Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

The Best & Worst Jobs for an Empath

Judith Orloff - Monday, March 27, 2017

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff's ” The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” a guidebook for empaths and all caring people who want to keep their hearts open in an often-insensitive world.

Being a sensitive empath is a beautiful thing as an artist
                                                ...Alanis Morissette

Some jobs are more satisfying and less stressful for empaths than others. As an empath, myself, I know that to excel in and enjoy our work, we must make the most of our sensitivities. We must express our intuition, our thoughtfulness, our quietness, and our creativity rather than trying to be someone we’re not.

The Best Careers for Empath

In my book, “The Empath’s Survival Guide” I present the pros and cons of certain careers and working conditions for sensitive people. Traditionally, empaths do better in lower stress, solo jobs, or with smaller companies. They are usually happiest working part or full time at home, away from the office frenzy, noise, politics, and nearby energy vampires. (They’re easier to deal with by email, text, or phone because they’re at a distance.) In such a job, you can plan your schedule and plan regular breaks to decompress.

Many of my empath patients prefer being self-employed to avoid the drain and overwhelm of coworkers, bosses, and packed schedules. Empaths tend to do better on their own time than with the frequent team meetings that are required in large businesses (unless the team is unusually positive and cohesive). If you’re employed by a business, it may be possible to arrange a part time home office situation and do your work virtually, with ongoing access to the Internet, emails, texts, and Skype. Increasingly, people don’t always have to be tied to their office to do their job well, a perk for empaths that allows them to have more choice in their work location. However, if you work at home or alone in an office, be careful not to become isolated or to push yourself too hard. Balance your alone time with “people time” among colleagues and friends.

How do these considerations translate into real world jobs? Empaths do well being self-employed business owners, writers, editors, health care professionals, artists and in other creative professions. Many actor and musicians such as Claire Danes, Alanis Morissette, Scarlett Johansson, and Jim Carrey have admitted to being “highly sensitive.”

Other good jobs include: website and graphic designers, virtual assistants, accountants or lawyers with home offices, or independent electricians and plumbers who can set their own appointments. Being a real estate agent or roving business consultant can be fine too, as long as you establish good boundaries regarding when you can be reached and don’t overschedule yourself. Landscape design, gardening, forest ranger work, or other employment that puts you in nature are wonderful for empaths as are jobs preserving the earth and her ecosystems.

Many empaths also go into the helping professions because of their desire to serve others. As a psychiatrist, I get great satisfaction from helping my patients, as long as I can take care of my own energy and don’t absorb the stress from my patients. Similarly, many empaths become physicians, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, psychotherapists, social workers, teachers, yoga instructors, Chinese medical practitioners, massage therapists, clergy, hospice workers, life coaches, or volunteers or employees of non-profit organizations among other heart-felt jobs. Working with animals, animal rescue, dog grooming, as well as veterinary medicine are gratifying choices too.

But, to thrive, empaths in the helping professions must learn how to stop taking on the stress and symptoms of their patients and clients. They can do this by scheduling breaks between clients to meditate set clear limits and boundaries with people, and take adequate time outside of work to relax and refuel. However, jobs such as being a police officer or fire-fighter, though often heroic, may be too stressful for an empath because of the high sensory stimulation and ongoing physical and emotional trauma inherent in these careers.

Empaths are valuable to all kinds of careers. However, you need to find the right work that supports your skills, temperament, and gifts. An empath’s attributes may not be as appreciated in places such as corporations, academia, professional sports, the military, or government. A better match may be the helping professions, the arts, and organizations with more humanistic awareness. So, when you’re considering a job, use your intuition to sense if you are a good fit with their mission and shared goals, the people, the space, and the energy of the environment. Just because a job looks look on paper doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It has to feel right in your body and gut too.

Jobs to Avoid If You’re an Empath

One of the best ways to take care of your energy is to choose work that enhances your unique empathic gifts and avoid draining jobs.

What jobs are best to avoid? Sales is high on that list. Not many empaths enjoy being salespeople, especially if they’re introverted. Dealing with the public takes too much out of them. One patient who worked in technical support said, “I was too sensitive to constantly deal with angry customers, even if they were right.” Also, empaths pick up people’s emotions and stress which can make them sick. One man said, “Being a cashier at Walmart nearly gave me an anxiety attack. The crowds, the noise of people talking and loudspeakers, bright lights, and long hours were exhausting.” Whether it’s selling cars, diamond rings, or advertising, empaths don’t generally feel well having to “be on” all day.

