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Susan Cain

December 6, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Author Susan Cain with Four Tips for Introverts to Stand Out at Work

It can often seem like modern workplaces are designed exclusively for extroverts. Most offices have open floor plans, meetings occur around huge long tables and big ideas are pitched at group brainstorming sessions. So it can be hard for introverts to feel like they can truly thrive at work. Working with a large group of people each day isn’t the ideal environment for introverts, who work best when alone and feel most comfortable when by themselves. But there are several things introverts can do to stand out at work, says the author of The New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain. Here are her tips for how introverts can thrive at work:

1. Find the Right Job

Finding a job that “fits your needs” is the biggest key to career success.If you’re working in a job that doesn’t fit with your personality type – introvert or extrovert – you’re off on the wrong foot from the start. Introverts usually prefer jobs that let them operate fairly autonomously or in a quiet environment – “cerebral” jobs, rather than social ones. Self-confessed introvert and lab assistant Taylor Curly, told The Daily Muse these work best for her, “because I’ve had complex problems to solve. It would not be everyone solving the same problem, it would be each person assigned to a specific problem and then synthesizing the results. Also, jobs where I get time to myself have been very helpful.”

Workplaces that have set roles for each employee are usually better for introverted workers, rather than teams where brainstorming, planning and decision-making is always done together. Teamwork and collaboration are essential parts of almost any job, but as Cain says, “there are teams, and then there are teams.” Find one that suits you.

2. Make Time For Yourself

If you feel more comfortable when by yourself, spending all day in the bubble of an office can be exhausting. So it’s important to find aspects of your job that are introvert-friendly. While it’s impossible to spend all day holed up in your office or glued to your computer, you can structure your day so best suit your needs. For example, don’t schedule back-to-back meetings all day. Try to space them out over the week, advises Cain. Taking regular breaks is also important – “go to the bathroom, step outside, do whatever you can to recharge,” says Cain. Eat your lunch away from your desk, go for an afternoon coffee outside the building.

3. Manage Social Commitments

Some of the most tedious situations for introverts aren’t during the working day – they’re the parties and networking events after hours, says Cain. The key here is not to overcommit yourself with too many social events. It’s better to be selective and in control, than feel overwhelmed and exhausted. And when you’re at events, don’t feel like you have to be a social butterfly and chat to everyone. “You don’t need to work the room,” Cain says. “If I have a good conversation with a few people, I consider that a success.”

4. Don’t be Shy About Your Talents

Don’t view introversion as a hindrance to professional success. It’s actually a hidden strength you should embrace. Introverts actually make better leaders than extroverts because they are good and delegating, according to a Wharton study. And they are “persistent, diligent, and focused on work,” says Cain. “Give them a difficult problem to solve, and they’ll work harder and longer than extroverts.” They also have a creative advantage, because “a crucial part of being creative is being able to go off by yourself and think things through,” she says.

Hope Bordeaux/The Daily Muse