Jobs For Introverted But Friendly One-On-One Types? Help!
November 22, 2014 9:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a career change. I am a very focused, caring introvert, part creative and part analytical. But I'm really poor in an office environment. I hate meetings with more than 3-4 people and it's very stressful for me. I like people but I just feel that I thrive more in a one-on-one or small group setting. I work in online advertising for my company right now, and while I don't hate it and it sort of fits my personality type, the money isn't that great and I don't see myself as the "climb the corporate ladder" type. I am trying to find a career outside of the corporate office world where I may not sit at a desk all day and then have large meetings. I was looking into physical therapy assistant, massage therapist, maybe an allied health profession, or something else that is more one-on-one in nature. Any other suggestions?

I had thought about CS route but I think I would go crazy programming all day. My other option is to stay in the online ad/marketing/e-commerce realm, but just find smaller companies to work for, that don't feel so corporate and terrifying to me. I don't know if I'm selling myself short by looking for the wrong type of job. Instead of working behind a computer all day, maybe I just need to find a job where I deal with people more one-on-one? Any help or ideas is appreciated. Thanks.
posted by selma52 to Work & Money (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered going into psychotherapy? Sounds like your skillset is a good fit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Social worker?
posted by DrGail at 10:12 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

What sorts of people do you think you'd want to work with, in what kinds of situations? Many (but not all) jobs that involve one-on-one interaction will involve people in some kind of distress (or people who become a PITA at some point or other). That said, I think there are probably a lot of jobs that involve providing goods or services one-on-one. I think some of these could make you some money:
- Real estate agent
- Financial planner
- Accountant
- Personal/beauty services (aesthetician - some can make a lot of money)
- Funeral director
- Interior designer
- Genetics counsellor
- Physician assistant
- Sales jobs that involve developing relationships over time, & soft vs. hard selling
- I think there are probably roles in HR that involve doing good, not evil
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:34 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're making choices about your future to suit your personality type that severely restrict your future earning potential and your potential authority. That is fine. But I think it's important to acknowledge that anxiety and discomfort are encouraging you to channel yourself into positions with little room for advancement and a serious cap on income.

Can you work backwards a little bit, and let yourself dream and scheme for a little bit? Envision what you would want your day and your life to look like. What comforts would you want to have? What sorts of work relationships do you enjoy most? More importantly: WHAT do you want to MAKE in this world? I just don't want you to wake up one day and think "Man, I sold myself short because I'm an introvert and I care about other people." Those are good things, and should be put to best use.

Or, sometimes, worked around. One of my favorite introverts is a successful office real estate broker; another introvert I know is a litigator. I'm a total loner weirdo introvert, but I work in a field where I have to aggressively engage with people from time to time. The aggressive sides of these professions can still chafe, but they're limited in nature, but we've all arranged for a good degree of autonomy for ourselves.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:50 PM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

I am also an introvert who really enjoys one-on-one interaction. I work as a Speech Language Pathologist in Early Intervention and find it to hit all my buttons. My specific field of Early Intervention is key (more so than being an SLP), as other settings (schools, clinics, skilled nursing facilities) require more group or team work, or contract one-on-one with no downtime. I did rotations in those settings and found them emotionally exhausting. Similar professions might be: occupational or physical therapist, special educator, therapist, or nurse who specializes in home visits.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think a two pronged approach. Any personality trait, or psychological issue that's holding you back should be addressed in therapy. Stretch yourself, it's one thing to be an introvert, it's quite another to let being so restrict your income and choices.

None of these are easy, but they can suit your interests and earn you a tidy living:

Physical Therapist
X-Ray Technician
Ultrasound Technician
Dental Hygienist
Occupational Therapist
Lab Technician
Respiratory Therapist

Look into them and see if they're up your alley. Some of them can be earned quite inexpensively through a Community College.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:14 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, just, regarding jobs in healthcare, and especially counselling and the like - also wanted to bring up this recent question, in case it might be relevant, because I think the ability to set and maintain boundaries and manage various possible sources of overwhelm when dealing with people in difficult situations may be something to account for in your decision-making, if you're like myself and many other introverts I know.

