The Rationalist

ISTJ Careers

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The ISTJ personality type is someone with Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. These people are logical and capable. They tend to stay grounded and clear-thinking, even in stressful situations.

For ISTJs, integrity is a core value. They like order and structure. They don’t believe in flexing the rules or shirking their responsibilities. They prefer to use their previous experience to help them make decisions. Their choices are usually grounded in practicality and common sense. Around 6.6% of the global Myers-Briggs personality type population are ISTJs.

People with the ISTJ personality type tend to be hardworking, organized, and efficient. ISTJs are conscientious. They can be relied upon to get things done when they say they will. They are loyal and value the strong bonds they form with friends, family, and teammates.

Illustration of a person organizing things and following a checklist for efficiency

The ISTJ at work

The ISTJ is a valuable team member and colleague. They are willing to work hard and dutifully tackle even unpopular tasks. They have immense respect for rules, hierarchy, and authority. Their predictable, orderly nature can be comforting to managers trying to tackle a million and one things.

ISTJ's are organized in both routine and thought. Their serious and logical approach to problem-solving can often result in helpful, practical solutions. They don’t like group brainstorming, innovation, or blue-sky thinking, however. The ethereal nature of the task at hand and the uncertainty of the outcome feel troubling within their ordered world.

People with an ISTJ personality type don’t see extra work as a burden. They crave responsibility. They perceive it as someone trusting them to complete something of importance. When receiving tasks, ISTJs need clear instructions so they can feel confident they will complete the work accurately. 

This is also important from a task outcome perspective. Once ISTJs start a task, they can be somewhat inflexible if required to change course midway through. For ISTJs, persistence and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin.

People with the ISTJ personality type hold themselves accountable. They readily admit their mistakes. This doesn’t mean this is easy for them. ISTJs can be sensitive to criticism, but they value honesty over their own comfort. ISTJs expect that this also holds true for others. This can lead to them being perceived as insensitive at times.

ISTJs are detail-oriented and analytical. Process-driven careers can be an excellent match for them. They prize a logical approach and structured thinking. They are likely only to accept change if they can see data that clearly supports the proposed benefits. Generally, change is challenging for ISTJs. It disrupts their routine and forces them to adapt their ways of working.

ISTJs, like many people with the Introverted trait, can find too much social interaction exhausting. Interruptions from colleagues, meetings that disturb their routines, and having to make small talk can also be stressful. Finding time in the workday to be alone, sticking to their routines, and taking breaks in calm environments can help ISTJs manage this.

Like all of us, ISTJ personality types have intrinsic traits that influence their motivation for working in a certain way and within specific work environments. 

At F4S, we’ve identified 48 traits that influence motivation and energy levels. Understanding these traits can help you choose job roles, cultures, and workplace environments that will enable you to thrive. 

These preferences are intrinsic. But, we don’t always have the luxury of finding a workplace or way of working that exactly matches our needs. Coaching can help you build skills and resilience when you need to perform in a work environment less suited to your preferences. 

For example, our 8-week coaching program, ‘Increase EQ’, can help ISTJs develop their emotional intelligence (EI). Improving EI can help ISTJs become more aware of the feelings and sensitivities of others. This can support them in building more effective working relationships.

Working with an ISTJ

While their preference is usually to work independently, ISTJs enjoy contributing to a team. They typically make productive professional relationships. An ISTJ’s calm and practical nature can act as a salve to more highly-strung colleagues. Their common sense and logical brain mean they are great to seek out if you’re struggling with a complex problem. 

People with the ISTJ personality type are extremely conscientious. They can be relied upon by their colleagues and managers to deliver any work they are given on time and to a high standard. ISTJs prefer clear instructions and task briefs so they can complete work correctly the first time and without mistakes. 

ISTJs value routine and structure. This can mean they become stressed or overwhelmed in uncertain situations, when projects change course, or when their usual ways of working are disrupted. 

To get the most from an ISTJ colleague, enable them to maintain their routine wherever possible. Make sure you give them clear and detailed information about anything you need them to deliver. Win them over with logical reasoning and concrete facts rather than motivational speeches. 

