Updated: Nov 2, 2021
The Answer May Surprise You...
Many introverts struggle to identify the right job or career. Worse yet, many are already in a job that makes them feel miserable, perhaps overwhelmed by high-pressure meetings or social expectations. Is that necessary? How do introverts find the right job?
One route you can go is to steer toward what Best Colleges lists as The 15 Best Jobs for Introverts which includes careers that allow more independent work and less social interaction. They list careers like Accounting, Engineering, Artists, Writers, IT, and Therapists.
I can understand their angle but find their assumptions flawed. First, many jobs in these fields can be quite collaborative and engaging. Secondly, ambitious people (and I place most introverts in this category) will seek increasing challenge and responsibility which eventually introduces higher pressures and more frequent engagements. But most importantly, choosing a career that one falsely believes will avoid people and pressure is just the wrong tactic altogether.
SVP - The Proper Career Drivers
Set aside your introversion for a moment. Whether you are introspective or a gregarious socialite, you should be pursuing jobs based on a simple SVP formula:
Strengths: what are you good at? Crunching numbers, problem-solving, creativity, balanced decision making, relationship building, brainstorming? What are you considered to be a subject matter expert - at work, at home, in the community? Find jobs that use your strengths.
Values: what are your core values - important principles you must adhere to? These could include providing for your family, integrity, preserving the climate, making the world a better place, developing others. These can be found deep inside you and they often subconsciously drive your decision-making all the time. When followed, they provide you with clear direction, but if violated, you will have a nagging sense of discomfort or even shame. Be sure you choose a career (and company) that aligns with your values.
Passion: what do you love to do? Oftentimes people shelve this concept, insisting work is work and it's no place for passion. But I strongly disagree. Most people will work over 90,000 hours during their career and most of our waking hours during those years. While every day won't be an oasis of serenity, you should certainly be seeking a profession that provides you with joy, pleasure, and pride. What elevates your heartbeat? What do you look forward to in the morning and energetically beam about at night? These are your passions. They can (and ideally should be) closely aligned with your strengths and values. Maybe you love working on projects to completion, leading teams, saving money, improving efficiencies, or creating something new? Reflect and identify that passion and be determined to embed that in your lifelong career.
Equipped with your SVP, then choose your job or career. It may still be in Accounting or as a Writer, but it should be because you are good at it, believe in it, and get energized by the activity, not because it appears to hide you away from others.
Managing Energy Level During the Day
As I mentioned earlier, even the most seemingly solitary jobs have aspects of interaction and pressure. This shouldn't drive your career choice, but it should drive you to adopt some personal strategies that can help you perform your job YOUR WAY and mitigate the stress you most fear.
Introversion or the discomfort introverts often feel, is best defined by the Energy Equation:
Energy Level = Energy gained - Energy spent
We must all strive to maintain at least a 'half tank' of energy throughout the day, so we need to understand what drains our battery and what recharges it. This is true for introverts and extroverts.
Many introverts get comfort (and energy) from reading, journaling, creative hobbies, meditation, solo adventures like biking or meals out alone, or with family time. Even small doses of these boost our energy. For the more reserved people, our battery often drains from social interactions and most especially unplanned exchanges with larger groups of strangers as well as impromptu debates. How can we manage these stressors so they don't manage us?
The Key to Championing Engagement and Conflict Management
According to Beyond Introversion's Introvert Talent Quiz with over 1500 respondents, by far our biggest personal strength is preparation. If we practice, use, and grow this talent above all others, it can be our greatest weapon in our battle of engagement or conflict management.
Engagement: whether networking, team interactions, or social calls.
Own your calendar so events don't catch you by surprise.
Challenge your need to attend each event.
Aim for smaller groups with at least some familiar faces and shorter durations.
Seek home-field advantage. Hosting a party or a work lunch at a familiar place provides comfort.
Do a little homework. Who will be there? What do you already know about them? What can you find out about their background, jobs, hobbies from Social Media? Try to find something in common and use that as a great conversation starter.
Provide yourself with Positive Self-Talk. Replace self-doubt with support and your mind can do wonderful things for you.
Relieve the pressure that you may have. Everyone around the table has a role to play in maintaining conversations, not just you. And sometimes people just don't hit it off. With some preparation, jump in and let curiosity be your guide. Find a little humor in social foibles. We all have them!
Conflict Management: whether a formal debate or effort to seek support for a project or position in a meeting, these can instill fear and dread.
Prepare for meetings with agendas and pre-read. Take notes on your positions, questions, and disagreements to alleviate the pressure to perform on the fly.
Schedule 1:1 pre-meeting discussions, especially with key decision-makers to aim for alignment before the meeting or to at least defuse tensions and conflict prior.
Let your Values be your guide to choose your battles. You don't have to debate everything but you should challenge what you truly think is wrong.
If you are the meeting leader, aim for smaller meetings and relaxed atmospheres. Perhaps pass on the square meeting room and huddle outside?
If you are a meeting participant, arrive early to get the lay of the land, choose your seat, and break the ice with a quick conversation with other early arrivals.
Listening is learning, so don't feel compelled to jump in just to hear yourself talk or to match others' time. Observe, consider information, and then share your unique, value-added opinions.
We should not relegate ourselves to a role or career out of fear of engagements or conflict. Instead, choose your path based on your SVP and then lean on your talents and tactics to boost your energy and better manage the stressors like engagements and conflict management that are frankly all around us, regardless of our career.
The Corporate Introvert: How to Lead and Thrive with Confidence launches today, October 6th.