7 Steps to Smart Onboarding for Introverts

Use your quiet strengths to adapt and grow in your new organization.

Posted Sep 05, 2019

StockUnlimited, used with permission
Source: StockUnlimited, used with permission

Let’s say you’re an introvert who just job landed a job. You’ve made it through the search process, including buffing up your resume and LinkedIn profile, navigating what can feel like the inglorious activity of networking, and putting your best foot forward in job interviews. Tomorrow is Day One of this important next step in your career. How can you adapt to your new organization with aplomb?

Glean techniques for onboarding successfully from my conversation with Jane Finkle, a fellow introvert career coach and author of The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide: From Landing a Job, to Surviving, Thriving, and Moving on Up. Finkle cites a study conducted by Leadership IQ, a global leadership training and research company, that found “46 percent of newly hired employees fail within 18 months, while only 19 percent achieve unequivocal success.”

NA: Why do so many new hires fail?

JF: This might be surprising, but failure isn’t due to lack of experience or a dearth of skills. According to the study, the primary reasons new hires stumble are an inability to manage emotions, a reluctance to accept feedback, and a lack of motivation and initiative.

NA: So how can introverts acclimate effectively to their new organizations?

JF: Introverts can approach their initial month on the job as if it’s a research project. I recommend that they employ their keen observational and listening skills to get their fingers on the company pulse and gain insight into job expectations. They should also come out from behind their computers and initiate friendly conversations with colleagues and leaders to develop rapport.

NA: You created a seven-step plan for a successful first 60 to 90 days at a new organization. Why did you pick that timeframe?

JF: Early on, you want to establish yourself quickly as someone who can solve a problem, tackle a project, or further ideas that will benefit your organization. Just as crucial is to build effective working relationships with senior leaders, colleagues, clients and customers in the first 90 days. You are the rookie, so establish yourself as the up-and-coming star who has the talent and skills to score success for your team.

StockUnlimited, used with permission
Source: StockUnlimited, used with permission

NA: The first, second, and third steps you recommend for effective onboarding are to build relationships with your manager, co-workers, and administrative support staff. What approach do you recommend that taps into one’s strengths as an introvert?

JF: Introverts excel at asking insightful questions that draw people out. Use this innate and valuable quality to build important relationships. When it comes to your tasks, ask your boss: “What would you like me to accomplish in the first quarter?” and “What challenges are you facing, and how can I help?” Introverts tend to be sensitive; expressing empathy and support for the demands of your supervisor’s work helps to build a positive relationship. Equally effective is finding common ground with your co-workers and administrative support staff. I suggest that introverts take just five minutes a day to initiate a friendly conversation with staff about weekend events or mutual interests.

NA: How can introverts effectively go about the fourth step, which is meeting key players in an organization?

JF: Introverts are often less intimidated if they can meet in person. Schedule brief informational meetings with key players. You’ll get to know them more easily in an informal environment while learning about how they fit into the company puzzle and their thoughts about the organization’s future. They can also offer you advice on how to succeed in the organization. This individualized strategy works better than meeting all the unfamiliar faces in a large meeting for the first time.

NA: I’m a fan of your fifth step, to acknowledge others—giving credit where it’s due (as long as you take some for yourself too!). What is one of your favorite techniques for crediting colleagues for their contributions?

JF: Compliment your boss if you were impressed by the way they oversaw a project or handled a conflict. Similarly, let a co-worker know how much you learned from them or were inspired by how they resolved a problem for a difficult client. A supportive spirit can be key to developing positive work relationships. And everyone appreciates being acknowledged.

StockUnlimited, used with permission
Source: StockUnlimited, used with permission

NA: What do you mean by your sixth step, watching your communication?

JF: Introverts often struggle to speak up in meetings, especially as new employees. But you will be judged quickly by your ability to communicate the nature and fabric of your work. Before a meeting, prepare updates on projects or assignments and include a list of ideas, concerns, or probing questions. This takes advantage of an introvert’s natural way of thinking before speaking. And watch how you communicate virtually. Make sure your emails and texts relate only to professional issues – and don’t use them to resolve conflicts. Also, avoid using slang and clichés.

NA: As your seventh and last step, you recommend appraising one’s own performance. That seems like a match for many of us inward-facing folks. How can we use our self-appraisals to our advantage?

JF: Self-reflection is an energy high for introverts! Taking the time, early on, to evaluate your strengths and accomplishments as well as your areas for improvement will help you identify resources to boost your success. Then create an action plan to set your priorities and goals. You might even present your plan to your boss to get buy-in.

NA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JF: As introverts, we are continually urged to be more extroverted. I like to remind introverts that their ability to reflect, listen, observe, and concentrate is equally valuable in the workplace.

NA: Great point, Jane. Thank you for sharing concrete tips for excelling during the first 90 days on the job.

For more from Jane Finkle, check out her interview for Sophia Dembling’s Psychology Today blog, “Strategies for Introverts: Easing Career Pain Points.”

Copyright 2019 © Nancy Ancowitz