The Best and Worst Jobs for an Empath

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Empaths Survival GuideSome jobs are more satisfying and less stressful for empaths than others. As an empath, myself, I know that to excel in and enjoy our work, we must make the most of our sensitivities. We must express our intuition, our thoughtfulness, our quietness, and our creativity rather than trying to be someone we’re not.

Being a sensitive empath is a beautiful thing as an artist
…Alanis Morissette

The Best Careers for Empath

In my book, The Empath’s Survival Guide,” I present the pros and cons of certain careers and working conditions for sensitive people. Traditionally, empaths do better in lower stress, solo jobs, or with smaller companies. They are usually happiest working part or full time at home, away from the office frenzy, noise, politics, and nearby energy vampires. (They’re easier to deal with by email, text, or phone because they’re at a distance.) In such a job, you can plan your schedule and plan regular breaks to decompress.

Many of my empath patients prefer being self-employed to avoid the drain and overwhelm of coworkers, bosses, and packed schedules. Empaths tend to do better on their own time than with the frequent team meetings that are required in large businesses (unless the team is unusually positive and cohesive). If you’re employed by a business, it may be possible to arrange a part time home office situation and do your work virtually, with ongoing access to the Internet, emails, texts, and Skype. Increasingly, people don’t always have to be tied to their office to do their job well, a perk for empaths that allows them to have more choice in their work location. However, if you work at home or alone in an office, be careful not to become isolated or to push yourself too hard. Balance your alone time with “people time” among colleagues and friends.

How do these considerations translate into real world jobs? Empaths do well being self-employed business owners, writers, editors, health care professionals, artists and in other creative professions. Many actor and musicians such as Claire Danes, Alanis Morissette, Scarlett Johansson, and Jim Carrey have admitted to being “highly sensitive.”

Other good jobs include: website and graphic designers, virtual assistants, accountants or lawyers with home offices, or independent electricians and plumbers who can set their own appointments. Being a real estate agent or roving business consultant can be fine too, as long as you establish good boundaries regarding when you can be reached and don’t overschedule yourself. Landscape design, gardening, forest ranger work, or other employment that puts you in nature are wonderful for empaths as are jobs preserving the earth and her ecosystems.

Many empaths also go into the helping professions because of their desire to serve others. As a psychiatrist, I get great satisfaction from helping my patients, as long as I can take care of my own energy and don’t absorb the stress from my patients. Similarly, many empaths become physicians, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, psychotherapists, social workers, teachers, yoga instructors, Chinese medical practitioners, massage therapists, clergy, hospice workers, life coaches, or volunteers or employees of non-profit organizations among other heart-felt jobs. Working with animals, animal rescue, dog grooming, as well as veterinary medicine are gratifying choices too.

But, to thrive, empaths in the helping professions must learn how to stop taking on the stress and symptoms of their patients and clients. They can do this by scheduling breaks between clients to meditate set clear limits and boundaries with people, and take adequate time outside of work to relax and refuel. However, jobs such as being a police officer or fire-fighter, though often heroic, may be too stressful for an empath because of the high sensory stimulation and ongoing physical and emotional trauma inherent in these careers.

Empaths are valuable to all kinds of careers. However, you need to find the right work that supports your skills, temperament, and gifts. An empath’s attributes may not be as appreciated in places such as corporations, academia, professional sports, the military, or government. A better match may be the helping professions, the arts, and organizations with more humanistic awareness. So, when you’re considering a job, use your intuition to sense if you are a good fit with their mission and shared goals, the people, the space, and the energy of the environment. Just because a job looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It has to feel right in your body and gut too.

Jobs to Avoid If You’re an Empath

One of the best ways to take care of your energy is to choose work that enhances your unique empathic gifts and avoid draining jobs.

What jobs are best to avoid? Sales is high on that list. Not many empaths enjoy being salespeople, especially if they’re introverted. Dealing with the public takes too much out of them. One patient who worked in technical support said, “I was too sensitive to constantly deal with angry customers, even if they were right.” Also, empaths pick up people’s emotions and stress which can make them sick. One man said, “Being a cashier at Walmart nearly gave me an anxiety attack. The crowds, the noise of people talking and loudspeakers, bright lights, and long hours were exhausting.” Whether it’s selling cars, diamond rings, or advertising, empaths don’t generally feel well having to “be on” all day.

Other stressful careers for empaths include public relations, politics, executives who manage large teams, and being a trial attorney. These high intensity professions value extroversion, the ability to engage in small talk, and aggressiveness rather than being thoughtful, soft-spoken, sensitive, and introspective.

The mainstream corporate world is problematic too. The “this is how it’s done” corporate mentality is difficult for empaths, including myself. This response has always frustrated me since there’s nowhere to go with it, and it clearly doesn’t value an individual’s needs. Empaths are independent thinkers and question the status quo at work if it doesn’t feel right. They like to know the reasoning behind a decision so they make sense of it in their gut. Plus, regular team meetings and power hungry team-mates are draining for empaths, who function better on their own.

