Careers

Career advice: how to get ahead and succeed at work if you’re an introvert

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Kayleigh Dray
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Career advice: how to get ahead and succeed at work if you’re an introvert

Think you need to be loud to be successful? Think again. Here, a psychologist reveals how introverts can use their quiet strength to get ahead at work.

Boldness and brilliance are the two personality traits everyone immediately associates with extroverts. When asked to picture an introvert, on the other hand, you’re far more likely to think of someone quieter, more restrained, even shy.

The thing is, though, that this isn’t a fair representation of who we are (that’s right, this writer is 100% an introvert herself). 

Why? Well, because, as psychologist Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari explains, introversion “is not about being shy or anxious… you can be confident, determined, secure, and assertive, too.”

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As such, introverts are not to be underestimated. Because, while it may seem as if extroversion is the key to making it in a world that values big ideas, big voices and big opinions, there’s a great deal of strength that comes from those who source their energy from within.

And, yes, we can absolutely channel that strength into forging a wonderfully successful career for ourselves.

Introverts work well in small groups and they have a rich inner world. They are focused.
Introverts work well in small groups and they have a rich inner world. They are focused.

First things first, what is an introvert?

“Many personality tests include a scale of “introvert” to “extrovert” to describe a person’s tendencies,” explains Dr Ben-Ari.

“We are all somewhere on the scale, and we can move up and down it according to our surroundings. For example, someone could come across as an extrovert at work, and yet be an introvert when it comes to close relationships.”

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Dr Ben-Ari continues: “Generally speaking, introverts have the tendency to go inwards – to recharge, reflect and self regulate – for their resources. They typically will not experience large social events as ‘recharging’, but the opposite. In fact, introverts will generally prefer a small number of significant friendships for example as opposed to many.

“They have a lower threshold for stimulation so they can feel more overwhelmed by outside stimulation. And Carl Jung, who was the first to define these personality types as a way that people source their energy, says that introverts are recharged by their inner world, whereas extroverts need others to be recharged.”

What are the benefits of being an introvert at work?

Scientists recently identified the four main behavioural traits that are most likely to signify success in the workplace.

Introverts should choose to work in places which require writing, reflecting, creativity and calmness.
Introverts should choose to work in places which require reflecting, creativity and calmness.

They are:

  1. The ability to make decisions quickly and with conviction
  2. Being insightful and focused on delivering business results
  3. Being highly adaptable and open to change
  4. Delivering steady and reliable results, as opposed to irregular peaks of success

And, as Dr Ben-Ari tells me, an introvert is far more likely to tick off all of these boxes.

“Introverts are usually more independent,” she says.

“They can reflect and be aware of themselves and they are resourceful. They work well in small groups and they have a rich inner world. They are focused. And, most importantly, they know how to listen.”

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How can an introvert use their unique skills to shine at work?

The key to career success for introverts, it seems, is choosing your work environment carefully.

“Try working in places where independent thinking is valued and appreciated, as is working in small groups,” says Dr Ben-Ari.

“Choose to work in places which require reflecting, creativity and calmness. And remember: introverts make great leaders because, usually, the higher the position, the more ‘lonely’ or introvert it becomes.”

She continues: “Use your strengths, such as good self-awareness, to lead. Request small meetings, as this is where introverts shine. Use your observation skills and self-reflection to communicate with your boss.

“Don’t just focus on practising small talk; learn to delegate, too, as you are more than likely to take too much on being so self-reliant and independent. And be sure to secure a balance of recharging yourself before and after work.”

Introverts should request small meetings, as this is where they will shine.
Introverts should request small meetings, as this is where they will shine.

Most importantly of all, though, Dr Ben-Ari advises introverts to trust their intuition, be authentic, and speak their minds.

“Step up where it’s needed and bring your voice, ideas, and forward-thinking,” she says. 

“Do so, and you will shine.”

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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