Being shy and being introverted aren't the same thing. An introvert enjoys time alone and gets emotionally drained after spending a lot of time with others. A shy person doesn't necessarily want to be alone, but is afraid to interact with others. According to Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," "Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over stimulating."
Cain asserts that our culture is biased against introverts. They are encouraged to act like extroverts—those assertive, outgoing types that love teamwork, brainstorming, networking and thinking out loud—instead of embracing their serious, often quiet and reflective style. This leads to a "colossal waste of talent, energy and happiness" of the group that makes up nearly 50 percent of the population.
Introverts have many avenues to professional success in a culture biased against them.
So what's an introvert to do? Plenty. Several jobs that have been cited as a great fit for an introvert, yet we list them with a caution. At some point an introvert will need to engage with others in their work environment and/or the public. Introverts: We recommend finding a job that fits your passion, and then search for the circumstances that allow you to work at your passion—alone and/or in a minimally stimulating environment. Here are some careers to consider: animal care and service workers, machine repair, social media manager, archivist, astronomer, court reporter, film/video editor, financial clerk, geoscientist, industrial machine repair, blogger, truck driver, artist, photographer, on air personality (radio DJ), Internet technology or computer programming, night cleaning person/janitor, night watchman, lab worker or researcher, trade occupations like landscaping, pathologist, engineer, statistician, actuary, accountant, stock broker and bookkeeper.
As a staffing company, we interview introverts and extroverts every day. An extrovert interviewing an extrovert is a sight to see. They practically levitate the conference table, may talk for hours, then go have dinner afterward. An introvert interviewing an introvert is also an interesting combination. Imagine a short interview, with little interaction, clear and concise focused questions (and answers and a sense of relief from both parties when it is over!) But seriously folks, we have learned by experience not to pigeonhole people. In the interview process, introverts demonstrate skills needed by any company, including concentration and focus. Like anything else, introverts needs to "sell what comes with you."
Employers, don't count introverts out of the interview selection and ensure that your system includes everyone and an opportunity for engagement. In fact, there are some interesting studies that suggest introvert versus extrovert may be determine by genetic factors and therefore an interview question that overtly asks "Are you an introvert or an extrovert?" may be discriminatory. Put that question on your "do not ask" list.
As a company, I have been told that diversity is one of our strengths. We have several introvert employees - and we are in the people business - who successfully interact with job candidates, employees and client companies on a daily basis. Introverts are great listeners. How will you best engage the quiet power of your 50 percent?
Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today's workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied's division directors, contributed to this article.
Read the full article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.