Jobs That Are Great for Empaths (and 3 That Typically Aren’t) was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.
While it’s important for everyone to get on a career path and find jobs that feel like the right fit for them, it’s especially important for empaths, who are more empathetic, sensitive, and in tune with others’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions than the average person. In the right role, that empathy and sensitivity can help you build a thriving career—but in the wrong one, the same qualities can prove to be a major liability to both your performance and happiness.
If you consider yourself an empath, what should you be looking for in a job? What kind of work environment will you thrive in? What are the roles that play to your natural strengths and which ones should you be wary of? Read on to find out.
Before we jump into some of the best career paths for empaths, let’s dig in a little deeper into what it means to be an empath.
“An empath is someone who has a higher level of empathy than the average person,” says Alicia Reece, a certified executive coach, author, and talent strategist with over 20 years of experience working with individual professionals and leaders—including empaths. “They are sensitive and in tune to people’s energy, emotions, and thoughts—even if they don’t know them.”
This deep connection with other people “gives [empaths] the ability to connect with others and their feelings in a way that most people cannot,” says Michelle Enjoli, a career coach (and self-professed empath!) who specializes in helping professionals connect to new career opportunities.
There are a few key characteristics and personality traits that go hand in hand with being an empath. Empaths tend to be more:
- Intuitive: “Empaths are great at reading people’s thoughts, energy, motivations, and desires beyond their words,” Reece says.
- Caring: “Empaths care a great deal about people,” Reece says. “They have an innate feeling of kindness and compassion.”
- Giving: Empaths are also “natural givers,” Reece says. “They would rather give to someone or something than receive. They find extreme pleasure in helping others solve problems and ultimately thrive.”
- Sensitive: “Empaths are highly sensitive to others’ feelings and emotions—and to their own,” Reece says. “They are known to wear their feelings on their sleeves.”
There’s no universal, one-size-fits-all career for empaths; different people who identify as empaths will be attracted to—and thrive in—different types of jobs, work environments, and opportunities. But there are a few things empaths in particular should consider when evaluating a job and/or company to make sure it’s the right fit for them, including:
- Will there be an opportunity to provide a meaningful service to other people? “Empaths tend to excel in industries that provide a service to others—like hospitality, medical, teaching, and social work,” Enjolie says. “The jobs in these industries require an enhanced sense of intuition, sensitivity, and connection in order to effectively serve others.”
- How emotionally taxing is the job? On the flip side, some of these same jobs that provide meaningful services to other people can be heavy emotional burdens—which can make them feel like just too much for some empaths. Let’s use the medical field as an example. While some empaths may feel energized providing support to people struggling with medical issues, others may feel overwhelmed when faced with the pain and suffering of their patients. You know yourself best, so try to gauge whether the emotional toll would outweigh the fulfillment of helping people and be honest with yourself. This may be something you explore and assess through volunteer work or internships before committing to a particular path for the long haul.
- Does the work environment value connection? Empaths should look for work environments that allow them “to form authentic connections with others, which is where they excel and feel most comfortable,” Enjoli says. When considering a position, empaths should look at both the culture of the company and the parameters of the role and make sure they’ll have the opportunity to connect with others on a regular basis. For example, a company where people tend to keep to themselves or a role that requires primarily independent work probably wouldn’t be the best fit for an empath, while a company culture that fosters strong relationships between employees or a role that offers plenty of opportunities to partner and collaborate on projects would likely be a better fit.
- Are the organization’s values aligned with their own? Empaths care—not only about other people, but also about their own values. When evaluating an opportunity, empaths should take special care to make sure the company and role are in line with their personal values. “Empaths should research the company’s mission, values, and vision to make sure it excites and connects with them,” Enjoli says. You can dig into a company’s “About,” “Mission,” and other pages or peruse their Muse profile if they have one to find out what their values and vision are.
Let’s take a look at a few career paths that typically aren’t the right fit for empaths. (It’s important to note, however, that there are exceptions to every rule. While these roles typically aren’t the right fit, there may be empaths who nevertheless find these roles are exactly what they’re looking for!)
- Executive leadership: Executives often have to make tough decisions that impact employees, sometimes putting profits and business needs above people, which could prove challenging (or even impossible) for an empath.
- Sales. “Sales jobs…are typically high-energy and -stakes roles where if you don’t perform in meeting your sales targets, then you could be reprimanded or in some cases fired,” Reece says. When an empath works in this kind of environment, not only can they feel stress about hitting their own targets, but they may also absorb their coworkers’ stress about hitting their targets—which can sap their emotional energy and impact their job performance.
- Politics: Politics can be intense, high stress, and, in many ways, cutthroat—not necessarily the best fit for someone who is intuitive, sensitive, and empathetic.