Career Advice for Introverts

 Career Advice for Introverts

Would you say you’re an introvert? Would you say you’re understood? We’ve outlined some career advice specifically for introverts.

Although introversion definitely has its pros, it can also come with many challenges. These days in many situations, we see that primarily extrovert behaviours are being rewarded, such as the ability to quickly build rapport with multiple people during a networking session, expressing your emotions openly or attending many social events at work.

The ways in which introverts do all the above things is simply slightly different, not always something that is expected or considered the best way of doing things.

Below we will look into some most frequently mentioned struggles that expat introverts may face after moving to a new country, how they can try to overcome them and how employers can contribute too.

Networking events

Many introverts may find frequent social events physically tiring, especially if they are bigger networking gatherings. Very often in the working environment, especially in countries like UK or the US, networking sessions which are open to anyone are something you can’t miss out on if you want to build your personal brand or business. They are also usually easier to organise than a theme-guided meetup which limits the number of people who might be interested in attending.

The same might also be true for many internal initiatives that employers launch to help their assignees feel more welcome and adapt quickly.

While it might be a great way to connect extroverts to the local community, it’s not necessarily the case for more introverted colleagues. Introverted colleagues might only go to one or two of those big events. If the expectation is to meet many people in a quick period of time, they might potentially fail or avoid the situation all together.

Why is that?

One of the characteristics of introversion is that too frequent social events are tiring. Introverts might require a proportionate amount of time to recharge their batteries afterwards. That applies even if they spend time with a group of friends and in a voluntary situation. When it comes to professional connectivity events, this might pose more pressure to be at your best, and will require some more time to recharge. Another reason could be that an introvert would have a harder time knowing how to approach people at a networking event. This type of social environment is more unnatural than most, and so could feel like an ever bigger challenge to those who find social situations hard. One might therefore notice that introverts can be picky about the events they are attending. And they should not be penalised for that.

Career advice for introverts:

Although networking requires a significant of energy from you, it is wise to go to as many as possible. Seize opportunities to establish yourself in the local community. Equally though, if you reeeeally feel like you have had enough and your energy levels are depleted, take time to recharge. This way, you’ll avoid refusing to attend everything under the argument of ‘not having the mental energy’ to go.

Tips for employers:

Acknowledge that big, generic networking events might not be the best way for some people to connect and build relationships. You will find that introverts have a tendency to speak to people for longer during such events, rather than frequently change conversation partners to speak to as many people as possible. This likely doesn’t mean that they are unsociable. You might try to create smaller interest groups or themed events instead. They might enable those who want to attend them to build slightly deeper connections.

Dealing with logistics and asking for help

The anxious introvert might struggle with asking others for help in managing their moving logistics. As we all know, moving to another country requires a lot of paperwork, setting yourself up legally in a given country, opening a local bank account, finding a place to live etc.

Of course, one can do it all by themselves, but the sheer amount of things to do can be quite a daunting prospect. One of the most widely quoted benefits of moving abroad is the opportunity to go out of your comfort zone. Well, it can be twice as hard for someone who is a bit more anxious.

Career advice for introverts:

It is true that it might be less stressful and interactive to just spend hours on the Internet and try to figure things out for yourself. But think about it this way – instead of sitting by your laptop all day for the first week, you might be killing two birds on one stone through solving your problems together with other people. It’s a great time to make connections, ask people about their favourite places. You can learn more about them and see what they like during such a conversation. The topic for the conversation is already there! And another advantage is that you don’t have to do this in a big group, but can reach out to people individually.

Tips for employers:

You might encounter at least two different types of employees who will be relocating from abroad. One would take things as they are, rely on others’ opinions and recommendations as well as their advice. The other one might need some more guidance, especially if they don’t have any friends in the new location. To help them out, you might consider creating some sort of internal website or presentation which would outline the key things they need to think about when arriving to this new country. You could also include various recommendations for restaurants nearby, good deals and contacts who can help them with different questions. That way you are reducing the anxiety related to the move.

Opening up about your feelings

The fact that introverts have the tendency to express less emotion to the outside world, does not mean that they don’t have any. In fact, because of the general preference for directing emotions and thoughts inwards, their emotional life can actually be quite rich and the self-awareness may be higher.

It’s worth noting that in some countries, this kind of behaviour may be more valued. That would be in cultures which are generally classed as neutral or non-expressive. These countries include some of Confucian Asia or Nordic Europe. In these countries the emphasis is on more non-emotional communication and not sharing feelings as openly.

In others which are more expressive, introverts might need to adjust their behaviour slightly to enable a successful adaptation. Practice makes perfect! In regions such as US or Latin America, you can expect the tendency to be more expressive and share your emotions more openly.

Career advice for introverts:

Try to observe how open people generally are about their emotions. There is a thin line in some places between sharing and oversharing. By observing what personal topics or struggles people discuss at work, you will quickly be able to see how to build positive, open relationships with others. Sometimes there might be a blocker in a form of “I don’t want to overload them with my problems”. In reality, being honest about what’s going on with any personal struggles can help your team members react to your situation adequately. This could save colleagues from thinking you don’t care about your work if something big is going on that is stopping you from working to your full capacity. If you are struggling – you should ask for help.

Tips for employers:

Be aware that people who work with you might have different levels of emotional expressiveness. That awareness will be a great first step to help you be more vigilant. It’ll be easier to notice if there is anything worrying happening with the employee which you should address. Don’t over interpret either, but observe regularly.

What other struggles do you think are particularly characteristic for introverts? How would you deal with them?

This article was originally published on Project Abroad blog.

About the author:

Marta is a psychologist by education, HR professional by employment and an expat by choice, currently based in London, UK. She is combining her psychological, business and intercultural experiences to offer advice on successful living and working across cultures. You can read more about how to grow your cultural intelligence and build a successful international career, mind and life on her blog Project Abroad.

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