How Being an Introvert Helped Me in My First Job

Our latest Field Notes entry is by Oliver Maskell, a management consultant based in London with an interest in helping people to achieve their goals. His hobbies include athletics, essay writing and reading.

I realized I was an introvert around the same time I started my first job. The relief of finally acknowledging my introversion was offset by my concern that it would hold me back in my job and prevent me from reaching the level of success I desired. When looking for a job, I noticed the emphasis firms placed on soft skills such as communication, networking, and teamwork—qualities I associated more strongly with extroverts. However, over the next year, as my confidence and familiarity with work grew, I realized that being an introvert was not a disadvantage at all but, rather, something I could use as a strength.

When it comes to working with others, networking, and communicating, introverts can often take a less conventional approach but one which leads to meaningful business relationships and creative solutions to problems.

Here’s what my first year of work taught me about how introverts can “take back” qualities more usually linked to extroverts:

  • Introverts can remain calm. Busy work environments create stressed employees, which reduces productivity and causes tempers to fray. Although introverts can be accused of lacking vigor, their subdued demeanor is actually beneficial when it comes to problem-solving and overcoming challenges in a demanding setting. 

  • Introverts provide balance and diversity. Companies are waking up to the benefits of a diverse workforce, and this diversity should extend to the extroversion-introversion spectrum. The thoughtful and calm approach provided by introverts can act as a positive check on the more zealous members within a team and ensure that a range of ideas is considered before a course of action is determined.

  • Introverts value meaningful relationships. The financial crisis has created backlash against the hard sell. In its place, people are looking for smarter and more considered business partners. This works for introverts who prefer investing time in quality and long-lasting relationships.

  • Introverts are good listeners. Good communication is as much about listening as it is speaking, and many introverts are excellent listeners. This is an advantage when networking because it means introverts take time to understand what others are saying and, as a consequence, can identify areas where they may be able to work with others.

  • Introverts have good ideas and make valuable contributions. Introverts generally don’t say something unless they believe it will be a valuable addition to the conversation. What’s more, introverts have a penchant for creating and developing new ideas, which means they can offer a unique and alternative perspective on an issue.

Focusing on these qualities helped me transform daunting situations into opportunities where I could display the great attributes that come with being an introvert. I no longer look to be the loudest in meetings but aim to offer smart and authoritative opinions. Similarly, I now view networking as a chance to initiate a long-lasting and prosperous relationship rather than a time to “work” the room. All of this has helped improve my confidence in the workplace and allowed me to make a greater individual impact and a larger contribution to my team.

While they may not shout the loudest or be the most noticeable, many introverts have a sharp brain and a quiet determination to succeed—which is why we will continue to see the Zuckerbergs, Gateses, and Buffets at the top of their respective fields.

It may have taken me a year to realize it, but I will succeed in my work because I am an introvert and not in spite of it.

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.