Managing Your Career as an Introvert

Much of the work world is optimized for extroverts.  A successful career depends on connecting with others and building relationships, however, introverts do not need to spend a lifetime pretending to be an extrovert.  In the course “Managing Your Career as an Introvert,” Dorie Clark explains how to optimize behaviors and leverage skills to make introversion an asset. 

By definition, introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary -- sometimes creative pursuits.  Introverts relate well to people but need quiet or alone time to recharge. Introverts prefer to make a few, deep connections rather than several, surface level connections, and prefer small group gatherings over larger social events.  Generally, introverts are better listeners and more empathetic than extroverts. 

Knowledge of your personal relation to these traits is the first step to succeeding as an introvert.  Spend some time to understand where, how and when you best connect with others.  What tires versus excites you? In what ways do you feel most comfortable building relationships? A solid foundation of self-knowledge will help to establish yourself at your job effectively, in a way that others can appreciate your skills. 

After understanding how you best connect with people and build relationships, harness these behaviors to build rapport with colleagues.  Use the strength of being a good listener to show genuine interest and find commonalities with others.  As an introvert, remember to manage energy and social interactions to avoid burnout.  Save social energy for when it is needed most, like client meetings or scheduled interactions with colleagues.   Find quiet spots to take breaks and schedule solitary moments to recharge if needed.  

Leveraging introverted behaviors can also help make networking less intimidating.  Instead of trying to collect as many connections as possible, focus on making a few, strong connections.  Before a networking event think of some interesting questions to ask people other than simply, “What do you do?” When asked that question, plan responses that leave room for follow-up questions and have a few talking points in your back pocket to facilitate conversation.  If possible, find an extroverted ally – someone who knows what elements of your background to highlight and will assist you in making connections.  

Ultimately, succeeding as an introvert in the workplace depends on knowing yourself and how you best connect with people.  Cultivate the powers of introversion to develop a reputation as someone who is thoughtful and worth listening to.   Remember you are a talented professional who just happens to be an introvert.  


Read more helpful tips for networking as an introverted scientist in Nature International Journal of Science, Networking for introverted scientists, CAREER COLUMN, 19 APRIL 2019, by Ruth Gotian