8 Surprisingly Creative Options for ISTJ Careers

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on December 09, 2019

If you’ve been caught singing in the shower lately, cheering on The Great British Bake Off, or out with a girlfriend at one of those “sip n dip” enterprises where you paint a scene on an actual canvas with actual paint while drinking wine, then you, my fellow ISTJ , could be in actual denial. Or tears. Either way, you have discovered that somewhere inside your tidy, alphabetized life, you have room for a little creative flair.

Typical ISTJ career matches involve professions in business or finance, administration or engineering, the military or the courtroom. We like to know the rules, keep the score and organize the establishment. But what if I told you that our approach to problem-solving and our dedication to the greater good makes us prime candidates for industries that are traditionally assigned to the more “creative” personality types ?

The ISTJ’s inferior function is extraverted intuition (Ne), which is sometimes strong enough to lead us towards a career in a creative arena. If you spot an ISTJ in a creative career, rest assured that she’s bringing chaos into harmony. Substance to whimsy. Supporting a vision with a cause.

I don’t need to tell you to look before you leap into a new career. So if creativity floats your boat, here are some ISTJ career matches to consider.

1. Acting: all the world’s a stage

It’s a gift to be able to be surrounded by drama without succumbing to it. Although ISTJs like Natalie Portman and Morgan Freeman can represent on the big screen, others prefer to leave the emoting to the ESTPs and instead, stand at the microphone and call it the way they see it. Capitalize on your judging skills and consider a position on a TV contest judging panel, host the next Wheel of Fortune, or be an announcer for the World Series.

Comedians make a living by observing the world around us and telling the truth about it, which are great ISTJ careers skills. Johnny Carson, an ISTJ, certainly does. Showing off your off-beat opinions while moving the show forward in a professional and timely manner may be exactly what the stage needs.

2. Fashion: running with scissors

Taking design concepts from the drawing board to their final execution in fabric requires the dogged persistence and problem-solving skills that good ISTJ career matches are known for. Who else has the patience and the attention to detail required to apply thousands of seed pearls to a single veil?

Learning sewing techniques and understanding the complexities of different textiles appeals to the sensing and thinking parts of our personality. Even fashion, trendy or not, has rules. An ISTJ professional in this industry will have excellent judgement when handed a pair of scissors and a pattern. Look for positions in costuming or support the wedding, modeling, or uniform industry.

3. Design: to infinity and beyond

All designers have something in common and it isn’t having a muse. Rather, they take known components and organize them into fresh positions—often in patterns—to create something new. For ISTJ designers like Henry Ford, this means combining vision with strategy.

Landscape designers use symmetry, functionality and balance to create everything from rose gardens at the White House to xeriscapes for high desert high-rises. These same skills are used by exhibit designers who create the layout for the displays and fixtures in large exhibitions, museums, libraries, galleries or business conventions. They are hired to present a variety of items as an interesting and pleasant whole.

4. Music: sequences, systems, soul

Some ISTJs can sing like Caruso but for others, a career in performance sounds about as terrifying as having a root canal. While that didn’t slow down George Strait or Sting, it’s okay to leave the live performance to our showboating ESFP friends. For camera-shy ISTJs, a career as a professional background vocalist or musician allows you to indulge your love of music while performing in the privacy of recording studios.

If music appreciation is more your style, you can surround yourself with your favorite tunes every day as a radio host. This career uses key ISTJ careers skills including attention to detail, opinionated banter, scheduling, decision-making, responsibility and loyalty to our station.

5. Writing: creative mansplaining

The media and communications sector has many branches that can appeal to the ISTJ personality. Journalism involves objectivity; it’s a job where the facts must be told. 

ISTJs also have a deep need to judge, however, and an ISTJ journalist might begin to question the facts they’re uncovering. It may become a conflict between following “the way it’s done” or finding a way to give a voice to your own version of the facts, especially if you think the greater good is at stake. Especially if you think you’re right. Writing pieces like restaurant reviews, personal memoirs or political rants, for example, may be a better match for some ISTJs.

ISTJs can absolutely participate in the book industry as leading voices in their profession, especially if they focus on fast-based publications. Do-it-yourself manuals, religious tomes, and business or scientific books are often penned by ISTJs—Sigmund Freud certainly had a lot to write about. Historical fiction, true crime, suspense or legal thriller genres could also challenge fiction-oriented ISTJs to achieve surprising creative heights.

