Being an introvert shouldn’t feel like a handicap when it comes to your career. You would be surprised at how you can use your introversion to your advantage and build a rewarding career that works for you, not against you. Find out more below.
The older I get, the better I get at speaking up for myself and creating a life that works for me. But it has taken years to reach a point where I feel confident in going against the grain and truly doing things my way. When I boil it down to 1 thing that I’ve found most challenging in this journey, it comes down to me being an introvert amongst what seems like a sea of extroverts.
We live in a world designed for extroverts, yet most don’t know that only about 50% of the population fits into this category. As kids, we’re forced to go to school for 40 hours a week in classrooms with tons of other kids, we’re forced to give speeches in front of these large classes, and constant interaction is simply required. This is the norm but it definitely doesn’t work for everyone.
I don’t know about you, but I personally hated participating in school as a kid. I was pretty quiet, would never speak up on my own, and would dread the times when my teacher would randomly call on me. I really just didn’t like being put on the spot nor the attention being all on me. I also have fond memories of faking sick often in elementary school, literally just so I could get some down time away from the constant social interaction. I would revel in these weekdays where I was “sick” at home sitting on the couch with a comfy blanket and watching my favorite movies by myself — Clueless on repeat, anyone? To me, that was and still is heaven.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was a happy, social kid with a lot of friends. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve had this innate need to recharge my batteries. In fact, when the busy sports seasons would overlap and there were 2 weeks where I had to fit in both soccer and softball practice, vs only 1 sport, I would lose my mind from the overwhelm. Even though it was temporary, I found myself wanting to stay home in order to avoid the constant pressure that simply doing TOO much brings on. I didn’t recognize at the time that I was a through-and-through introvert who needed downtime to recharge, hated to be put on the spot, and struggled with constant stimuli.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully understood this. It became very apparent to me when I was the nervous bridesmaid in my 20s who didn’t want all eyes on her during the brief 15 seconds of walking down the aisle. And when I was the bride myself? Oy vey, that was so intense I actually had to take a Xanax to get me through being the center of attention for that one day!
But where my introversion has really stood out for me is in my work life. When I moved into the workforce, it became clear that frequent large meetings would be required, I’d find myself being asked to “hop on a call” on the spot, or forced to give a dreaded business presentation. YUCK! This is literally the adult version of school catering only to extroverts.
During the better part of the last decade, I decided to push back against this extrovert culture in work. I’ve learned how to let my introversion work for me versus work against me. In fact, my introversion super-sparked my pathway into entrepreneurship. I started freelancing in 2013 so that I could work from home and avoid having to go into a busy office every day. In the beginning, I helped manage business’ social media accounts. This evolved into paid social media advertising, and now, several years later, I specialize exclusively in Facebook ads for introverted Shopify owners with my Facebook ads agency, Tintle Digital Marketing. If it weren’t for me turning inward and building my career around my introversion versus trying to fit into an extroverted business world, I would not be here where I am at today: I’m more productive, happier, healthier, do a better job, and now make more money per month than I did my first whole year working as a freelancer. The best part? I’m able to do this all while working between 20–30 hours per week and not overstretching myself like it’s expected in the fast-paced business world.
This didn’t happen overnight and I’ve encountered plenty of pushback over the years, but it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. If you’re a fellow introvert looking to use your introversion to your advantage in your work life, read on to discover the 5 key things I’ve focused on while developing my introvert-focused career.
1. Have confidence to communicate your way
You don’t need to conform to the expectation of regular business calls. I’ll say it: they’re NOT necessary. Like at all. I personally don’t “do” business calls ever because I get anxious and don’t like to be put on the spot, just like many introverts. I even built a business that does not rely on them nor does it need them to function properly. In fact, it is better off without them since we need a paper trail with our clients.
Thankfully, we live in a modern world where text communication actually rules, whether that’s via text messages, email, Facebook messenger and more. There’s literally no reason not to skip calls and only use text/written forms of communication. During the pandemic, everyone has become obsessed with zoom calls and I’m over here like…
If calls exhaust you too, you should know that you likely can make this shift too. It will free up time, lessen anxiety and give you more space and energy to do what you do best. Don’t let it drain you like it drained me for years. Give yourself permission to communicate in a way that is comfortable for you and allows you to express yourself in the way that is best for you.
