Can Being an Introvert Influence Career Success?

introverts_#6A fascinating book has been springing up everywhere and it has me intrigued.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, is the book and the provocative topic. It’s inspired me to write about the wonderful people we call introverts.

Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert does not simply mean being shy or quiet.

Introversion is better defined as being a person who gains energy from being alone, and whose energy is reduced through interaction with others.

For example, have you ever gone to a party, and after a while, felt like you were worn out from being around so many people for so long? Do you sometimes yearn to get away for some alone time, to “recharge your battery”? Do you dislike “small talk,” preferring instead long, deep conversations? If so, then you may fall somewhere on the introvert scale. You can take this quiz to find out.

So what does this have to do with business? The book goes into detail about how the current business environment in the U.S. values the qualities of extroverts over introverts. Extroverts enjoy socializing, they work well in teams, are more likely to speak up in meetings, and excel in networking. Sounds like a great employee, right?

However, as Cain writes in her book:

I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.

Introverts can feel like they are overlooked in the business world because they aren’t the person volunteering to be a group leader…or the person organizing the office happy hour…or the person always speaking up in meetings. But introverts have great qualities. They are often responsible, independent, studious, good listeners who appear calm and self-contained, they think before they speak, and have a strong ability to concentrate. Introverts have just as much to offer as extroverts!

There have been loads of introverted leaders throughout history. Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Susan B. Anthony, Colin Powell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi… just to name a few.

The point is, while extroverts are highly valued in the American workplace, introverts needn’t be ashamed of the way they are. We need both types of people in this world. So if you are an introvert, know that there is nothing wrong with you! Your traits are just as valid and important as those of your extroverted friends and co-workers. Take comfort in knowing that your introspective nature and tendency to think things through deeply is an asset to your business or company.

So tell me: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21326292@N00/221869824/

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