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ISTP Careers

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The ISTP personality type is someone with Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving personality traits. These people are curious and creative. They enjoy experimenting and getting involved in hands-on projects.

The ISTP personality type is less common among the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. 4.9%  of the population are ISTPs.

ISTPs are happiest when they are involved in practical tasks. They exhibit both spontaneity and logic. They often bring novel ideas to projects. These aren’t ethereal, impractical notions, though. They are rooted in rationality, making them easy to implement.

People with the ISTP personality type are incredibly interested in how things work. They love nothing more than taking things apart in order to understand them better. They are action-oriented and enjoy applying their technical skills to tasks. 

Illustration of a person juggling various tasks

The ISTP at work

ISTPs are diligent and hard-working colleagues. They enjoy problem-solving and focusing on the immediate task at hand. They thrive in skilled trades and roles where they can act as the expert. They like feeling valued for their technical know-how and practical skillset. 

People with the ISTP personality type are resourceful. They are comfortable trouble-shooting problems and aren’t fazed by pressured situations. They find it easy to remain calm in a crisis and work logically to find solutions. 

ISTPs like to create. They explore their environment through trial and error, relying on experience rather than theory. They are happy tinkering with a project or problem that interests them. 

Fixers at heart, ISTPs aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They are goal-oriented and take pride in finishing a task. ISTPs are confident in their own ability. They are happy to take risks and be physically challenged.

ISTPs make decisions based on logic rather than emotions. They like to focus on the here and now. Blue-sky thinking, theorizing, and long-term planning are difficult for ISTPs. They’re not insensitive, though. ISTPs are well-attuned to their environment. They notice and observe before honing in on what needs to be done. 

ISTPs, like many people with the Introverted trait, can find too much socializing challenging. They are disinterested in the water cooler conversations that make the office go around. They can become irritated by interruptions from colleagues or meetings that delay them from taking action. 

Like all of us, ISTP personality types have intrinsic traits influencing how they like to work and in what specific work environments.

At F4S, we’ve identified 48 traits that influence motivation and energy levels. The better you understand these traits, the more able you’ll be to choose job roles, cultures, and workplace environments that will enable you to thrive. 

These preferences are intrinsic. But sometimes, we find ourselves stuck with a workplace or way of working that doesn’t exactly match our needs. Coaching can help you build skills and resilience when you need to perform in a work environment less suited to your preferences. 

Our 8-week ‘Big Picture Thinker’ coaching program can help ISTPs step back from the immediate problem. This helps them connect with broader business priorities and multiply their impact. This is critical when advocating for new projects and acts as an enabler to timely action.

Working with an ISTP

ISTPs are happy to work autonomously. If they do work within a group, fairness is important to them. As colleagues, they are generally easy-going and flexible. ISTPs are quite private. Teammates will likely find them approachable but reserved.

ISTPs are good in a crisis. Their calm nature and resourcefulness mean they don’t panic under pressure. This is valued by their team leaders and more highly-strung colleagues. ISTPs are typically organized, but they don’t like being contained. They dislike overly bureaucratic processes or hierarchical structures that stop them from taking action.

People with the ISTP personality type like to be on the go. They value spontaneity and new opportunities. They dislike being bored. They are disinterested in office politics, gossip, or endless meetings. 

ISTP colleagues are unlikely to be interested in making small talk. They prefer to connect with others by tackling a hands-on project together. Adventurous social or team-building activities may also help teammates bond with an ISTP.

To get the most from an ISTP colleague, don’t swamp them with formal meetings. Try daily standups to give them just enough information to get the job done, then let them get creative. Engage ISTPs when there is a practical task to be tackled. Leverage their calm and rational nature to solve problems in high-stakes environments.

Best careers for ISTP

ISTP personality types are happiest in careers where they can solve problems and be creative. Like all the personality types, ISTPs can be found in a range of professions and industries. 

However, they're likely to be most satisfied in jobs where they can apply their practical skills and technical know-how to the task at hand. The ISTP personality slots neatly into mechanical or engineering professions but also fits well with emergency response, technology, military, and manufacturing roles.

Top career matches for ISTPs include:

Sciences and health

  • Mechanical engineer
  • Conservationist
  • Forensic scientist
  • Pathologist
  • Civil engineer
  • Physician
  • Environmental biologist
  • Geologist
  • Nuclear technician
  • Electrical engineer

Creative arts

  • Sound engineer
  • Lighting technician
  • Graphic designer
  • Writer

Business

  • Supply chain manager
  • Entrepreneur

Information technology

  • IT technical support
  • Systems analyst
  • Cyber security consultant
  • Software developer

Education, philosophy, academia, and law

  • Computer science teacher
  • Sports coach
  • Applied research associate

Miscellaneous

  • Electrician
  • Police officer
  • Firefighter
  • Mechanic
  • Military soldier
  • Factory worker
  • First responder
  • Construction worker
  • Forest ranger
  • Airline pilot
  • Athlete
  • Landscape architect
  • Machinist
  • Crisis response coordinator
  • Surveyor
  • Building inspector
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ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T

ISTPs can be sub-categorized into assertive or turbulent identities. These identities affect the four elements that make up an ISTP personality type. 

