Psychopaths are difficult to spot most of the time. They’re not the “Jack the Ripper” caricatures you see in films or read about in books. Often, psychopaths appear normal, which makes them hard to identify.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, someone with a psychopathic personality type is defined as having an inflated, grandiose sense of themself, and a knack for manipulating other people. But a diagnosis is rarely simple.
One thing psychopaths tend to have in common is the careers they go for. For example, you’re likely to find a lot of them in leadership positions because of their ruthlessness, charisma, and fearlessness. They’re very good at making snap decisions, but not so good at the empathetic professions like nursing or therapy.
Kevin Dutton, a British psychologist and writer, specialises in the study of psychopathy. In his book “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success,” he made a list of the types of jobs that attract the most psychopaths.
“Functional psychopaths,” as Dutton calls them, “use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society.” In other words, psychopaths often live as normal people with a few traits that make them different.
Scroll down to see what the top 10 career choices for psychopaths are, ranked in ascending order by popularity.
Being a civil servant is the 10th most popular career choice for psychopaths, according to Dutton. In fact, in 2014, UK Government officials considered recruiting psychopaths specifically “to keep order,” because they are “very good in crises” and have “no feelings for others, nor moral code, and tend to be very intelligent and logical.”
Most psychopaths have no interest in harming others, so don’t worry about the fact chefs have access to open flames and knives during their work day. Psychopaths thrive in chaos where other people may fail, which could be one reason they work so well in a hectic kitchen.
In a blog post for Psychology Today, FBI veteran Joe Navarro explains some of the reasons psychopathic people may go for a career in the Clergy. Among them are the fact religious organisations may provide a means for people to exploit others, while also giving legitimacy to their actions. Also, it is easy to make alliances, which can give manipulative people the upper hand in gaining access to sensitive information.
Psychopaths don’t necessarily have ulterior motives. One of their traits is being very cool-headed under stress. Police officers have a highly intense and dangerous job, so it’s a huge benefit if you are calm in a crisis. This could be a reason law enforcement is a popular career choice for psychopaths.
Dutton lists some of the traits of psychopaths as charm, focus, mindfulness, ruthlessness, and action — which are all advantageous in journalism, especially when you have strict deadlines and you have to get answers from sources.
One study, published in the journal The Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, sought to find out whether surgeons really were likely to be psychopaths. Results showed that consultants at teaching hospitals scored higher on a scale of psychopathic personality than district general hospital consultants, who scored higher than the general population. Possible reasons the authors give in their discussion is that “stress immunity is the overriding personality trait of doctors,” and the fact surgeons have to make quick, difficult decisions every day.
A psychopathic person who works in sales probably shows traits such as shameless self promotion, stealing other people’s contacts, a relentless desire to earn the most money, and an inability to be a team player. Depending on how your organisation works, this could either be your worst nightmare, or the dream sales candidate.
Some psychopaths also exhibit narcissism, which is arguably useful in a job that requires a lot of public focus. The popularity of this career choice for psychopaths could also be because being a TV anchor or radio personality also requires you to be calm in the face of pressure.
In “Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding In Plain Sight,” author M. E. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, claims being a sociopath helped her be a better attorney. In a blog post for Psychology Today, attorney Ruth Lee Johnson says that although psychopathic traits like self-confidence, cold-heartedness, and deceitful charm may be handy for lawyers, it’s simplistic to say these traits alone are enough. In the right context, though, they could make someone very formidable.
Psychopaths have something called a “resilience to chaos.” This doesn’t just mean they keep a cool head under stress — they also sometimes create havoc for everyone else, because it makes them look good when everyone around them is struggling. Some psychopaths may use this method to climb the career ladder all the way to the top. Others aren’t necessarily as manipulative, and reach the top through their skills alone.