[Updated Sept. 13, 2012]
As a career and business coach who specializes in helping introverts, you can imagine the trepidation I hear about networking, writing about oneself on LinkedIn, starting a new business, and feeling heard at work.
For clarity, introverts are NOT at a disadvantage when it comes to career transition or starting a business, but they might feel more stressed by it.
My primary work struggle related to introversion was in valuing and speaking up about my talents and accomplishments. With a lot of help, including communication classes and a coach, I finally hit my stride with speaking confidently, authentically, and thoughtfully. It’s funny to look back because my communication now feels so easy and so “me.”
I’ve gathered a few resources that might help ease the stress of the career journey for other introverts.
STEP 1: Learn About Introversion
When you understand it, you’ll find it’s much easier to rise above the common fears. Here are some good starting places:
- Being Introverted Is a GOOD Thing! (May 2010, by Val Nelson)
An overview of introversion and the prejudice against it.
- Revenge of the Introverts (Oct. 2010 cover story, Psychology Today)
This article covers many recent studies and how the introvert brain works. My introverted clients have gotten a lot out of reading this.
- Introverts Unite (Quietly) (Aug. 2009, Psychology Today)
Once and for all explains that introverts are not anti-social!
- Tackling My Fears, One Layer at a Time (Sept. 2012, Val Nelson)
I got personal in this one about tackling my classic introvert fear of exposure.
STEP 2: Learn About Introvert Advantages and Challenges at Work
Introverts have many advantages when it comes to the skills needed for finding and excelling at work. For instance, introverts are often naturally good at creating meaningful conversations and writing thoughtfully.
On the flip side, introverts often struggle to speak up about their accomplishments for fear of bragging. Actually they struggle to see their accomplishments at all. (Perfectionism is common among introverts.)
Introverts also worry about having the perfect thing to say. They can get caught in analysis paralysis — because introverts love to think, think, think, …and think again.
As you can tell, the challenges are all based on worries and fears and not facts. Learning about what’s actually going on can help quiet those fears. Good places to learn:
- Introvert vs. Extrovert: Who’s More Likely to Succeed? (Interview of Wendy Gelberg, March 2011, AOL Jobs)
This article outlines the advantages and challenges in the job search for both introverts and extroverts.
- The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, by Wendy Gelberg, 2008
This book covers challenges and tips for the introvert’s job search and new job transition. Short and sweet.
- Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, by Barbara Barron-Tieger, 2007
I love this book. Excellent overview of how we relate to our work and our colleagues based on our (MBTI) personality type.
STEP 3: Find Understanding Support
You’ve heard all the “get over it” advice and “get out there networking” tips. Ugh. Instead, find a team of authentic support, whether from understanding friends, a thoughtful support group (such as a self-employment group or networking momentum group), or a coach.
If you need a résumé or website copy, consider hiring a résumé writer or web copywriter who is empathetic to your nervousness. You need someone who can draw out your accomplishments and nudge you a little when you claim you haven’t done that much. And someone who can stop you when you go into analysis paralysis. (I recommend Gentle Job Search for introvert-friendly résumé writing.)
What’s Your Story?
Where do you feel challenged at work?
How is introversion helping you in your work?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below. Or asking yourself those questions quietly at home is also encouraged.
A current challenge for me is getting caught in analysis paralysis before publishing each blog post. OK, Val, it’s time to hit “publish.” Another challenge for me is in speaking loudly enough, a hold-over from younger shy days. I’ve just hired a specialist to help.