You might have heard about something called “the Extravert’s advantage,” which says, among other things, that Extraverts get a career boost because they’re better than Introverts at interpersonal interactions.
If you’re an Introverted personality type, you may sometimes feel like you struggle to make an impact, compared to more outgoing coworkers. But it doesn’t do much good to worry or feel bad. It’s more useful to try to understand how your Introversion can affect your work life – and the strengths you possess that will help you prosper.
However, it’s more complicated than just Introversion, because that trait combines uniquely with other personality traits. There are many types of Introverts, and here, I’ll get into how those combinations can differ – and how you can boost your success and keep up with those Extraverts.
Now, telling you to suppress trait-based tendencies is like telling you not to sneeze. There are no bad personality traits, and who you are deserves to be expressed. And with a little effort, you can be yourself in productive, beneficial ways.
Can Introverts win in the professional world? Absolutely. One major study describes Extraverts as having “a small, persistent advantage at work.” Small. Well, my fellow Introverts, let’s consider what small, persistent things we can do to close that gap, starting with a sober look at how we may be lagging. More than one of the following might fit you. (Personally, I struggle with at least three of these.)
And to all you Extraverts out there, no disrespect intended. You’re awesome. And you’re not afraid of a little competition from the quieter side of the personality spectrum, right? Didn’t think so.
Introverted + Intuitive (IN__) Personality Types
When combined, these traits tend to produce vivid imagination and some wild ideas to match. Introverted, Intuitive personalities can easily get lost in thought, often having trouble effectively translating ideas into practical results. They may misjudge scale, get sidetracked by interesting possibilities, or simply have a hard time accepting basic realities that go against their vision.
Consider: There’s nothing wrong with being an idea person – it’s often valued. But there’s a difference between vision and fantasy. To be successful, you’ll have to find the energy to see your ideas through with actions – or partner with people who will help you accomplish what you conceive. Sometimes you may even need to pare your ideas down to be more doable, while maintaining your inner belief in them.
Introverted + Observant (IS__) Personality Types
Together, these traits can limit one’s attention span to the immediate or practical, eclipsing less solid – yet valuable – possibilities. These types rarely put much emphasis on exploring esoteric ideas or intangible theories, which are sometimes the initial seeds of impressive real-world accomplishments. So no matter how adept they are at applying their skills, these personality types may not always think “big” enough.
Consider: Having a grounded sense of engagement is a very good thing in the workplace, but to be successful, you may want to cast your mind out into the future now and then, with a lofty goal. Now, these goals can be practical or even conventional – just turn up the ambition level a few notches to challenge what seems possible. Chances are your practical capabilities will support big ideas better than you realize.
Introverted + Thinking (I_T_) Personality Types
This combo can make some Introverts seem antisocial. Since they don’t feel as much personal reward for social interaction as other types do, they may not put much effort into them. And when they speak up, they may skip routine niceties and get right to the point – which is often some kind of rational analysis. This can present a kind of blunt, standoffish, or even critical image to others.
Consider: If you put the onus on others to interact with you, what’s their reward for doing so? How you answer that question through your actions will affect your success. If you’re not the warmest person (totally okay, BTW), you will nonetheless be appreciated for being an openly beneficial presence. To be successful, show your capability as an effective doer – and willing helper. (It also doesn’t hurt to be seen and heard more – you can skip niceties and still get positively involved.)
Introverted + Feeling (I_F_) Personality Types
These traits can combine to produce a kind of emotional introspection that leads to great empathy but also to certain sensitivities. These personalities tend to be especially upset by what they perceive as poor treatment of themselves or others, often ruminating on such moments long after they pass. This can bog them down, make it hard to think clearly, or create an impression that they have difficulty controlling their emotions.
Consider: Negative feelings are perfectly okay and probably inevitable in the workplace, but it’s usually better to deal with them in healthy ways than to bottle them up or deny them. Whenever possible, try to address and resolve workplace conflicts promptly, so you’re not burdened. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be emotional, though. Far from it. Your emotionality is a strength, and it can help you connect positively with those around you – a powerful career boost.
Introverted + Judging (I__J) Personality Types
These traits are often associated with a reluctance to try new or unfamiliar things. That sounds innocent enough, but in the working world, it can look an awful lot like an inability to change and advance – or simply like inaction. These personality types value stability but run the risk of falling behind when they try to preserve the status quo at the cost of embracing new workplace trends, practices, and goals.
Consider: Stability is as much a means as it is an end – there’s no reason that progress and order cannot go hand in hand. In fact, they’re an extremely powerful combo. Your value of order includes an ability to create it, which helps assure success when you venture into unfamiliar territory. It’s helpful to limit how much energy you put into structure and planning (which is good), and make sure that you put enough energy into advancing forward.
Introverted + Prospecting (I__P) Personality Types
A focus on the internal combined with curiosity and whimsy can be a recipe for exciting experimentation – and wandering attention. These types can get lost in their own worlds, whatever they may be, and may have a hard time staying focused on the priorities handed to them by the external working world. This can affect their career negatively, especially in jobs with rote measures of performance.
Consider: When channeled productively, your free-ranging mind and meditative tendencies can serve as inspiration, carrying you forward. The key is to care about exploring potential fully by seeing things through – if you don’t insist on achieving a solid, complete result, you’re less likely to get a beneficial one. But when you show that you can reach goals, you’ll be forgiven for taking a roundabout route to them.
As an Introvert, how many of the above tendencies apply to you? It may be situational. Your circumstances are unique, and I suppose none of these behaviors are automatically harmful. But in a broad sense, they represent the opposite of some Extraverted strengths that may create career advantages. I think being aware of your Introverted tendencies and when not to let them guide you is important for your success. Balance is good, so keep an eye on yourself, okay?
It’s also very important to appreciate who you are. Explore, acknowledge, and apply your strengths. (Maybe reread your personality profile, or check out your in-depth Premium Profile.) Introverts can have certain advantages over Extraverts. With your internally focused energy and mindset, you may have better impulse control than many Extraverts. Discretion about where you put your energy can help you be more efficient and achieve results at work. Just don’t forget to invest enough energy, or those Extraverts might catch up to you.
- Feeling disconnected from your work? Check yourself before you wreck yourself with our Job Burnout Test. (Premium resource.)
- Learn how Introverts can create more of an impact at work.
- Check out our inside look at how Introverts can excel in retail jobs.
- Looking to expand your professional network? We’ll help: see our article on networking support for Introverts.
- Some Introverts are especially independent, and it’s helpful to understand these “lone wolves” – especially if you’re one of them.