The definition of a good career varies, person to person. Now, some people think of a career as a way to earn a paycheck. Cue Fred Flintstone and the 5:00 pm bell, signaling yabba dabba do, the work day is done. For others, a job is something to tolerate. As in each day, day after day, they look forward to the day they retire.
For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) career selection is particularly challenging – and important.
First and foremost, HSPs do better in creative jobs.
As in writing, art, music or psychology, rather than careers like sales or customer service that tend to be fast paced. And that require a lot of interaction with people.
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. And, certain types of jobs make for the best careers for Highly Sensitive People.
Keep in mind that HSPs are prone to overwhelm.
HSPs struggle with rushed deadlines and don’t do well with typical workplace stressors, even co-workers’ personalities. HSPs also seek meaning in their work, and don’t function well without it.
Here are some best careers for Highly Sensitive People, followed by an explanation.
- Counselor or therapist: HSPs have a natural ability to listen and empathize with others, which can make them well-suited for careers in counseling or therapy. We read people well and naturally know what they need. However, there is a caveat. Because HSPs experience “too much” sooner than others do, HSPs in this field must commit to self care practices such as daily downtime, boundary setting, and social support. Eating regularly and remaining hydrated are also important to prevent burnout. After all, soaking up people’s energy can be draining.
- Writer/Artist/Musician: Many HSPs have a rich inner world and find writing therapeutic and fulfilling. (Cue Alanis Morisette!) 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. A downside is that HSPs take criticism harshly. And, HSPs have sensory sensitivity, so holding and playing an instrument (e.g. a guitar) might be uncomfortable.
- 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 HSPs’ 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 with the Administration seems to be a common reason that fewer HSPs remain in the teaching profession.
- Researcher: HSPs tend to be detail-oriented and analytical. Research could be a potentially satisfying career choice. However, 30% of HSPs are extraverted, so conducting research in a lab would not be fulfilling to them.
- Librarian: Libraries can be quiet, contemplative spaces. This makes them a potentially comfortable and fulfilling work environment for HSPs.
- Environmental scientist: HSPs are often passionate about protecting the planet and may find a career in environmental science to be rewarding and purposeful.
- Non-profit worker: HSPs are often driven by a sense of purpose. They want to make a difference in the world and may find fulfillment in a career in the non-profit sector.
- Virtual assistant or remote worker: HSPs may find working remotely or as a virtual assistant to be a good fit, as it can allow them to work in a quiet, comfortable environment.
- 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 people!)
- Historical or lab science researcher. HSPs enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and discovery.
- Service Work including baker, mechanic, or landscaper. Being of service is often an HSP strength, as are creativty and making things (taste, run, look) better.
- Work in an environment with a meaningful mission. This is important because HSPs are most satisfied when doing work that makes a difference. Such as nonprofits.
- Find family-friendly work environments. You’ll find more work-life balance at organizations that call themselves “family-friendly”. They value shutting off email outside of work. And, whether or not you’ve got a family, they honor a 40-hour work week.
- 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 far in advance of the deadline. In reality, 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 are everything. Use your intuition in the interview to look for 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 strengths.