I am often asked, “What is the best job for introverts?” The truth is there is not a “best” job for all introverts, but if you find a job that meets your introvert needs, utilizes your strengths, gives you purpose, and pays the bills, you’ve found a winner!

Books referenced in this podcast:

Matthew Pollard, The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone

Matthew Pollard, The Introvert’s Edge to Networking

Seth Godin, Linchpin

Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work

Donald Clifton & Marcus Buckingham, Now Discover Your Strengths

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths-Based Leadership

Matthew Kelly, Off Balance


Get my book: 

Minding Your Time: Time Management, Productivity, and Success, Especially for Introverts

Contact the host of Quiet and Strong :

David Hall
Author, Speaker, Educator, Podcaster
quietandstrong.com
Gobio.link/quietandstrong
david@quietandstrong.com

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Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Quiet and Strong Podcast, Especially for introverts.  I am your host, David Hall and creator of quietandstrong.com.  This is a weekly podcast dedicated to understanding the strengths and needs of introverts. Introversion is not something to fix, but to be embraced. Normally we will air each episode on Monday morning.  Be sure to subscribe. So I am often asked what is the best job for an introvert?

I know a guy that works a behind the scenes job in a large IT department keeping the computer systems running for his company.  In his position, he has relatively little interaction with others.  A perfect job for an introvert, right?  Maybe, but not all introverts are alike.  Actually, although I am an introvert, I think his position would not have enough people interaction for me.  In my job, I have a mix of working alone on projects, working on various teams, and leading teams. I know most of the people in my organization, as I have spent many years there.  It is important to me to have great relationships and have a voice in the organization.  I thrive on being able to contribute big ideas, being part of the decision-making process, and being recognized for great work.  A behind the scenes job doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this.

In my opinion most jobs could be held by either an introvert or an extrovert.  As an introvert will bring a unique set of skills as an extrovert would have their own unique set of skills.  Either could excel.

So, what is the best job for introverts?  My answer is the job that uses a person’s individual strengths and fulfills their needs.  There are far too many stereotypes for an estimated half of the population of what is or isn’t an appropriate career choice for introverts.

I know there are probably plenty of jobs I would dread.  Just the thought of outside sales sends me into a cold sweat.  However, if that was something I wanted to do, I could excel by doing it in my own way, where I utilize my strengths.  The way I would work would look much different than an extroverted salesperson. My friend Matthew Pollard has written an entire book, The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone.  Packed with stories and strategies on how to excel by honoring your introversion, not by acting like an extrovert.  He recently released The Introvert’s Edge to Networking.  I highly recommend these books and finding your success in your introverted strengths. So, while a career in outside sales isn’t my dream job, and many introverts may feel the same, this is an example that we shouldn’t generalize that “all introverts” shouldn’t choose any particular career.

We all have strengths. What are yours?

I love how Seth Godin defines “art” in Linchpin.

“What makes someone an artist? I don’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.”

I have seen and experienced these artists without the paintbrushes.  As in the examples above, my accountant is an artist with numbers, so thankfully  I don’t have to be. At my bank there is a customer service artist that always has the biggest smile and remembers my name and the names of everyone else. I was in the drive through and before I even sent the tube in, he said, how are you Mr. Hall. I don’t even go to the bank that often. Very impressive.  As an introvert, I like to consider myself an artist of business models in developing better ways to serve those I work with as well as our clientele.

Godin goes on to say “Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

I am definitely not good with a paintbrush; my skills with that medium are probably about the same as when I was 10 or 11.  I do have introvert gifts that I like to call art. However, I have only considered myself an “artist” the past few years, once I started looking at my introvert traits as strengths instead of weaknesses. I hope that you have found your art.

When it comes to meaningful work, it comes down to a few fundamental criteria:

Passion – when you love your work and spend most of the time working within your strengths, it doesn’t feel like work.  Life is too short to dread every Monday. Sometimes I hear people that aren’t very old talking about how they can’t wait until retirement.  That is no way to live!

Purpose – do you feel like you are making a difference?  Are you making your life and the lives of those around you better?

Payment – does your work provide you the income you need for the immediate time and the long term? If someone tries to tell me money doesn’t matter, I can’t help but think they have never gone without it.

Primary Needs – does the working situation allow you to address your needs as an introvert?  As an introvert, I recognize that I need some quiet time, but I also need some time working and interacting with others.  Your needs may be different than mine, as you may want to mostly work alone or some other combination. Or you may need a completely quiet atmosphere, or work better when there is noise. But the important piece is to find a work situation that allows you to do your best because your needs are being met most of the time.

