We are an extraverted nation, in which extraversion is the social norm. To be outgoing, charismatic, and sociable are the expectations. People who like to be alone, who are often seen alone in public, who are quiet and reserved, get labeled as secretive, weird, or creepy, People may pity them for being without the company of others. Introverts like to be alone. We enjoy solitude and quiet. We prefer to watch and listen, rather than interact. When we do interact it is with carefully chosen people, and in a way which emphasizes meaning and depth. In the business world, this can make progress in your career difficult, as you won’t fit the corporate social norm. You may have to force yourself to act extraverted to fit in, which is exhausting and fake for an introvert. A better option to consider is utilizing the personality traits which make up the personality type of introversion.

Have a plan.

Start with the big picture, and narrow it down. What is the desired end result? Do you want to be a CEO? Do you want to own your own business? Identify your goals as clearly as possible, and then begin identifying objectives and milestones.

  • When do you want to reach your goals?
  • In five years?
  • What do you need to have done within the next year?
  • Within the next six months?
  • Month?
  • Week?
  • Today?

Accept that your goals may change over time, and plans go wrong. Always have a plan B, C, and D. Track your objectives on a spreadsheet, or an old school steno book and pen- as long as you have a record of it.

Be flexible.

After grad school, I floundered, seeking a clinical job without success. I never planned on teaching, but the opportunity came my way, and I seized it. Teaching college sustained me, and allowed me to further refine my knowledge, and use what I had learned in grad school I found it was fulfilling on multiple levels, and even after finding clinical work, I have continued to adjunct teach for 19 years. Be willing to relocate to where the opportunities are, and explore things related to your field you may not have previously considered.

Always know more than your peers.

For years, I have carried a steno book, and written down new information, ideas, something you read, and observations. Over time, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge which I have transcribed into Word documents. This information can be anything which you find interesting, even if it does not seem relevant at the time. This is a way to supplement your formal education. A college degree is critical, and self-education is also extremely important. Education, both undergrad and a graduate degree, is foundational. A formal education should provide a solid foundation to understanding still more advanced concepts Read voraciously, everything from peer reviewed scholarly journals, to popular journals and blogs, to classical and contemporary literature, and biographies.

Early in my career I dumbed myself down a little in order to fit in. I felt like I had no credibility, as I was new to the field of psychotherapy, but there is such a thing as being a little too humble. I have always been an enthusiastic learner (I am an introvert after all) and had studied intensely, both inside and outside the classroom. I recall being at a job interview and the interview condescendingly told me you have some of your own opinions, and that’s OK. Thank you so much for allowing me to have my own opinions. I am new to the field, not dumb or completely ignorant. Or the ass that sarcastically asked me if I was practicing medicine without a license when I used the term myocardial infarction. I think reading extensively on heart disease as I am genetically predisposed toward it gave me a degree of expertise sufficient to use the term MI. No, I was not practicing medicine, but neither was I completely ignorant.

Dress professionally. This is not to be underestimated. Look like somebody. Don’t look like a slob. Be neat and squared away. Speak with the authority to which you are entitled by education, level of experience, and expertise you actually have. Work to gain credibility and never dumb yourself down to fit in. In meetings, sit back, listen, watch, analyze, and then speak.

Look for opportunities and step up.

Never say no to an opportunity to learn, nearly always say yes to an opportunity to lead or manage, and never say no to an opportunity to try something new. You are not going to advance or be noticed by those in charge if you don’t take initiative. When I am offered an assignment at one of the colleges I adjunct at, the answer is always, yes, I will do that.

Exceed the minimum standards.

Be innovative, get things done well and early, and take risks when warranted. Tell people what they need to hear not what they want to hear, which is itself a risk. Minimum standards are the very least you can do to get the job done. That is not the same as doing the job thoroughly, or with a sense of pride, or striving to be the best.

Keep records of your accomplishments.

Make a reading and training list. I keep an annotated bibliography of everything I have read, and trainings I have attended. This is in addition to a CV (Curriculum Vitae) which should list anything you have authored, or presentations you have given.

Author a book about your expertise, and/or a blog.

Once you have developed expertise and experience, let others know. Put your expertise out there in the form of a book, a blog, podcasts or YouTube videos, or all the above.

 

Conclusion:

Introverts can use their gifts to succeed. The business world and the corporate ladder are not just for the extraverted.

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice, Otter Creek Associates
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology, Community College of Vermont & Burlington College
Freelance Behavioral Science writer