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Career Tips for Introverts in the Workplace

For an introvert, even a casual conversation by the office coffee maker can make them break out in a sweat. Consider the nerves caused by an impending interview — it’s no wonder they can be sky-high.

By developing certain soft skills, even those that may feel completely unfamiliar to you, it’s possible to be comfortable at work and succeed at your job. Whether or not your role requires collaboration, it’s still important to be part of a team and get along with your coworkers. Also, it’s helpful to know which soft skills you already possess and can make the most use of.

Prepare for Interviews

Introverts may be naturally nervous about interviewing, but the best defense against that is being prepared. Often, interview anxiety is about the unexpected. You don’t know what the interviewer is going to ask you, so you worry about how you’ll sound when you respond. Familiarizing yourself with common interview questions and figuring out how you’ll answer them ahead of time will help with this. Here are some common questions you’re bound to be asked:

  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Tell me about a time when …
  • Do you have any questions for us?

It’s easy to prep for the straightforward questions, like why you’re interviewing for the role. Behavioral interview questions are more threatening. You can freeze or ramble on and on, then get to the end of your story and wonder if you answered the question at all.

To prepare for these questions, first, look at the responsibilities of the role you’re interviewing for — the questions will likely have to do with the skills your employer is after. Then, come up with three to five stories you can pull out of your back pocket. Briefly set up the story, explain your role in it, discuss how you solved a problem, and share the results. Once you’re mentally prepared to answer any curveballs the interviewer might send your way, don’t forget to take time to calm down. Relaxing before an interview is a sure way to ease your nerves and improve your ability to answer questions thoughtfully.

Network on Your Own Terms

You may assume that introverts can’t network at all, but that’s not true – they just need to network in a way that suits them. Instead of simply avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable, learn to manage your anxiety to reach a positive outcome.

Online and one-on-one networking are better options for an introvert than getting together at a work mixer or joining a huge group for an outing. For example, you can use LinkedIn to introduce yourself to someone in your industry or at your workplace that you’d like to connect with. Then, you can invite them out for coffee or lunch where it’s just the two of you. Introverts aren’t bad at networking; they’re just better when the setting is more intimate and less overwhelming. If you can’t get out of a work event and you’re nervous about it, take along a friend so that you feel less awkward.

Use Your Introvert-Specific Qualities to Your Advantage

You may think that being an introvert puts you at a disadvantage, but employers may actually be seeking the exact introvert-related qualities you already possess:

  • As an introvert, you’re probably a good listener. Instead of jumping in to be heard, you can stay quiet, listen to others, and thoughtfully consider what has been said.
  • You can work independently. Yes, there will be times when you’ll have to be a team player, but there’s also a lot of value in an independent, self-sufficient worker who can be trusted, even when they don’t have any support. This is especially true in careers where you’ll be left alone a lot, such as in computer programming.
  • The fact that you’re able to work alone also means you have strong problem-solving skills. You can recognize, address and solve issues on your own. Then, if you do have to come together as a team to solve a problem, you’ll already have a suggestion to offer.
  • Instead of being distracted by the social aspect of your job, you may focus more on the project at hand and get it done sooner than your coworkers. Some introverts have great time management skills because they’re used to working in distraction-free settings.
  • You don’t want a spotlight on you. An office cannot function if every single person needs the limelight on them. By not being a person who needs constant recognition, your employer will feel like they don’t always have to worry about how you’re feeling.

Unless you’re interviewing for a role that’s in direct competition with one of these skills, use them to your advantage. For example, if you have to give presentations weekly, you’ll need to be comfortable with the spotlight.

Final Thoughts

You owe it to yourself to go to work every day without feeling anxious, depressed or stressed about it. If you continue to operate even when you’re experiencing work strain, you’ll have a greater risk of mental illness in the future. The more in control you feel, the less anxiety you’ll experience. Accept that you’re an introvert, figure out how to make those qualities work for you, and slowly improve soft skills that don’t come naturally.

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Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a mom, writer, and entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest. She loves all things literary, doggish, and plant-based. Of those, words are her favorite. You can find more of her work on Twitter @faulknercreek.

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