It is hard to deny that most of the advice out there about being successful in your professional and personal life is geared toward extroverts, and that’s perfectly fine for those with boundless social energy. Indeed, most workplaces are designed around an ideal extroverted employee with open floor plans, mandatory team-based projects, and active idea exchanges. But many people find it hard to open up around others preferring instead the focus and control gained by working alone. Fortunately for those people who find those public-speaking events, constant networking, and regular customer service requirements exhausting, there are certain strategies that help you work effectively as an introvert in an extrovert’s world.
Even when the economy is great it can be difficult to be picky about which jobs you do or don’t accept, but one of the primary means of gaining career success is to find a job that best fits your personality. By definition, introverts prefer work that allows them to operate autonomously and in a calm setting. And while teamwork crops up in just about any job, introverts tend to work better when each member has clearly defined roles without the need for consensus building and mass brainstorming.
A necessary strategy for introverts is the need to discover the aspects of a company that are most agreeable to the personality traits of the loner. No, you may not have the opportunity to sequester yourself from your coworkers or telecommute, but you can work to find ways to keep your energy going while keeping your performance up. Structure your day around periodic breaks where you can step away from the overstimulation of the office floor. Step outside for a few minutes, sit in the bathroom, or take your lunch break alone and away from your cubicle.
While the everyday tasks and interactions inherent in your job contribute significantly to your daily energy drain, the after-hour social obligations may be some of the most trying situations for introverts. Of course it is important to be polite, maintain your network, and be friendly with your colleagues; becoming over-committed with social activities can lead to feelings of unhappiness and being overwhelmed. Keep your goals for social events reasonable as well. You don’t need to shake everyone’s hand, ask everyone about their kids, or show your face in every social circle. Just pick a spot with people you’re most comfortable with and have a good time in a small group.
Finally, remember that being an introvert means that you have access to valuable leadership and work traits. Introverts are often found to be persistent, focused, and driven to excel. Introversion is also often associated with heightened creativity and critical thinking skills. Don’t be shy about your abilities. Use them to your advantage, embrace who you are, and don’t be afraid to succeed on your own terms.