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12 Best Careers For Highly Sensitive People

You grow up dreaming about it, even announcing it to the world with ignorant bliss and conviction. “I’m going to be…an astronaut…movie star…doctor…pro football player…President…” You’re lured by the limelight, fame, money – not cautioned by temperament, skill sets, or life circumstances – when choosing your best careers. For Highly Sensitive People, however, those cautionary factors are everything.

What’s the definition of a “good” career?

Defining “good career” is really more about the subjectivity of “good” than the objectivity of “career.” What’s good for your best friend or fraternal twin may not even leave a blip on your radar.

Your night-owl neighbor may thrive on the energy of deep-night shifts as an ER doc. And your profit-driven, Harvard MBA sister may live for the opening bell at the NYSE.

But what about you, the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? 

Does it make you “unambitious” if you cringe at the mere thought of taking a pre-dawn subway into madness five days a week? Or destined for poverty if you simply couldn’t survive the 9-to-5 hustle that really starts at 5 and ends at 9?

The list of “good” (even great) careers for Highly Sensitive People doesn’t assume a step down in stature or even income. After all, you want and need the same rewards as everyone else: income, sense of accomplishment, mental stimulation, connection.

For some, career = paycheck. They may have an innate ability to “turn on” and “turn off” their personal and work lives as needed – or even meld the two if they’re money-motivated. “Overtime pay? I’m in.”

For others, a job is something to tolerate. Each day, day after day, they look forward to the day they retire. (Cue Fred Flintstone and the 5:00 pm bell, signaling yabba dabba do, the work day is done.) 

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, there’s a better-than-average chance that work is not satisfying to you.True, HSPs aren’t the only ones who stress about work. But, HSPs face career challenges that aren’t on other peoples’ radars.

For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), career selection is particularly challenging – and important.

Having high sensitivity means you’re prone to overwhelm, may feel overly stressed by rushed deadlines, and can’t help but tune into and feel the effects of a work environment’s undercurrents.

The gossip, the competition, the brown-nosing, the always-open refrigerator door, the unpleasant-to-you smell of your co-workers’ perfume.

Many careers and environments are not well suited for HSPs. (Notice that I did not say “HSPs are not well suited for many careers and environments,” which could invalidate HSPs’ strengths.)

Not all is gloom and doom. In fact, there are career paths that are perfectly aligned with high sensitivity, especially for HSPs who know their own strengths and challenges.

Highly Sensitive People often feel drawn to be of service to others. They seek careers that allow them to help others without becoming overstimulated in the process. 

Jobs that fit this overarching criterion make for some of the best careers for Highly Sensitive People.

HSPs also tend to do better in creative jobs – writing, art, music, psychology – rather than careers like sales or customer service that tend to be fast-paced.

Keep in mind that HSPs are prone to overwhelm. They struggle with rushed deadlines and don’t do well with typical workplace stressors, especially with the co-workers you (not-so) affectionately refer to as “The Pen Tapper” and “The Hummer.” Co-workers’ personalities and mannerisms can grate on HSPs’ nervous systems.

HSPs also seek meaning in their work and don’t function well without it.

Here are some of the best careers for Highly Sensitive People, followed by an explanation:

  1. Counselor/therapist

    HSPs have a natural ability to listen and empathize with others, making them well-suited for careers in counseling or therapy.

    HSPs generally read people well and naturally know what they need.

    Caveat: Because HSPs experience “too much” sooner than others do, they must commit to self-care practices such as daily downtime, boundary-setting, and social support. This is especially true in the field of psychotherapy.

    Eating regularly and remaining hydrated are also important to prevent burnout, as soaking up people’s energy can be very draining.
  2. Writer/artist/musician

    Many HSPs have a rich inner world and find writing therapeutic and fulfilling.

    Similarly, HSPs may find artistic expression to be a fulfilling and meaningful way to connect with their emotions and the world around them.

    Playing or creating music can be a way for HSPs to channel their sensitivity into something beautiful. (Cue fellow HSP Alanis Morisette!)

    A downside is that HSPs take criticism harshly, and the creative arts are a breeding ground for opinions, criticism, and unsolicited advice.

    Also, HSPs have sensory sensitivity, so holding and playing an instrument (e.g. a guitar or paintbrush) might be uncomfortable over time.
  3. Teacher

    HSPs often have a natural ability to pick up on the needs of others, which can make them great educators.

    The downside is the noise — students’ loud voices, bells ringing throughout the day, and other sounds that grate on an HSP’s last nerve.

    HSPs in education may also find it hard when students don’t listen or otherwise disrespect each other or the teacher.

    Dealing with students’ parents and school administration seems to be a common reason of late that fewer HSPs are remaining in the teaching profession.
  4. Researcher

    HSPs tend to be detail-oriented and analytical. Research could be a potentially satisfying career choice.

    For the 30% of HSPs who are extraverted, conducting research in a lab would most likely be unfulfilling.
  5. Librarian

    Libraries can be quiet, contemplative spaces, making them a potentially comfortable and fulfilling work environment for HSPs.
  6. Environmental scientist

    HSPs are often passionate about protecting the planet and may find a career in environmental science to be rewarding and purposeful.
  7. Non-profit worker

    Remember that careers for Highly Sensitive People need to have meaning. HSPs are often driven by a sense of purpose, wanting to make a difference in the world.

    The non-profit sector is often a natural and gratifying fit.
  8. Virtual assistant/remote worker

    HSPs may find working remotely or as a virtual assistant to be a good fit. It allows them to work in a quiet, comfortable environment and take breaks as needed.
  9. Veterinarian

    HSPs often love animals and may find a career as a vet to be both fulfilling and purposeful. (It can be easier dealing with puppies and kittens all day than with people, although someone has to pay the tab.)
  10. Service worker (baker/mechanic/landscaper)

    HSPs are creative and enjoy nature, being outside, and being helpful to others. How satisfying to bake bread, cookies and other goodies that customers rave about! Or to repair the engine of John’s towed automobile engine.

    And how about combining creativity and enthusiasm for nature by taking care of lawns and flower gardens?
  11. Editor

    HSPs often enjoy the solitude and mental stimulation of reading, are detail-oriented, and notice “the small stuff.”
  12. Dog groomer

    Advantages to a dog-grooming career include making your own hours, interacting more with four-leggeds than with people, and having the satisfaction of giving a clean-smelling, adorable/handsome dog back to its owner.

General suggestions:

  • Work in an environment with a meaningful mission. HSPs are most satisfied when doing work that makes a difference.
  • Find family-friendly work environments. You’ll find more work-life balance at organizations that call themselves “family-friendly.” The culture values shutting off email outside of work.
  • Maintain autonomy. You book your own appointments and meetings, allowing you to include buffer time between sessions to recharge. 
  • Focus on a proactive workflow. Aim for most of your work projects to be on your to-do list in advance of the deadline. Surprise projects with a quick turnaround time aren’t as likely to go well.
  • Stake out your own office. Quiet, uninterrupted work space helps the deep thinking of HSPs. 
  • Recognize if you have a respectful boss and co-workers with good boundaries. The people you work with can make or break your feelings about the environment you’re working in. Use your intuition in the initial interview. Any red flags?

Please keep in mind that, as an HSP, it is totally possible to find a career and a work setting for you to flourish in.

Keep at it, and you WILL find a career that aligns with your sensitivity and other strengths.

To read more about High Sensitivity, go here

Dr. Elayne Daniels is an international coach and private-practice psychologist. Her specialties include eating disorder recovery, body image, and helping Highly Sensitive People thrive. Contact her here for more information.

Dr. Elayne Daniels

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