For the record, introverts don’t walk around with paper bags over their heads.
Though commonly characterized as reflective loners who prefers solitude to social settings, introverts can and do excel in positions that place them in front of the public, says Beth Buelow, the author of “The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success on Your Own Terms.”
“People think if you’re a talker, then you’re a leader, or a salesperson,” says Buelow. But in reality, the introvert/extrovert distinction is far more complicated.
“Shift your mindset from thinking of introverts and extroverts as personality types to energy types. It’s more about where we gain and drain our energy. An introvert can be very outgoing.”
The differentiation, continues Buelow, boils down to the fact introverts “prepare energetically” by being alone and internally processing, whereas extroverts tend to recharge by socializing and verbally processing.
And yet. The image of introverts as wallflowers who shrivel at the thought of collaboration persists, so we don’t often associate them with jobs like teachers, reporters, actors and entrepreneurs. But introverts do succeed in “extroverted” jobs — and their unique strenghts may actually give them an edge.
Here’s how they can outshine the extrovets.
Set yourself up for success: Introverts tend thrive in work situations under certain circumstances, says Buelow. For introverts, “what’s important is that they have a clear role, a certain degree of autonomy, and that they have room for mastery, so they can get really good at what they’re doing.”
Capitalizes on your strengths: Introverts are stellar listeners. Like some of the best leaders and salespeople, says Buelow, they’re able to “put the spotlight on others, instead of feeling like all the energy has to be directed on themselves.”
Take an improv class: Introverts struggle when they’re forced to act spontaneously or respond under pressure — which is precisely what improv forces us to do. “It’s not about being funny, it’s about thinking on your feet, accepting offers, and learning to trust yourself,” says Buelow. Those principles will then carry over into work situations.
Own your role: Some of the most successful introverts are actors, says Buelow, because “innies” can fairly easily slip into a role that’s “scripted, controlled, and where there are clear expectations, so they don’t have to reveal themselves.” For introverts, being hooked into something bigger — like a specific role or an organization with a clear mission — can give that extra boost of confidence.