I’m job searching, so I’m trying to put myself on paper. Something that occurs to me as one of my best skills is listening. I’m the kind of good listener that stranger tell their secrets to. People have brilliant ideas while talking to me. I’ve used it to get by in situations where I felt really lost and ignorant, like the summer I went to a hacking conference without knowing the slightest thing about computers.

I know this skill can be useful, because its how I’ve made most of my friends, its made people fall in love with me, and in school it got me great grades.  I just don’t know how to get a job with it. I don’t know what type of fields or positions it would be valued in. On a resume, it looks silly, and I worry it comes across as passive.

I have other skills too. I’m insightful and creative. I’m good at leading people and inspiring them (used to direct plays). In my heart I think listening is what makes me stand out, and strengthens my other skills.

P.S. I notice people mention their personality type in your letters, I’m definitely either INFP or ENFP.

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17 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I knew you were an INFP or ENFP because so few people would send this email. There are other personality types that are good at listening, but none that would want to be known for that.

    Social worker comes to mind. You need to listen for that.

    In general, though, people get hired to fill specific jobs, and no one has a job opening for a listener. There are lots of jobs where you have to be good at listening in order to get the job done, but people hire for the job per se, not listening.

    So, for example, user experience experts have to be good listeners because they integrate input from marketing and development and end users. But you couldn’t get a user experience job by just being a good listener.

    So the bottom line is that you need to have a skill people are looking to hire for in order to be able to put those listening skills to work. Even getting a job as a social worker requires a degree.

    Sorry to be disappointing.


  2. ruo
    ruo says:

    Penelope’s answer sounds depressing.

    Here’s my suggestion:
    – Be a psychologist and you will doing a lot of note taking each session and helping your client cope with personal stress.

    – Divorce counsellor for men. Someone I know is getting divorced and he is taking a 4 week retreat to heal his ’emotional wound’ from the trauma. The retreat is gonna cost him $20K (!)

    Penelope’s probably better at giving you advice on how to network to get closer to emotional wounded men with lots of money. From my line of work, I’ve seen men with lots of money is willing to pay for someone to listen to them as a coping mechanism with their turbulent personal life – they just don’t know how to handle it. They’re too good at making money.

  3. Emily
    Emily says:

    I’ve tried to charge my husband for this (see above).

    Seriously though, I’ve faced the same challenge as an enfp / infp. I even emailed my friends once for anonymous career for me guidance and they all came back with: psychologist. It’s an option although if you tend toward the E, and I do, then you might long for something more public.

  4. Kris Costello
    Kris Costello says:

    Congrats to you! The world desperately needs people that know how to listen!
    I loved listening, and asking Authors questions that 9 yrs ago I started an AM Radio Show so I could listen. And I haven’t regreted a moment, okay, that’s not true…it’s been challening at times and it hasn’t been an income generator for me but I sure have heard a lot of great stories and Interviewed a lot of amazing people! I suggest you sit down and brainstorm a list of how many jobs require listening. Here’s a few come to mind – teacher, guidance counselor, radio host, producer, drama coach, life coach, ghostwriter, transcriptionist, spiritual counselor…but I agree with Penelope that ‘listener’ as a skill on a resume would confound most interviewers. Maybe the real question for you here is can you figure out just ‘what’ or ‘who’ it is that you’d like to ‘listen to’, and work backwards from there, and perhaps build a career from that? Loved reading you post, reminded me of how much I love ‘listening’ too, so thanks for that and good luck to you!

  5. Anna
    Anna says:

    There is another talent that goes along with being a good listener — gaining people’s trust, which is great in business, even the business of counseling. Sales and trust go together, whether it be the kind in which you conduct one quick transaction, a series of transactions over time, or a long-term, larger transaction. Just a thought. Jobs which involve relationship or even just the passing connection might be good.

    I am a good listener and easily gain people’s trust, but as an INTP, I don’t really care about getting “close”, I care about the information of the interaction, so I would not be good in anything that actually involves a lot of continuing closeness. (I am close to people like my husband for example but do not have a huge reservoir for a lot close, interpersonal relationships.)

    The person who asked the original question is probably much more relational in her listening capacity and interests.

  6. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    You seem to have some great qualities going for you.