Even if your job is not ideal–and you can’t leave–you can improvise to find solutions that make your situation more comfortable. When empaths are happy at work they can flourish, and make important contributions to their occupations.

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” a guidebook for empaths and all caring people who want to keep their hearts open in an often-insensitive world.

 

 

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her latest book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

17 thoughts on “The Best and Worst Jobs for an Empath

  1. I am an art teacher and have been for about 20 years. I seem to have gotten stuck in this cycle of working for inner city schools where socio-emotional issues are high. I’m constantly absorbing the negative behaviors of my students but i am doing something i love-art. So it has become a love hate relationship. I am having problems sleeping at night since starting this new school. I wake up at 2am and i can’t stop thinking about the negative interactions i had with my students or the multiple fights/teasing i witnessed. it’s only september and I just signed this contract. i can’t survive this year like this. i need help. there is barely any breaks to do mindfulness and then i come home to a 3yr old as a single parent. (dad lives in another country). these ideas for empaths to balance with alone time just don’t fit in to my day to day. i’m thinking of trying mindfulness as a whole at the beginning of class but these kids may reject it. then why do i do?

  2. I worked as a correctional officer for about a year and a half. It was a very love hate relationship with the job because I did enjoy parts of it but
    It also made me feel extremely negative as its constant negative exposure. I could feel extreme toxic and narcissistic behaviours, both from staff and inmates most days . Being a highly sensitive person it’s hard to be in this type of environment. It really rubs off on you (you are what you surround yourself with). It’s hard as an empath to be around suffering, sadness, depression, manipulation and hostile behaviour. It completely drains you and can make you very bitter if you are sensitive or even aware of yourself and your feelings. I started to feel anxiety and depression and extreme burnout from the experiences I encountered on a day to day basis and how I would have to react negatively in order to survive in such an environment. This made it very hard for me to stay positive while outside of work (especially with covid/lockdowns). I’m currently working towards going back to school to be an hvacr technician as I feel that fixing machines and being able to work alone and see progress on my task at hand will give me healthier and more happy life that I can enjoy. Never stay where you are being drained, abused, or being subjected to harsh negativity. Always surround yourself with positivity and radiate the positivity to others so they can shine and help others shine too. Always be kind to yourself and others and you will live a fulfilling life.

  3. I have been a therapist in 2 prisons for about 4 years The first prison was for young adults who committed heinous crimes. The second prison is for inmates who are severely mentally ill. As an empath, these jobs are killing me. I am surrounded by personality disordered individuals all day. Most clinicians won’t run into a true ASPD ever and I work with many every day. Having to walk through a yard is pure hell. I’m bombarded physically and emotionally. I didn’t realize I was an empath until I had a breakdown and I couldn’t block anymore even though I didn’t realize that is what I had been doing. In my research to figure out what was happening andI realized what it was because what I had been doing already was explained and I had an aha moment. I do need to leave this environment because an empath cannot survive here however, I’m so drained and stuck that I can’t get myself out of it. It’s pure hell.

  4. This information explained the reasons why I have made certain choices in my life. I have a Masters Degree in Engineering and worked in the corporate world the first 11 years after of college. I did well professionally and was well liked, but deep down I was miserable. I worked 9 hour days along with a 4 hour daily commute. Twenty years ago I resigned from my position and began a career as a Professional Land Surveyor. I own a small company and work by myself from home. Working in rural Missouri (often in the woods) allows me to have a peaceful soul without the noise of co-workers in an office environment. I have questioned the decision to leave that job many times in my mind, mostly because of the retirement benefits I have missed out on. As I learn more about the identity of my character, I am no longer second-guessing that decision. If I would have stayed in that stressful environment I probably would not be alive today. Thank you for your publication!

  5. I didn’t know I was an empath until last November. I had worked in a max prison for 8 yrs and now finally understand why it took 8 yrs to snap of it. I’ve tried nursing and CNA and it burned me out. I was also a Marine for 8 yrs. I want to be a paramedic bc I want to try to help some people and I need some type of action, but I’m often drained quickly. Someone please help me, I’m lost and everyone thinks I’m crazy and I have no one to talk to about any of this!

  6. A friend sent this to me some time ago – I am just re-reading now. As an RN my patients lived with me, as did their families and ghosts. Encounters with my first patients as an EMT, then as a paramedic are still vivid. As an equine nutrition consultant (and I’m often asked to help with kitties and pups, too) I find myself trying to meld into the horse’s psyche to understand what might be the best approach for that individual. At the same time I build walls and put experiences into boxes to protect myself from those close to me. I’m that person that strangers in airports somehow find and sit next to and share their life with me – I sometimes feel like Lucy in her psychiatric booth. These encounters have always seemed to be positive for the stranger so I have found them to be rewarding when they occur – even when it has meant I had to abandon the book I was engrossed in.
    Since retirement I haave become a cancer patient advocate which, at times, leaves me feeling drained. Possibly because I tend to try to go beyond the obvious and hear what someone is asking.
    Life is interesting.