So, don’t fall into believing that because you are an introvert, you are limited to doing specific jobs and shouldn’t try for something you’ll truly love.  There is NO best job for all introverts, but if you find a job that meets your introvert needs, utilizes your strengths, gives you purpose, and pays the bills, you’ve found a winner! I love the work I am doing and do not dread it each week while waiting for the weekend. Maybe you are not there yet.  Maybe you want to move up or enhance your existing job

Marcus Buckingham in Go Put Your Strengths to Work says:

“…we simply need to learn how to take our existing job and, each week, reshape it around our strengths–even in the face of interference from the world around us.  To do this, we need to master a new discipline, one that brings order and focus to a series of incremental moves.  Put this discipline into practice each week, and we will gradually, degree by degree, tilt the playing field so that the best of our job becomes most of our job.”

I have personally done this very thing in my own life.  It happened gradually just as Buckingham describes.  As an introvert, I do excel at thinking about things.  As an example, I am very good at strategizing on how best to use resources and do more with less.  It started with putting a idea forward and being allowed to pursue it.  And then another idea and another.  This has resulted in spending most of my day working within my strengths.  Your strengths may not be the same as mine, but think about your own strengths.  What special talents do you possess as an introvert and how can you best put them to use?

Maybe you want to get a new job altogether, start your own business, or do some new endeavor on the side.  Keep working, researching, planning.

It may take some time to get the fulfilling work you seek.  And there is probably not a “perfect” job.  In most jobs, there will be some work to do that is not within your strengths.  According to Donald Clifton & Marcus Buckingham in “Now Discover Your Strengths” :

Our research into human strengths does not support the extreme, and extremely misleading, assertion that “you can play any role you set your mind to,” but it does lead us to this truth:  Whatever you set your mind to, you will be most successful when you craft your role to play to your signature talents most of the time.

Don’t try to be like others.  What is this dream you have, and why not you? Nobody is better.  I have heard it said that everyone has the same 24 hours, just some use the hours better.  And I believe that the successful ones use their strengths during these 24 hours.

In “Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, leadership styles are divided into four different types: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. I fall into the Strategic Thinking category. Strategic Thinking is described as: “Those who are able to keep people focused on ‘what they could be’ are constantly pulling a team and its members into the future. They continually absorb and analyze information and help the team make better decisions.”

Analyzing situations and thinking how to improve is a natural gift for me and one that I use often as a leader. Does this mean that I don’t execute, influence, or build relationships? Absolutely not. I must do all of these things, but the point is that I will go about them in a different way. For example, when I need to influence or sell an idea, I am going to prepare and analyze the best way to do it. I may not have the same charisma that an “influencer” may have, but I can bring my passion and paint a clear picture of a brighter future. I can also use another strategy and partner up with someone else who has natural talents in persuasion. I have learned that partnership is very important as no one person has all strengths.

So we need to stop asking if introverts can be great leaders or great fill in the blank or questioning in a way that places limitations on ability based on personality style. Instead, a better question would be what does an introvert need to do for success and what are the best ways for an introvert to approach a particular situation. Don’t compare yourself to a person that has different gifts than you, but rather embrace those gifts that are uniquely yours.

Here is another example. My friend was telling me recently that his son was interested in acting, but he was concerned that his son wouldn’t succeed because he was an introvert.  Quickly I let him know that being an introvert doesn’t need to exclude anyone from any career.  We just do things a bit differently. We discussed that introversion is not about your confidence or lack of confidence, social ability or social desire.  Introverts spend more time getting lost in their inner world of ideas.  Introverts often have vivid imaginations and a rich inner life. So can my friend’s son be an actor?  Absolutely! There are many silly stereotypes of careers that introverts should and shouldn’t do.  About half of the population are introverts so it’s a little crazy to stereotype HALF of the population. I have heard that many actors are introverts. When it comes to acting as an example, what might attract an introvert to acting?  What strengths do they bring? Any needs to be aware of? I am not much of an actor unless you count the couple of plays I was in as a kid.  However, I absolutely love to perform!  My “performances” take the form of presentations and speeches.  I am going to answer the three questions above with my own experience and my love and need to perform.  You can relate this to acting.  And in the case of any career, you can ask the same three questions: Why are you attracted to this profession or activity? What strengths do you bring?  What needs do you have?  All introverts are not alike, so the answers will vary by person.  Yet there are some commonalities that can be helpful to discuss.