Best careers for ISTJ

ISTJ personality types are happiest in careers that offer them stability and security. Like all the personality types, ISTJs can be found in a range of careers and industries. 

However, they are likely to be most satisfied in jobs where they can maintain an organized and structured routine and where processes and hierarchies are respected. The ISTJ personality slots neatly into many traditional, conservative professions. It also fits well with various research, data analysis, project management, and process improvement roles.

Top careers for ISTJs include:

Sciences and health

  • Surgeon
  • Civil engineering technician
  • Medical record administrator
  • Statistician
  • Engineer
  • Forensic science technician
  • Nuclear scientist
  • Laboratory technician

Creative arts

  • Sound engineer
  • Lighting technician

Business

  • Bank manager
  • Data analyst
  • Accountant
  • Process improvement specialist
  • Quality assurance manager
  • Data entry administrator
  • Business analyst
  • Project manager
  • Financial auditor
  • Actuary
  • Operations research analyst
  • Certified public accountant

Information technology

  • Data governance specialist
  • Information security analyst
  • Computer network architect
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Software developer

Education, philosophy, academia, and law

  • Librarian 
  • Attorney
  • Researcher
  • Judge
  • Paralegal assistant
  • Court reporter

Miscellaneous

  • Architect
  • Police officer
  • Building inspector
  • Correctional officer
  • Real estate appraiser
  • Surveyor
  • Mechanic
  • Security guard
  • Military officer
  • Probation officer
  • Construction worker
  • Health & safety inspector
  • Property manager
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ISTJ-A vs. ISTJ-T

ISTJs can be sub-categorized into assertive or turbulent identities. These identities affect all of the four elements that make up an ISTJ personality type. 

Within the constraints of their overall type, assertive identities tend to be less perceptive but let go of worries more easily. Turbulent identities tend to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. They can become overwhelmed worrying about things outside their control.

These two sub-categories bring a little more nuance to elements of the ISTJ personality type. For example, all ISTJs find changes to their routines challenging. However, ISTJ-T types tend to be more flexible than ISTJ-A types - though at a higher emotional cost - simply because they care more about what people think. 

Caring more about what others think can make those with the ISTJ-T subtype somewhat more accessible than people with the ISTJ-A subtype, who might be perceived as aloof. While both subtypes can enjoy productive professional relationships, these might come slightly easier to ISTJ-Ts.

However, ISTJ-As may generally feel more satisfied with their lives than ISTJ-Ts. A sense of stability and security is essential for all ISTJs, but this is felt most keenly by ISTJ-Ts. This is at odds with their perfectionist tendencies, which see them continually striving to make improvements. This combination can lead to stress and dissatisfaction for ISTJ-Ts.

Given these nuances, let’s look at how some of the ISTJ careers we mentioned above might suit the two identity sub-categories:

ISTJ-A careers

  • Surgeon
  • Attorney
  • Judge
  • Computer network architect
  • Nuclear scientist
  • Financial auditor
  • Cyber security analyst
  • Statistician

ISTJ-T careers

  • Military soldier
  • Librarian
  • Process improvement specialist
  • Medical records administrator
  • Construction worker
  • Police officer
  • Security guard
  • Sound engineer

Highest-paying careers for ISTJ

ISTJs thrive in careers that require rational decision-making, are process-driven, and require high personal standards and integrity. 

Some science and healthcare roles are extremely well-paid. The salaries for surgeons can vary, but the average comes in at US$413,470. Nuclear scientists can earn US$101,681 and engineers US$115,470.

The analytical nature of ISTJs can also lead to some higher-paying career matches. The average base salary for statisticians is US$87,861, and for senior accountants, it’s US$84,890.

Other highly-paid options include:

ISTJ strengths and weaknesses

At F4S, we don’t think about strengths and weaknesses the same way as the MBTI test does. We believe that strengths and weaknesses are often situation-dependent. We prefer to look at what motivates you vs. what drains your energy. These elements might overlap with what Myers-Briggs describes as strengths and weaknesses, but not always.

