By the time I got to college, I already knew that the benefits and successes went to the extroverts. I remember my first day of class there. It was a math class in a bungalow on the edge of the campus. I was worked up believing that everyone would think I was a fraud, didn’t belong, and shouldn’t be there. It was all new, and I didn’t know anyone—talk about an overwhelming experience! I was certain that everyone could smell my fear, and I could hardly keep my eyes open even though I had had a full night’s sleep. My body was going into a shutdown mode from over-stimulation. It was alarming, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. Luckily, I pushed through and made it through the day.
My end goal at college was to get a degree in finance. After I graduated and started working, I got a cubicle and got to pour over numbers. Quietly analyzing numbers was my idea of heaven. I found nothing more gratifying than putting together a great analysis. But unfortunately, as I got better, the job titles changed, and different responsibilities came with them. Eventually, as the CFO of a non-profit organization, I had to present at weekly leadership meetings and quarterly board meetings. The most horrifying activity for me was the quarterly all-staff meetings/presentations. Nothing is worse than having hundreds of eyes on you when you have nothing to say. Despite those meetings, I was repeatedly told by my employees that I was the best boss they had ever worked for, and the Board of Directors constantly said that I was the best CFO the non-profit ever had—apparently they didn’t mind that I kept my financial quarterly reporting short and sweet.
In August, I am off to start graduate school to get my MBA. I got into a fantastic business program at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. I’m as ecstatic as I am terrified. The program involves group work, case studies, presentations, and cold calls. This will really put my introversion to the test. But I know that in the long run, it will be a substantial benefit to me. I know I will survive it, and I know myself as an introvert. Come August, I will be prepared and will be sure to give myself the time and space needed to feel comfortable and succeed in the extroverted environment. And hopefully, I will learn to excel at presenting.