by Mikalee Byerman
NCET helps you explore business and technology
For most of my professional life, I was in the closet.
Metaphorically, of course. Though truth be told, I would have been happier in a *literal* closet. You see, in the closet, it’s quiet; and in quiet is where I recharge. But instead, I was at every work conference, networking event and team meeting, and I was thoroughly exhausting myself — and not doing my best work.
I was a closeted introvert. And I’m willing to bet many of you are, too. In fact, according to recent studies, the ratio of introverts to extroverts is roughly 50:50. Hard to believe? I mean, how can half the people you work with — those who are fun, engaging, in leadership roles and can rock a presentation — possibly be introverted?
Because the constructs of introversion and extroversion have little to do with how socially adept we are, and everything to do with how we accomplish work and recharge. At our simplest:
- Introverts recharge in private, and best ideas often come from internal thoughts.
- Extroverts get energy through social situations, and inspiration often comes from interaction.
But think of what’s sexy in today’s office environments: open floorplans, constant collaboration, forced interactions like “team bonding” retreats. In other words, the stuff of extroversion.
Introverts can pretend. They can work in environments with long tables and laptops, attend conferences and perform trust falls. But what they’re likely NOT doing is their best work, because they’re spending so much time performing in a way that is counterintuitive to how they’re genetically wired.
If you’re an introvert — closeted or otherwise — you’ll do better work if you heed your personality. But if you find yourself in extroverted environments, consider a few of these guerilla tips for success:
- Map your escape route: If you’re in the midst of a networking event or conference, you’ll likely only need a few solo minutes to quickly recharge. I’m serious when I suggest that even a bathroom can serve as a brief sanctuary. Fingers crossed it’s — ahem — quiet, and that someone doesn’t follow you in to chat the entire time.
- Schedule downtime around presentations: If you know you’ll be speaking, take time off (even a few hours) afterward, and try to minimize social obligations for a few evenings.
- Speak up about your genetics: If fluorescent lights gave you migraines, you wouldn’t hesitate alerting your employer, who would likely then make simple adjustments to ensure your well-being. Consider your introversion in a similar light, and begin a conversation about what that means about how you optimally work. Emphasize that simple tweaks can mean greater productivity.
Learn more about how introverts and extroverts can work together harmoniously at NCET’s Biz Bite luncheon, “The Introvert Revolution,” on Oct. 25. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit that produces networking events to help people explore business and technology. Register for the event and get more info at www.NCETbite.org.
Mikalee Byerman is a loud-and-proud introvert, VP of Strategy at the Estipona Group (www.estiponagroup.com) and author of the book 100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die.