The value of the more soft-spoken members of the C-suite is becoming widely recognized and – based on the results these leaders have quietly achieved – it’s fair to say that it’s about time. However, without years of past effectiveness to point to, introverts who are new on the job need to prove their value. We’ve spoken to a number of self-identified introverts to find out how they have capitalized on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses in order to show their new employers just how valuable they can be.
Learn as much as you can
“A first job is a learning experience, and I’ve taken full advantage of that fact – my tendency to listen more than I talk has allowed me to constantly learn and continually improve.” – Nick Taylor, McGill University, ALDO Group
When you start your first job, you are not expected to know everything, but you are expected to learn. Use the introverted tendency to be an observer to your advantage and absorb as much information as possible – particularly in your first month. Later on, use all of your new-found knowledge to make informed and productive contributions to discussions and your new company as a whole.
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Don’t be afraid to say 'I'
“When you are the ‘quiet one’ in a group, your contributions can be overlooked, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there – it just means that sometimes you need to be the one to point them out.” – Bessie Cheng, York University, Cahoots Theatre Company
When working as a part of a team, introverts and their hard work tend to get lost in the noise. Although acknowledging the value of your team members is important, it is equally important to take pride in your achievements and to not shy away from credit. Rather than seeming obnoxious, the introvert who remembers to say ‘I’ now and then clarifies not only their role on the team, but their value to their employer.
Embrace one-on-one interactions
“I tend to start small in terms of workplace interactions – I get to know my colleagues individually, rather than trying to get myself noticed in a group setting.” – Sophia Drozdowska, Edinburgh University, Raleigh
“Introvert” is not a synonym for “snob” or “standoffish,” and you can make that clear to your new co-workers by capitalizing on opportunities to interact with them one-on-one. Build your in-office network and connect with your team by connecting first with individuals. Things as simple as asking a question face-to-face rather than sending an e-mail or eating lunch in a shared space rather than at your desk can go a long way in building relationships – without forcing you too far out of your comfort zone.
Give yourself time to prepare
“I’ve always found it much easier to speak up in a group when I know what I’m talking about, and that was especially true when I was the most inexperienced in a meeting.” – Claire Porter, McGill University, PwC
Unlike their extroverted counterparts, introverts tend to be uncomfortable with public speaking, particularly when they are put on the spot, and this can make it difficult to communicate in team meetings. To overcome this natural anxiety and make it easier to share your ideas, ask for the topics that will be discussed in a meeting in advance whenever possible, and familiarize yourself with your talking points beforehand. As a bonus, preparing for meetings shows initiative, a quality most employers look for in their new hires.
Do your work, and do it well
Although group work is an increasingly prevalent part of any work day, your first job will almost certainly offer you the opportunity to work independently. This can be the introvert’s time to shine, so take full advantage: use your time spent listening, considering and learning to complete your task efficiently and effectively. When speaking up is not your forte, embrace the chance to let your work speak for itself.
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Karl Moore is an associate professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University; Rachel Burk, a recent McGill BCom grad, works at Uber Eats in Toronto.
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