Your Professional Field Guide to be a Introvert Rockstar-Part Two
If you missed part-one to this article you can catch up here.
The first thing to notice is that more than likely, you had some X’s in both columns. While the Meyers-Briggs folks believe you are either one or the other personality type, I’m in the camp that says you are “mostly” one or the other. That means that you aren’t always consistently behaving as an introvert. You may have moments when you are a bit more “E” and visa versa.
There is also, a vital but little-known aspect to our personalities and that is: versatility. It turns out that as we travel through life situations, we learn that we must adapt to the situation in order for it to produce the best results. We aren’t always aware we are adapting. When you adapt enough to various situations, it becomes fairly automatic. As an introvert, we learn where we can be more chatty or demonstrative without sucking up all of our battery life in certain situations like being with our family.
Which means that both the “E” and “I” do adapt and the ones that adapt the best, the most frequent and soonest, will be the most successful in life and work. You can probably think of those people whose personality is rigid and you know these are the people having the greatest difficulty and are usually seriously unhappy.
Take heart if you are one of those rigid people! (Or even slow to learn to adapt) Adapting is a learned skill. For some people who are particularly self-aware, they pick up adaptation skills very naturally. For the rest of us, we can learn to adapt. What you may have thought was the domain of some very lucky people is now yours, should you choose to do so.
I’m going to really dive deep into adaptations but first, it’s important to dispel some introvert myths.
When it comes to our personality type, there are a lot of notions attached to it that aren’t entirely correct. What I’m speaking of is when you hear about any of the following:
- Dislikes people
If you take Webster’s definition of Introvert, those things are certainly characteristics you could include.
- Reserved and shy
- Turn in upon itself: marked by being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life
- Bashful, coy, demure, modest demure, diffident, retiring, sheepish
When people speak broadly about Introverts that include shy and antisocial, they aren’t entirely correct. There are other things going on with a person other than their personality. Usually a shy person suffers from social anxiety and may be systemic to being Anti-Social. So, yes, you could attach those elements to the word Introvert but not to the personality of Introvert. This may be a bit of a fine distinction but I think it is a distinction worth noting.
The reason for pointing this out is because your personality is a given just like your eye color. Social anxiety is developed for a variety of reasons and is something that can be reduced with focus and professional help. You can’t change your personality but like social anxiety, if you have problems with your behavior that is driven by your personality, can make some adaptations or changes to improve your situation. In other words, both issues of Social Anxiety and Introvert personality have solutions but are different.
There is many other mental health diagnosis that have these characteristics. I think that like many things, when you start seeing the more extreme examples of behavior, you aren’t talking about a personality as much as you’re talking about a disorder.
My point in this is that some people mistakenly think if you are an Introvert that it’s a problem or something that needs to be fixed. If it’s your personality you need to appreciate there is nothing wrong with you. If you are suffering with social anxiety and it’s impacting your life you may want a professional to help you. It’s interesting, if not slightly unfortunate that no other MBTI personality seems to have the baggage associated with it like Introverts do. Oh well.
Another myth that really bothers me, especially as a Career Coach is the idea that Introverts can’t perform in some professional occupations. Granted, there are some occupations that they may be more drawn to but at this point, I’ve seen highly successful Introverts in all occupations. I’ve seen Introverts as managers, leaders, sales persons, actors, teachers, doctors, and police. We have an array of Introverts who are captains of industry like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Obama, who is at the highest post politically in the US, is also an Introvert. There is simply no merit to the myth that we can’t be successful in all jobs because it’s just not true.
To summarize, there is no right or wrong when it comes to personality type and certainly there is nothing wrong with being an Introvert. Unfortunately, the word introvert itself does seem to have “problems” associated with it and I guess that is our burden to bear.
Change for the sake of change is pointless. Change to improve your life (and your career is part of your life) is vital.
Previously, I mentioned that you can learn to adapt and learn the skill of adapting in order to create the best possible outcome. Where do you start?
The best place to start is by looking at your own career goals against your current situation. If your current situation is problematic then you have things to change, even if your issues aren’t all that big. Small issues tend to get bigger as time goes by and it is very easy to try to ignore those smaller issues until you wake up one day and you’ve got a huge career mess on your hands.
While you do apply classic problem solving to your issues, the trouble I sometimes see is people solving symptoms of problems, not problems. It’s like taking cold medicine for pneumonia. It might help with the symptoms but it will do nothing for eliminating the pneumonia from your body. When you solve the symptom, you fail to solve the problem. You could also make your situation worse when your actions really aren’t focused on the correct fix. I see this same problem with solving business issues. Failure to get down to a root cause of a problem is fairly common. The reason it happens more in our careers is because the emotional component of it doesn’t exactly cause a person to think all that clearly.
Let me give you an example.
I had a former client return to me a few years after helping her land what she thought was a dream job. She wanted me to help her again with a job search and since I had helped her land the job she was leaving, I wanted to do a diagnostic of her situation. I found out that she had a history of going into a job, doing an outstanding job but was seriously underappreciated for her accomplishments. Her relationship with her bosses had consistent themes of poor communications, other people getting credit and her leaving feeling unrecognized and under-supported.
Her assessment was that her industry was full of flaky management and that she needed to do a complete career switch. This was a huge undertaking as her career skills was directly linked to her industry. She was a specialist and moving into another industry and career would mean retooling. She was addressing the symptom.
My assessment was that like so many introverts, she was falling short in areas that others around her had mastered. Namely she had the following real problems fairly common to introverts:
- She was not self-promoting and helping management to utilize her extensive skills. As a result, they failed to recognize her for both her skills and results.
- She wasn’t reading the political landscape, in fact avoiding it, which is always a perilous thing to do. You can’t avoid the dynamics that occur anytime you get a group of people together. Politics happens both negative and positive. If you don’t understand the politics, you will pull a big career-limiting move. It’s not a question of IF it happens; it is simply a matter of when and how big will the political blunder be. In her case, it was fairly big.
- She had great relationships with the people who worked for her but had no relationships with her peers, management or executives. In fact, she grew to feel contempt for those above and at her level. She had no support structure and it was apparent almost no one was in her corner. Relationships are vital for almost every aspect of your career and the fact that her career was in trouble was due in a large part to this missing element.
The problem I had with her proposed direction is that she would repeat her history no matter where she pursued a job, if she didn’t take steps to change how she managed herself in the job. To make it worse, she would potentially spend time and money that wouldn’t lead to a solution. She would simply have the same bad results in a new career and new industry. I did agree that she should start fresh elsewhere but do it with a new strategy and a few changes to her own behavior.
The great thing about starting a new job is that you can change your behavior and have completely different results. BUT, you have to be changing the right behavior or adapting new behavior that will produce a better result.
Come back on Monday as we continue our discussion and we take a look at “Adapting Behaviors” and how they relate to our moving ahead in our careers. I look forward to our visit!
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