Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Whatever your natural style, use it to thrive in your career. Discover how to make your built-in talents work for you.
First up, let’s tackle a common misconception about introversion and extroversion. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about how shy or outgoing you are. It’s about where you get your energy from. Typically, people with introverted tendencies like to recharge their batteries alone, while those with extroverted tendencies get a boost from being social.
Good managers understand how to get the most out of their employees, whether they’re introverted or extroverted. And, with a little self-reflection, you have the power to do the same. By understanding your natural traits, talents, and preferences (as well as your sticking points) you can navigate the working world successfully and find maximum satisfaction while you’re at it.
Introvert? Tap into your quiet power.
American writer and lecturer Susan Cain helped shift the narrative around introversion with her influential 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her accompanying TED Talkhas been viewed many millions of times. Cain argues that contemporary Western Culture tends to undervalue and misunderstand the strengths and qualities of introverted people, leading to “a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.” She makes a case for the positive impact introverts can make in business, celebrating their ability to combat groupthink and produce high quality, highly creative work in solitude.
Thankfully, ever since then, there’s been much more talk about the benefits introverts bring to the table. If you have introverted tendencies, make sure you choose a career in which you’ll shine (and be happy). This is likely to be one where you’ll have the opportunity to work solo, think deeply and tackle ideas, strategies, and detail for a good portion of your day.
Make your strengths work for you. You can quickly become known as a good listener and someone who carefully thinks through ideas and strategies, offering a considered response. You can capitalise on your eye for detail too, reviewing your own work before you pass it to a manager to do the same. Introverts tend to have a steady mood so, when challenges present themselves, you can keep your cool and become an important pillar of strength for others in your team.
Keep an eye on your introverted weaknesses too, to make sure they don’t keep you from sharing your greatness. Challenge yourself to speak at least once in every meeting, for example. At group events, plan a couple of talking points in advance so you feel prepared to join in. And, when you’re working with extroverts, try to be open, smile and find common ground. You’ll soon discover everyone has their quieter, more thoughtful side.
Extrovert? Leverage your people skills.
The world of business has been comfortable with the idea of extroversion for longer than it’s embraced the benefits of introversion. Conventionally, leaders tend to be extroverts. An extrovert’s people and communication skills mean they’re poised to build important relationships, grow their network, and help facilitate connections between diverse individuals and ideas.
If you’re an extrovert, it’s important to choose the right career for you. The chances are, you don’t love spending too much time alone – you prefer to be in on the action, working collaboratively in larger groups. Consider roles that involve higher levels of teamwork as well as interaction with customers or clients. You’ll be playing to your strengths, keeping your energy high, and carving out a career you’ll enjoy day-to-day.
So, once you’ve scored a job, how can you make your extroverted tendencies work for you? Your ability to quickly form close associations with others will stand you in excellent stead. Remember names and faces, build rapport, and unite the group. Your charisma and straightforwardness are likely to serve you well too. You’ll enjoy speaking up and sharing your ideas, as well as giving feedback on others’ contributions.
Be careful not to dominate situations, though. While you may be a natural leader, the best leaders make every moment about others – not themselves. You can use your confidence to make sure everyone feels included and heard. Remember to keep your feedback constructive and share positives as well as any room for improvement. If you’re working closely with introverts, do what you can to help them feel comfortable, like holding a conversation in a quieter place or giving them time to prepare for a collaborative working session. Practise your concentration and ‘deep work’ skills too. Afterall, there’ll likely be times when you need to shut yourself away and produce a detailed report or presentation.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, the working world is crying out for what you have to offer. Know yourself, play to your strengths, and you’ll be well on the way to career success.