering or community service
- Little to no multitasking
- Low-key recognition for a job well done
- Well established authority structure with clear expectations for goals or assignments
Some of the best careers for ISFJ types include:
- Administrative and Office Support, Business, Financial, and Management: Many of the jobs within this realm of work require skills that ISFJs naturally have, including: your ability to stay organized, problem solving with practical solutions, strong empathy and listening skills, excellent memory retention about events or people, and your desire to help others succeed. Whether in customer service, human resources, accounting, bank telling, event planning, or real estate management — all of these jobs fit perfectly with the ISFJ personality.
- Administrative and Office Support
- Customer Service Representative
- Information Assistant or Clerk
- Office Clerk
- Postal Service Worker
- Secretary or Administrative Assistant
- Event, Convention, or Meeting Planner
- Human Resources Specialist
- Job Analysis Specialist
- Real Estate Appraiser or Assessor
- Sales Agent
- Tax Assessor, Collector, or Agent
- Bank Teller
- Bookkeeping, Accounting, or Auditing Clerk
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Financial Assistant or Advisor (Business or Personal)
- Financial Clerk
- Loan Officer
- Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Agent
- Community Association Manager
- Non Profit Business Manager
- Property or Real Estate Manager
- Administrative and Office Support
- Community Services, Education, and Training: This is another area of work that require inherent ISFJ skills. Your kindness and desire to work one on one with people can help students excel in education or training courses. Additionally, your attention to detail and excellent memory can make you a skilled librarian. Within community service, you can not only help others find practical solutions to problems, but you can be recognized and appreciated for the work you put into changing and enhancing your community. Many of the callings in this list are perfect for the ISFJ type.
- Community Services
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Non Profit Associate
- Probation Officer
- Social or Human Services Assistant
- Social Worker
- College Administrator
- K-12 Educator or Administrator
- Library Technician or Assistant
- Preschool or Childcare Center Director
- Teacher Assistant
- Athletic Trainer
- Career or Technical School Educator or Administrator
- Instructional Coordinator
- Community Services
- Construction, Architecture, and Engineering: Although this calling is more oriented towards technical minds, you can still excel with your inherent skills as an ISFJ. You’ll be able to work one on one with people that need assistance — whether that’s installing new hardwood floors or fixing up cars — and your attention to detail and memory will help you become a skilled and knowledgeable mechanic or technician. Additionally, your clients will be able to appreciate and reward you for your work without thrusting you into the spotlight — which a more corporate-style environment might do.
- Construction and Architecture
- Construction or Building Inspector
- Heating, Air, etc Installer or Mechanic
- Automotive Technician, Mechanic, or Engineer
- Biomedical Engineer
- Electrical Engineer or Technician
- Environmental Engineer
- Health and Safety Engineer
- Construction and Architecture
- Healthcare: This industry is the perfect (and preferred) calling of many ISFJs. Although you may have no intention of becoming a doctor or specialist, you can excel as a nurse practitioner, pharmacist, or even an orderly. You’ll work independently with individuals, helping them meet their goal of becoming healthy again, and can work alongside like minded individuals. Not only does this industry have a plethora of history (which is always attractive to ISFJs), but it also has very organized and slow organizational change. Where others might be frustrated with the slow transitions that the medical industry can make, you can remain comfortable and confident with your abilities and the flow of the industry.
- Cardiovascular Specialist or Technician
- Dental Assistant or Hygienist, or Dentist
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Medical Assistant
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technician
- Nursing Assistant or Orderly
- Nurse Practitioner or Administrator
- Physicians Assistant
- Veterinary Assistant or Animal Caretaker
- Etc …
- Legal and Protection Services: Another industry that provides you with one on one opportunities with others is in the legal or protective services. You can use your organization skills and empathy to become an exceptional legal advisor or mediator, or can work in a more physical role, such as surveillance or correctional officer. Of course, you also want to do good for others, so it can be tough to work in more demanding or military-like environments (such as federal prisons), but the quieter versions of these jobs can be a perfect fit for ISFJs.
- Correctional Officer
- Court Reporter
- Paralegal or Legal Assistant
- Police Officer or Detective
- Security Guard or Surveillance Officer
- Social and Physical Sciences: Lastly, social and physical sciences can also provide a few ample opportunities for ISFJs. Many of these jobs require a detail-oriented individual that is willing to work independently and quietly on meeting manageable goals or expectations. ISFJs can also feel fulfilled knowing that you’re doing something good; whether for your local community, or the entire world.
- Agricultural or Food Scientist or Science Technician
- Biological Technician
- Environmental Scientist or Specialist
- Forensic Science Technician
- Forest and Conservation Scientist, Worker, or Technician
Highest Paying ISFJ Careers
As such an essential part of the modern working force, ISFJs have the potential to make a decent living through your work. As with any other personality, the best option is always to find a calling and stick with it for the long hall. It’s through dedication, time, and perseverance that you can really make a comfortable living, as over time you’ll become an expert in your field.
Luckily for ISFJs, sticking with a single career for most of your life isn’t a difficult thing to ask of you. You’re comfortable with familiar environments, and can be overwhelmed by dramatic changes (such as career shifts). Once you find a calling that really speaks to you and can appreciate your talents, you’ll most likely remain in that industry for the rest of your career.
This can provide you with ample opportunities for growth within the hierarchy of that industry, and you may eventually work your way up to more prominent and well-paid managerial roles. Although you might not actively seek out those opportunities, it could be within your best interest to pursue promotions or new positions when they open up or when one is recommended to you.
You’re a hard worker, dedicated, eager to help others and prove yourself, and any business would be lucky to have a worker like yourself. If you can find a job that both appreciates you and challenges you to be the best version of yourself, then you will most likely turn out to be a successful and well-paid employee down the road.
ISFJ Careers to Avoid
“When I’m not feeling my best I ask myself, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me.” – Beyoncé
It should be noted that ISFJs — 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.
ISFJs do not like to be in the spotlight, prefer to work with people over numbers, and aren’t very comfortable with abstract concepts or sudden change. Because of this, you certainly wouldn’t enjoy working as an actor or mechanical engineer, and you would be confused or overwhelmed working in a rapidly evolving field such as marketing. You also prefer to work with people directly, so being a journalist or copywriter would be a little too impersonal for your taste. Lastly, you flourish in positive environments, but more strict and rigid environments such as military work might be too negative for your tastes.
In general, ISFJs would not enjoy working within these industries or positions:
- Art Director
- Executive (CEO, COO, C-Suite, etc)
- Insurance Agent
- Management Consultant
- Marketing Manager
- Market Researcher
- Mechanical Engineer
- Military Officer or Private
- Sales Manager
- Social Scientist
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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 June 21, 2018. It was originally published June 26, 2018.