For the purposes of this series, I’m using the term “empath” to describe individuals who are highly sensitive to the emotions of others, and not the traditional science fiction version that refers to someone with paranormal, telepathic abilities. Though, at times, empaths can be perceived as psychic, because they are so attuned to what’s going on around them.
A large portion of the population are empaths, and for us, life can be a little more difficult than it is for others. Not only do we feel the emotions and motivations of others, we absorb them into our own beings and they can often affect our moods and our overall outlooks on life.
On top of this, empaths share a common core of traits that can all be double-edged swords: helpful in some situations, harmful in others.
* Our innate ability to know what people are thinking and feeling can help us build deep and meaningful relationships, but it can also make us a target for bullies, narcissists, and psychopaths.
* Our effortless honesty makes us trustworthy companions, but it can also make us a dumping ground for the issues of strangers.
* Our ability to sense when others are hiding things makes it easy for us to create profound connections, but it can also alienate those closest to us.
* Our free-spirited, creative nature makes us invaluable teammates and employees, but it can also cause issues when we need to perform under strict regimens or make us feel oppressed when there are too many rules to follow.
Learning To Strike A Balance In Our Lives
The double-edged sword nature of our gift makes it imperative for empaths to strike a balance in every aspect of our lives. I hope to cover most of the important areas over the coming months, but the first is careers.
I chose this as my first installment because the average person works 40 hours a week, which means that they spend a large percentage of their waking hours at work. Because empaths are easily affected by their environments, our happiness can be greatly aided — or hindered — by where we spend most of our time.
I believe that one of the most important first steps we can take to find balance in our lives, is to find a career that doesn’t weigh us down (at the very least) and hopefully, it will also shine a light on the positive aspects of our gifts and draw from our talents in those areas.
Least Ideal Jobs For Empaths
Damage control: I suppose this is my broad definition for any job that entails dealing with unhappy clients, customers, or people in general. Both inbound and outbound call centers are an example of this.
I had a good friend (empath) try out both, and she lasted less than a month at the outbound call center, where the annoyance and disrespect of those who she tried to make sales calls to made her feel awful and incompetent. She only spent a few days in the inbound call center, where dealing with angry customers all day sent her into a deep depression.
Money Sharks: Here I’m referring to more than just loan sharks. Any industry that is meant to take advantage of others (i.e. acquire people’s money by any means, regardless of whether or not they can afford it,) whether it be gambling, banking, loans, or even just selling products with a “snake oil” vibe to them, will weigh heavily on the mind of the empath.
Not only this, but their adversity to taking advantage of others will make it difficult for them to keep up with the performance of their colleagues, who probably have much less empathy for those whose money they are after.
Crisis Intervention: While empaths can make great psychiatrists, counselors, doctors, and even nurses, it’s important for empaths in the medical field to stay away from the crisis-intervention parts of the field.
While empaths have an innate desire to help others, especially those who are in dire need, it may be too difficult for them to be on the “front lines.” Places like addiction centers, psychiatric hospitals, and emergency rooms, especially in underserved neighborhoods, will likely see too much of the negative side of the world to be able to cope.
Most Ideal Career Options For Empaths
Managerial/Leadership roles: While we sometimes have trouble with confrontation and taking charge, empaths are actually cut out for leading others. In fact, empathy is one of the top ten traits that make a great community leader. This is followed closely by things like honesty, integrity, interpersonal skills, and a desire to serve others, which are also all common traits of an empath.
Being in charge of others can occasionally be draining for empaths, but for the most part, it’s very rewarding for them to be in a role that is specifically meant to help others be their best selves and to encourage them to grow and achieve new heights.
Coaching Roles: Empaths make excellent coaches. When it comes to athletes, coaches need all of the positive relationship skills that empaths possess, and they don’t face a lot of negative backlash from their work. Yes, teams might lose a few games, but if that’s the worst of it, the empath will be able to look beyond these temporary “negative” outcomes and encourage their athletes to keep going, which is an incredibly fulfilling role to play.
Empaths also make excellent life coaches (they are called coaches for a reason.) A life coach of mine described her job as, “like a counselor, but for those who have moved beyond the crisis intervention point and are looking to improve their already stable lives.” For empaths in the psychiatric, counseling, or social work fields who find their work too negative or draining, a switch over to life coaching could be the answer to a more rewarding career that still utilizes their talents.
The Public Sector: Let’s face it: we all may be empaths, but we’re also all individuals with different interests and skills, and we can succeed in a wide variety of careers. The public sector refers to government (national, state, and local) as well as nonprofit organizations, all of which answer to the people. Public administration work requires on-point communication skills, and thorough and excellent communication is not just something empaths are good at, it’s also something they demand from every relationship they maintain.
One of the best ways for empaths to find a career that sits well with their moral boundaries and doesn’t drain the positivity out of them is to find a career similar to the one they’ve already established in the private sector, but in the public sector instead. For instance, my best friend worked for years in banking; she was savvy with numbers and enjoyed accounting work as well as document auditing. However, she hated the fact that she was often asked to approve loans that were morally questionable, and at times, was even encouraged to break laws and regulations. She always knew that in the end, filling the pockets of the bigwigs was the number one priority.
She recently found a state job where she audits and approves tourism grants, and she is much happier overall. She knows that what she is doing is not only ethically sound, but that it helps to better her community. The best part is, she still gets to utilize the skill set she spent years building up.
If you’re not yet in a position where you’ve built up a resume, or you just want to switch fields entirely, there are a lot of different educational options that can set you up for a wide variety of careers in the public sector, the most versatile of which is a degree in human services (yes, that’s actually a thing!). Empaths need to be constantly learning new things, so a career shift is the perfect time to think about going to school and studying something new, fulfilling, and useful.
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I hope this first installment of Striking Balance As An Empath gave you some things to think about, and I hope you follow me along in the coming months, as I discuss other issues like relationships, parenting, and pursuing passions and hobbies.
©2017 by AJ Earley. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
AJ Earley is a personal chef, freelance writer, travel junkie, and root beer float enthusiast from Boise, Idaho... and now, a contributing writer at InnerSelf.com