Other stressful careers for empaths include public relations, politics, executives who manage large teams, and being a trial attorney. These high intensity professions value extroversion, the ability to engage in small talk, and aggressiveness rather than being thoughtful, soft-spoken, sensitive, and introspective.

The mainstream corporate world is problematic too. The “this is how it’s done” corporate mentality is difficult for empaths, including myself. This response has always frustrated me since there’s nowhere to go with it, and it clearly doesn’t value an individual’s needs. Empaths are independent thinkers and question the status quo at work if it doesn’t feel right. They like to know the reasoning behind a decision so they make sense of it in their gut. Plus, regular team meetings and power hungry team-mates are draining for empaths, who function better on their own.

Even if your job is not ideal--and you can’t leave--you can improvise to find solutions that make your situation more comfortable. When empaths are happy at work they can flourish, and make important contributions to their occupations.


Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

Joseph Tozzi commented on 29-Mar-2017 02:13 PM
Need to find an empath support group in Sometset County , New Jersey Area in desperate need , suicidal and Severly Depressed.
Dr. Bob commented on 31-Mar-2017 04:27 PM
Wish I had met you a long time ago, before I became a dentist. Burned out severely because I am a true empath.
God bless you, keep up the good work.
Linda Booker commented on 02-Apr-2017 10:11 AM
I just learned about your new book while reading Regenerate magazine. I've pre-ordered on Amazon and can't wait to read it. Years ago a young Native American friend put a name to what I'd known about myself since I was very young. After hanging out in my bookstore for a few months, he said one day " Linda, you are an Empath". I can' tell you how important it was to put a name to this gift/sometimes curse. From that time on, I've worked on the balance needed to stay sane.
I'm mostly writing to thank you for writing about the best and worst jobs for an empath, reinforcing my decision to leave my present high stress job, hopefully in the next 2 months.
Looking forward to reading more,

Yvnadic commented on 04-Apr-2017 04:41 AM
After years of struggle with my son and not understanding his his behavior I have finally come to understand he is probably an empath! I had never even heard the term until a psychic friend told me that she knew he was an empath. I plan to read everything I can get my hands on. And I'm so relieved to finally understand what my son has been trying to tell me for years.
Maria commented on 04-Apr-2017 03:21 PM
Thank you for this article Judith. I am now in my early 40's discovering that I am an Empath. I have always been sensitive and have worked as an Executive Assistant for over 15 years. I quit my job when I just couldn't bear it anymore. Now I'm trying to get back in the workforce and have temped around a bit in the same capacity. I keep finding myself cringing in these harsh environments but can't seem to get call backs for anything else. I welcome any advice. Thank you so much!
Dr. Halle commented on 04-Apr-2017 07:25 PM
(Your email feature failed to work!)

Dear Dr. Orloff:

Nice to catch you on Dr. Nita Valens' show today, on KPFK. Regrettably I was not able to get through on the phone line. A couple of comments, if I may:

1. You are really onto something here, with your premise of "empaths." KUDOS!! ADD and BPD run in my family (maybe some dyslexia...and even some autism too!)...and we certainly have fit this profile of extreme sensitivity.

2. Through the years, using a wide variety of means (e.g., early on, Ritalin; much better diet (no white sugar and more veggies, especially); psychotherapy; Chiropractic; Neurofeedback; and many little "tricks" like "post-its" on the PC monitor screen, and what I call the "Halle little bite technique"), I seem to have actually created what you term a "filter" (can tune-out a LOT of the "junk" in my environment), and to have arrived at a place of at least a reasonable level of facility in being able to focus...and to attack an issue or project...and move with it to completion (although my health and general performance still vary a bit, from time to time). Not only that, but my "situational anxiety" (terrific upset…almost at the level of TERROR) surrounding certain issues and situations, like debts, bills, living situation (e.g., frequent apt. inspections and a couple of Nazi-like managers)..and being out in public (agoraphobia) has decreased very significantly. I guess I could add that I have found Propanolol to be helpful with this anxiety, historically. You probably know that this inappropriate anxious response appears to have a connection with a structure in the brain, the amydala. In effect, the amydala “upset threshold” is set too low. The ability to address this problem--by, presumably--creating new neural pathways, seems to be consonant with the principle of neuroplasticity. ; )

3. I was, just now, working on an article for submission to the publication "Dynamic Chiropractic" (which I might forward to you), in which I lament the fact that many of my colleagues seem to have jettisoned the area of "subtle work" (or "vitalism"), have become more or less, glorified physical therapists...and "would-be" medicos. As you seem to hold, there are "energy phenomena" operating in our lives...notwithstanding that things like this may defy quantification and full description.

