When I worked in the corporate world, I was once tasked with leading my team through building out the strategy, processes, and tools for an upcoming company-wide recruiting initiative.
As someone who relished the limelight, my manager hoped we’d come up with something that made a big splash.
As an introvert, I knew there was no way I could (or would ever want to) create such a loud and showy spectacle.
But I also knew we could still make an impact.
I wasn’t always so confident. The corporate world—with its focus on networking, public speaking, and open office plans—appears to prize extroversion. So for introverts like me, making your mark can be intimidating and overwhelming.
Maybe you’ve shyly sidestepped opportunities you wanted. Or perhaps you’ve felt bulldozed out of the way by the naturally more talkative and confident extroverts in the office. You might even feel like something is wrong with you or that introversion is a weakness you’re supposed to overcome.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Success, for us, simply requires a… less mainstream approach.
This article will show you how to lean into your natural strengths and abilities as an introvert so that you thrive in the corporate world—and without pretending you’re an extrovert.
It’s easy to see why extroverts have an advantage in a corporate environment. They’re naturally more outgoing and not shy about taking charge of a situation.
But introverts have their own unique set of advantages that can help them thrive.
Let’s go back to that challenge my team and I faced in creating a successful initiative sans splash…
In our own quiet (yet effective) way, we developed and implemented that new initiative. It wasn’t some big event, but it was meaningful—and it worked.
When we met the predetermined goal, no one was more surprised than my extroverted manager. She admitted she couldn’t believe we had achieved our goal in such a low-key way, but she also complimented us on getting it done. And, most importantly, she recognized that there were other ways of getting things done.
Perhaps she finally realized introversion has its quiet advantages.
In her bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, a former corporate attorney and self-proclaimed introvert, argues that (despite popular opinion) it’s actually introverts—not extroverts—who make the best leaders.
In her research, she unearthed several advantages that led her to develop her argument:
Our thoughtfulness allows us to explore different options before making a decision, which means the decisions we make often deliver better results for our companies.
When it comes to collaborating with colleagues and tapping into clients’ needs, there’s no better asset to a company than someone who can listen carefully and seek to understand.
It’s this inclination for innovation that makes us more effective in tasks like marketing and product development.
Because we spend time reflecting, we often have a better understanding of our values than extroverts. This helps us make impactful decisions more aligned with our beliefs and HEART-based career goals.
Okay, now that you understand the unique advantages you have as an introvert in a corporate environment, let’s look at how you can better maximize these strengths.
Start by digging down to the roots.
Evaluate the strengths and skills that you enjoy. Try journaling about it. Reflect on the situations where you’ve excelled in the past. Then look back at what you’ve unearthed. You’ll likely realize you’re well on the path to identifying the type of role that will be the best fit for you.
Like seeds in the garden, nothing will grow if it isn’t planted. Plant ideas with intention.
Getting vocal doesn’t have to mean hogging the floor at meetings. If you wait to feel comfortable enough to do that, you might be waiting forever.
Instead, try finding comfortable ways to make your presence felt. Write down your thoughts before meetings so you don’t forget them on the spot or send an email to the meeting lead with your ideas. Let them share and invite you to speak so that you don’t feel pressured to find an opportunity to jump in.
Nourish your environment accordingly.
As an introvert, you likely listen more closely to others and pay better attention to any situation’s nuances. Not everyone is doing that, so your perspective is incredibly valuable. You’ll likely be more adept at designing creative solutions than many of your peers because you’ve been paying attention to what others missed.
Growth happens when you burst through the comfort of the soil and into the brightness of the sun.
While staying in your comfort zone is tempting, try to push yourself outside of it occasionally. Accept tasks and projects as an opportunity to learn and grow.
There’s no rush. Blooms don’t appear overnight—or in front of watchful eyes.
Remember to take breaks where you recharge. As introverts, we need more time alone to process our thoughts, so it’s essential to ensure you are taking the time to do this.
Preparing for a job interview can be a daunting task for introverts, but it’s an important part of getting ahead in the corporate world. The key is to be prepared and practice beforehand.
Interviewing is an art (your mindset about the interview) and a science (your strategy going into it). A good interview is not a solo performance with the spotlight shining down on you. Rather it’s simply an engaging, meaningful, two-way conversation.
Whew. Let that take some pressure off.
Advice from years spent interviewing thousands of people:
What does the hiring manager need? What can you offer to help them get what they need? Connect with your interviewers ahead of time to see if you have anything in common; if you don’t know who will be interviewing you, ask!
Do you have an inner critic or an inner coach? Are you talking yourself out of getting your expectations up? Or are you cheering yourself on?
You should be interviewing the employer as much as they’re interviewing you! You’re not just trying to get the job; you’re trying to find out if you want the job. Ask questions that help determine fit. As with any good business/marketing strategy, you must understand what makes you valuable. Find out what differentiates you and why someone should hire you. Then, ensure you showcase enthusiasm and energy throughout the process.
Having a strong network is essential in any career, but expanding your network and reaching out to people who can help you succeed is particularly cringe-inducing for introverts.
Personally, I think the word “networking” needs a rebrand. Somehow, it’s become synonymous with “asking strangers for a job,”—which would definitely feel awkward! (Let’s not do that.)
Networking isn’t asking strangers for favors. It’s starting comfortable conversations with people who support you. And it doesn’t even have to be done only at awkward in-person events. You can find social media groups in your desired industry and begin engaging virtually. These conversations should be a natural back-and-forth, where you give the other person support, too.
Often, you’ll find the new professional friends you make want you to succeed—especially if you lead every conversation with a service mindset. As a bonus, you might even find that you’ve tapped into the “hidden job market,” which is so common today.
Taking care of yourself is essential in any environment, but it is especially important in a corporate setting. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the demands, so it’s important to set boundaries and ensure you are taking care of yourself.
As an introvert, it’s essential to take breaks where you give yourself time to recharge. I recommend reading, doodling, writing, and reflecting, but how you use this time is really up to you. What matters is that you reserve alone time away from the masses to get in tune with your thoughts and recharge your social battery.
Mindfulness is the intentional practice of pulling ourselves back to the present moment and away from any worries or anxieties about the future—and it takes practice.
Introverts often have an instinctual understanding of the situation, and it’s important to trust that gut instinct. Take time to think through your decisions and ensure they’re aligned with your values.
Trying to do it all can be tempting, but it’s important to remember that you can’t. Determine what tasks are essential, break them into tiny actions, and set realistic intentions for yourself.
How Flourish Careers Can Help
Being an introvert in a corporate environment can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
You deserve a career that energizes you more than it drains you. If you’re ready to find your most fulfilling career and the place where you belong, we’re here to help. Let’s ignite the spark that will move you from fried to flourishing…together.
Flourish Careers is a career coaching and consulting business dedicated to helping individuals and small businesses find their unique path to flourishing professional success. Learn more about how we can help you here.