Career-wise, introverts get a bad rap. Conventional wisdom tells us that gregarious extroverts have the edge in the American workplace.
In some fields, that may be the case. However, introverts also have a ton of innate traits that can help them along in their careers.
Here are a few characteristics that actually give the more reserved people among us the edge in the office, along with some tendencies that introverts should recognise and downplay on the job:
1. Introverts listen.
Whether you’re talking to customers or coworkers, listening is an essential art to master in the workplace. Introverts don’t interrupt or dominate the conversation. They listen carefully. This allows them to better understand the needs of others.
2. Introverts are creative.
Watch out for the quiet ones. They might just be deep in thought, waiting to reveal their latest brilliant idea.
“Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts” co-author Susan Cain tells Business Insider: “Introverts tend to be deep thinkers, careful and strategic planners, and loyal colleagues. Studies have also shown that many of the most creative people (across a broad variety of fields, from business to art to science) are introverted enough to tolerate large chunks of solitude, which is a key ingredient of creativity.”
3. Introverts are good leaders.
Studies indicate that introverts actually lead better than extroverts in chaotic environments. Cain, who also wrote “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” says that introverts often make surprisingly good leaders. “Generally they don’t seek leadership positions for the sake of being in charge. Rather, they tend to get very passionate about their work, and in the service of that passion, they acquire expertise, build networks, inspire trust — and become strong leaders.”
Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Here are a few areas for introverts to watch out for, in order to succeed in the office.
1. Introverts are too quiet.
Let’s not generalize here. Despite widely held perceptions, introverts aren’t always shy or nervous around others. Some come across as go-getting people persons.
Still, being introverted can make it easier for someone to become a permanent wallflower in the office. When you’re quiet and avoid the spotlight, it can be easy to fade into the background and not receive the attention you deserve.
It’s important to speak up, take credit for your work, and put yourself out there when you’ve got a good idea. When it comes to speaking out, introverts have actually got a lot going for them; quieter people often make excellent speakers.
2. There’s a cultural bias against introverts.
This one obviously isn’t the fault of others. From elementary school onward, extroverts tend to get socially rewarded in American society. This norm is cemented in many work environments. In a recent Salon article, Cross Border Content Inc. CEO and author of “Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known” Chantal Panozzo reflects on what she sees as a pro-extrovert bias in American work culture: “For an introvert, American job descriptions can be painful to read. No matter if a company is looking for a computer scientist or a salesman, the job description always sounds like it’s for the latter: ‘Enthusiastic go-getter wanted to serve up their skills and cheer lead a small team to stratospheric success.'”
Introverts can mitigate some of this bias by becoming more flexible about their workplace persona. It’s also on employers to ensure that all of their workers, including their more quiet talent, are supported and given the opportunity to succeed.
Despite common perceptions and the generally extroverted nation we live in, introverts clearly have a lot going for them in terms of career prospects. Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or even an ambivert, the name of the game is recognising and bringing your positive traits to the table in order to thrive at work.
Find out how outgoing you are here.