Robert Sable is a communications professional specializing in content marketing, blogging, and internal communications. He has a passion for utilizing the written word to help people better understand each other and find common ground. When not working or writing, he can usually be found running a narrow, muddy trail somewhere in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.
Last year, my company’s corporate services division—about 20 people—participated in a team-building session that required each of us to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator beforehand. We received our profile reports at the session and spent much of the time discussing the results.
At one point, the facilitator had us line up based on our introversion/extroversion scores, with the strongest introverts at one end and the strongest extroverts at the other. When the facilitator asked if there were any surprises, a member of our accounting team noticed me near the far end of the introvert side, raised her hand, and said, “Isn’t it strange that our Communications Manager is such a strong introvert?”
Strange indeed. And yet, in this role, I’ve found my professional place.
I started at the company 14 years ago as a project planner. After the first 8 years, the lingering hangover of the Great Recession forced me into a computer-aided drafting position. In theory, both roles should have been good fits for an introvert, but while I enjoyed elements of those jobs, neither felt like the right fit.
An unexpected door opened two years later when I was offered the job of Business Development Manager. Needless to say, the role presented some challenges: it was my first management position; the team was new to me; I was the only male; I was the only one over the age of 26; and I was also, it turned out, the only introvert in the group.
Of those challenges, the introversion turned out to be the only problem. While many of my responsibilities fit with my introverted traits, the role also required client relationship-building, which was a struggle. I wanted desperately to be good at that part, to have an easy rapport with the people I met, but it required so much effort that I came off sounding (and feeling) phony. Fortunately, our team was well-rounded, so a co-worker continued to lead those social efforts. But that made me feel like a failure.
The business continued to grow, and after two years, my boss offered me the new role of Communications Manager. In her mind, it was the perfect fit (I have a degree in Communications, which is another topic entirely), but I was hesitant. The positions I’d held that were conducive to introversion hadn’t fully engaged me, and the business development role had exposed my social weaknesses. How could I hope to succeed in communications?
After thinking it over, I accepted the job despite my concerns, and thank goodness I did.
Much to my surprise, being an introvert is an asset in this role. My contemplative, methodical nature—a byproduct of my introversion—serves me well when determining the best way to deliver a message. I manage and edit our technical blog, which makes good use of my skills and aligns with my passions. I participate in strategic discussions requiring the careful consideration that comes naturally to introverts. And those previous roles that didn’t feel right? They’ve given me a unique and broad perspective of the company, made possible by experiencing the business from both the technical and corporate sides. That perspective guides all my communications work.
The communications role also stretches me, but gently and in the right ways. For instance, rather than attending big conferences where I’m forced to make small talk with hundreds of people who approach networking like a game of pinball, I may hold a meet-and-greet with two or three people from the local newspaper. It’s still a stretch, but it’s manageable, which leads to better results and the joy of accomplishment rather than the frustration of failure.
So yes, it’s strange for an introvert to work in communications. But this experience has taught me that, in the right circumstances, embracing apparent contradictions can be just what an introvert needs. Against the odds, I’ve found my professional place.
Field Notes brings you first-hand workplace experiences written by contributors who share their own stories, the lessons they’ve learned, and the unique benefits of a quiet approach to life in the office. Whether you’re an introvert looking to make the most of your strengths or an extrovert/ambivert who wants to learn how your quiet colleagues tick, Field Notes offers real-world insights about taking a walk on the quiet side. Submit your own story and watch this space for more perspectives from your colleagues.