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Building Bridges: 5 Ideal Career Paths for Empaths

“One of the most decisive characteristics to greatly affect how a person would succeed in their chosen profession has a lot to do with their sensibility.” Choosing a career path is one of the hardest milestones in life — for many complex reasons. This decision naturally has overarching consequences for the rest of one’s life. Society also forces this enormous decision relatively early in life, since college freshmen, sophomores and juniors must choose the appropriate higher education tracks to achieve their career path. The path to a career choice typically includes knowing what a person is passionate about, and also whether or not that person has the innate behavior and skills to achieve their desired career. For the most part, it demands a thorough understanding of one’s self. It is only when people explore their own motivations, passions and goals that they can proceed to the next step: finally choosing which among the different professions fits their personalities best.

One of the most decisive characteristics to greatly affect how a person would succeed in their chosen profession has a lot to do with their sensibility. This is primarily because of the magnitude with which it defines how much the environment they are in would shape the quality of the work that they would be doing. This is especially true for those with empathic, or highly sensitive, personalities. But to understand what this means, we must first explore the question: what is empathy?

More than mere sympathy Roman Krznaric of Greater Good Magazine defines empathy as the very human ability “to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide [their] actions.” This should not be confused with kindness or pity, which has more to do with mere sympathy. There is a false parallel between empathy and sympathy. The former is the capability of a person to share what another person feels, and the latter simply deals with the specific reactions people have in response to the plight of others — regardless of how much they understand what those people are going through. Empaths, therefore, are very much guided by their sensitivity when responding to certain environments — and this is something to consider when choosing your own career paths.

© 2017, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, All Rights Reserved.

Facing the world with sensitivity

This also means that a key factor for how empaths should decide on their careers is the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of the interaction they will be having with other people. This means knowing what to look for and avoid, while at the same time making sure that they are able to maximize their sensitivity to other people. Judith Orloff MD of Psychology Today says that “[t]raditionally, 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.” At the worst case scenario, she says that “[w]hen overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths may experience panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex, and drug binges, or exhibit many other physical symptoms that defy traditional diagnosis.” This doesn’t mean that empaths should just steer clear of people in general. Rather, it just means that they are better off choosing jobs in industries that would ideally remove them from an environment that presents a constant possibility for confrontation. For empaths to function properly, it is best to allow them their own space to go through their own thinking processes. With those things in mind, here are some of the best career paths for people with empathic personalities:

1. Creative Fields People with highly sensitive personalities have the ability to dig into where other people are coming from. This makes it easier for them to translate this understanding into something creative, and a psychological study in The Journal of Psychology has proven that fact. This means that their outputs are usually more genuine, whether in the form of words for writers and editors or with other works of art (visual, performance, etc.). Actors with highly sensitive personalities, for example, are able to channel their roles more authentically given their ability to empathize well. A clearer case is that of those who work for ad agencies, whose work output consists of materials that are specifically directed for the perusal of other people. Michael Ventura, founder and CEO of a strategy and design firm Sub Rosa, explains in an interview by Karla Cook for HubSpot that the goal for those who work in advertising is "getting out of [their] own perceptions and getting into [the client's] vantage — really understanding from the client side: what do they have that's going to help achieve this and where their deficiencies exist." This means understanding: 1. What the client wants to achieve, and 2. How they will be able to translate this into a work that would be easier for other people to comprehend. Both of these require the sensitivity of empathic people. It is important to note, however, that the hectic environment of an ad agency might cause deep anxiety and stress for an empath. A freelance or work-from-home options is therefore more ideal. © 2017, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, All Rights Reserved.

2. Healthcare Professions An empath’s inherent willingness and ability to understand other people makes it ideal for them to enter a line of work that would directly put others into their care. Their ability to tap into what others need means they would make for effective healthcare professionals, such as nurses, dieticians, alternative/holistic medicine practicioners or those who deal with general hospital management. Health-related career paths that constantly put the empath at a high risk for failure, such as being a surgeon or an EMT, might not be ideal given the amount of pressure that might build up.

“Another character trait of empaths is that they have an intrinsic affinity for nature.” 3. Helping Professions In a similar manner, professions that would put the empath in a position of directly helping other people would also be ideal since it would be easier for them to guide other people into what they need. Related professions are those of a career/life coach, a psychiatrist, a yoga instructor, a school counselor, or an NGO volunteer, among many others. These are roles that would put them in a position that would allow them to talk one-on-one with other people, thereby giving them the chance to dig deeper into how each of those people are feeling and help them adjust accordingly.

4. Nature Work Another character trait of empaths is that they have an intrinsic affinity for nature — meaning that the natural world has a great effect on them positively. This means that getting into a job that keeps them in constant contact with nature — such as landscaping, gardening or becoming a forest ranger, biologist or botanist, among many others — would keep their spirits constantly uplifted.

Alternately, any line of work that would constantly expose them to the destruction of nature (which may be in the form of air, land, water, noise or light pollution) would easily drain them of their energy.

© 2017, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, All Rights Reserved.

“Corporate jobs that would require them to simply follow a mindless routine would also drain them of purpose.” 5. Working with Animals Similarly, jobs that would mean constantly working with animals would work well for the highly sensible. Some of the jobs associated with this include being a dog sitter/walker, zoologist (although it is important to not let the hectic nature of research to dampen their spirits), dog trainer or animal groomer. Counter-intuitively, being a veterinarian may not be advisable for empaths, as some people who weighed in on this blog post from A Highly Sensitive Person’s Life have mentioned, since the job actually entails dealing with pets’ owners all day long. Janet Charlong, one of the veterinarians who posted a comment on the article, says that “90% of what [they] do involves people — talking, listening, trying not to absorb other’s emotions (happy, sad, angry, confused, resentful, accusatory, overwhelmed),” which might not be very ideal especially for more introverted empaths. Naturally, high-intensity jobs that deal too much with people and that would constantly require empaths to engage in small talk and not give them enough time to listen extensively to other people should be avoided. Corporate jobs that would require them to simply follow a mindless routine would also drain them of purpose.


There is no single formula for success for empaths looking to choose a career path. While one empath might have succeeded as a writer, another might not have the linguistic skills to set them up for that career path. The constant traffic of people in a hospital might push one empath into anxiety but not another. What works for one would not necessarily work for everyone else. An empath’s ideal job still highly depends on the specific set of personalities that defines them. Evaluating one’s own motivations, passions and goals will help each college-aged empath find the ideal career path.

© 2017, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, All Rights Reserved.

Building Bridges: 5 Ideal Career Paths for Empaths  
Building Bridges: 5 Ideal Career Paths for Empaths