How to succeed at work as an introvert

Channel your inner Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein

How to succeed at work as an introvert

Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Isaac Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt – what do they all have in common? Well, apart from being geniuses in their own field, they’re all classic examples of introverts.

Introverts make up around 25% of the global population – and while they’re typically reserved and shy, they’re also a huge asset to any workforce. Introverts typically feel most comfortable focusing on their own internal monologue, happy to wallow in their thoughts and find solutions in their own ideas and designs. However, in the workplace employers and colleagues can often mistake an introvert’s quietness for anxiety or stress – and as such they’re often overlooked for promotions and opportunities. But, if this all sounds all too familiar, fear not - HRD has uncovered the best ways to survive and thrive as an introvert in the workplace.

Stop apologizing

Find yourself saying sorry all the live long day? Stop it. As an introvert, the need to say sorry for either your quietness, your lack of collaboration, or your general shy demeanour can be overwhelming. Instead, when you feel yourself on the precipice of a ‘sorry’ – take a step back. Research from Serenata Flowers found that the average employee says sorry up to eight times a day – with 10% of people apologising over 18 times. The worst part of saying sorry? It can actually harm your career as an introvert.

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Speaking in a recent TEDx Talk, sociologist Maja Jovanovic talked us through the science of sorry. “Apologies matter,” added Jovanovic. “Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Sure, if used in the right way and intermittently, they can ease old wounds and heal trauma. But if you’re beginning and ending your sentences with ‘sorry’ don’t be surprised if there’s nothing left of your confidence at the end of the day, because you’ve given it away [sic].”

So, essentially, if you’re a female introvert – please stop apologising. You’re doing more harm than good.

Celebrate your skills

Susan Cain, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, claims that as a society we dramatically undervalue introverts – and the same is true in the workplace. However, she also argues that inverted characteristics make great leadership attributes. That shy, creative streak makes the introvert a singular creature – more akin to libraries than boardrooms. Don’t mistake that quietness for anxiety or stress – introverts don’t have to be seen to be heard. Don’t undersell yourself in the corporate world – remember that skills such as problem solving and deep thinking are just as important in the C-suite as charm and persuasiveness.

Up your communication style

MBTI found that 92% of introverted individuals feel pressured to behave in an extroverted way at work. One of the greatest assets of an introvert can also be their biggest downfall. Introverts are famously creative – but their tendency to keep to themselves often stops them from communicating these brilliant ideas. As such, it’s important to work on your communication style. Practice listening by enjoying a TEDx Talk or a podcast – then testing yourself on the topic points afterwards.

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Go for leadership roles

Think you’re not leadership material? Think again. Research from Wharton led by Professor Adam Grant found that introverted leaders actually outperform their extroverted peers. Think Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk – all introverts, all undeniably brilliant leaders.

Key leadership skills of an introvert are;

  • Thinking before speaking and acting
  • Remaining calm under pressure
  • Akin to deep thinking and problem solving
  • Creative beyond measure
  • Appreciative of others unique and different skill sets

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