I might add (in the spirit of the Jungian concept of synchronicity, which--I'm sure you understand), that it was a delight to have thought of your name just yesterday) and then to encounter you on a KPFK program today!! Of course, I could be a nut-case (or a manipulator with plenty of BS to disseminate), but the reality is that I came across the name of another individual online (with the same last name--Orloff) and, naturally, thought of you...one of my heroes in the field of psychology and "holistic health.”


Dr. Halle

(Might be able to catch you at one of your Pasadena or Venice events)
Elizabeth Sadhu commented on 05-Apr-2017 02:36 PM
Got The Empath's Survival Guide yesterday. I am so excited. You are speaking my language......yay!

I am all Emotional Empath with answering yes to 7 or the Physical Empath. This is so comforting.

I realized this about myself about 30 years ago but I am still struggling to manage it. I know that I get a lot of things that others don't and I know I am easily exhausted by some situations and people.

I am on the third chapter and I am SO HAPPY! Thanks!

I love your books. This may be my favorite.

love love love,
Richard martini commented on 05-Apr-2017 03:30 PM
Hello Dr Judith Orloff, I listened, with earbuds, deeply, earlier today to You good Doctor.
On Kpfa. And I am working in Berkeley just a few blocks from their studio. Once I heard some of the call ins and how deep their lives got being empathic. I was able to understand how lucky I have been All these years. My sense Of survival runs deep yet I can get depressed with the best. Since I am 60+ I am ready to improve and thanks to you and our timing today. I apply my philosophy to the Japanese culture and a concept of "kaizen"
Which I know as daily improvement. EveryDay.
I want to connect with you and others, please. Richard

I want to
Anonymous commented on 10-Apr-2017 07:53 PM
I'd love to find other empaths in Central Vermont and Southern Vermont~
Brenda commented on 15-Apr-2017 10:07 AM
I'd gotten to page 11 of your book and couldn't believe so much of what you stated rang true for me. It wasn't until recently that someone used the word "empath" and I realized there was actually a name for what I am. Thank you so much for writing this book! With our current administration I have had to turn myself off from everyday happenings- it's a hard balance between staying informed and providing self care. I haven't owned a tv since 2009. I would be interested in meeting like- feeling people within an hour from Sarasota, Fl where I reside. Best to all my fellow empaths, Brenda.
Natasha commented on 16-Apr-2017 09:15 PM
Hello Dr.
I've been truggling with my long distance relationship with my bf. For 2 years we have been together, i still cannot handle him during his worst. I am unable to cheer him up when he is stress or mad while other women are able to do so towards him. I've been receiving complaints from our closest friend that i am the only womean who cant handle him. Im wondering if something is wrong with me since i cant ease his stress, i will only make him get more angry at me. I really need your help Dr. I've been seeking for help everywhere
Tracey commented on 19-Apr-2017 10:38 PM
I am an therapist and social worker. I was put on lyrica for foot pain, It makes me feel like I can't connect with others. In therapy it's like I get these flashes or images of what the person is talking about, and it helps me to connect with the person. The lyrica really helps with the physical pain. I read about it and it's an anti epliplectic medication used for nerve pain. Just wondered if anyone else who is empathic, has a different medication they use for pain that does not impact your empathic connections?
Thank you Tracey
lmp commented on 20-Jun-2017 10:37 PM
Tracey, I was prescribed Lyrica for sciatic pain after foot surgery. I can't know what pain you experienced, but I took one pill and was unconscious in about 10 minutes. It was like a quick and deep anesthesia. My spouse thought I was dead. I didn't take it again. I took Ibuprofen 800s 3 times a day for a few months.
Now, my foot is both hypersensitive and numb. I get relief with aspirin twice a day and using a topical analgesic (Lasting Touch gel works for me). Combined with the occasional ice pack or heating pad, gentle stretching, massage and ESPECIALLY making time for the quiet time I need. I wish you well. Thank you, Dr Orloff, for providing this place to talk.

Post A Comment

Captcha Image


Empaths / Highly Sensitive People

Intuition & Dreams


Energy Vampires


Personal Growth

Health / Well-Being

Recent Posts