If you’re an introvert, you have a lifetime of experience living in a world that’s more suited to extroverts. And while, for the most part, being an introvert isn’t something that crosses your mind unless someone invites you to a party, that all changes when it comes to your career. Being an introvert in an extrovert job isn’t easy!
Many careers are tailor-made for extroverts. They’re ideal for individuals who love to talk, interact, and work in teams, but that’s against a time-alone-loving introvert’s nature. After all, what introvert would want a sales job or a career in something that’s client facing and puts them in the spotlight?
The fear is understandable especially considering the fact that, as an introvert, you feel drained after you spend hours interacting with people instead of energized. But it’s a problem. While it’s natural to want to work in a job where you’re most comfortable—with little face time and interaction—limiting yourself to introverted jobs can kill your career opportunities.
There are many traditionally extroverted fields that an introvert might want to pursue, and just because you prefer hanging out at home to networking in a ballroom, you shouldn’t be stuck on a certain career path. Introverts can be and are highly successful people. Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Marissa Mayer are all introverts.
So, how do you survive as an introvert in an extrovert job?
How to Survive as an Introvert in an Extrovert Job
The key to being an introvert in an extrovert job is to first understand that you are who you are. You’re not going to be able to change your entire nature to suddenly be an extrovert who loves being in the middle of a crowd or up on stage. Instead, you need to learn to feel comfortable with who you are and focus on how to meet the job requirements within your introverted-ness.
1) Focus on the Function
No matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, there will always be elements of any job that you don’t enjoy. When you’re an introvert, look at the extroverted portions of your job as a requirement that you need to accomplish. In this way, the extroverted elements of your job become tasks that you can handle one and a time, which can reframe your introverted brain.
2) Develop Relationships with Extroverted Coworkers
Every workplace relies on teamwork, and you can take advantage of that as an introvert in an extrovert job. Make friends with an extroverted co-worker and figure out how you can help each other out in a mutually beneficial way. Play to your strengths and allow your coworker to play to theirs. For example, you might be an exceptional writer as an introvert while your coworker is a social butterfly with exceptional people skills. You can write up the meeting agenda while she presents. It’s all about teamwork.
3) Understand Your Defensive Mechanisms
Everyone has defensive mechanisms when they get uncomfortable. We talk too quickly or too much, we play with our hands, and we generally give off body signals that say, “Go away!” When you’re an introvert, you need to recognize your defensive mechanisms in the workplace and try to curb them.
When you feel most uncomfortable as an introvert in an extrovert job, do a self-check and see what signals you’re giving off. Then, practice self-control and implement steps to keep you focused. For example, if you tend to speak quickly when you’re defensive, focus on speaking slow and in deliberate sentences.
4) Create a Safe Place in the Chaos
As an introvert in an extrovert job, there will be times where you’ll need to get away to recharge. Make a place for yourself in the office where you can take five minutes to spend time in the quiet and get a handle on your introverted tendencies. Find a space outside or in an empty room for some downtime where you can take a step away from the people parade and ringing phones.
5) Recognize the Strengths of Being an Introvert
No matter if you’re an introvert in an extrovert job or you’re an introvert in a highly extroverted workplace, the key to your success is knowing what makes you great. While an introvert might not be the best person to give a company presentation, that doesn’t mean you don’t have many valuable skills that can contribute to your job.
- Introverts Know How to Listen: As an introvert, you’re considered a great listener. According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s article on The Wall Street Journal, “Why Introverts Make Great Entrepreneurs,” extroverts talk a lot. On the other hand, introverts excel at listening and analytical thinking, which makes introverts better at understanding client problems and displaying concern and empathy.
- Introverts Know How to Recharge: Being an introvert in an extrovert job or workplace is draining. The good news is that, as an introvert, you know how to recharge post-work. This means you can handle doing extroverted work—talking with people all day—because when you get tired and feel daunted by your job expectations, you know how to go home, take a breath, and come back the next day ready to go.
- Introverts Are Thoughtful: Introverts tend to be more thoughtful and consider a wider variety of viewpoints before forming their own opinions. This means that when you do share your ideas, they’re often more thoughtful and offer a more balanced perspective. Your insightful comments can have a big impact.
- Introverts Demonstrate Real Passion: While you might not be great at small talk, as an introvert, you’re great at carrying on meaningful discussions on subjects that you’re passionate about. Use your work-related passions to find ways to connect with others and to bring insight to your industry. Your genuine enthusiasm will be noticed.
Being an introvert in an extrovert job doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you believe in yourself and your unique strengths, you can bring much to the table and be a rousing success. The key is to recognize your introverted qualities and to work with them instead of against them.