7 Tips for the Introverted Career Woman

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.

7. Pause

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.”

  • What a great article! I identify as an introvert but also a business owner; and sometimes it can be overwhelming. These are great tips! I make it a practice to implement #7 – it really helps!

  • Christina P

    Love this, so many great practical tips! Great to hear the perspective that we can embrace and work with our natural tendencies, instead of thinking we need to act a certain way to be a successful as business professionals
    Charge Up sounds like a great read – unfortunately the discount code didn’t work for me…anyone else have the same issue or is it just me?

    • Allie Lehman

      Hi Christina! Sorry about that. Just fixed it so it should work now!

      • Christina P

        Thanks for the prompt response – just purchased! Looking forward to reading!

  • This was a fantastic article! These are things I struggle with on a daily basis in the work environment

  • Thanks for these tips! I sometimes worry that being an introvert will make it difficult to achieve my career goals, but it’s wonderful to read some tips on adapting and see that it is possible to succeed. Great article.

    • I’m an introvert too and have just done an internship (and taken a job) at a big corporate company with an open office plan so it’s great to see a post like this.

      I do think that introverts shouldn’t necessarily shy away from things just because they’re uncomfortable with small talk and networking and that kind of thing. I’m using my new job as a way to help me become more comfortable in those kinds of situations. It’s really important to know what drains you but I still think it’s really important to make the effort to go out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there! You don’t have to not be an introvert, but getting more confident with being around others can only be a good thing.

      Sam xx
      http://www.smart-twenties.com – how to make the most of your twenties

  • Maria Elena

    This is very interesting! I literally had no idea how introverted I was until I started working in PR. I am slowly learning to adapt so I think this e-book will be a great investment for some new projects I have in mind.

    Thank you so much for another great article The Everygirl!

    Elena
    http://www.ambinityblog.com

    • I’m a fellow PR introvert! I just finished my master’s degree, and my introverted-ness is definitely rearing its head during my job search. Interestingly, the majority of people in my PR master’s program were also extremely introverted. For some reason the field tends to draw people that like working with other people and like being creative, but are also incredibly drained by the process.

      Natalie | Intrusions of Beauty

  • Gabby Munoz

    I love how this article gives tips on how to navigate an extroverted work life rather than showing us ways to avoid it. It’s helpful to know that there’s ways introverts can thrive in an extroverted world. Would appreciate more articles like this in the future. Thank you!

  • These are great tips! I know I consider myself to be an introvert and I’m probably the most guilty of cancelling something at the last minute if I feel like too much is going on. And sometimes, I may just be cancelling something with myself. I’ll have to try to be more purposeful about my schedule in the future.

    -Marisa | http://marisahendrickson.com/

  • Carla Braun Wilson

    I really enjoyed your article. I have to travel for work so I am really focused on being very deliberate with how I schedule my time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Your tips are good reminders to be deliberate. Thanks!

  • Tisha Syabrina

    All points resembles perfectly of what I feel day-to-day in the office. It really helps me to bring out the best in me and still be myself! Thank you so much for this article! And I will definitely buy “Quiet”! 🙂

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  • Why am I just now reading this article? Excellent read. As an introvert in the marketing field I can totally see these tips being helpful.

    http://www.SugarDani.com

  • Stephanie Dawn Elizabeth

    LOVE this so much. I’m an introverted life coach and find all of these tips SUPER useful. Thanks!