Answer by Dushka Zapata, author of How to be Ferociously Happy and Amateur:
I rejoice in the fact you asked this question, because introversion is often regarded as a disadvantage, even a flaw, and nothing could be further from the truth. The world is our (quiet, peaceful) oyster!
First, let's define the term so we're all on the same page: an introvert is a person who re-energizes by being alone.
It's not that we don't like social interaction or that we "don't like people": it's that people deplete us. Even people we love.
Here is a list of some professional advantages that we get just for being who we are:
- Introverts are at their best when they're doing things that don't involve being in the midst of others. Luckily, many professions require solitude to get done. A few examples: Writing. Research. Science. I'm sure you can think of many more.
- Social media has become essential. Social networking tools are, in my opinion, tailor-made for introverts. We build extensive, meaningful connections via Facebook, Twitter, Quora, to name a few. We communicate, modulate our conversations, select what we want to engage in, all without ever being forced to interact with people in person. This might very well be my definition of heaven.
- Introverts are thoughtful. We read and do research and ponder before ever venturing an opinion out loud, which means that when we speak up we tend to know what we are talking about. (This does not in any way imply extroverts aren't thoughtful. But it's true extroverts tend to think out loud. By the time an introvert speaks we've done quite a bit of thinking.)
- We are good listeners. It's not just that we'd rather listen than talk. It's that we operate in a world that accommodates extroverts so we have learned to pay attention to our surroundings in order to make it through the day. We notice things others don't.
- Introverts have an aversion to small talk. This means that our conversations tend to have direction and purpose. They are oriented towards getting an assignment done, since talking for the sake of talking is not the best way to manage our limited ability to interact. (I bet you that Cinderella turning into a pumpkin was a metaphor for her just needing to go home and take off her shoe.)
Here are some ways we can adapt to the requirements not originally intended for introverts:
- We are really, really good networkers. It's true that we don't "work a room", jump at the chance to attend networking events, madly distribute business cards or go to parties. But we network in our own way: We talk to people one on one and get to know them well and understand what motivates them. We remain in touch with those we genuinely like. And many of us are powerful connectors, making critical, relevant introductions. (Probably in part because this gives us a chance to escape and go home early.)
- Introverts can be smashingly creative during a brainstorm, just not one that is taking place in the presence of others. We can sit and listen, then go back to our office, think about things, do some research and send in our contributions, complete with an insightful analysis, a bit later.
- I tell people that my observations on a document will be so much better if they relinquish the document to me. No, I don't want "to be walked through it". Just leave it here and I will soon return it with my input.
I concede there is one thing I'm unlikely to do: attend the office party. Why on Earth should we all have drinks if we just spent the entire week together?