ISTP Personality Traits, Career Matches, and Jobs to Avoid
If you’ve ever felt a connection to certain celebrities, it could be because you share the ISTP personality with them. Some famous ISTPs include: Bear Grylls, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Demi Moore, Daniel Craig, Ernest Hemingway, Venus Williams, Bruce Lee, and Frida Kahlo.
ISTP stands for: introversion (I), sensing (S), thinking (T), and perception (P).
Commonly referred to as “craftsmen” or “virtuosos,” ISTPs are the Macgyvers, Indiana Jones, or James Bond’s of the world. They are curious about physical problems, and they love to get their hands dirty. They will dive into any project that they can find, pulling things apart only to put them back together again with just the slightest of improvements. They explore the world through their hands and their eyes, with a mixture of rationalism and avid curiosity.
ISTPs only make up about 5 percent of the overall population, and women ISTPs are even more rare; as young girls, they may have been referred to as “tomboys.” It’s unfortunate that these passionate and knowledgeable people are fairly rare. They love to share their knowledge and lend a hand when someone they love has a project that needs assistance.
If you took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment and received the result of an ISTP, you may be wondering what this says about you. How can you apply this information to your life and career, and what can you do to improve your weaknesses and harness your strengths?
Let’s dive in and find out what being an ISTP means for you!
Table of Contents
ISTP Personality Traits
“Survival requires us to leave our prejudices at home. It’s about doing whatever it takes — and ultimately those with the biggest heart will win.” – Bear Grylls
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 ISTP 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 prefer concrete facts over personal experiences or feelings, often giving more weight to logic than to social considerations (thinking)
- 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)
As an ISTP, you may have a handful of contradicting characteristics. You’re curious, but education in a formal setting is uninteresting or too slow-paced for you. You’re friendly but also private. You’re calm in stressful situations, but can also be very spontaneous when inspiration hits you. To even your closest friends and family members, you may seem unpredictable at times. You understand that nothing is as it seems, and your personality exemplifies the idea of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Fairness and Realism
Another motto that you live by is the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, where others may feel as if they have to walk on eggshells to avoid hurting others, you’ll eagerly step on toes with an expectation that others will retaliate in turn. You take all the good and bad reactions people may have towards you and assume that it’s fair play. You approach all human interactions with a sense of practical realism and fairness. In some ways, you may wonder why others don’t do the same to you.
No Boundaries or Lines
For some ISTPs, reading a room might not be your strong suite. You may feel that some people are too sensitive to your deprecating jokes. Perhaps if a room is charged with emotions and you try to defuse the situation with lighthearted jabs, others might react poorly (in your eyes) to your comments. It can be difficult for ISTPs to see where and when they’ve gone over a line, as you’re not as firmly set in social rules as other personalities.
Poor Read of Emotions
However, you’re also not someone to have the capabilities to predict or easily read emotions. You’re much more in-tuned with your logical side than your emotional side, and so when others reflect emotions, it may surprise or even confuse you. You’re much more interested in exploring relationships through actions than empathy, and you may struggle with personal boundaries that others set.
Finally, although you may struggle with interpersonal relationships, when you find people that can match your personality (or at least your level of unpredictability) you can really feel at-home and relaxed around them. When your sense of humor, creativity, and your love of hands-on projects can be appreciated by others, then you’ve truly found your community.
ISTP Financial Habits
Practical Approach to Finances
As a natural MacGyver-type, you’re eager to fix any physical problem that comes your way. Your financials are no different, and you’re most likely the sort of person that doesn’t like to be in debt. You may seek out opportunities to borrow money — whether through a mortgage or a credit card — but then you’ll work extra hard to pay off those loans as to avoid paying high interest rates. Your practical approach to understanding your financials is certainly a unique strength that many other personalities struggle with.
