A fruitful, busy career may demand back-to-back meetings with clients, group projects requiring constant communication, and/or public speaking in front of an audience of dozens. As a result, embarking on a typical path to success isn’t ideal for the archetypal introvert who generally prefers to work alone, needs to recharge after a flurry of draining activity, and finds comfort in silence rather than a continual hubbub.
But despite these less-than-ideal situations that are common when developing a career, introverts can still be just as ambitious and efficacious as the more outspoken and outgoing extroverts. How? They can adapt.
According to research cited in Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” (watch the author’s TED Talk here), approximately one-third to one-half of the population identifies mostly with being an introvert. One of them is the impressive Allie Lehman, co-owner of design company The Wonder Jam and premium image library Death to the Stock Photo as well as blogger of Be Up & Doing.
Allie, who proudly identifies as an introvert, also managed to find the time and energy to write an e-book with co-author Claire Deane (you can get 30 percent off with discount code “everygirl”). In “Charge Up,” the two businesswomen celebrate and advise their fellow introverts, and below, Allie offers seven tips for the introverted career woman (which may also be applicable for the extroverted career woman as well!).
1. Bookend Your Days With Self-Care
Allie recommends disregarding identifying as a “morning person” or a “night owl.”
Simply making it a point to wake up earlier than usual to have some alone time can make all the difference. Allie tells us, “Your entire day will feel more like you’re giving and less like someone is taking. I try to schedule time before my busy day starts and again at night, when I’m not drained by anyone’s needs but my own.”
2. Respect the Meeting
Small talk is painful for introverts, and a meeting can be a breeding ground for small talk. As a result, meetings can actually be the least productive part of the workday.
“Avoid this never-ending time for small talk by sending an agenda,” Allie says. “Whether checking in with your business partner, your co-worker, or your boss, encourage everyone to think through what they’d like to discuss.”
Allie structures her meetings so she can get all of the small announcements out of the way at the beginning, ease into discussions, and then collaborate toward the end.
“I find that I’m much chattier as the meeting progresses because I’m able to process things in my head and let loose as we conclude,” she adds.
3. Stay Prepared for All Environments
Ideally, you’d like to work from home—alone. Or, maybe your dream office contains just you and a few select others. But, realistically, that isn’t always the case. So use what you do have to adapt.
“Sometimes you land your dream job, but it’s an open office plan,” Allie says. “Other times, there are people standing at your office door wanting to small talk. Headphones block out sound, and they can signal to your peers that you’re not looking to talk. Use them intentionally, however, because connecting with your clients and peers is crucial.”
4. Know What Drains You
You know yourself best. Identify what is exhausting, and adjust your work schedule to better navigate this stress. For Allie, knowing what drains her helps her either prepare or decline engagements.
“If Thursday looks like you’ll be engaged with people from 9-5, then perhaps booking something in your social/personal calendar isn’t the best,” Allie explains.
She admits that introverts (herself included) tend to cancel last minute if they are feeling tired and overwhelmed. But, she knows that aiming for a successful career also includes maintaining a personal life.
“I like to avoid putting strain on the work/life balance and, in turn, avoiding any type of resentment that could come of it,” Allie says.
5. Stay Involved, Just in a Different Capacity
A successful career usually requires more than heading to the office in the morning and leaving in the late afternoon. There are professional social obligations: employee retreats, large-scale conferences, trade workshops, office parties, and more. Rather than approach each obligation with dread, Allie suggests to volunteer the next time an event is announced.
“I find that I’m much more likely to enjoy an event when I have a job or a purpose,” Allie says. “I often offer my photography services, and it allows me to engage but still stay in control of where I am (or who I’m talking to).”
6. Networking Virtually
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, networking doesn’t need to take place in person. Social media has the power of connecting like-minded individuals with the click of a mouse or the tap of a “Follow”—all without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Allie recommends dedicating some alone time to setting up a blog, engaging on Twitter, or allowing your audience to get to know you via Instagram. Thirty percent of Allie’s business comes from her online activity, which then allows her to schedule coffee dates with people individually.
Know your threshold and practice self-care by pausing. For example, Allie makes it a point to stop and assess her agenda before committing to anything, such as when a client asks for her to send something by the next day, yet she’s also been invited to an event.
“Offer a follow-up within 24 to 48 hours when someone asks something of you,” Allie says. “That slight pause will prevent you from overbooking or extending yourself.”