Being an introvert in today’s office is tough. Open floor plans are the norm. Meetings where the loudest people are valued. Talking over thinking is how you are noticed.
You may have seen some studies on introverts typically being in lower paying careers. As an INFJ the choices I typically see are not great.
Lucky for me, I ended up in a well paid career without really knowing about my personality type. I knew I wasn’t a talker and always felt out of place but I thought a lot of people felt that way.
So what is an ambitious introvert to do? As a Human Resources Professional, I want to give you a few tips that have helped me.
Understand the Game
It’s not a secret that there are politics in the workplace. As an introvert, you are in a perfect position to use this to your advantage. Learn who the successful players are and find the one you admire. Ideally you find someone who has the same ideas and values as you.
If possible, set some time with them to learn about their background and the steps they took to get where they are. Most of the time, opportunities come from who you know and who you have made a positive impression on. Hearing how someone you admire climbed the ladder will help you think of a career progression that makes sense for you.
I frequently hear people say they just aren’t political. I am sorry to say that is an excuse not to try. You don’t need to be fake or conniving to earn a promotion or fantastic opportunity. You do however need to be smart with who you show your amazing abilities to. Think leadership instead of your just your peers.
2. Get Uncomfortable
We live in a culture that lives on telling people to follow their passion. But the truth is, to get to your passion you are going to have to do things you don't like to do first. Once you have an idea of how other people got to the position you want, you need to make a plan. That may involve positions you don’t think will be up your alley. You need to do them anyway.
Life is a series of choices that we make everyday. Sure, as an introvert you may not like making phone calls. But if your goal is to be the Head of Marketing, you probably need to start in sales. Recognize that those positions aren’t permanent. They are a stepping stone on your ultimate journey.
3. Be Creative
Just because someone tells you to do something a certain way, doesn’t necessarily mean that is EXACTLY how you have to do it. For example, if you manager tells you to call another department specialist to find out an answer to something you don’t always have to call.
For me, it’s often quicker and less stressful for me to email or Skype. At the end of the day the result is the same, so that’s what I do.
An exception to this of course is if there is some regulatory or other issue that requires you to proceed in a certain manner. Use your best judgement. Look for ways you can make your job your own. If you have a manager that won’t give you any leeway, it’s a sign that you may need to look elsewhere for a better fit.
4. Practice Self Care
If your job has an option to let you use headphones, use it! Sometimes I just need to concentrate. I sit in an open office and it gets incredibly loud.
I will turn on Pandora and listen to some jams while I am responding to emails or writing a report. I also make sure I take my lunch most days so I have a chance to get out of the office alone and recharge.
To make sure you are networking with your peers, you should go to happy hours and group lunches. The key is to go strategically. For peer only events, you can choose whenever you feel like it. Don’t always say no, but don’t feel obligated to go to every single one.
On the other hand do not miss opportunities to connect with leadership. Say the Head of Finance is in town and you are on the guest list - this is a must.
Limit it to 1-2 drinks and have an agenda of who you want to speak to. Think quality over quantity.
5. Speak Up
Ugh, I know. I hate this one too. I wouldn’t put it on here if it was avoidable. The truth is, we live in a society that values being seen and heard. Think about that one person who asks a question at EVERY SINGLE MEETING.
I have sat through meetings where the question the person asked was literally answered in the first five minutes.
Guess who got promoted several years before me? That guy.
I think people equate it being more engaged, when we all know it is just because they either aren’t paying attention or like to hear themselves talk :)
So you need to speak up. But what am I supposed to say you ask? I feel you. The advice my manager gave me was to be authentic.
Try agreeing with someone else's statement. “I totally agree with John, I have had a similar experience and think his suggestions will work.” It’s that easy. Then you are being noticed as a team player. The more you do it ,the more comfortable you will get.
Then when questions pop in your head just ask them. I love Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule. This was perfect for me. I didn’t think - I just counted down from 5 and blurted it out. Sure I mixed my words a time or two, but in the end it all worked out. People don’t care as much as you think they do.
All of these tips have helped me over the last few years and I am in a job that I truly enjoy. I am totally in a more introverted role now but over the years I have done my share of jobs that were out of my comfort zone. (Campus recruiting is about as extroverted as you can get!)
Enjoy the journey and you will be excited with how much you can accomplish and grow.