    You are a good listener. You are a curious person. You build human connections.

    What you need to do next is convince someone to invest in you or your ideas.

    I can’t fully recommend this book yet because I have only just started to read it, but I think you would get a lot out of it.

    It is called A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer.

    • Dilys
      Dilys says:

      I’ve just looked that book up on Amazon – & read some reviews & read some extracts – it looks fascinating! I’ve added it to my wish list – thanks for mentioning it.

  7. LAP
    LAP says:

    I think part of why it’s hard to get a job on listening skills alone is that people don’t like to admit how much they talk. But they do, a lot. So view listening as a covert skill and emphasize your other skills while trying to get into situations where you can network a lot and try to land as many job interviews as possible. If you meet enough people you’ll find someone who likes you enough to hire you.

    • LAP
      LAP says:

      Incidentally, I’m pretty sure I’ve landed jobs that I wasn’t the most qualified for because of my listening skills. I didn’t have to mention it either, I just had the magic combo of A. having a decent enough resume to get an interview and B. having a very extroverted interviewer who talked on and on about themselves and the job/company while I listened and encouraged them.

  8. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi! Thank you for writing this letter. I am INFP, like listening, and hate talking. I will be a lawyer on Tuesday but am also job searching like you. When I wrote to Penelope for advice, her first concern was money.

    If you have student debt, my suggestion is to find work where you listen to clients who can pay you well. This can be in advertising, business development, consulting, finance, research, sales, tutoring, etc.

    If you have no debt like me, you can work in more fields. Here is a web page listing the jobs that need active listening skills: http://careers.collegetoolkit.com/career-search/criteria/skills/activelistening.aspx

  9. Cate
    Cate says:

    I’m surprised no one brought up journalism or editing. I am a medical editor and do a lot of listening – to authors, to interview subjects, to my sales team.

  10. enfp
    enfp says:

    I am an ENFP and one of my greatest skills is also listening. I use this skill in combination with other skills to be stellar at what I do. Listening is gaining input and that can be viewed as passive but the skill of listening isn’t. Depending on the project, I pair listening with an executive skill to get the job done.

    You said you’ve parlayed your listening skill to gain friends, lovers and great grades. So you’ve used your listening with other skills to get something you want but somehow you haven’t been able to do that with your career. My question to you is: what job do you want? It sounds like you want a “listening” job but I think it would be more more helpful to list what field you want to be working in and then see where listening plus your other skills come into that.

    And if you want to be known for listening then start talking and showing how pairing that up with other skills bolsters the other skill, performance and results! You could become the listening expert!

    And here’s a link for “Careers by Skill – Active Listening”

    Best of luck!

  11. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    My INFP friend started her career as a graphic designer. Naturally she was dissatisfied because her work lacked meaning, so she decided to pursue a social work degree.

    As part of her grad school application process, she volunteered at a suicide hotline. After 6 weeks of repetitive calls she realized that social work was completely the wrong direction for her

    Instead, she spent a year and a half pursuing intense zen meditation. Now she is back to working part time at the zen center and working with her graphic design clients.

    So being a good listener is definitely a skill that will help you to have a better life, but that doesn’t mean you will be satisfied by a career that is defined by it. I think you should focus on a job with flexibility.

  12. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    I am also a great listener and the best job I had for that was legislative analyst. My job was to listen to elected officials, constituents, & lobbyists and come up with language for proposed legislation that would satisfy their needs. The first time it happened I sat though hours of listening to doctors and massage therapists talk about what they needed and why they could not agree on language to make a licensing bill happen. I came up with a specific turn of phrase for the bill and suddenly everyone agreed it could be done. It was also the right combination of sitting quietly in an office and being out in public for me. Unfortunately the hours were crazy and the “volunteer” campaign work requirements pushed me out.

  13. Sue
    Sue says:

    If you’re not up for the schooling required to be a psychologist, you could consider Home aide, massage therapist, patient advocate, child welfare advocate…

  14. E
    E says:

    You could also think about working for your national security/spy services which require people to ‘listen in’ to calls etc.
    Or I would suggest counsellor/psychotherapist – people in all sorts of traumas all over the world need someone to listen to them and help guide them to a resolution of their situation – that would be a wonderful thing to do.

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