For example, perhaps (like many ISTJs) you have a real strength in delivering work on time and to a high standard with minimal supervision. You enjoy being the person others can turn to to get something done.

However, your dependability means that managers and colleagues rely on you to take on all the less appealing tasks. This leaves you exhausted at the end of every day. Over time, having to bear the brunt of an unequal or unfulfilling workload might make you miserable and become unsustainable. In this environment, you can't use your strengths to make a positive difference.

Equally, perhaps there is something you love doing, that motivates and energizes you, but you’re not very skilled at it yet. It might not be considered an innate ‘strength’, but you’re way more likely to enjoy your career choice if you can find a job with some elements of that activity.

That said, here are some ISTJ ‘strengths and weaknesses’ as listed by MBTI:

ISTJ strengths

  • Integrity
  • Reliability
  • Attention to detail
  • Logical in nature
  • Hard-working
  • Organized

ISTJ weaknesses

  • Perfectionism
  • Stubbornness
  • Lacking resilience
  • Inflexibility

ISTJ careers to avoid

Our Myers-Briggs personality type offers insight into our likely preferences for how we work and what type of careers we might enjoy. However, it’s important to note that any personality type can be successful across all industries and job roles. 

Our preferences may mean certain types of work and work environments are more challenging for us. But if you’re highly motivated to pursue a particular career path, there’s no reason you can’t excel.

Motivation is personal and complicated. There can be both internal and external drivers for motivation. Increased self-awareness helps you identify the internal traits that drive your preferences for how, where, and when you work. 

At F4S, we recommend starting with our free self-assessment to unlock insights about where your talents lie. This can help you understand how you can best harness your preferences to create a satisfying and successful career.

However, sometimes there are also strong external motivating factors. For example, a lucrative pay packet, comprehensive benefits, or the ability to work from a specific location. 

External motivations may result in you working in an environment that jars with your intrinsic motivation. Personal development programs and coaching can help you rachet up the skills needed to excel when working in ways less suited to your preferences.

So, if there is something you’re excited about trying, you should definitely explore it even if your MBTI result suggests you might be better suited to something else.

ISTJs thrive working in an ordered, process-driven environment. They crave structure and routine and are quite happy to work independently to get things done. They enjoy responsibility and pride themselves on their integrity. They are fact-driven, and jobs that require a significant emotional component may be more difficult.

Given this, some roles typically have work environments or approaches that may be more challenging for ISTJs. Remember, this list is just a guideline of job types you might not enjoy or may find draining. It doesn’t mean you won’t excel at them.

The following careers may be less suited to ISTJ personality types:

  • Customer service agent
  • Psychiatrist
  • Restaurant server
  • Professional development coach
  • Retail associate
  • Sales representative
  • Preschool teacher
  • Art director
  • Childcare provider
  • Human resources support officer

ISTJ leadership

As we mentioned above, here at F4S, we’re fascinated by what motivates people. When considering leadership, it’s important to reflect on these three particular traits:

  • Whether you enjoy power and control
  • How much you value belonging
  • How much you’re motivated by achievement. 

If you enjoy power and control, you will likely thrive in a leadership role. If belonging is important to you, then a leadership position may feel isolating. 

For people with ISTJ personality traits, feeling in control is of high importance. Managerial roles seem appealing to ISTJs. They perceive them to offer more power to structure things how they want. The more authority a role commands, the more secure an ISTJ person feels. In more senior roles there are far fewer people that can force them to change their approach, processes, or way of working.

This also extends to their subordinates. ISTJs enjoy management as they can ensure that their team members follow their directions and deliver tasks according to the processes and procedures they lay down. ISTJs are motivated by achievement. They have high levels of expectation for both their own and their team’s performance.

ISTJs, especially the ISTJ-A subtype, aren’t particularly interested in the feelings and emotions of others. They certainly wouldn’t prize harmony over honesty or task completion. This means the ISTJ leadership style is probably best suited to traditional, hierarchical organizations with clearly-defined and well-established processes. 