6. Art: make your mark

ISFPs may wonder what ISTJs are doing in their artistic territory, but one could argue that painting and sculpting demands a bunch of key ISTJ careers skills—our affinity for solitude and our physical, immediate sensing modality to name just two. Like realist artist Edward Hopper, ISTJs will use their medium to depict the world the way they see it: with authenticity and clarity.

On the other hand, if kinesthetic work does not appeal to you, you can surround yourself with mosaics, statues, and stained glass every day as a museum art docent. Or point out the beauty that is all around us as a detail-savvy tour guide in your favorite city.

7. Photography: the art of observation

Professionals in the photography and film industries use images as currency, and an ISTJ with good sensing skills and a developed extraverted intuition (Ne) function may do well in this career. Ne is all about pattern recognition and it’s perception based, meaning it’s not based on decisions or the results of statistics, but rather off what you see. Images are one way to interpret what our senses tell us. If you have a good eye, you could do well in this career.

Keep in mind that ISTJs usually prefer their subjects to cooperate without a lot of fuss. So you may find it easier to photograph professional models as opposed to wedding events. Photojournalism or marketing arenas may also be a more fulfilling use of your camera.

8. Food: be the chef, not the bartender

An ISTJ may take over the family restaurant out of a love for tradition. Or she may indulge her need for independence by purchasing a restaurant franchise (ISTJs will love the backup support a franchise provides). Regardless, ISTJs will run their restaurant with military precision—madly adhering to safety codes, standards of cleanliness and professional protocols, and keeping a thoroughly trained staff. 

And what is a recipe, if not a plan? Culinary techniques can be taught, which means that ISTJs can definitely learn them.

As perfectly practical people, ISTJs are likely to keep the menu within the tried and true, making us the keepers of meatloaf on the menu. We also love to please people; we just don’t want to make small talk with them. So let the ESFJs serve guests while we work the magic in the kitchen, behind closed doors. Food is art, science and universal sustenance and that means our attention to standards and detail is sure to bring success.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Tahni (not verified) says...

Excellent! I love seeing out-of-the-box options like this. Thank you

Jolie Tunnell says...

You're so welcome! Sometimes, jumping out of the box brings a nice change of scenery.

Andre Du Toit (not verified) says...

Awesome, Jolie! You GO Girl. I thought, What ... you MUST be joking, but then I thought ... mmmm ... she could be right? Being different, creative IS possible, even for a ISTJ (Mark 11:22).

Jolie Tunnell says...

The ISTJ take on creativity is just as valid as everyone else's. We do it our way!

Elisha (not verified) says...

Thank you so much for creating this list! Every time I do a myers-brigg test it's between INTJ and ISTJ. I mostly align with the ISTJ descriptions, but I have a creative, imaginative side too (which throws the INTJ result sometimes) and get so frustrated with the "career lists" all give examples in finance and such. Yeah, I'd be great in those careers, I've even done them...but I get bored out of my mind. I end up feeling caged without the outlet for creativity, but my skills of high-attention to detail and organization always end up with me in a job playing with numbers or organizing or managing things/people in an office-like setting. But I can't be the INTJ...my last job drove me nuts as the front-of-house manager/finance manager/whatever else the owner needed primarily because there was no given order of heirarchy and nothing was clear cut nor and order of operations *anywhere* within the business. My anxiety was through the roof and reduced severely when I finally opted to leave. I felt like I could not work there anymore because I could not make order of the chaos, because the owner was resistant to structure (omg, just trying to do the books was a nightmare some weeks...) I did find though that having music while I worked was a necessity. Days when the internet was down or the speaker system wasn't working, I was not as productive and my mood like a cold gray rainy day. Music on: hello sunshine, I CAN be an extrovert ;) lol

I've wondered how on earth I could make my skills work on a creative level in an actual career rather than just trying to balance "boring" career with still having energy for hobbies. This list is the answer!!! It even stirs up other ideas of digital design when you describe the attributes applied for art, photography, and music. Perhaps digital cinematography could be a good role for an ISTJ. Hmm...

Anyway, thanks again!

Jolie Tunnell says...

It's important to pay attention to our internal responses to different positions. Finding a career that fulfils us is worth going after!

Alexandra19 (not verified) says...

I'm a istj... female... photographer... of weddings... It's been hard and frustrating sometimes, but I'm glad I gave a chance to a field where people with my personality type is almost inexistent. I appreciate photography, but there are many and more talented and people than me. Looking for change of career.  

Jolie Tunnell says...

Thank you for representing out there! Perhaps photographing more cooperative subjects will bring you better success. On the other hand, research might lead you to related fields or markets that demand your exact skill set. Good luck!

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