Also wanted to say that the rationale behind some of the jobs I suggested is that some provide the opportunity to engage with people in pleasant or rewarding ways sort of incidentally to the main transaction, which itself is structured and may have the kinds of clear outcomes that might not be seen in some roles in healthcare. (E.g., helping a family find the right home for them is a kind of huge and important thing, which, if you're good at it, might also let you take a holiday or two every year.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2014

I really enjoyed the one-on-one work when I was a freelance graphic designer. Client and I would define the case, brainstorm, reiteratively solve it, and when it was over I could never see them again (or if we clicked, see them a bunch more times). Working for yourself does involve psychic/effort overhead in terms of taxes, health insurance, advertising.

Is there a freelance/consulting version of what you're doing now?
posted by Jesse the K at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depending on what kind of library you work in, librarianship can fit your description. I currently entertain hordes of children at my library, but in the past I have been a cataloguer and a reference librarian at a small college, both of which were very quiet, one-on-one jobs that were very satisfying.
posted by Biblio at 7:51 PM on November 22, 2014

This may be more in the job column than the career column (although I would love to make a career with the company!), but I lucked into my current position of "Fleet Technician" for car2go (a car-sharing service). Essentially we work in teams of two and move the little cars from low traffic areas to high traffic areas. We ride together to a car, and then drive separately to wherever the car is being dropped off (and then ride together to the next car, and repeat).

Most days my only human interaction is with my partner, although we do communicate with the boss, usually via text message, if needed about issues we come across. Occassionally while out and about, we do get asked questions about the cars and how the service works but it's not really a daily thing. Maybe twice a week.

It pays well enough for me to pay my bills easily and afford a few nice things, and that's really all I need to be happy.

And my "office" is essentially our entire city and most surrounding suburbs!

The company is only in a few US cities now though, so this particular job may not be available to most people, but hopefully it gives you another idea avenue to pursue? :)
posted by Zarya at 11:35 PM on November 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for the input and advice. Your responses have definitely got me thinking, and I'll look into some of those career fields you've listed. I've looked into some of the health technician fields, and also real estate broker, but my concern with those positions have been possible over-saturation in the job market (?). I had never considered psychotherapy but I'll look into that career and the schooling necessary.

I guess I'm just paralyzed by options as this point. I want to believe there's a career out there that I'll feel more driven and interested in than where I'm at now.

Perhaps it will help to list some of my interests/areas I've been thinking about:
- Had previously studied Product Design but switched to Business degree (have an art/design side)
- Market research (geographic markets, economics, societal trends)
- International trade, import-export, cultures
- Automobile and Real Estate market
- Physical health or maybe psychotherapy

I'm one of those people that have been told their entire lives that they're "quiet", so maybe I believed it too much that I've let it hold me back. Like I said I just think I need a career with more personable interaction instead of presenting ideas in front of large groups, or having to climb the ladder and become a manager and sit in large meetings all day. That sounds like hell to me.

I hope this update helps spur some more suggestions. Thanks!
posted by selma52 at 5:10 PM on November 23, 2014

Given your interests, you may find some sort of business consulting to be right up your alley. A lot depends on how much education you have and/or want to get; credentials are very important in this field. But with a minimum of a bachelor's degree, there are a lot of avenues available that might bring you great satisfaction. If you're willing to pursue a master's degree (either in I/O psychology or an MBA), there are even broader opportunities. This happens to be a rapidly growing field right now, and you'd likely work in a smallish firm as part of a small team. There is often pressure to move up, which I realize doesn't appeal to you, but there is also a lot of room to find a niche and stay there. Feel free to memail me to explore this further.
posted by DrGail at 6:43 PM on November 23, 2014

Response by poster: I've thought about some sort of business/marketing consulting, or market research analyst...but like many careers I've looked into, the entry into these careers seems so vague.

Any other career ideas for someone who is good at and enjoys research? I'm not opposed to going back to school if I need to. It's frustrating because I'm driven but I just don't know what I want to ultimately pursue.
posted by selma52 at 8:30 PM on November 24, 2014

Librarian! Ideal for you! Small groups or 1-on-1 interaction, lots of research...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 PM on November 24, 2014

Hello! I just came back to this because I was listening to this new podcast from Slate called Working, which features (fascinating) interviews with people about their jobs. The most recent one is about being a lexicographer (someone who writes the definitions for words), and it basically sounds like a job made for someone who's introverted, but good at one-on-one.

It's also quite a welcoming field from a qualification POV, the interviewee says up front that a degree in linguistics is not a requirement.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:21 AM on December 15, 2014

« Older How do I handle grad school "mean girls"?   |   Which competitive family games are fun to play... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.