Offering constructive feedback and supporting team member development is not a core strength of ISTJs. But, to lead effectively in less-traditional environments, some ISTJs, especially ISTJ-Ts, are willing to develop their leadership competency.

If you’re interested in getting the most from your team through delivering transformational feedback, try our eight-week development program ‘Multiply Your Impact’. This program is personalized to work with your innate preferences helping you to lead with greater impact irrespective of personality type.

ISTJ teamwork

In the right role, ISTJs can be highly-valued team members. They can be trusted to complete work on time and to a high standard with minimal oversight. ISTJs also thrive with increased responsibility. They are less likely than other personality types to become resentful if less exciting or less glamorous work is assigned to them. To ISTJs, all tasks are an indication of trust being placed on them to deliver. They pride themselves on never letting people down.

ISTJs can build strong and productive professional relationships with their colleagues. This is easiest within more mature teams with well-defined ways of working and a stable organizational environment. In more volatile working environments, ISTJs prefer to work alone so they can at least control their own workflow and way of doing things. 

ISTJs are logical and contained. Working with more emotional colleagues can prove challenging for ISTJs. They have to work hard to curb their natural tendency to offer robust feedback that might be perceived as harsh or insensitive to others.

ISTJ celebrities

From Warren Buffet, an American business magnate, to the Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, ISTJs are recognized for their logic, rational decision-making, and work ethic.

Here are some famous ISTJs:

Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an ISTJ. The founder of the Ford Motor Company, Ford used his logic to revolutionize car manufacturing. Ford realized the efficiencies that could be made by using assembly line production. This changed the industry forever and brought the motor car to middle-class America.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is an ISTJ. Despite suffering from severe asthma, her highly-structured training regimen and intense work ethic enabled her to win six Olympic heptathlon medals. Sports Illustrated voted her the Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time.
Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet is an ISTJ. The American businessman and investor graduated from Columbia Business School and the New York Institute of Finance. His investment philosophy relies on rational analysis to inform his decisions. He is one of the most successful investors in the world, with a net worth of $98 million. In a nod to his wisdom, the media refers to him as the ‘Sage’ of Omaha (his hometown).
Queen Rania of Jordan
Queen Rania of Jordan is an ISTJ. The wife of King Abdullah II is a passionate advocate of education. Queen Rania believes it is essential for providing young people with the skills they need to succeed. Logical and capable, Queen Rania has worked hard to increase cross-cultural dialog. She views it as a tool for increasing global tolerance and understanding.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI is an ISTJ. Religious service comes naturally to ISTJs who are attracted to traditions and doctrine. Pope Benedict XVI was ordained as a priest at the age of 24. He enjoyed a long career as a renowned professor of theology. His papacy ran from 2005 until his retirement in 2013.
Ingvar Kamprad
Ingvar Kamprad was an ISTJ. The founder of the Swedish retail giant IKEA was a frugal and private person. Kamprad brought his desire for high levels of organization to the commercial market. He valued hard work and thought it appropriate that IKEA’s flatpack furniture required manual assembly at home before use. His logical and analytical mind can be seen in the high levels of efficiency within IKEA’s operations management.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower was an ISTJ. General Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II. After his military career, he served as the 34th President of the United States. President Eisenhower valued clarity and logic. He designed a famous prioritization matrix to enable a rational approach to decision-making
Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an ISTJ. One of the hardest-working actors, Washington has enjoyed a career spanning over four decades. A devout Christian, Washington is a man of integrity. He enjoys living his life through the structure of the scriptures. He is very conscientious in his craft and was quoted as saying, “If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup I possibly can, my effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it.”

Editor’s note: Do you recognize yourself in any of these famous people? Are you secretly nodding along, going, “I always thought I was just like Denzel Washington?” Whether you are or you aren’t, don’t worry! This list is meant to be fairly light-hearted. It is based on traits and behaviors observed in our favorite celebs rather than in-depth research. After all, it’s unlikely anyone actually put Pope Benedict XVI through an MBTI test!

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