By Logan McGrady, ’13.
People and their personalities are often lumped into two groups—extroverts and introverts. The former are characterized by outgoing, energetic tendencies, while the latter are deemed quiet and self-reflective.
It is often assumed that extroverts have a leg-up in the workplace. Their personalities lend themselves to networking and presenting. It is this misconception that Dr. Elayne Chou, ’93, cleared up in a recent conversation with me. “You have to start by looking at it not from a deficit perspective, but from a strength perspective. What does work about being an introvert?” Elayne asks.
Chou, a preferred career expert based in the San Francisco area, gave me some workplace tips not just for the more introverted among us, but also everyone who works in a team environment.
Look at Networking Differently
Going to a large networking event—shaking hands and handing out business cards—can be rough for everyone (including me), not just self-proclaimed introverts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t network successfully.
“One of the things that I always tell people about introverts is that they are very good at building deeper relationships,” Chou said. “So rather than having a lot of people in their networks that they don’t know that well, they often times have a smaller network in terms of quantity, but the quality of these relationships can often time be much deeper.”
That can be more useful in the long run, as you know each other strengths and can advocate for each other.
Create a System
Professional interactions can be draining for introverts—just like sitting behind a desk can be for extroverts. In both instances, creating a system for success is important.
“There is some need for more private people to create a system that works to remind them that they need to get out there and build relationships so it’s not something that gets completely neglected,” Chou suggests.
Rather than going to many large networking events, an introvert might be further ahead scheduling a few meetings with smaller professional groups throughout the year. Similarly, an extrovert could find more social situations in which to work and stay energized.
“You shouldn’t expect yourself to go and do things that you aren’t going to enjoy it or be motivated.”
“Take a step back and think about who the people are that are involved, what their styles of communicating are, and what will work best for the situation.”
If your boss or coworkers are more gregarious, it can be hard to get a point in. Here’s what you can do to be more effective:
- Talk with people beforehand to get their perspectives and share yours. That way you won’t be surprised and you may get some buy-in.
- Force yourself to think about the one main point you want to make and be sure to speak up about it.
- Follow up after is ok. Say something like “You know I had a little bit more time to think about this, I have some additional thoughts.”