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Empaths and Work

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.

Empaths and Work

As an empath, prior to entering the work world, I never really fit in like “normal” people. I remember feeling that once I graduated from college with a good degree it would happen, I would find the groove of the “normal” people and figure out how to do life the way other people did. 

Well, that didn’t happen. For a brief period after college, I worked a job way beneath my skill level (it was a recession) and dated a guy and pretended I was normal. I suppose like many other people I was working a job that was sufficient. Meaning, I got the job–they hired me, I could perform the tasks to a satisfactory level, and they paid me enough for me to have a life.

It didn’t take long before I began to feel the disgruntled stirrings of “is this all there is?” It began as an unsettled feeling of “I am pretty sure there is something else I should be doing right now?” 

Most empaths begin questioning their jobs or careers in their late 20s or early 30s. It is never too late to find a satisfying way to create income.

Craving a Connection to Purpose

It is common for empaths to feel burnt out or even shut down if they don’t feel their work is serving a greater purpose. The idea of a purpose can feel a little daunting or grandiose.

It can feel lighter to begin to identify with that inner genius. Our natural gifts can often be overlooked and downplayed. However if purpose feels too big, our gift(s) can point the way to a business, career, or journey that can quiet that restless voice.

In our modern culture, there can be a general apathy for the idea of purpose. We can feel too cool for purpose or hope. Cynicism is a tool we use to outsmart disappointment and heartbreak.

Purpose can bring up feelings of fear. Fear we will fail, fear we won’t, fear of the responsibility we feel to carry out our purpose.

We get stuck in the rat race – working hard at a job we may or may not enjoy to pay for the life we want. Purpose can make us feel self-indulgent. Wanting a job or career that fulfills us, who do we think we are? It takes time to sort out the message of our purpose and how we can best fulfill it.

How Empaths Experience the World

Another way to tackle finding satisfaction from your work is to begin by looking at how empaths look at the world and compare that worldview with your current work environment, does it align and serve this worldview? If not, start here, begin the search with values instead of purpose.

  1. We view life as a collective. We, not me.
  2. To learn about our world, we merge our energy with people, places, and things.
  3. We lead our lives from our heart chakra – relationships and our values often matter more than money, power, and status
  4. Empaths see another person’s soul, in other words, their potential, not necessarily their personality.

Now, let’s look at some of the common traits empath share that can make large, crowded office environments difficult to tolerate.

Common Traits that Affect Empaths and Work

  1. Pick up on the emotions or physical pain of others who are in close proximity – processing the unspoken emotions within the office
  2. Difficulty expressing opinions because they are able to see all sides of an issue – they need a little more time to form opinions
  3. Introverted – recharges energy by being alone
  4. Overwhelmed in crowds
  5. A natural reluctance to create conflict can make them the office patsy, fall guy, or mediator
  6. Poor concentration in open and populated spaces
Empaths can learn some tools to better manage their energy and have better boundaries but that won’t completely solve the problem for most empaths. Over time not having a proper work environment and energy management will lead to burnout, both physically and emotionally. 
As you identify what environments don’t work very well for you, it is important to begin to do some research on different jobs, work environments or even careers in order to find something that feels good to your soul, not just your bank account or social status.

Model Environments for Empath and Work

Keeping in mind that I will be using generalizations and not all empaths have the same needs so there will always be exceptions, here is a model work environment for empaths.

  1. Small office, 20 people or less, with spacious layout.
  2. Working alone or with small, unusually positive, and community-oriented groups.
  3. Workgroups with a high degree of integrity and ownership of both their work and their emotions.
  4. Working from home, full-time or part-time.
  5. Work and a work environment that supports the same values and beliefs we hold.
  6. Work we feel connected to and that will make a difference in the world.

This environment supports empaths’ need for lower stimuli, a culture that doesn’t require people to check their morals at the door, a healthy emotional climate, some place we feel valued and that our work matters. 

Ideal Jobs/Careers and Those to Avoid

Practically speaking, it is best if the work is something you truly love to do. Empaths’ sensitive systems will degrade and breakdown creating physical and/or mental illness if we don’t take proper care of it with good environments and work that is in alignment with our morals and values.

Here are some career recommendations and cautions from Dr. Judith Orloff, MD and empath expert.

Good Choices:

Editor, Writer, small business owner, healing careers, lawyers, architects, artists, actors, independent electricians and plumbers, forest rangers, landscape designers, gardeners

Careers to avoid: 

Sales, customer service, retail, public relations, politics, executives managing large teams, and trial attorneys. 

These jobs expend too much energy and create too much drama for most empath to enjoy.

Enjoyment Matters for Empaths and Work

If anyone finds themselves at a point where their work is sucking more energy than it ever gives back, don’t be afraid to rethink your career or vocation.

Don’t let how much time or effort changing your career will require deter you from pursuing a better life, the time will go by anyway.

You owe it to yourself to seek that which will fulfill you. If you are moving towards a more aligned life–even if it is only incrementally–your soul will feel alive. When your soul is fed with mindful work in an environment that supports your sensitivities, life becomes a much richer and deeper canvas. 

If you are still learning how to feel good and confident as an empath, explore the Empath Apprenticeship. If you would like to focus on finding meaning work consider a Mentoring or Mini Mentoring package.

About the Author

Laura Rowe is an Intuitive Strategist & Spiritual Seeker at The Vital Spirit. Living in Portland, Oregon, Laura founded The Vital Spirit in 2013. She has a background in business operations, a master’s degree in organizational management, and she has spent the last 35 years studying spiritual traditions and practices, and the last 12 years training in intuitive energy healing modalities.

Laura helps empaths and sensitives who have struggled their whole life with belonging. Her approach this work through a social justice lens, seeking to help empaths explore their own power while considering the power dynamics of our White Supremacist, Patriarchal, Fourth Stage Capitalist society. Our culture views sensitivity as a weakness and my work focuses on helping empaths heal the wounds left by this world; reframing their sensitivity and focusing on their innate power. 

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