Within the constraints of their overall type, assertive identities tend to be less perceptive. But, they let go of worries more easily. Turbulent identities tend to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. But, turbulent identities tend to worry more and can feel stressed about things outside their control.

These two sub-categories bring a little more nuance to elements of the ISTP personality type. For example, all ISTPs feel confident in their own abilities. However, ISTP-T types tend to question themselves more than ISTP-As. They will run through a list of “what-ifs” before starting an activity. ISTP-As lean into their self-confidence to tackle crisis situations with minimal risk assessment. 

This also means ISTP-Ts are more likely to doubt themselves after making a mistake or when something doesn’t go their way. This is challenging for the notoriously independent and resourceful ISTP. ISTP-Ts may feel like they failed, whereas ISTP-As will just brush it off. This feeling of failure can result in higher levels of motivation to succeed among ISTP-Ts.

All ISTPs tend to remain calm when the stakes are high. However, ISTP-Ts are more likely than ISTP-As to get flustered as the pressure mounts. ISTP-As are more likely to be able to control their emotions and keep a clear head.

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

ISTP-A careers

  • First responder
  • Firefighter
  • Police officer
  • Military soldier
  • Airline pilot
  • Athlete
  • Crisis response coordinator

ISTP-T careers

  • Mechanic
  • Sound engineer
  • Systems analyst
  • Supply chain manager
  • Landscape artist
  • Science teacher
  • Graphic designer
  • Surveyor

Highest-paying careers for ISTP

ISTPs thrive in occupations that require an action-orientated approach to tackling problems. People with the ISTP personality type enjoy hands-on projects and physical challenges. Their calm and resourceful nature is well-suited to crisis management. 

Some science and healthcare roles are well-paid. The salaries for pathologists can vary, but the average comes in at US$293,438. Geologists can earn US$111,878, and engineers US$115,470.

The adventurous nature of ISTPs can also lead to some higher-paying roles. The average base salary for airline pilots is US$144,901, and for military officers, it’s US$96,591.

Other highly-paid options include:

  • Applied researcher (average base pay: US$85,936)
  • Supply chain manager (average base pay: US$119,178)
  • Cyber security consultant (average base pay: US$93,027).

ISTP strengths and weaknesses

At F4S, we view strengths and weaknesses differently from the way the MBTI test does. We think that strengths and weaknesses are often situation-dependent. We prefer to look at what motivates you vs. what drains your energy. There might be some overlap with what Myers-Briggs describes as strengths and weaknesses, but not always.

For example, perhaps (like many ISTPs) you enjoy taking action and using your technical know-how to solve practical problems. You appreciate the opportunity to deepen and hone your skills.

However, your organizational culture is hierarchical and bureaucratic in nature. A lot of time is spent in meetings justifying the cost of work in the pipeline. Everything has to be sent up the chain for approval, and projects often stall while awaiting senior sign-off.

You become frustrated by your inability to drive tasks forward and work autonomously to make a difference in the business. You're unable to use your strengths to the best effect.

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 far more likely to enjoy your career choice if you can find a job with some elements of that activity.

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

ISTP strengths

  • Resourcefulness
  • Adaptability
  • Calm under pressure
  • Optimistic and easy-going
  • Logical and practical
  • Spontaneous and adventurous

ISTP weaknesses

  • Stubborn
  • Easily bored
  • Don’t see the bigger picture
  • May take too many risks

ISTP careers to avoid

Our Myers-Briggs personality type gives us a glimpse into our likely preferences for the way we work and what kind of careers we might enjoy. But, it’s important to note that any personality type can be successful across all industries and job roles. 

Our preferences may mean we find certain work types and environments more tricky. 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 motivations lie. That new awareness helps you harness your preferences to create a satisfying and successful career.

Occasionally, 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 level up the skills you need to excel when working in ways less suited.

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.

ISTPs thrive in a bold, creative environment. They prefer action over endless discussions. ISTPs enjoy physical challenges and getting their hands dirty. They are excellent at problem-solving and remain calm in a crisis. Jobs filled with many meetings and bureaucratic processes will be unappealing to ISTPs.

Given this, some roles typically have work environments or approaches that may be more challenging for ISTPs. 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 ISTP personality types:

  • Human resources manager
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Public relations consultant
  • Marketing manager
  • Sales rep
  • Family therapists
  • Receptionists
  • Customer service agent
  • Hotel manager
  • Retail associate

ISTP 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. However, you might feel isolated in a leadership position if belonging is important to you. 

ISTP personality types aren’t particularly bothered about having power over others. They are unlikely to be interested in gaining leadership roles within a traditional, hierarchical structure. ISTPs value pursuing their own goals and projects. Being responsible for the output of others isn’t something an ISTP would find appealing.

