We’ve all seen those posts online somewhere: 17 Best Jobs for Introverts! While I agree that there are jobs that may be better suited to an introvert, I firmly believe that an introvert can do any job they want to — even something that might be more extrovert-focused such as sales or training.
Keeping these three things in mind will help you conquer any job you want!
Introvert, know thyself!
Knowing more about your introversion and your personality type can really cause some “a ha” moments. I clearly remember my reaction when I learned I was an introvert. So that’s why I don’t like parties so much! That kind of information does something really important: It confirms that there’s nothing wrong with you. It also lets you know that there are LOTS of other people just like you. Remember that introverts probably make up to 50% of the population. Half of your co-workers could be fellow introverts!
One word of caution: Your fellow introverts may appear to be extroverts. Depending on the job and/or how much a person flexes on the introversion/extroversion scale during the day, a co-worker may seem more outgoing, verbal or social.
There are two well-researched and validated personality profiles that can give you more information about yourself. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator measures four pairs of preferences: introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuiting, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. You can learn more about Myers Briggs and find a place to take a free MBTI test on the Quietly Fabulous FAQs page.
At my workplace, we use the DiSC profile. Although I had never heard of it before I started my job two years ago, I have learned a lot about it. It’s primarily used in the workplace to aid in communications and teamwork. Like the MBTI, the DiSC Profile is a copyrighted product and requires a fee to take the profile online. However, you can read more about the DiSC personality types here and can probably figure out your profile. Most introverts tend to be an S or a C.
As as ISTJ, one of my biggest stressors is uncertainty. Like many introverts, my reaction times tend to be a bit slower than an extrovert’s. I can get uncomfortable in new situations because I don’t know what to expect — which means I can’t prepare ahead of time. One of the ways to help alleviate some of that stress is being prepared for as much as you can. But don’t think you can plan for every eventuality. That will just cause more stress!
Meeting prep is a big one for me. As a leader, I always try to have an agenda prepared for my meetings and to make sure that gets distributed ahead of time. If you’re an attendee, see if you can get an agenda before the meeting. Maybe it’s even a quick email or phone call to the meeting facilitator asking for the highlights of what will be covered. This will give you some time to think about what you can contribute.
If you’re not able to contribute during a meeting, you still have options! Send an email, call the meeting facilitator or stop by their office to chat about it. Don’t feel bad because you didn’t get a word in edgewise with all those extroverts! Use your superpowers of analysis and introspection to good use and share your coherent, neatly organized thoughts after the meeting. (Another note of caution: If something was decided on during a meeting, after the fact is not the time to voice your thoughts! If you can’t find a way to get your thoughts heard and a decision is made, you’ll probably have to live with it.)
The other key to preparation is managing your energy levels. Most workplaces are designed to be very social: we work in teams, we work in cubes, we celebrate everyone’s birthday, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of that — except that they tend to work against the introvert temperament. We get our energy from contemplation and quality time with ourselves, the exact opposite of what we usually find in the workplace. That just means that you need to carefully manage your energy levels throughout the day to maintain as much efficiency as you can. If you need to re-charge at lunch time, don’t feel bad about taking some time for yourself. That alone time will help you power through the afternoon slump.
Advocate for Yourself
One of the most important ways you can make any job introvert-friendly is to advocate for yourself. You know how you work best. You know how much time you need for thinking. That means you have to be able to ask for something if you need it.
Unless you’re doing emergency surgery, in most cases, it’s okay to ask for time to think when asked a question. “Can I think about that and get back to you tomorrow?” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Co-workers who know you and trust you will come to respect your thinking time and know they will get a well-thought-out response. Now, it will take some effort on your part to help build this trust. You may have to explain that your process involves some thinking time before responding. But over time, being true to yourself will make life easier for both you and your co-workers.
And despite the prevalence of cubes and open workspaces, you may need to find a quieter place to work or put on some noise-canceling headphones. Again, no one is going to magically know that you need these things and provide them to you. Talk with your supervisor about finding the quiet space you need. Maybe you can work off-site or from home for part of the week. Or you can create some kind of sign that is instantly recognizable to your co-workers: “Susan has her headphones on, so I can’t disturb her now. I’ll check back later.”
You have to be able to advocate for yourself and the needs of your temperament. It may be a tough conversation in the beginning, but if both you and your employer can flex a little bit, you can create a long-lasting relationship.
What tips do you have for making your job introvert-friendly? Please share in the comments!