This post was previously published with Keep Calm and Dream: For Introverts, By Introverts.
Thank goodness for Susan Cain.
Ever since her love letter/treatise on introversion Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking hit bookshelves in 2012, a conversation on introverts in society has gained traction and volume. Her work, building on that of Marti Olson Laney, Laurie Helgoe, and Sophia Dembling, has opened the eyes of many who hadn’t realized that the “extrovert ideal” has dominated our homes, relationships, and even workplaces
However, even as awareness and understanding of introversion rises in the workplace, there are some elements of their temperament that may present challenges at the office. Here, we’ll uncover three common career challenges and pose some potential solutions to overcome them.
From the moment an employee arrives in the office- think the all-too-common interview question “Tell us about yourself”- an element of self-promotion is required. Being able to speak openly and effortlessly about your skills and achievements is essential for getting recognized, but this is not a skill that comes easily to introverts. Why? The reflective nature of introverts makes them hyper-aware of the information they put out into the open. Further, because they’re constantly in their own minds, bringing up things they’ve heard often feels like overkill. The result? Hearing things like “I had no idea you had done that!” when one finally does muster the energy to share a recent accomplishment. How does one rise above his or her current station to shine, while not pushing the limits of good taste or one’s own comfort? Think about your own triumphs as though they happened to someone close to you instead. Alternatively, frame the sharing of your successes as those of a team that you work with. Introverts may not like to speak up for themselves, but will muster the energy to toot the horn of those they care about or those with whom credit should be shared. When you separate yourself from your achievements, they may be easier to shout from the mountaintops.
Many workplaces have the few events per year that it’s nice to show up at, such as networking events, cocktail hours, and all-company meetings. These events, happening after hours, may be difficult to find the energy to participate in. Why? As with a fully charged cellphone, intermittent but constant use over the course of the day without a recharge can leave it drained at the end of a day. Events and activities that require energy, such as these supplemental social gatherings, may not be adequately supported by the energy remaining in the proverbial tank. How to combat this? See if you can arrange your schedule in such a way that you come in late, or leave early, on days that these events happen so you can grab some time to yourself to “recharge.” Alternatively, make an agreement with yourself to hit a modest goal (three business cards exchanged, two rounds of small talk) before departing. Don’t push yourself to earn the “Life of the Party” badge if you’re not feeling up to it, but make sure to make your mark in your own way while you’re in the room.
Providing Constructive Criticism
Because introverts are prone to rumination and dwelling on negative thoughts or experiences, the idea of putting someone else in that scenario is a difficult one for introverts. As a result, hard conversations- about unmet expectations, missed deadlines, or other failures that may have occurred- are harder to broach than they may be for others. These conversations are essential to ensure that employees (or even supervisors) can do their best work, but we shy away from them because they’re uncomfortable. How can introverts combat this instinct to hide the trouble, staying silent as problems potentially grow? Take time to compose your thoughts beforehand; this practice will allow you to strategically point out points of excellence that may offset the areas of struggle. Additionally, urge your brain to consider the best case scenario, rather than allowing it to do what it does best- jump to the worstcase scenario of how someone might receive the information. Trust your colleagues to hear you out, and know that those who speak less may be heard more intently than if it came from someone else.