ISTPs are concerned with having control over how they structure their work. This isn’t because they are inflexible. ISTPs are actually very adaptable. But independence and autonomy are extremely important to them. They may perceive more senior roles as offering them the power to control when and how they work and what projects they get involved in.

People with an ISTP personality type are motivated by achievement. But this only extends as far as their own goals. They bask in the satisfaction of figuring out how something works. They also enjoy building their expertise and mastering technical skills. 

This is where ISTPs can dip into leadership roles. They are happy to lead others in completing projects they are passionate about. Their expertise also means they can be great mentors to more junior colleagues. 

When leading teams, ISTPs have a quiet strength and are efficient in their approach to problems. They lead by example and can struggle with delegation. ISTPs will likely be effective in leading more mature, self-sufficient teams.

ISTPs who find themselves leading more junior, less established teams may need support in developing their skills. Reflecting on how to get the best from their team while retaining some independence will be important.

Our eight-week development program, ‘Personal Power,’ can support ISTPs to feel more comfortable using their positional authority. This program is personalized to work with your innate preferences helping you to lead with greater confidence irrespective of personality type.

ISTP teamwork

If they’re working on a project they’re passionate about, ISTPs will play a starring role. Affable and optimistic, they are happy to share their expertise to drive tasks forward. Creative and logical ISTPs can offer innovative solutions to team problems. 

ISTPs don’t like to be bogged down by static ways of working. They prefer a dynamic team environment. Short daily meetings where information is shared and roadblocks quickly dealt with are much better for engaging an ISTP.

Once they’ve been given a task, ISTPs prefer to work autonomously to figure out a solution. They don’t like to be rushed. ISTPs enjoy the experience of tinkering with a problem until they have come up with an answer. 

This can prove frustrating to managers and colleagues more concerned with business output. Trying to constrain ISTPs with processes or hard deadlines will prove ineffective. ISTPs are stubborn. They will likely withdraw into their own pet projects or take action without considering any associated risks.

ISTPs aren’t concerned with office politics. Dealing with emotional or irrational colleagues is challenging for ISTPs. Generally easy-going, they can become critical if others don’t grasp their logical solutions as quickly as they do.

ISTP celebrities

From the American entrepreneur Steve Jobs to the stunt-loving actor Tom Cruise, ISTPs are recognized for their adventurous spirit and fascination with how things work.

Here are some famous ISTPs:

Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls is an ISTP. He is a British adventurer. At the time of summiting, he was the youngest person to climb Mount Everest. Grylls enjoys being in nature and is extremely practical. He trained as a survival instructor with the Special Air Service. He has honed his skills during many other expeditions in extreme environments. These include the Himalayas and Antarctica.
Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi was an ISTP. He was a Japanese swordsman and rōnin or wanderer. He was fascinated with his craft and spent hours trying to understand it better so he could perfect it. Musashi was known as a Kensei or sword saint. He wrote The Book of Five Rings to share the practical application of his knowledge.
Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was an ISTP. She was an American aviation pioneer and writer. She was the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart was interested in all facets of flying and was a promoter of commercial aviation. She joined Purdue University as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. Earhart’s legacy was key in encouraging women to take to the skies.
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was an ISTP. He was an American entrepreneur. Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 with Steve Wozniak. Fascinated with technology, Jobs was a microcomputer pioneer. He paved the way for the birth of the personal computer industry. He was honored with an Edison Achievement Award in 2012. The award was for ongoing innovation throughout his career.
Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna is an ISTP. He was a Brazilian race car driver. Senna was deeply dedicated to his sport. He was intensely interested in understanding how Formula One cars worked so he could maximize his performance. The car manufacturer Honda used his technical knowledge to optimize the Honda NSX’s suspension. Senna is considered by many to be the finest racing driver of all time. He won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship three times.
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was an ISTP. Kahlo was a Mexican surrealist painter. A natural problem-solver, Kahlo had a childhood dream of becoming a doctor. A traffic accident aged 18 meant she could not attend medical school. Kahlo began to use art to explore and make sense of her experience of chronic pain. Kahlo was keen for her creativity to be put to practical use. She used her paintings to express her support of the Communist Party and to advance the understanding of Mexican indigenous traditions.
Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is an ISTP. He’s an American actor. Cruise enjoys physical challenges and being hands-on. He often prefers to do his own stunts in his action-packed movies. Cruise taps into his creative side through his work and is extremely hard-working. He’s been acting for over five decades. Cruise also has moments of genuine spontaneity. Notably when he declared his passion for then-girlfriend Katie Holmes. Cruise jumped on a couch shouting, “I’m in love” during The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko is an ISTP. She’s a Ukrainian politician. Highly interested in how things work, she majored in cybernetic engineering during university. She then went on to receive her doctorate in economics. Keen to turn theory into practice, she worked for a weapons manufacturing company before turning to politics. Known for her rationality, she has been a political heavyweight for many years. In 2005 and from 2007-2010, she served as the Prime Minister of Ukraine. She is the only woman to have done so.

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 Bear Grylls?” 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 Miyamoto Musashi through an MBTI personality test!

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