I’m often asked, “What are good careers for introverts?”
My answer: Whatever interests them.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that introverts have to choose their life’s work according to this one personality trait. As individuals, we are so much more than introverts and extroverts. I know extroverted writers and introverted salesmen.
I recently bought a car from an introvert. He said that at the end of the day he liked to go home and be quiet. He didn’t want a lot of action. And his introversion probably helped him make the sale. He wasn’t all up in my face, so I felt comfortable and had time to think. I didn’t feel like I had to defend myself against him. That experience helped me when Texas Realtor contacted me to talk about introverted Realtors and their customers—I realized that introverts could do sales, and how important respecting a customer's introversion is.
Actually, research indicates that the best salespeople fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale. Listening is as important as talking in sales (if not more important) and introverts are excellent listeners.
It’s easy to see how introverts become teachers; we are a bookish breed, and analytical. And teaching tends to be a calling. But wouldn’t a job like that, with kids at you all the time, challenge an introvert? When I spoke to a group of introverted teachers, I asked them how they coped. Some said they nabbed quiet time eating lunch at their desks, some took walks to get away from it all. One said that, no kidding, she ate lunch in a closet. That sounds kind of desperate, but I reserve judgment until I see the closet. It might be perfectly nice. As a kid, I used to sit in a large closet and read fairy tales.
The point is, she managed. And so can you.
See, it’s not the job that matters. It’s how we manage our own energy on the job. It’s actively taking responsibility for what we need, and asserting our right, within reason, to get those things. Even if we have to sneak out the back, Jack, now and then.
Introverts aren’t delicate blossoms who tremble in a breeze. We can be plenty spunky when we need to, so there is no dream we can’t chase. Funnyman and introvert Steve Martin, for Pete’s sake. Warren Buffett, moneyman and introvert. Kristen Stewart, movie star and introvert. We just have to know ourselves, and know how to take care of ourselves. In the world. On the job.
Are there jobs I can’t imagine an introvert doing? Cruise director on a ship, maybe. (I will surely hear from introverted cruise directors now.) What else? I can't think of anything.
Not only that, but when you start looking closely at “perfect” jobs for introverts, you see that nothing is perfect. The perfect job for an introvert would be a librarian, right? I recently heard from a research librarian who was having trouble with dealing with people all day, and answering questions. In the real world, many librarians may have to do quite a bit of interacting. Being a park ranger would be a pretty good job for an introvert, unless you work at Yellowstone National Park in the summertime, when there are, literally, traffic jams on park roads.
Writing is also an ideal job for an introvert, except that if you want to actually make a living at it, there’s a whole lot of dog-and-pony show involved as well. Look at Susan Cain, who wrote the blockbuster book on introversion, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking. Her TED talk set the Internet on fire, and she's been ubiquitous in the media. Selling books is part of the writer's job and you have to be out there doing it to succeed.
It’s not that we can’t do that kind of thing, and it’s not like we can avoid it. We have to do it, so we do. And we can do it well.
Obviously, tech jobs are good for introverts who are good at that kind of thing. Engineering, science, accounting—any job that requires a lot of focus in a quiet room. But not everyone is cut out for that sort of work and I hate to think that introverts are limited, or limit themselves, in what they spend their working hours doing just because they believe that there are good and bad jobs for introverts.
The best job for an introvert is the job that calls you. Get the job and then figure out how to succeed in it your way. It's all part of the process of getting to know your own special brand of intoversion, and learning how to work with it.
Look for my book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. And come hang out on my Facebook page. And maybe check out my Tumblr, The Quiet Traveler.
Photo by photologue_np via Flickr (Creative Commons).