How to Succeed — and Thrive — as an Introvert at Work

Introverted man sitting at a desk and looking off to one side.

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, be extremely social and are energized by large events. They get excited when they hear the phrase, “Let’s brainstorm!”

Often, it seems like extroversion is often more valued than introversion. But it takes all kinds of personalities to make a company successful, and being an introvert at work isn’t always a disadvantage. In fact, many of today’s best-known names — Warren Buffett, Emma Watson, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K. Rowling, Barack Obama — are self-described introverts.

As an administrative professional, how do you take your reflective and thoughtful instincts and translate them to professional success? Here are some tips to help you take advantage of your natural strengths.

Carve out alone time, when possible

Administrative professionals are typically at a desk in an open area in an office. Part of the job description often involves talking to multiple team members and 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 extraverted muscles most of the day.

Prepare

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 good at “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. Perhaps you’re implementing a new system and are tasked with training the other administrative professionals in your group. Planning what you’ll say will help you feel more comfortable, and your thoroughness will show your boss and colleagues that you’ve done your homework. What’s more, not winging it will result in fewer mistakes and on-the-fly — and potentially embarrassing — remarks.

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 tend to listen.

Use your contemplative disposition to your advantage

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. 

A preference for writing can be advantageous

If you’re like many introverts, you prefer written communication to oral. That’s a valuable skill for administrative pros because they are often expected to communicate via email to their team about upcoming events, changes to internal systems or planning celebrations. 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.

Reframe schmoozing

Company parties and 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, deep relationships established at a networking event can help your career just as much as — if not more than — many casual acquaintances.

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 administrative professional, you bring much 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.

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