It may seem as if the only type of workers that employers hire and promote are extroverts. You know the sort: They tend to love the spotlight, they're extremely social, and they are energized by large events. They get excited when they hear the phrase, “Let’s brainstorm!”
While it may seem like extroversion is more valued than introversion, it takes all kinds of personalities to make a company successful, and being an introvert at work isn’t always a disadvantage.
How do you take your reflective and thoughtful instincts and translate them to professional success? Here are seven tips to help you take advantage of your natural strengths.
1. Carve out alone time, when possible
Many workers spend their days at a desk in an open area in an office. Part of their job description might involve talking to multiple team members or fielding calls throughout the day. This can be draining for most introverts, so be strategic about the time you do have control over. Don’t plan a group lunch every day, for example. You might want to take your lunch and sit somewhere by yourself to get some much-needed “recovery” time. Take a short walk around the building if you have 10 minutes during the day. Small periods of alone time can make a huge difference in your ability to perform a job that requires you to exercise your more extroverted muscles most of the day.
2. Prepare for speaking in public
As an introvert at work, when you do have something to say, others tend to listen. Many introverts know from experience that they should give a presentation or speech only after doing their homework. This isn’t because all introverts are shy — introverts, just like extroverts, can be shy or not. However, introverts are generally not as comfortable with “off the cuff” presentations as their extroverted counterparts. Take some time to prepare if your manager asks you to present or speak at a meeting. Planning what you’ll say will help you feel more at ease, and your thoroughness will show your boss and colleagues that you’ve done your research. What’s more, not winging it will result in fewer mistakes and potentially embarrassing remarks.
3. Rely on your listening skills
You’re not as talkative as your extroverted coworkers, so you likely have excellent listening skills. Because you pay attention while others speak instead of trying to formulate clever remarks, you can contribute to a discussion by asking meaningful questions. As an introvert at work, when you do have something to say, others will likely pay attention.
4. Use your contemplative disposition
You like to observe and think things over, which serves you well in decision-making. Because you control your impulses and refrain from jumping immediately to an action or conclusion, you tend to make wiser decisions.
5. Take advantage of your preference for writing
If you’re like many introverts, you prefer written communication. That’s a valuable skill if you are expected to communicate via email to your team. But this tendency doesn’t mean you can’t get up in public and deliver a great presentation when you have to. Use your inclination to prepare (see Tip No. 2) to come up with compelling words, and practice them until you can give your talk smoothly and confidently.
6. Reframe schmoozing
Company parties and business networking events can be an introvert’s worst nightmare, with the crowds, new faces and small talk. But before you make excuses and skip the next all-company party, change your mindset and approach. Instead of feeling pressured to talk to as many people as possible at a gathering, set a goal of having meaningful conversations with one or two people. A few good relationships established at a networking event can help your career just as much as — if not more than — many casual acquaintances.
7. Don’t undersell your accomplishments
You may be uncomfortable talking about your expertise and accomplishments. This is a positive trait when compared to colleagues who love to “humblebrag” (a boast hidden behind humility) and show off. However, you do need to talk about your outstanding qualities during job interviews and salary negotiations. Since many introverts don’t like to be the center of attention, you can mention the successful projects you’ve championed and how your work contributed to the team’s success. Don’t get in the habit of underselling your accomplishments, and remember to accept compliments graciously.
If you’re an introverted professional, you bring a lot to the table. There’s no need to adopt a different persona because you think being talkative and social is the only way to get ahead. By recognizing and nurturing your innate abilities, you can succeed and thrive in any workplace while still remaining true to yourself.