Graduation Day: Introverts Step Out Into the Real World

Advice for introverts graduating from college.

Posted May 16, 2011

Congratulations graduates. You've crossed the finish line of one phase of life and are setting up at the starting blocks of the next.

In some ways, life after college may be easier for young introverts than college was. The party imperative begins fading as you and your peers start focusing on your next steps. Not that life after college is necessarily less fun (well, maybe sometimes...), but it might be easier to indulge in your own style of fun when you are not mired in an all-peers environment. .

(Caveat: I didn't attend college until I was in my 40s, so I might not know what I'm talking about. In which case, never mind...)

Once you leave college behind, you will never again have to pretend you think a party isn't a party without a beer bong, that the library is for losers, or that a hookup is better than an evening of compelling conversation.

Life is different outside college, and so I would like to provide some words of advice and encouragement to all you introverts clutching diplomas and stepping bravely out into tomorrow.

  • While it may be true that some careers are better suited to an introverted personality than others, introversion is not a barrier to anything you truly want to do. Granted, I'd be pretty miserable as, say, a cruise director or tour-group leader. But if that kind of thing is your dream job, there's no reason why you can't do it, as long as you understand your own personal strengths and weaknesses and learn how to work with them or around them.
  • No particular jobs are ideal for introverts, either. A laboratory can get lonely for an introvert with a tendency to isolate; writing is great, but still you have to sell yourself and promote your product; libraries aren't hushed anymore and require lots of interaction with the public. I don't suggest these jobs aren't good for introverts, just that there is no "perfect" job for an introvert-only a perfect job for you, as an individual. Not only that, but over time, you might find the perfect job is imperfect and decide to try something else. That's OK. Life is a journey. 
  • Being introverted is not a handicap in the job market but being shy can be. Knowing how to turn on your charm, how to look people in the eye and speak confidently, and how to toot your own horn with class are crucial to landing a job and to succeeding. If you didn't develop those skills in school, make that your summer assignment. 
  • One thing you can learn from extroverts, though: Knowing people helps. A healthy network, however you maintain it (online or off), can grease the wheels of success. Figure out who among your college friends you want to stay in touch with and make the effort-even if it means picking up the phone sometimes. At the same time, stay open to new people. And don't always let your friends choose you. 
  • Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to be extroverted to succeed. All that's really necessary for success is a vision, a plan, confidence, and focus. And a lot of hard work. And sometimes some luck.

Welcome to the rest of your life.


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