I decided to write about how to choose the right career as an introvert, because I have stumbled upon one too many “careers for introverts” articles lately that had me going no, no, no, no, no…
I’m just about as introverted as introverts come and probably 9 out of 10 careers typically listed in those articles would not work for me. At all.
How do I know?
Well, I know in hindsight. I chose the wrong career the first time around, so now I know exactly what to look out for.
And what I know particularly well is that choosing the right career as an introvert is about A LOT more than just landing a job working from home or a job where you are mostly left to your own devices within an organization.
I’ve had both of those jobs and I was still miserably unhappy.
So if you are an introvert choosing a career for the very first time or an introvert thinking about a career change, do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes. 🙂 When making your career decision, ask yourself the five questions I wish I had asked sooner.
How To Choose The Right Career As An Introvert: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself
1. What Are Your Other Myers-Briggs Personality Traits?
So I used to have that coveted work-at-home job. I was given the opportunity to work remotely, doing exactly what I used to do in an office. With a great salary, great benefits, great security, and even a fair amount of flexibility. And yes, without the commute and the small-talk interacting that comes with working in an office, I was definitely less stressed. For some time, I would say I was even pretty satisfied. Participating in conference calls dressed in pajamas! Doing the laundry while getting paid! Nobody popping in to my office to say hi!
But ultimately working from home was just a band-aid that covered an infected wound. That job was doomed from the get-go. It was never going to work for me long-term, because while the work-at-home aspect satisfied the introvert in me to an extent, the job as a whole didn’t satisfy the intuitive in me or the feeler in me.
Just like an introvert gets drained from too much extraverting, an intuitive will get drained from doing too many sensing tasks and a feeler will get drained from too many thinking tasks. And vice versa.
Introversion is just ONE personality trait. Your other characteristics matter just as much – if not more. So if you are not sure what your other Myers-Briggs personality traits are, take the time to find out and learn to understand what your whole personality type means in terms of your job satisfaction.
2. Are You A Tribal Introvert Or Are You A Maestro?
Another reason my remote job wasn’t right for me is that it didn’t satisfy me as a “maestro”.
According to Nicholas Lore, author of The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success about 25 percent of the population are “maestros,” while the remaining 75 percent are “tribals”.
Lore describes maestros as “individual workers”. Maestros “tend to understand the world through a unique, personal, and subjective way of thinking… They often recognize at an early age that their perspectives are different from the group’s.”
Tribal personalities, on the other hand, are “group workers, usually most successful and satisfied working with and through other people as members of an organization, group, or ‘tribe’.”
Although I was working from home, I was still a member of an organization working for someone other than myself. This might have been an ideal situation for a tribal introvert, but for a maestro, not so much. Simply working from home wasn’t enough for me. I needed to be working at home for myself.
If you don’t know whether you are maestro or tribal, pick up a copy of The Pathfinder and fill out the questionnaire. As a bonus, you’ll get a number of other questionnaires that will move you light years ahead in finding the right career.
3. How Much Alone Time Do You Need Exactly And Where Is That Time Going To Come From?
When I initially selected a major and a career, I didn’t take my introversion into account at all. If someone had asked me whether I was an introvert or an extravert, I probably would have identified myself as an introvert, but I wouldn’t have seen why it was such a big deal when choosing a career.
I didn’t see it as a big deal, because I had never experienced what it’s like when an introvert is deprived of the opportunity to introvert.
When I was a child, a teenager, a college student, a graduate student… I had ample opportunities to take breaks and to recharge. I could shut the door to my room and be by myself pretty much whenever I wanted.
I could do it so much that I was almost always feeling recharged. Almost always ready for company when a friend would ask.
It didn’t occur to me that this would change when I grew up and got a job.
It didn’t occur to me that after spending three hours a day in a crowded commuter train, eight to ten hours in an office fielding emails and phone calls and coworkers popping in, and evenings and weekends running errands and socializing with family and friends, there would be virtually no time left to recharge.
It didn’t occur to me that when you get a job in a “thinking” field, your mind belongs to someone else eight hours a day.
It didn’t occur to me that having no time to myself could break me. Would break me.
It didn’t occur to me that when an introvert is deprived of sufficient access to her inner world, this can destroy her.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, take my word for it. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have too few opportunities to recharge. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have too few opportunities to let your mind wander.
Or if you don’t want to take my word for it, do an experiment. Deprive yourself of alone time for a few weeks and see how you feel.
4. Do You Plan To Have Kids?
If I really really really wanted to have a job where I interact with people all day long, I could probably do it if I had lots of opportunities to recharge in the evenings and weekends. I could probably do any job if I had the evenings and weekends to myself.
That’s pretty much how I survived my first job out of college. I didn’t love the job and I was initially super stressed trying to combine the job with the same level of socializing I had kept up with in college. But I was eventually given the opportunity to work from home and I learned to make it a priority to have time for myself in the evenings and weekends. I wasn’t super happy, but I wasn’t crying myself to sleep every night either. Following my passions in the off hours made up for the lack of passion I felt for my job. And even though the job drained me, I was able to recharge in my free time.
Until kids happened.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out where this equation is going. You are an introvert. You work full-time at a job that takes more than it gives. You love your kids. You want to be a decent parent. You spend all your evenings and weekends with your kids. Time to recharge=0.
When you consider how stressful or draining of a career situation you are willing to get yourself into, take into account whether you plan to have kids added to the mix. Kids are a gift but they are also an added stressor for you. And they will ultimately be the ones to pay the price for a drained out parent.
5. Are You A Highly Sensitive Person?
Not all introverts are highly sensitive people, but many are. If you are a highly sensitive person (HSP), you have sensory processing sensitivity, meaning that you are more easily overwhelmed or overloaded by sensory stimuli than non-HSPs.
So if your work environment is noisy or smelly or bright or unpredictable, you will get overwhelmed and stressed out quicker than your non-HSP co-workers. Your need for quiet time to recharge is even more crucial to your overall well-being than it is for a non-HSP introvert.
Just another thing to beware. 🙂
If you don’t know whether you are an HSP, you can take a test here.
Don’t Be Afraid To Let Yourself Want It All
Personality isn’t everything. Even if your career is not well matched with your personality, you can still do a good job and you can still be successful. But this success will often come at a price. The more you step outside your natural comfort zone and your inborn talents, the more effort you need to put into it and the more potential there is for stress. And this is fine if you are able to balance a stressful career with lots of downtime to rest and recharge.
On the flip-side, the better your career is matched with your personality and your natural talents, the less effort it will take and the less draining it will be.
Sitting here in my home office, writing this article for you to read, doesn’t drain me. As a matter of fact, it puts my brain in flow and gives me energy. And when my kids get home from school in a bit, I won’t be too tired to skip hop around the living room with them. When my husband gets home from work later tonight, I won’t be too tired to have a conversation with him.
And THAT is why finding the right career as an introvert is important. You want your job to give more than it takes. So you can in turn give to the people you love.
Some people might see all the special requirements I’m imposing in this article as limiting. You are ruling out SO many careers!
But I see it as the opposite.
You are not limiting yourself.
You are weeding out the options that are not right for you, so you can find the ONE career that will meet all of your needs.
You are giving yourself the freedom to want it all.