Starting a new job is always a mixture of excitement and nerves, but meeting new people can be even more daunting if you’re an introvert. The energy needed to keep up the networking while getting up to speed with a new role can soon take its toll if you dive in without preparing. A self-confessed introvert, leadership coach, author, and speaker, Debra Bell-Campbell shares her tips for introverts starting a new job, from getting through the first day to looking at your long-term future in the company.
What is an introvert?
Being an introvert isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. According to research carried out by Myers-Briggs, around 56% of the US population consider themselves to be introverted. Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy, quiet, or a loner, as some believe. It’s about how you draw your energy and whether that’s from within yourself (introverted), or from the people around you (extroverted).
Bell-Campbell says, “Introversion really got a bad name. People tend to associate it with being timid and being awkward, anti-social even. People who are a little quieter in their demeanor learn how to just blend in or hang out in the background.” She adds, “I would describe an introvert as someone who is more reflective rather than wildly outgoing. Essentially, we think a lot more than we talk. It’s all about how you put your energy out into the world.”
Workplace challenges for introverts
Naturally, as an introvert in a new job, any kind of large group situation can be challenging, but Bell-Campbell says that inclusion is the biggest challenge in her opinion. Introverts can often be passed over for opportunities because they aren’t the first to speak up or shout about how much they want it. They may have great ideas, but if they aren’t comfortable popping them off the top of their head in a meeting, they may never come to light. Leadership potential can also be overlooked, even though they might be great with people.
Being quieter means that sometimes the excitement of starting a new job can become overwhelming and turn into anxiety.
Advantages of being an introvert
It’s not all challenges and difficulties though, says Bell-Campbell. There are a number of areas where introverts excel—listening skills and strategic planning, for example. Introverts are able to take large sums of information and organize it, a great asset in leadership roles. They also tend to be good at researching, so they excel in any kind of analyst role and anything that requires deep thinking.
How to prepare for a new job as an introvert
1. Manage excitement
Don’t let that excitement turn into paralyzing nerves. Bell-Campbell recommends introverts ask questions in the run-up to their first day to help them remain calm, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you are clear on the roles and what it is that you’ll be expected to do.” You’ll have done this throughout the recruitment process, but it doesn’t hurt to clarify. Group your questions together to avoid pestering or becoming an annoyance.
2. Prepare in advance
Preparing for your new job in advance will also help to manage your nerves. Bell-Campbell suggests that, as you would for any role, you research the company a little in advance and, “find out who are the movers and the shakers.” Preparing for a new job also means sorting out all the practical stuff the night before like what you’re going to wear, how you’re going to get there etc.
According to Bell-Campbell introverts are natural observes, so she recommends a few tips for introverts preparing to meet new people:
- Rehearse how you’re going to introduce yourself, it doesn’t need to be a full elevator pitch, though you could use that as a guide. Just a couple of lines about who you are and what’s brought you to the role. If you can, find someone to practice role-playing it with you, so you feel completely ready.
- Remember that on your first day, you’re teaching people how to treat you, displaying your talents and qualities, creating boundaries, and showing them who you are. You want to present your best self, so Bell-Campbell says it’s important to be authentic. “None of the fake stuff like fake laughter,” she warns. Putting on a fake front can make you overwhelmed and zapped of energy by the end of the day. “So manage your energy and network appropriately.”
3. Leverage your strengths
Introverts may not enjoy a whole crowd of people at once, but Bell-Campbell explains that they excel at one-to-one connections, “We really like to build these deep connections one-on-one with someone, so to get started in something new, find those people. Find the people you can connect with and just start building those interactions so you can develop those relationships with your new colleagues and supervisors.”
4. Be patient with yourself
Everyone feels the need to hit the ground running in a new job, especially in a management role. There’s pressure to ensure everything is going smoothly and perfectly. However, Bell-Campbell reminds us, “It’s OK to take a moment. Give yourself permission to exhale a little bit. Step back and take a moment if you feel overwhelmed. You don’t have to tell everyone unless you want to,” she explains. If you do need a minute to yourself, Bell-Campbell recommends saying something like, “‘You know, I need about 5 minutes.’ Go in your office, calm down, and get yourself in a place where you know you can feel refreshed.”
5. Open up to your manager
A frank conversation with your manager can help to get things off to a good start in your new job, but Bell-Campbell warns you shouldn’t talk about being introverted as a negative thing: “Keep it positive. If you frame introversion as a deficit people will be expecting you to have a problem with things. If you come at it from the positive light and highlight the skills of it all, it’s viewed a bit differently.”
She gives an example of ensuring you get to make your point in meetings and have that crucial time in advance to think things over that many introverts value. Here’s what Bell-Campbell suggests saying: “I have amazing ideas about a variety of things and I’m excited to be here. Is there any way that when we’re having a meeting or there’s a new project assignment, we can discuss things beforehand, or you can give me an outline? I like to be able to get a head start and research things before so that when we come to the meeting/presentation I’ll be able to have some valuable input to the project.”
Another tip for introverts, Bell-Campbell suggests you might want to discuss career progression with your manager as you settle in. Let them know your expectations, and what you want to achieve. How do you want to learn and grow? Ask about opportunities, to be connected with the people who can help you get there, find out how you can overcome any challenges, and don’t let yourself be overlooked because you aren’t the first person shouting about it. It’s not about special treatment, it’s about being authentically yourself and working on your personal challenges.
Remember managers have to learn to work effectively with different personality types, so by letting them know your wants, needs, and aspirations, you’re helping them do their job well.
6. Establish good self-care routines
It may be a cliché but unless you take proper care of yourself in your new job, you risk failing, floundering, and even burning out. Good nutrition and good quality, sufficient sleep are the basics. Then it’s about finding what makes you calm and happy.
Bell-Campbell likes to walk. “Just 10 minutes of walking releases those good hormones, and you get to release some of that anxiety or anxiousness you may have felt in the day. I like to walk in the mornings because it will get me started for the day, but also if I’ve had a particularly long or busy day, I like to walk in the evenings as well.” When you’re the newbie, every day is a long and busy day so find what works for you: Is it the gym? Music? Meditation? Journaling?
7. Keep track of the small wins
Keeping track of all the little successes will help build your confidence and keep you going through the tougher stuff in your new job.
Looking to the future
Being an introvert may come with its challenges in the workplace, but so does every personality type. Remember you were offered the role, so you’re qualified, and the company thinks you’re a good fit. Bell-Campbell says, “Stop looking at the things that you do as negatives. There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it and really continue to build that confidence, so you’ll have the courage to do hard things, you just have to choose your hard. Being quiet and not speaking up is hard, it has its consequences, but also speaking up and saying the things that you want, that’s hard too. So you have to choose: What do you prefer? What do you want? Where do you want your life to go?”
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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