Have you ever read an in-depth, well-researched career planning guide online, only to be disappointed because the advice didn't feel right to you? Chances are, it was a one-size-fits-all guide. Tips like “network with as many people as possible” are jarring for Introverts because they don't play to your natural personality strengths. The reality is that Extraverts and Introverts have very different experiences and expectations of the workplace and they each deserve to have their own career planning guidance, tailored to their needs.
With that in mind, here are seven Introvert-friendly strategies that can help you make an accurate career assessment, understand your options, and plan your career the Introvert way.
#1: Do a deep dive into career tests
When you take a well-designed career assessment test, you’ll gain new insights into your personality and learn more about how your unique traits are likely to impact your working life. While you might think you know yourself pretty well already, a career test can still produce some eye-opening results.
For example, a comprehensive career aptitude test will not only measure your introversion and other personality characteristics, it will provide you with an in-depth report identifying the jobs and career paths that are most likely to satisfy you. Even a shorter career quiz can help you clarify your goals, identify your vulnerabilities and learn more about the responsibilities and work environments associated with the most Introvert-friendly jobs.
It could be a good idea to take multiple career assessment tests to see how well the results correspond. What you discover can act as a compass that will point you in the right direction.
#2 Learn from your past working experiences
You’ve probably had jobs before. Even if they were small or didn’t last very long, how you reacted to your responsibilities and those working environments could reveal important facts about your needs and motivations at work.
For instance, you may have convinced yourself that previous bad experiences on the job were a sign of immaturity or lack of preparation and that you’d be better able to manage similar situations in the future. But with insights gleaned from a career aptitude test and your own process of self-reflection, you should be able to evaluate your work history more objectively, to determine if this is really true or not. It may be that you're just not cut out for a customer service role or a fast-paced, competitive office environment, and you'd be much happier doing something quieter and more reflective.
You shouldn’t dismiss your past negative working experiences as aberrations. They could be telling you something important about yourself that still applies and should form part of your career decisions. Identifying what you don't want is just as important as clarifying what you do want.
#3 Think outside the box but be realistic
Introverts thrive on independence. When they have the time and space to think, analyze and create, they tend to reach their peak performance.
That’s an argument for you to experiment with different work styles. Consider creative solutions such as remote working, part-time jobs or freelance gigs. It's absolutely possible for Introverts to thrive in "Extraverted" careers when you find ways to customize them and make them work for you.
However, it’s important to remember that the best career plan is one that fits your own unique strengths and weaknesses. Don't be tempted to jump into roles or work environments that don't really suit you, just for the sake of having a job. It's important to keep an open mind but be realistic about what you can and can't do.
#4 Don’t focus entirely on virtual options
If you’re like most Introverts, you’ll find the thought of working full-time remotely quite appealing. As a virtual employee or entrepreneur, you’d be able to control the conditions of your work environment completely. You also wouldn’t have to worry about unwanted social intrusions.
But as the saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener. No matter how convinced you are that you’d like to work remotely, there are some things to consider before you go down the work-from-home path. For one thing, there is no guarantee that the current trend toward online work will continue and you're placing unnecessary limits on your future career development. It's also possible you wouldn’t enjoy working in a solitary environment as much as you think, or that you'll have to work even harder to be noticed by higher-ups than you would in an office environment.
So if your heart is set on a remote career, it’s best to do plenty of research. If you take a career assessment test it will recommend several Introvert-safe jobs that require your physical presence, and you should put at least two or three of them on your list of careers to seriously investigate.
#5 Think about the working environment, not just the job
There might be several careers you find highly appealing. You know you would find the work stimulating and exciting. But as an Introvert, there is more than the job itself that you have to consider – the workplace setting is also incredibly important.
You won’t feel comfortable in a loud and hectic environment where there is constant pressure to get things done quickly. You’ll be stressed out if your performance is constantly monitored or critiqued by managers or supervisors. If you’re frequently required to attend meetings and give presentations, that could provoke your anxiety as well. In many workplaces, you may not have a chance to retreat to quiet, private spaces where you can relax, reflect and recharge at various times throughout the day.
Regardless of how intrigued you may be by a particular job, it won’t be a good choice if the workplace environment is likely to make you miserable. You may be happier in a second-choice career with a good environmental fit than your dream job with a setting you can’t handle, so put a priority on evaluating the working environment in addition to the job itself.
#6 Plan around the challenges
Reality check time: while everyone wants to find a career that perfectly matches their personality, that's not realistic. Every job is likely to include some difficult or stressful tasks, at least on occasion.
Before you decide to pursue any career, it’s a good idea to pause and reflect on how you can prepare yourself to handle whatever might come along. For example, if a job would require you to make regular presentations before large groups, you could take a training course in public speaking. If there will be lots of meetings, learn some Introvert-friendly ways of handling business communication. Or if you think your future work environment might be a bit high-pressure, you could learn meditation or self-hypnosis techniques that could help you remain calm at all times.
These approaches won’t necessarily eliminate all the discomfort you might feel while performing certain tasks. But they will help you build your self-confidence and leave you feeling more secure in your ability to handle fresh challenges.
#7 Develop a networking plan that makes sense for you
Career planning experts all emphasize the importance of networking. The individuals you connect with in your future field will have many fantastic insights about what it’s really like to work as a nurse, lawyer or software engineer. They can also function as crucial contacts once you’re ready to look for a job.
Virtual networking events or services are a good option for Introverts. But you have to be active if you choose this approach, making sure to reach out frequently to the contacts you make by message or email. If you have a chance to attend in-person conferences or job fairs, you can take an extraverted friend along who can help you initiate conversations. Introverts excel at one-on-one meetings so seek these out whenever possible, and put your best foot forward by preparing the questions you want to ask ahead of time.
You don’t want to stay on the sideline while others are forming these helpful relationships. So you should develop an Introvert-friendly networking strategy that makes the process as pain-free as possible.
The bottom line: Work with your introversion instead of against it
Some Introverts see their personality as a weakness they should try to overcome and because of that, they choose careers that are better suited for Extraverts. They may survive or even thrive for a while – pretty much any Introvert can act like an Extravert when they need to. But eventually, the stress and discomfort will leave you feeling despondent and desperate to escape.
You can avoid making this mistake by choosing a career that truly harmonizes with your introverted personality traits. Taking one or more career assessment tests is absolutely the best place to start; from there, you can focus on researching, planning and connecting with people who are doing what you want to do.
Self-acceptance is the key to happiness, in the workplace as much as anywhere else. When you accept who you truly are and seek out a career that really fits, your capacity to grow and achieve will increase well beyond your previous expectations.