Feed Your Curiosity
You’re also someone that is eager for knowledge, and you can work to improve your financial situation by seeking out personal financial advice books, articles, or other resources to help you stay inspired. If you lose interest in controlling your finances, you may eventually lose track of your money, altogether. Because of this, it’s important for you to feed your curiosity and continue to pursue knowledge about controlling your money so that you never lose sight of your ultimate financial goals.
ISTP Strengths and Weaknesses
“Some of the lowest points were the most exciting opportunities to push through to be a better person.” – Demi Moore
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 ISTP personality:
Logical and Practical
Your personality heavily weighs logic over emotions, but luckily this helps you form a practical mindset. Your imagination can easily run wild when thinking about practical things: such as the many different ways in which you can fix up a car, or improve a computer application or software. Your ideas are both novel and logical, firmly rooted in reality while also remaining creative.
Spontaneous and Optimistic
You’re rational about your decisions, but can also be spontaneous in switching interests if inspiration strikes you or someone brings new information to the table. You’re a flexible person, able to switch tasks and your attention at a moment’s notice. Everything you do, you approach with a good-natured and positive attitude, and you rarely get stressed. You also handle crisis well, and many ISTPs become first responders or rescue workers because of your natural calmness, optimism, and rational. Your spontaneity, complimented along with your on-the-spot creative problem solving make you an inspiring and level-headed person — no matter what risks lie ahead or how bleak the outcome looks.
Relaxed and Prioritized
You handle crisis well, but much of this is due to your general relaxed nature. You’re simply not someone to stress out about things out of your control, and you can easily just “go with the flow.” Additionally, you’re not one to focus too much on the future, as you’re much more preoccupied with the present and your current project. In this way, you’re easily able to prioritize your tasks by not getting distracted by side projects or future concerns. Although you’re a spontaneous person, you also understand when it’s important to stifle that spontaneity and focus on the problem at hand. When you’re focused, you can release all the creative energy you need.
Insensitive to Others
Unfortunately, as an ISTP your logical side tends to be stronger than your emotional side. Because of this, you may struggle with emotional intelligence: not just having a hard time tapping into your own emotions, but also unable (or unwilling) to comprehend the emotions of others. You’re just not as interested in human behavior or opinion as you are in facts, but this can make you seem extremely callous. Especially in situations that call for empathy, you may either fail to connect with the other person, or just clam up entirely.
Stubborn and Easily Bored
Although you’re gifted with a calm and easy-going nature, you aren’t one to take criticism from others. If people believe that you need to change your approach, lifestyle, or habits, you may double-down on doing them and be dismissive of the critic. Your stubbornness can also manifest in other ways, such as when you decide to ignore the request of others and respond bluntly or insensitively to their remarks. Additionally, your spontaneity can be both a blessing and a curse. Although you may be able to stifle it sometimes, there are some long-term projects that you may struggle to complete if you don’t have the ability to change your focus from time to time. You can become bored of things that you’ve come to understand fully, as your curiosity often has an insatiable appetite.
Averse to Commitment
Just as you can get bored with long-term projects, you can also get bored with long-term commitments. Even in your romantic relationships, you may see long-term commitment as oppressive or stifling, and you may struggle to stay with a partner for an extended period of time. You much prefer to live in the moment and take things day-by-day, so promising to stay with someone for an extended amount of time can seem daunting and against your natural character.
Quiet and Closed Off
Another thing you struggle with that might get in the way of your relationships if your natural private and reserved behavior. For those that want to get to know you, you may be extremely distant and aloof. You hate small talk but find it hard to connect with others unless they are also ISTPs. You’d much rather spend time by yourself than with others — a very introverted quality — and this can make finding and retaining friendships difficult.
All your ISTP characteristics — easily bored, living in the moment, difficulty with emotions, and stubbornness — can make you into a risky person. You may seek out dangerous or boundary-pushing activities just for fun, and although skydiving or paragliding might be a fun way to release tension, you may seek out increasingly dangerous conflicts just to feed your curiosity. Additionally, in life and with other people, you may push buttons and escalate emotions just to see how it will develop. In dangerous situations this can have disastrous consequences, especially when you lose control of the conflict at hand.
