I know what it’s like to feel invisible at work. No really…to be in a room where it feels like nobody even realizes you’re there. As a young engineer in the aerospace and defense industry, I struggled to find my voice early on in my career.
I would regularly attend technical meetings where I had a good idea that I wanted to share with the group. Then the meeting would start and my outgoing coworkers would begin to discuss various topics at what seemed like lightning speed. Every time I wanted to get a word in I would start to speak up, then someone else would interject and beat me to it. Eventually, I would give up and throw in the towel, sit quietly in my seat and count down the minutes until the meeting was over.
Has that ever been you? Have you ever wondered how you can stand out in the workplace as an introvert, especially when everyone that appears to get ahead has an extroverted personality? Well if you’ve ever felt that way then trust me, you are not alone.
In a recent Harvard Business Review feature fellow introvert and CEO of Ancestry.com Deb Liu commented the following “The world has a huge bias towards people who are extroverted, who don’t need time to process, who are able to speak on any topic on a dime and be comfortable.”
I must say that after working over 17 years in my industry on teams of various sizes and in different environments, I can agree with what she is saying. At the same time, there are some tactics that I have learned along the way that have allowed me to stand out, to be selected for leadership roles, and to be promoted in the workplace…all while maintaining my introverted nature.
So if you’re reading this and you find yourself feeling invisible, wondering how to be seen, wondering how to advance in a world that seems dominated by extroverts…there is hope.
Our guest blogger, Terrance Lee, does a wonderful job offering solutions to common introvert frustrations. It's like Terrance is recalling my own career and struggles. I think the challenge of being heard is a common theme amongst introverts working in an extroverted corporate culture. Terrance's tips can make a tangible difference in your workday! Read on...
Here are 3 tips for introverts to stand out at work:
1. Showcase Your Unique Skill – Everyone is good at something. A major league baseball pitcher can throw a curveball at 95 miles per hour and guide it to land exactly where he wants. If I tried to throw the same pitch I’m sure the ball would travel much slower and might end up landing somewhere in the bleachers! Another person might be an incredible cook, while someone else would burn anything that they attempt to put on the stovetop.
The point is, we’re all good at something, yet some of us never take the time to assess what that thing is. The reason that this is important for standing out at work is that ultimately career advancement really comes down to one word…value. What value does someone bring to a team? That’s the question that is asked when your name or my name comes up in discussions at work. So, when we know what our unique skills are then we know what sets us apart, we know what we should lean into and we know what our strengths are.
Ask yourself the following questions:
a. What are 3 areas in your current job role that you feel you have mastered?
b. If you were to leave your job tomorrow, what would the team miss the most about you?
These questions will help you to get clarity on areas where you’re already excelling and adding value for your team, or areas where it may be good to work on improving. In the end, your unique skill will allow you to add the necessary value and stand out.
2. Observe And Provide Input – Introverts are typically natural observers. While everyone else in a meeting room is talking and interrupting each other…the introvert is most likely sitting back and watching “the show.” This can sometimes be mistaken for the introvert being quiet, aloof, or disinterested in the conversation. However, in the large majority of cases, it is quite the opposite.
The introvert is completely tuned in and is seeing things that everyone else in the room is missing. What many introverts don’t realize is that this gives them a huge advantage. Your team may be full of extroverts that prefer to say the first thing that’s on their mind, and let the group know their thoughts as soon as they think of them. In these scenarios, you can actively listen to what others in the room are saying, observe their tone, body language, ideas, and information being shared. Once you’ve taken all of this in, then you can speak up and provide input to your team’s situation based on everything that you’ve observed.
This is something that I do frequently, I’ll purposely allow others to get their thoughts out while taking mental notes of everything that’s being discussed. This will help you to stand out because over time people will realize that when you have something to add to the conversation, it is going to be well thought out and thorough.
3. Speak Up When Necessary – This area was a struggle for me for years. Sometimes as introverts we may find it easier to sit back and just let the extroverts talk (besides, we know they love to do that). However, the danger here is that we’re selling ourselves short.
When we don’t speak up and put our thoughts out into the world it not only hurts us but can hurt our teams as well. What if your one thought is the thing that can solve your team’s biggest problem? What if your one thought is the thing that nobody else in the meeting has considered?
Now I get it, sometimes (depending on the culture of the workplace) it may feel difficult to even get a word in during conversations. If you’re in a situation like that then try doing one of the following whenever you have something to share with the group: raise your hand (yep, just like in grade school), listen for moments of pause during the conversation then interject.
You may be someone that has thoughts to share but anytime you’re about to do it you start feeling nervous. When that happens you can take the following actions to help calm your nerves: breathe deeply, think about something that will make you laugh, and say positive affirmations to yourself (one of my favorites is “I’m the best speaker in the room”). Always remember this, your words matter and your words are powerful. So don’t hesitate to share them with the world.
You have value. Indeed, you have a lot to contribute. Come prepared to meetings, observe and gather information, and share your insights. You may just be the difference-maker your team needs!
Bio: Terrance Lee