March 31, 2017

The Best & Worst Careers for Empaths.

“Being a sensitive empath is a beautiful thing as an artist.” ~ Alanis Morissette 


Some 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.

The Best Careers for Empaths.

In 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 low-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 with 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, rather 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, healthcare professionals, artists, and other creative professions. Many actors 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 over-schedule 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, setting clear limits and boundaries with people, and taking adequate time outside of work to relax and refuel. However, jobs such as being a police officer or firefighter, 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, 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 can make sense of it in their gut. Plus, regular team meetings and power hungry teammates 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 The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff, MD, which is a guidebook for empaths and all caring people who want to keep their hearts open in an often-insensitive world.


Author: Judith Orloff, MD

Image: Flickr/LaVladina

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Michael Tarulli May 6, 2017 12:55am

Thank you for the article, it resonated so much. I've learnt my lesson in life. I was young and naive. I joined the police having only experienced stress, anxiety and further trauma. I believe fate intervened (as hard as this is to stomach); I left the organisation with a permanent physical disability after recovering from a police work injury. Years of re-education and earning a masters in business, I volunteer for not for profits. I am writing a memoir of my experiences which I hope to publish one day.

Nensi Voj Apr 6, 2017 3:20pm

...and of course , freelance artist,...sculptor,painter,writer...

Holly H. Mourant Apr 5, 2017 2:06pm

I finally quit my last job because it was draining me and I was becoming a mess. It was a hard decision because I did love what I was doing but the person in charge was a manipulator and a narcissist. I worked with kids and enjoyed them immensely. In the end I walked away and don't regret it. I just regret being so torn trying to decide that I feel like I ignored my dog and didn't take him in to the vet sooner which might have saved his life. I am trying not to hang on to that but it is difficult. I am now back working again as a Vet Tech and I am loving it. There are a few people at work that can be draining but I work part time which helps and the awareness I have now about who I am and what I need is making the difference. I walked away from this job 7 1/2 years ago. It feels good to be back and for the most part, it is an amazing group of people that I work with and I appreciate them so much.

Holly H. Mourant Apr 5, 2017 2:06pm

I understand how you feel! I was there just over a year ago.

Beth Hofmann-Davies Apr 3, 2017 8:27pm

Wonderful article! Thank you so much. You are succinct and really know what you are talking about! Very helpful!����

Jen Johnson Apr 1, 2017 9:14am

Oh thank you for this article. I need all the support I can get right now I am in serious need of a job and so many things setem to be stacked against me, I am a wreck , ive never felt so uncertian of everything in my life. I am an empath and have not learned how to fight off the negative energies of people , such as the durng an interview I take on both my feelings and theirs which is one big ball of chaos . Please let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

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Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is the author of  The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Her new 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 and an empath who combines the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly highly sensitive people. She is a New York Times best-selling author of  Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Guide to Intuitive Healing, The Power of Surrender, and Second Sight. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on drjudithorloff.com. Republished with explicit written permission from the author. Join her empath Facebook community for sensitive souls here.

Read more from Judith here.