Best ISTP Personality Careers
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
“Knowledge is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” – Bruce Lee
As an ISTP, you’re not only a versatile worker, but you’re also constantly wanting to dive into new projects and explore new ideas. You do well in environments that allow for freedom, spontaneity, and diversity, but you may feel stifled with a long-term career that rarely changes. With this in mind, the best way to become successful would be for you to work in a field that can continually feed your curiosity and provide you with the hands-on work and freedom that you crave. 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. ISTPs 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 ISTP Types
ISTPs often struggle to find a single career that can hold your attention for more than a few years. You’re a natural born curious tinkerer, and you love to find answers for almost any mechanical or physical problem, but once that explanation has been found, you can quickly lose interest. However, it’s not just the satisfaction of finding a solution that drives you, it’s also the fascination you have for the process. Every piece to the puzzle, every tool you use, and every mechanism that you come across is captivating in its own way.
Although you’re a very practical person, routine is not something that interests you. You’d much rather have action and excitement at your job — maybe even some adrenaline. However, your biggest fear is being stuck, and so you crave a sense of freedom and lack of commitment in your career. Working away from starchy offices and uninteresting coworkers is a major allure, which can make traditional offices a difficult fit for ISTPs.
Luckily, there’s always the way of entrepreneurship, and if you feel as if you have the ability to run a small business, you could easily follow your own career path through self-employment. The only difficulty you might face is your preference to avoid making long-term plans: small business won’t survive without a long-term business plan.
Other things that ISTPs look for in a career include:
- Careers that encourage troubleshooting, tinkering, and problem solving on a physical level
- Efficiency and logic in all aspects of work
- Jobs away from a desk, or with limited “down time”
- Jobs that have little to no rules, procedures, or bureaucracy
- Physical activity, preferably with risk involved
- Tasks with tangible results
- The ability to build projects from scratch
In general, ISTPs enjoy working within these industries:
- Architecture, Construction, and Design: As an ISTP, you can fulfill your need for physical work as well as logical problem solving within the architecture, construction, and design fields. Whether you’re a civil engineer — supervising the building of large construction projects, roads, tunnels, or bridges — or if you’re a building inspector — tracking numbers, reviewing plans, monitoring construction, and verifying regulation — there are plenty of potential future within this field that will both play off your strengths and provide you with the much needed physicality you crave.
- Building Inspector
- Civil Engineer
- Commercial Designer
- Landscape Architect
- Business, Technology, and Finances: Most offices are not the ideal environment for ISTPs, but you can still find some careers that speak to you within the business, tech, and financial industries. Especially within technology, your love for building projects from scratch could come in handy as a software developer, and your constant attraction to troubleshooting projects is perfect for analyst and software testing jobs. Because you also love to solve problems and work analytically, you can also find fulfillment in financial planning or analyst jobs. You will, however, have to find an outlet for your physical energy via a hobby or side project, as most of these jobs take place at a desk.
- Budget Analyst
- Computer Hardware Engineer
- Cost Estimator
- Database Administrator
- Financial Planner or Manager
- Purchasing Agent
- Securities Analyst
- Software Developer or Tester
- Systems Analyst
- Healthcare: Like other logical types, bedside manner is certainly not your forte. However, there is still a handful of callings within healthcare that could be perfect for an ISTP. Primarily, those jobs are within sports medicine and crisis response. Not only will these jobs keep you active and on your toes for any potential change in pace, but they also provide you with the opportunity to make quick and important decisions to help the patient at hand. You’re not one to take time deliberating over theories or plans, and you’d much rather just jump into the action and solve the problem as you go along. These jobs allow you to do just that.