So why do I like to give presentations and speeches? 

As an introvert, I have many ideas.  I happen to think that they are all good.  I love to share them.  In a presentation or a speech, I can prepare those thoughts and concepts ahead of time and put them into a coherent and hopefully powerful and impactful message.  Also as an introvert, I am very reflective and some of the absurdities of life are very apparent to me, so I like to think I am funny.  It is also nice to share my thoughts in the way I want without interruptions.

What strengths do I have?

I think deeply.  I like to think of how to make the world a better place for my family, friends, colleagues, and the world.  I am a big-picture person who can also take account of the details.  For example, I see how we are all unique and have our own gifts and strengths.  Yet there are helpful patterns of personality that we can be aware of for ourselves and for others.  This is something that I am aware of and is a message I want to share.  In this example, I want to help others understand themselves and others.

What do I need?

When it comes to presentations and speeches I need to spend some time preparing.  I know plenty of people that can “wing it” and give a great speech.  That is not me.  I definitely can give a great speech, but it will be best with plenty of preparation.  It’s also helpful to know what gives you energy and what drains you. Things you enjoy may still be draining.  I love giving speeches, but I find it is best if I can have a little downtime soon after to recharge.

Of course, all introverts do not want to be actors or give speeches.  The point is, first, figure out what you want to do. Then ask yourself how will you go about it? This can be applied to more than just career choices.  You can use it to design an approach to relationships, communication, leadership, productivity, and overall success and happiness.  Embrace your strengths and embrace your introversion.

So for fun, I have been looking online for “best jobs for introverts” or “best jobs for extroverts.” As I look down the lists for either I can see either an introvert or extrovert in the role.  The how is going to look different.  So here is one list I found for extroverts. As I review this list I have known or know of both successful introverts in most of these roles.  Some I have personal experience with.

Public Relations

Social Media

Business Management

Politics

Sales

Event Planning

Customer Service Management

Teaching and Education

Human Resources

Flight Attendant

Law

Healthcare

Social Work and Community Health

Cosmetology

Acting

Coaching

Consulting

School Counseling

Again, does the career ignite your passion?  Do you feel great purpose in your work?  Does it pay the bills?  Are your primary needs met?

What about training and education?  This is an area of expertise for me and we can do another show on this along with the job hunt for introverts.  There are many pathways to follow and the idea is to see what type of training and education will be needed to meet your goals.  In my college experience, I changed my university major at least three times.  I was going to be an engineer because I was good at math, and then I thought I’d be a computer scientist because I knew they made great money.  I finally settled on Psychology, because of a great desire to help others and myself along the way.  I remember as a college grad looking through career books in search of “What to do with a degree in Psychology?” I remember reading about working in a “think tank.” This sounded great, but as I was lacking much experience there was very little chance of getting hired to work in a “think tank” at that time.  Many years and much experience later I do experience many think tank type experiences using expertise I have gained over the years. Matthew Kelly, author of Off Balance calls this being “in the room.”  It is very satisfying to be with intelligent people thinking through and solving problems, while coming up with innovative ideas.  You may not be ready to get your dream job yet, but the question you’ll need to answer is what do you need to DO to get there? There is so much information on how to become more self aware and how to learn more about various careers.  

I really have begun to understand my introversion, so now at this stage in my career, I have even more strategies to succeed at work.  Keep in mind there will be set backs. I have learned that set backs are often when we grow the most. I have learned this lesson over and over and have heard  many examples from others. Here’s just one example of how struggle has created growth: I’ve recently really learned how to best utilize my time. I am now busier than ever.  I have studied various time management strategies to be able to accomplish more and more with the same (or sometimes less) resources and time.  However, just when I think I am getting things done, I get more to do.  Through this struggle, I have become so much better at prioritizing and “getting things done.”  I look back at when I was younger and the relatively little responsibility I had then, compared to now where I have so much more responsibility, but I am able to get so much more accomplished. And this led to the first book, Minding your time, time management, productivity, and success, especially for introverts.  So hang in there.  Things will get better and you will be stronger.

Thank you so much for joining me.  I look forward to further connecting with you.  Reach out quietandstrong.com.  I will add social media channels to the show notes. Send me topics or questions and we can address those on the show. So many great things about being an introvert and so we need those to be understood.  Let’s keep the conversation going.  Get to know your introverted strengths and needs and be Strong!

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