Deborah Ward

Sense and Sensitivity

Finding the Work That Works for You

Making a living while creating a life.

Posted Mar 17, 2012

Finding the right career can often be a challenge for a highly sensitive person. Many HSPs are creative, intelligent, sensitive and introverted people who have a hard time fitting in to the mainstream corporate world. And yet we have to make a living too. Finding a comfortable balance between supporting yourself financially and supporting yourself spiritually comes down to knowing and valuing your unique traits and creating the work that's right for you.

Anyone will tell you that being in the wrong job will sap your energy, drain your motivation and leave you feeling either bored or stressed, which in turn can affect your relationships and even your health. For the HSP, however, the wrong job can be nearly life-threatening. Highly sensitive people simply cannot tolerate too much stimulation in their environment, which includes the typical working life of multi-tasking, deadlines, other people's demands and noise. While HSPs are often hard-working, diligent employees, these quiet people are often overlooked for promotion and recognition while they slowly sink beneath the pressure of a job that just feels wrong.

The key to a happy working life is finding work that suits your personality and temperament. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to find the right job and career to suit you. Are you an introvert or an extravert? Are you detail-oriented or do you see big picture? Many HSPs, for example, dislike administrative work, and prefer to work alone at their own pace, with minimal distractions, and an opportunity for creative and/or intuitive expression. Finding a career that will allow you to work with those preferences, rather than fighting against them, is crucial.

Start your job search by discovering who you are. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a questionnaire created by Katherine Myers and Isabel Briggs that measures individual differences based on the book Psychological Types by Carl Jung. You can take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. I also highly recommend the book Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey, for further understanding of each personality type, including insights into individual career preferences.

The key is to learn your personality type, as well as your personal interests, and use them in your work, rather than trying to ignore or overcome who you really are. For example, many HSPs are sensitive to the feelings of others. This is often a detriment in an office environment, where you end up absorbing everyone else's work stress. But there are jobs where that kind of empathy would be a great asset, such as counselling, teaching, health care, and veterinarian medicine. Are you creative? Perhaps you love gardening? And you're inspired by helping others? Put all those skills and interests together and you could be developing outdoor special needs programs or teaching gardening classes to adults or perhaps writing a gardening book for children.

Don't try to squeeze yourself into a work role. Instead, carve out a role that fits you, based on your own unique talents, interests, abilities and temperament and you'll not only be making a living, but a life worth living.

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