Being an introvert is not a detriment to your career. It is, in fact, possible to be successful in business while being an introvert. We just have to convince the rest of the world.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain talks a lot about the fact that the world favours, and is set up for, extroverts. It seems there’s a need to be charismatic, outspoken and sociable to climb the corporate ladder. But introverts make some of the most inspiring leaders.
Born to lead
When I say “CEO,” you might envision a charismatic person, who’s more than happy to talk about their company anywhere and everywhere. And while extroverts can certainly make great leaders, it’s important to remember that introverts are built to embody leadership.
We listen. Our natural tendency to be quiet while others speak means we hear a lot. By listening more, introverts can hear what their colleagues, employees, clients and customers are saying. We hear all of the ideas in meetings and workshops—including the diamonds drowning in the rough.
We think. Introverts are much less likely to jump into an idea headfirst. No, we need to mull it over, weigh out any pros and cons, come up with a plan and act accordingly. We may take a bit longer to get to the action part than extroverts, but when we’re ready to act or speak, it’s always well thought out.
We’re calm. Our tendency to think carefully before every word and action means introverts are often more prepared than an extrovert may be. We’re ready to face the tough questions and probably have the answers written down (on paper or in our memories). People always mention how calm I am when faced with a crisis at work. It’s not that I’m not worried or have everything in control—it’s that my brain takes time to process what’s happening and all of the impacts. I don’t have time to panic, so I walk away, contemplate and try to come up with a solution.
Building a network
They don’t say “it’s not what you know, but who you know” for nothing. Without a doubt, networking is a crucial part of getting ahead in your career. Getting to know people in your field can be extremely helpful in finding out about opportunities, having someone vouch for you. It can also be extremely painful for introverts. All those events, all that small talk—it’s enough to drive one insane! That’s why I don’t network. Instead, I make lots of sincere connections to construct a network around me.
When I work with someone, I make a personal connection with them. By being friendly, professional and personable whenever I deal with anyone, I earn their trust. Very quickly, you start to get a feel for how a person prefers to interact—do they want quick, short and to-the-point responses every time, or are they always up for a quick laugh. Commiserating with an overworked colleague or always having the answer for someone who’s new to their role goes a long way in creating a relationship.
Introverts are much better in one-on-one situations than they are working a room, so use that to your advantage. I’m not saying you should put on a façade and pretend to care just to please everyone you deal with. What I’m saying is that if you’re an introvert, you’re probably pretty good at developing a deeper connection with colleagues, clients or customers. And who would you rather have in your corner—a name on a business card or someone who truly trusts you?