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Myths about Introverts. Dispelled.

A fun story about introverts with a surprising ending.

One of my old colleagues, an executive recruiter from my days on Wall Street, calls to touch base. We talk about her business and the job market. I tell her about my new book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead. And then the fun begins.

“Congratulations,” she says. “But none of the candidates I place need your book.” “Oh, really?” I reply. “Yeah, none of them are introverts. Candidates have to be polished to get the senior jobs—and all the more so in this dismal job market,” she says. “An introvert might have the brains,” she continues, “but doesn’t know how to talk to people.” I ask how she defines introverts and she stops short of saying loners and losers, but it’s clear she’s talking about back-office dwellers who shouldn’t be seen or heard—definitely maladroit nerds!

“I’m an introvert,” I tell her, cheerfully. We go a few rounds of “No” and “Yeah” and she tries to reassure me that my people skills are actually fine. When she realizes I’m not kidding about being an introvert, she sings a colorful: “Yeaaaah?” I respond: “Actually, I took the MBTI® [Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality assessment] early in my career and learned that I was an introvert.”

The executive recruiter clacks at her keyboard. Her first stop: Wikipedia, and she reads me snippets as if they’re coming across a teletype in Times Square: “‘More reserved … Not necessarily loners,’” she says. “Hmmm. ‘Smaller circles of friends,’ Ah. ‘Introverts are less likely to seek stimulation from others because their own thoughts and imagination are satisfactory.’” “Bingo,” I say. She continues in a quick murmur: “‘Introversion and extroversion were first popularized by Carl Jung.’”

I ask her to Google an article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic, one of my all-time favorites, which beautifully captures the spirit of an introvert. She skims the article and declares more of her discoveries: “‘needs hours alone every day’” and “‘has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate.’” And then she continues quoting Rauch in an increasingly exuberant crescendo: “‘Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic.’”

My executive recruiter buddy is quiet for a moment. She’s a news junky with deep knowledge of the financial markets. She runs her own successful recruiting firm, which she built based on longstanding relationships with clients in the right places. In her private life, she spends most weekends alone—reading. “Ohmigod!” she exclaims suddenly, “I’m an introvert!”


Excerpted from: Nancy Ancowitz, "Self-Promotion for Introverts®: Get Heard More. Even If You Talk Less," ChangeThis, October 2009, pp. 3-4.

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