  7. So I used to work for Active Duty military for about 5 1/2 years in a hospital as a laboratory technician, it was fun at first but eventually it felt draining and I felt like a circle trying to fit in a square (like one of those toddler shape toys). While I enjoyed the independence and adventure at first, I quickly found out how limiting and suffocating it was for me. So I moved over to the Guard (people were a lot less anal, more friendly and held back knowledge less. because the Guard does not promote under a “forced distribution” unlike Active Duty) I enjoyed the change to having an administration job… but four years later under the same supervisor, I felt drained again. When I deployed and was actually in charge of my own section, it felt really good to me! I found out that I cannot go back working under the supervisor I left in my home unit because she would bring me down and micromanage me and over control everything! I felt that she did not like that I deployed. I also learned how much people like to gossip about others.

    I am glad I went over to the Guard from Active Duty. I feel that I got my humanity back.. also when I return upon deployment I am hoping to go back to working part time and by home with my kids more so I can give them more of my heart, mind, energy, and time (and maybe in the process I can work from home too). I find that it’s a REAL challenge for me giving my children my all when I am working full time for the Guard. And on top of that, being the wife my husband needs and having friends, and finding some me time.

    This article really hit the nail on the head. It described a lot of what I’ve gone through, my abilities, and inabilities, and answered some questions my spirit was looking for.

    Thank you!

  8. This articulated well and making sense.
    Part of being an Empath ….we NEED to protect and keep our own privacy!
    So in life going on .. in personal life and working life it can get sticky.
    The ability to make good decisions that feel right and sound is all an Empath really wants.
    Just knowing this , I think , I figured out
    the more you have to put yourself out there to others .. the more people want to know about you! IT CAN BE DRAINING in most cases in all caring careers.

  9. If you re-read the article, you’ll see that many of the suggestions do not require a college degree (ie. gardening, real estate, and several others, like electrician, that would require a vocational training). If you currently work in politics you could probably be a consultant of some sort. If you can type, there is at home transcription work.

  10. This article really made sense. I worked as a police officer and then a child welfare caseworker for the past 20 years. I’m not sure what drew me to these high stress positions but The work was draining beat me to death. I don’t know how I did it all those years while raising a family. Recently, I decided to make a huge transition in my life for personal wellness and balance by taking time to look inward through meditation, yoga, mindfulness, exercise, acupressure and just really thinking about where I was in my body. Now I want to help others with psychological and emotional trauma by working as a massage therapist because I feel that I can see in others the trapped trauma. This article helped put into words that I really am an empath. Thanks!

  11. Great read. I have been in sales for years; I was usually successful, but it has always been difficult to feel satisfied or excited with work. I finally made the decision to step into an accounting and payroll position and am MUCH happier. The pay and benefits aren’t as great as being a salesperson, but my emotional and mental health have improved drastically. I thought because I considered myself and empath I would do well in sales because I could relate with customers and find appropriate solutions, while I think this was true, it was incredibly draining. Thanks for helping me understand why.

  12. I enjoyed the article, I am in the process of trying to figure out what are my next steps in regards to my career. I am a special education teacher and was a teachers assistant for many years. I’m finding that I enjoyed being a T.A more because I was able to help the teacher without all the other stressors. Daily i am drained and I am falling short of my responsibilities because I am not happy. I am considering going into working with medically fragile children because the environment is the opposite of what I’ve been working in, while being a teacher to children on the autsim spectrum . The article gave me some great ideas.

  13. I work as a Tasting Room Associate at a winery. I work with a great team of people now. I enjoy the customers but when it is extremely busy, I am completely drained at the end of the day. Being an Empath has put me at top sales as I read people/customers fairly easily but at the same time it is exhausting. If I go for long periods without enough down time, I get physically sick. Would like to find work that I can thrive at without feeling drained and exhausted. Any suggestions?

  14. Great read but a few points I’d like to make. I just started looking into careers that empaths might do well in, out of curiosity. I’m currently in politics, I think it aligns closer to animal rescue and non-profits in a way, but I’m not the politician, that might be the difference. I don’t think I have time to go back to college, a lot of what you listed as careers for empaths need degrees. Any suggestions for those who can’t afford or do not like the structure of school to get a degree. Sales and Walmart are essentially, non-degree positions. The article seems socio-economically bias in that regards. What about empaths without education, where is their safe space and careers that can be rewarding for their energy. I’d suggest watching for that type of language.

    1. I have an empath friend who became a virtual assistant so she could work from home. What is your passion or interest? How can you take your experience and apply it to a career where you can protect your sensitivities? This article is meant to give suggestions. It is up to the reader to see which ideas can apply to their lives.

    2. I think you have misread the article or have an unrealistic bias yourself if you think only the ‘uneducated’ can work in Walmart or sales. The article is very positive in giving ideas and suggestions across a broad spectrum of possibilities which you can apply to your situation. The focus is not how to change careers, if that’s what you want, be open to upskilling or training, which doesn’t actually mean spending lots of money on college or a degree. Apply the information to your own personal needs and circumstances rather than making unfounded accusations.

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