Self-Promotion for Introverts

Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd

Introverts: Stretch and Get Ahead

Stretch a little. Build your skills and your confidence.

New York was crawling with Madonnas and Madoffs, Blagos and Jackos, and no shortage of Sarah Palins this past weekend. Who were you for Halloween? And who are you on the other 364 days of the year? If you’re an introvert, you probably avoid drawing attention to yourself (although an occasional mask and a costume can be a clever workaround if you enjoy taking on a different persona!). Would you benefit from taking an occasional holiday from your workaday persona?

In the context of work, you probably spend more time immersing yourself in the tasks at hand than creating buzz about what you've accomplished. Sound familiar? If you'd like to advance in your career, chances are you'll need to get some recognition for your good work. Consider the following activities to help you build some essential skills as well as your self-confidence.

  1. Take an improvisation class. As an introvert you prefer to speak only after you’ve thought about what you want to say. So in many work environments your colleagues and bosses will jump in and it will be hard for you to get heard. When you practice the art of improv, you play by different rules. You say whatever comes to your mind first, state the obvious, and bounce off the cues of the other improvisers. Yet nothing you or anyone else says can be wrong, and it’s all in the spirit of having fun. Practicing improv—often through guided exercises—will take you out of your comfort zone. You'll build your confidence at speaking impromptu and you'll learn to trust what will come out of your mouth more than you might have imagined.
  2. Study acting. It’s along the lines of putting on a Halloween mask, except you can do it any day of the year. You may find it rewarding to transform yourself into a character with a whole different set of passions and challenges. Acting is a great way to stretch and try new things. See what insights you can gain when you put back on your civvies.
  3. Join a chorus or choir. Explore what you can do with your voice, learn some beautiful lyrics and music, and even become part of a community with others who sing. The act of singing in harmony can also be an instructive lesson for you as an introvert. You'll learn to sing your part, holding your own amid the sounds that surround you. How can you apply that same idea to getting heard at meetings at work?
  4. Take a dance class. By learning to dance, you’ll become more aware of your posture and movement, which are essential in presenting yourself confidently. As an introvert, you may prefer couples dances because they enable you to interact with one person at a time. If you don’t have a partner ready to go, many dance studios welcome you to enroll solo.
  5. Work with a personal shopper. If you spend most of your time problem solving, researching, and writing, you may get lost in your work and not put much emphasis on your outward appearance. The way you look can affect your career advancement. If you need assistance putting together flattering outfits, start with a personal shopper at a department store. Also consider hiring an image consultant. If money is tight, barter, swap, and bargain shop. There's no excuse not to look like a million.

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I'm sure you can think of other activities to help you stretch and acquire an important career building skill. Pick one you can tackle between now and the holidays.

Did I hear some objections? Did you say that your mind goes blank when you try to think out loud? You don't have a great voice? You're convinced that you have two left feet? I say put one left foot in front of the other, and start heading in the right direction—toward your career goals.

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach, an adjunct instructor at NYU, and the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts (McGraw-Hill).

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