Jobs for abstract thinkers

Updated August 10, 2017

Whether it's in our approaches to problem-solving or they way we deal with others, it's clear that not all people think alike. One major distinction is between those who favor concrete thought and those who are more abstract. For those who consider themselves abstract thinkers, the job market can seem a little daunting. In fact, however, there are many fascinating and rewarding careers that perfectly suit abstract thinkers.

Abstract thinking

Abstract thinking is the ability to think in terms of general concepts and principles rather than specific, concrete examples. Abstract thinkers excel at discerning the patterns or ideas that underlie events. They tend to think in terms of the big picture, and will often draw connections between disparate events or concepts. They may not be as proficient as concrete thinkers at dealing with detail work, and they can sometimes become frustrated or impatient if forced to do the same task over and over again.

Advantages of abstract thinking

Proficiency in abstract thinking provides a number of skills that are highly desirable in the workplace. Their focus on generalising from specific examples makes abstract thinkers excellent at prediction and the creation of long-term strategy. Abstract thinkers also excel at any type of research which involves drawing a general conclusion from a range of different data. Their characteristic high-altitude approach makes abstract thinkers good at broad-scale investigators, as well as excellent teachers in some subjects.

Science and technology careers

Science and technology, particularly scientific and technological research, demand strong skills in abstract thinking. Abstract thinkers can excel in this field, especially in high-level research. Some aspects of science tend to reward abstract thinking more: physics and mathematics are excellent careers for abstract thinkers, while case-based fields like epidemiology tend to suit those who think in both abstract and concrete terms. Research in the humanities is also a common career choice for those who tend to think in abstract terms.

Careers in business and industry

Research isn't the only area where abstract thinkers can succeed. Many jobs in the world of business require the abstract thinking skills used in planning and strategy. Abstract thinking is a great problem-solving tool, especially for dealing with broad, systemic problems rather than individual, local ones. This means that those who combine abstract thinking with good people skills can make excellent managers and consultants. Abstract thinking can also be useful in creative fields such as advertising and public relations.

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.