2. It’s OK to speak less and think more
Most introverts will spend more time considering their reply internally before speaking. We can be quiet, we’re thoughtful and careful about the words we use. Sometimes it takes us time to formulate ideas but there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you’re an introvert too, try to avoid putting yourself in situations where you’re forced to rush decisions or that require a quick response. Be deliberate and realistic about deadlines. There’s nothing wrong with needing a full day to reply to someone.
Also, don’t feel like you need to reply back immediately upon receiving a message. We live in a world with people glued to Slack and Facebook messenger and we’re expected to be online 24/7 to respond immediately, often not providing enough time to to truly think through a response. While the online-only technology that is accessible at all hours is amazing, you must be careful! Make sure that you protect your time and your sanity. Resist the pressure to respond immediately and establish boundaries so you can reply in a reasonable time frame that allows you to thoughtfully think about your response.
3. Allow yourself to charge your batteries
Introverts tend to get drained by a lot of social interaction and being overworked. It’s not that we don’t like to be social or to be productive workers, but we tend to focus more inward, are self-reflective and require a healthy balance in our lives. We value our alone or down time and even crave it. That means that we have an innate desire, some might say a need, to recharge our batteries often.
4. Choose your work environment carefully
This doesn’t typically mean a noisy office space. Introverts tend to like working from the comfort of their home and there has been a huge shift to this type of work environment as a result of the 2020 pandemic. More businesses are offering remote options, and while the pandemic has been so difficult in so many ways for all of us, this has been a huge win for introverted homebodies. Quiet, distraction-free spaces with fewer people allow us to concentrate, focus better, be more productive, and give our full attention to our work. If we’re drained by people and social situations, it doesn’t always make sense for us to work in a busy place because that can take a toll on how much we’re able to do. Personally, I found that my productivity and ability to focus completely skyrocketed when I started working from home; I get substantially more done in 30 hours at home than I did in 40+ hours in a busy office environment.
5. Make work life compatible with your personal life
It’s impossible for your work life not to bleed into your personal life; it’s an inevitable reality. I first noticed this when I would get completely drained working at a busy startup in San Francisco. This happened so much that I would rarely want to leave my apartment on weeknights and weekends because I needed some of that precious down time we introverts crave. But you don’t have to fake being an extrovert in your work life to try to fit into the extroverted business culture; it’s possible to be an introvert 24/7 and not just on the nights and weekends. In fact, you should work your introversion into your business life and give yourself permission to recharge your batteries when you need to!
Ever since leaning into my introversion in my work life, this has created much less stress in my life as a whole. Now that I work from home and don’t feel drained from people during the day, I can venture into the world on my own terms. That means I do sometimes go out on weekday nights and weekends. Prior to this, I felt like I was rarely social outside of work and that my job was hijacking my social life. Even though I’m an introvert, I still like to be social with friends! This incompatible work life really made me struggle personally. To be honest, I still don’t go out a lot, but working from home actually allows me to be fully recharged for those opportunities when I actually want to be social with friends or family.
You too can design an introverts dream career
We live in a business world built by mostly louder extroverts who tend to stand out more. There’s nothing wrong with extroversion, but unfortunately many introverts have felt they have no choice but to conform in ways that just don’t work for them, ultimately making them work harder. It’s like swimming with an anvil attached to your ankle; it’s 1000x more challenging! I’ve been fighting against this expectation for years but have finally built a successful career that really allows me to flourish as a result of leaning into my introversion. Imagine if you too built a career that focused on embracing your introversion so that you can do your best work and are both happier and healthier. Seriously, you do you! Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole and expect to keep your peace or to produce your best work. Build your career around your introversion and you’ll start thriving.
Camille Tintle is the founder and owner of Tintle Digital Marketing, a Facebook advertising agency for ecommerce stores. She’s been managing Facebook ads for over 7 years, is Expert Vetted on Upwork, and has brought in over $30 million in revenue for clients in North America. As an introvert to the core, Camille has found great satisfaction in working from home; she loves running her own business, loathes phone calls, and rejects the live-to-work mentality. On her time off, you can find Camille spending time with her family, cooking a tasty keto recipe, or bingeing the latest Netflix show. She lives outside of Sacramento, California with her husband and two fur babies.