Our fast-paced, highly interconnected digital world seems to be the perfect environment for extroverts to thrive. Outspoken and vivacious individuals seem to have an easier time networking, managing teams and negotiating pay raises. However, being an extrovert, introvert or ambivert has nothing to do with your ability to be a leader or high performer. If you have a more reserved nature, your innate temperament doesn't automatically limit your job search or networking abilities. Introverts have plenty of positive traits including being intellectual, creative, reflective, self-motivated, detail-oriented and level-headed.
If you're an introvert, you don't have to constantly fight your natural tendencies to excel in the work world. Although our working lives are more public and collaborative than ever before, you can adapt without being an inauthentic version of yourself. Whether you're managing client relationships or asserting yourself in a large meeting, you can use your strengths to prove you're an asset to your team. One study found introverted leaders to be 20% more likely than extroverts to listen to others' ideas, resulting in a 24% improvement in results.
In the corporate jungle full of strong personalities, introverts are just as capable of asserting themselves and succeeding in their careers. We've outlined how to step into your power and navigate various situations, from client meetings to collaborative group projects. Keep reading for our helpful recommendations.
Team Meetings and Group Projects
Introverts don't need to be disingenuous and loud to have their voices heard. However, they need to adapt to speaking up more often and asserting themselves. Otherwise, introverts run the risk of either seeming like they aren't proactive, don't contribute ideas or don't have a strong work ethic. Try following these tips so you don't blend into the background:<
- Avoid awkward small talk by arriving extra early. When you're one of the first to arrive, you can initiate interactions and control the conversation topics. For example, "I'm happy we could catch each other before the meeting. I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on X because of X."
- Structure the meeting with tough topics first. If you have control over the order of agenda items, it will reduce your anxiety to get the most difficult talking point over with.
- Create a game plan for group collaboration. Suggest a system that allows everyone to have a set time to share their ideas. When everyone has a designated time to speak, it prevents you and your fellow introverts from getting overshadowed.
- Try diplomatic interruption to assert yourself. Think of go-to phrases you can use to interject to steer a conversation back on track. Try something like, "I'm glad you brought that up, but let's focus on X first. We can revisit that topic after."
Client Meetings and Presentations
As an introvert, your approach to client relationships is different from your charismatic, extroverted colleagues. Your attention to detail in your work and your keen listening skills are appreciated by your clients. Of course everyone should practice before giving a presentation, but introverts might need to carve out even more time to prepare. Ensure your expertise and interpersonal skills are conveyed by following these tips:
- Overprepare for client meetings. Make sure you have the agenda in advance. Reflect on each bullet point and jot down notes that you can bring to the meeting. List possible issues that could arise and think about how you would handle them. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you'll need to improvise.
- Demonstrate your thoughtfulness. Your attention to detail and ability to empathize with your clients helps build strong client relationships. Be sure to jot down key points you don't want to forget so you can fully demonstrate your thoughtful, detail-oriented nature.
- Practice your presentation in front of a trusted friend or colleague. You can even rehearse in front of the mirror. The more you practice articulating yourself, the more it will feel like second nature in the moment.
- Spend some time alone before the meeting or presentation. If possible, take just a few minutes to recharge alone. Drinking some water and taking a few deep breaths in solitude can help your mindset before you get in front of a crowd.
Team Lunches and Happy Hours
Social events at work are intended to boost employee morale and foster a fun environment for members of a company to bond. If you're an introvert, you'd probably rather build connections organically, one-on-one, behind the scenes. Here are a few ways you can re-energize yourself and make the most of these situations:
- Challenge yourself to do one thing out of your comfort zone. It's unrealistic to think you're suddenly going to be bouncing from conversation to conversation. Make a personal goal to strike up a meaningful conversation with someone new, or participate in a team activity where you would typically opt out.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself. You don't have to overcompensate by trying to be the life of the party. At these casual company gatherings, showing up and being yourself is perfectly sufficient. You'll only be more anxious if you feel like you're not participating enough.
- Focus on one interaction at a time. A surefire way to feel overwhelmed at company social events is to think you have to interact with everyone. Just focus on finding shared interests with one person at a time, and try to stick to small groups. Ask thoughtful questions by tapping into your inherent love of learning.
- Don't sweat the small stuff. It's easy to overthink social interactions and feel pressure in social situations, regardless of what type of introvert you are. However, if you lean towards "thinking introversion," you could feel particularly anxious when a conversation doesn't go as planned. Remind yourself that even the most awkward moments aren't as bad as you think they are in the moment, and try to have a sense of humor about any social gaffes.
Conferences and Networking Events
Do you have a tendency to get burnt out at professional functions? Large-scale networking events and conferences are increasingly popular and encouraged in all industries (in some cases, they're even mandatory). Here are some ways to put your best foot forward and roll with the punches at these functions:
- Reflect on your objectives for the networking event beforehand. Research the speakers and know in advance who you would like to connect with at the event. Brainstorm some go-to one-liners and icebreakers ahead of time. Have your exit strategy ready, too.
- Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. Take a break from the crowds periodically. If you're dying to leave 15 minutes into the event, challenge yourself to stay until a designated time, then give yourself permission to swiftly leave after that time has passed.
- Set up smaller one-on-one meetings and with people. If you click with someone, offer to follow up in a setting where you'll feel able to express yourself more genuinely.
- Quiet your inner critic. Mentally repeat a mantra to remind yourself that you are just as worthy of being there as everyone else. Remember, even the most self-assured people at this conference experience self-doubt.
Promotions and Job Interviews
One obstacle introverts face while vying for a promotion is their tendency to overthink and not communicate clearly. Salary negotiation can also be challenging because even if an introverted individual knows what they deserve to earn, expressing it and responding to on-the-spot questions is easier for extroverts. Here are some ways to not feel flustered the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation requiring self-promotion:
- Pause slightly before responding to questions. It's tempting to rush into giving an answer to avoid awkward silence, but usually this just leads to more awkwardness in the end. If you need a moment to think, try saying something like, "I have definitely considered X, but I'll have to circle back to give you a more in-depth answer."
- Prove your ability to self-assess and improve. Self-awareness and a growth mindset are attractive qualities in the workplace. Since you're hyper-aware of how your skills can be best utilized, offer specific examples of how your strengths can benefit the company.
- Practice conveying your qualifications succinctly. Make flashcards of challenging potential interview questions and your responses. Ask a trusted friend, family member or mentor to help you practice.
- Prepare anecdotes that demonstrate emotional intelligence. Your resume might check all the boxes and you might ace the test project, but interviewers want a snapshot of your personality that isn't obscured by your nervousness. Prepare and practice personal and professional stories in advance so you're not on the spot.
Your personality type does not determine whether or not you have a competitive advantage. You don't have to be the most outgoing person at the happy hour to win over your peers and senior leaders. If you have a more reserved nature, your introverted tendencies don't need to hinder you as you seek a promotion or start the job search.
Workplaces across industries are building company cultures that value social interaction and collaboration. Since introverts gain energy through spending time alone, it can be tough to find the time to recharge in busy, highly social workplaces. Regardless of your personality type, self-improvement and leveling up in your career take time. Introversion can support a highly successful personal and professional life. Be patient with yourself and don't feel like you need to completely alter your natural temperament.