Getting ahead and thriving in your career is difficult enough for anyone, but research suggests it may be especially hard for introverted workers. According to a recent study out of Australia, introverts tend to predict more negative outcomes for themselves than their extraverted counterparts do. This consistently gloomier outlook can hinder their climb up the corporate ladder.
Nothing is set in stone, of course. Introverts may face a unique set of obstacles, but at the end of the day, they have the same chance at career success as extraverts. In fact, their introversion may even be an asset that allows them to excel in leadership roles — provided they know how to harness it.
Clinical psychologist Laurie Helgoe, PhD, is the author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. She believes the journey to career success for introverts begins with embracing their nature, rather than apologizing for it.
“Often, when an introvert makes the first move and shares their experiences and their preferences — not in an apologetic way, but just a clear way — naturally, other introverts will breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘I’m not alone,’ and [they will] gravitate toward that person,” Helgoe says.
Having a strong support system can go a long way in boosting an introvert’s confidence and creating more opportunities for them to prosper in the workplace. Here’s how office introverts can help one another excel in their careers:
1. Tackle Networking Together
If you’re an introvert, large networking events may be your personal nightmare. Still, considering that as much as 85 percent of all critical jobs are filled via networking, introverts really can’t afford to pass up networking opportunities. It may not be your favorite part of professional life, but think of it as planting the seeds for building wealth through every stage of your career.
“Introversion itself creates discomfort with a lot of social interactions primarily because it’s overstimulating,” Helgoe says. “We [introverts] process things internally and like to take in little bits of information from the outside at a time.”
Overstimulated or not, introverts can still shine in networking environments if they form groups and encourage one another to attend industry events together. This team effort can provide the kind of support system introverts often need to feel most comfortable.
Helgoe suggests introverts give each other homework, like tasking one another to do light research on the influencers you’re all looking to network with. This will give each member of the group something more meaningful to talk about with new connections at the event.
“As introverts, we hate small talk and are compelled by ideas, not just the presence of people,” Helgoe says.
Knowing someone’s interests beforehand can help you connect on a deeper level right away, instead of forcing you to act like an extravert and partake in simple pleasantries. Additionally, Helgoe recommends looking for ways to break apart from the crowd and connect with people in one-on-one settings. That way, “you’re bringing your comfort zone with you and operating out of your strengths,” she says.
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2. Get Creative With How You Manage Office Relationships
Excelling in your career often involves creating and maintaining meaningful professional relationships. The trick for introverts is cultivating office relationships in a way that feels natural. Helgoe says this may involve taking the menu of social options and peppering in some introvert-friendly activities.
Case in point: Everyone’s heading to happy hour after work to blow off some steam, but hitting up a crowded bar isn’t exactly how you connect with others. Add your own social event to the menu by suggesting a casual coffee date or jog with a coworker for the following day. This way, the extravert option is no longer the only option. Introverts can also consider cohosting other, smaller social events that feel less intimidating.
3. Root for Each Other
Teaming up with other introverts lays the groundwork for mutual accountability. For example, ahead of an upcoming office meeting, introverts can encourage each other to bring one piece of advice or something relevant to share with the group. Knowing someone has your back and is excited about your contribution can help ease anxieties around speaking up.
Helgoe also suggests asking for the agenda ahead of time, if possible, so that you’ll have the chance to think through what you want to contribute.
Introverts can also support each other in mastering the art of negotiation. See if your fellow introverts would be interested in doing a dry run to help prepare you for an upcoming conversation about a pay raise or title change. But make sure the benefits are mutual: Share your experiences, positive and negative, to help others feel more comfortable when confronted with a similar challenge.
The main takeaway here is that introverts don’t have to navigate their professional lives solo. Establishing a support system of like-minded folks can alleviate some of the pressure you’re feeling and help you move through your career with greater confidence, knowing a group of colleagues has your back.
Marianne Hayes is a longtime freelance writer and content marketing specialist.