- Athletic Trainer
- ER Physician
- Exercise Physiologist
- Legal and Protective Services: These industries are a perfect fit for many ISTP types. You love variety and action in your job, and many crisis response callings can satisfy your need for spontaneity and adrenaline. Whether you’re a firefighter, a criminalist, a paralegal, or a military officer: these jobs will allow you to jump in, solve problems, and flex your logical brain. Just be careful that the bureaucracy of many of these jobs doesn’t discourage you from pursuing a life-long and fulfilling calling.
- Intelligence Agent
- Military Officer
- Police Officer
- Private Investigator
- Sciences: Another industry that calls for logic and creative problem solving is the sciences. Both engineering and more traditional positions, such as forester or geologist, require you to be hands on with your projects, and (as any good scientist would know) call for constant and regular testing and troubleshooting of your own theories. Some of the more traditional callings are also more physical, which can provide you with an outlet for your energy, and possibly give you a chance to really explore new places.
- Electrical Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Transportations and Other Trades: Finally, you can always find satisfaction within transportation and other, more traditional callings. Transportation can provide you with the chance to reconstruct massive projects from scratch, troubleshoot mechanical errors, and solve problems rapidly and with precision. As for more traditional callings, you can find a suitable career path in anything from farm work to photography. The sky’s your limit, as long as you keep your strengths and weaknesses in mind.
- Airline Pilot Air Traffic Control Officer
- Automotive Mechanic
- Boat Captain
- Flight Engineer
- Ship Engineer
- Other Trades
- Farmer or Rancher
- Property or Office Manager
Highest Paying ISTP Careers
As an ISTP, you may find it extremely difficult to nail down your career. You may only work a few years with one company before you decide you need a change of scenery and leave. Because of this, it can be hard for you to stick with a job long enough to earn an expert reputation and a decent paycheck.
Chances are your aversion to long-term commitment will be your biggest hurdle to overcome in your career. Job hopping might provide you with variety, but it’s certainly no way to make a living nor save up for retirement. Whether you’ve been job hopping for years, or are just now joining the working world, if you can make an effort to find a job that is right for you, you may be able to save yourself from financial ruin down the road. Look for a calling that provides you with the variety you crave, but doesn’t make you want to leave in a few years. Whether that’s in emergency response or construction, there’s a perfect job out there that can meet your needs and play off your strengths.
Luckily for many ISTPs, the jobs that best fit your personality tend to also pay a decent living. Construction and architecture will always be in demand — especially in growing cities and urban areas — and many construction workers can start out with a comfortable income that will only grow as you gain more experience. Engineering and technology are also fitting careers that have a relatively high starting wage — as long as you have the education needed to get you started on that path.
No matter what career path you decide to take, it’s important that you fight against your natural urges to avoid long-term commitment if you want to ensure you make a decent living.
ISTP Careers to Avoid
“I wanted to express myself. I wanted to be creative and I didn’t want to worry about someone bossing me around in the process. You have to struggle no matter where you are to get to where you’re going, so I’m like, working it honey!” – Michelle Rodriguez
It should be noted that ISTPs — 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.
ISTPs do not enjoy bureaucracy or stifling and stagnant work environments. The classic office setting is possibly your worst-case scenario for a job. You’re also not eager to tap into your emotional side, and might struggle with understanding or responding to emotional situations. Jobs within healthcare that require bedside manner, and more one-on-one occupations like therapy of teaching would not be ideal for an ISTP. Lastly, you flourish when you can have the freedom to pursue your own thoughts and inspirations, and when you can work spontaneously on tangible projects. More controlling and rigid jobs would only stifle your creativity and possibly drive you stir-crazy from lack of activity and consistent repetition.
In general, ISFJs would not enjoy working within these industries or positions:
- Craft Artist
- Family Physician or Pediatrician
- Journalist or Reporter
- Market Researcher
- Occupational Therapist
- Preschool or Special Education Teacher
- Public Health Nurse
- Receptionist or Front-End Clerk
- Social Worker or Social Service Director
- Urban Planner
- Veterinary Technician
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 February 28, 2019. It was originally published July 2, 2018.