When you click on an article titled “Worst Jobs For The Highly Sensitive Person” you might be expecting to see a list of specific job titles. And if that’s the case, I’m sorry to disappoint. But please know that specific job titles are missing from this article for a good reason. And the reason is that I just don’t think any job title can be unilaterally ruled out, because there are so many variables at play.
HSPs are not clones of each other and we each have our own unique combination of sensitivities and preferences. What is tolerable also depends so much on context. How passionately you want to do a particular job. How much opportunity you have to recharge outside of work. How much support you have. And so on and so on.
But with all that being said, there are a few specific job requirements that MANY highly sensitive people struggle with. So when looking for the ideal career or work setting, here are some red flags that might give you reason to pause and consider whether this is something you want to commit to tolerating in the long term:
- Physically Taxing Work Environment: Physical triggers are probably the most obvious culprit of HSP workplace misery. Constant exposure to noise, smells, or flickering lights will irritate most HSPs both mentally and physically.
- Emotionally Taxing Work Environment: HSPs tend to be high in empathy and very in tune with the moods of everyone around them. They literally feel other people’s feelings in their own bodies. Even for HSPs who have learned techniques for keeping other people’s emotions separate from their own, spending extended periods of time around people who relish conflict and aggression or people exuding negativity might turn out to be an exhausting endeavor.
- Time Pressure: HSPs process information deeply and like to think things through. We also need more downtime than non-HSPs to give our sensitive nervous system time to recover from overstimulation. This is why any career that requires fast action or constantly being “on” is likely to cause excessive stress for HSPs. We are not go-go-go people.
- Meaningless Work: While the business world mostly focuses on the bottom line, HSPs tend to be caring and compassionate people, who obviously want to make a living, but who also seek to make a difference and make the world a better place. They want their work to be personally meaningful and to have a higher purpose. This is why an environment where performance and profits are valued above all else is likely to depress HSPs.
- Workplace Culture That Takes Advantage of Conscientious People: HSPs are naturally conscientious people who often fall in the “people pleaser” and “rule follower” camps. They like to do the right thing and meet expectations. While these qualities are beneficial in some situations, possessing them also means that HSPs who don’t have good personal boundaries are easily taken advantage of. They will pick up the slack and burn themselves out. And even for HSPs with good boundaries, constantly battling a workplace culture that’s founded on unreasonable expectations can prove to be extremely taxing.
- Work That Is Not A Good Match For Your OTHER Personality Characteristics And Preferences: As started earlier, HSPs are not clones of each other. That’s why it’s important to consider your other personality characteristics and preferences. For example, a job that requires constantly being the center of attention and interacting with others might turn out to be too taxing for a person who prefers introversion. Similarly, very repetitive work might turn out to be too draining for a person who prefers intuition.
- Work That Is Not A Good Fit Considering Your Non-Work Life: I firmly believe that career options should never be considered in isolation – what is going on in your life outside of work plays a huge role in determining whether some jobs are “doable” or not. I often meet highly sensitive people for whom the problem is not their job per se, but the problem is that there’s just too much going on when you take into account all the demands they have on them from work and from family and from friends. What they are carrying on their plates is simply too heavy.
If you’d like support with finding the right HSP-friendly career option for you or with the career transition process in general, here are links to more info on some of my coaching services:
- If you are unhappy with your current career path, dreaming of change, but unsure what you could or should be doing instead, you might be interested in my HSP Career Discovery Online Course. This course is for you if you are starting with a completely blank slate with no ideas for career options at all, or if you already have some ideas, but you want to fully consider all your options and reflect deeply on what you want before moving forward. The course is self-paced, you can enroll anytime, and you receive immediate access to a series of short videos and workbook assignments.
- If you match the description above, but you haven’t had much success with self-paced resources, need outside accountability, and prefer writing to talking, you might want to check out my HSP Career Discovery Coaching Program Via Email. With this option, you will go through the same process as the students enrolled in the online course, but you will send the completed assignments to me according to an agreed upon schedule. You will also receive feedback from me and personalized support if you get stuck.
- If you are interested in formal career assessments like the MBTI® or the Strong Interest Inventory®, see the info page for my 1:1 Career Coaching services.
- I also recommend 1:1 Career Coaching if you are stuck in analysis paralysis and need help overcoming doubts and fears that are holding you back from taking action or if you keep procrastinating because the whole process just feels too overwhelming. My services are location-independent with all sessions conducted online via Zoom.