Are you an introvert? Here’s how to play to your strengths

Can you focus for long periods of time and like working independently? Are you especially good at problem solving, analysing complex information and listening to colleagues and clients? You probably lean towards introversion – a personality trait focused on inner thoughts and feelings.

That said, while you might be familiar with the label of “introvert”, introversion isn’t an all-or-nothing trait, explains SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read. “There’s a spectrum of behaviour from introversion to extroversion, and sometimes, depending on the situation or setting we're in, or even the people we're with, we will traverse that spectrum at work.”

While everyone has some extroverted and introverted traits that suit almost any type of role, it makes a lot of sense to use skills that come naturally to your advantage.

What’s important, Read says, is identifying skills that come naturally to you and honing in on them in your job search.

“It's traits that come without much effort that often come to the fore in the workplace, and it makes sense to focus on your natural style rather than resisting or forcing a way of being or a skill set that's not a more natural preference,” explains Read.

Here’s how to play to your strengths in your career if you’re more of an introvert.

What introverts are good at:

Introverts – which is how 28% of New Zealand workers identify themselves, according to research for SEEK – are often strong decision makers, planners and researchers, explains Read. She says it’s a good idea to look for roles and careers that require these sorts of skills.

“If you lean towards introversion, you can employ a range of skills to shine in the workplace, including complex and considered thinking, processing information, problem solving and clear written communication,” Read says.

“Introverts tend to favour independent and solo pursuits and prefer to work in quieter settings with a more detail-oriented approach. For this reason, you’ll usually do well when you can focus for long periods of time.”

What introverts can find challenging:

It’s not always easy to navigate the workplace if you’re more of an introvert. In fact, SEEK’s research shows introverts face greater challenges than extroverts, especially when it comes to networking, interview skills and collaborating. Most introverts (74%) feel their career opportunities are limited by their personality type.

And unfortunately, it can be the case that extroversion gets more attention in the workplace. “We reward extroversion more than introversion,” Read says. “When someone's louder, when their energy is larger and when they take up more physical space as they’re more expressive, people notice them, and they get rewarded.”

But there are ways to highlight your introversion. Read says it can be helpful to talk to your colleagues or manager about how you work at your best.

“Explain that you can tweak and bend and learn to work in other ways but be clear about your most natural way of working. You could say: ‘I work at my best when I'm using these kinds of skills.’”

Maximising your introverted traits at work

Introverts are sometimes pigeon-holed into roles and jobs with less interaction and collaboration, but Read says your skills are likely a great fit for many more roles than you might think. “Beware of boxing yourself into a very neat role or job based on personality,” she says.

If you lean towards introversion, you may still be suited to a career in sales. “One of the greatest skills in selling is listening, which is something introverts are great at,” Read says.

“It’s so important for salespeople to genuinely listen. What is the unmet need your client is expressing? What's the pain point they're trying to solve? How can you help solve that pain point? Then you might go away and write a detailed sales brief based on what you’ve heard.”

The same goes for careers in teaching, coaching and instructing. “Introverts are likely to be good at planning lessons and designing content, as well as listening to students and responding to written communication,” Read says.

It can be harder to sell your skills if you lean towards introversion, but skills like problem solving, listening, researching and an ability to produce clear written communication are in demand in many types of careers. The trick is to concentrate on your skills and find a job to match.

“Playing to your strengths when you’re looking for a job and understanding the skills you have in your back pocket are really powerful and useful,” Read says.

Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published May 2023

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