Joel is a Xander Associate who understands a very real issue that many of us face on a daily basis. That being an introvert, when extroversion is encouraged can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be, in fact, it can be used as a strength.
“There’s no way you’re an introvert – you’re always talking!”
Each time I explain to someone this is who I am, I’m always greeted with the same response. Personally, I believe introversion to be much more than just “not speaking” or engaging with discussions. Whilst it may have its difficulties when working as a consultant, it also brings its benefits.
At the beginning of my time at Xander, I took a Myers Briggs personality test (MBTI®), It helps to determine what type of person we are based on our personality traits. Personally, I fall under the category ‘INFJ’ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling and Judging), where I found most of my peer consultants to be ‘ENFJ’ (Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling and Judging). ‘I’ and ‘E’ being the big differences in introvert vs extrovert. According to the results, I am supposedly more inwardly focused in terms of my education and professional life; where I would be more reserved in contributions, require a slower paced environment in order to allow time to ‘mull things over’, analyzing in my head first before bringing an idea to the table, ‘standing back’ to observe rather than being the topic of discussion and ultimately despising group work. The test is however, a completely general view on the personality of an individual, and not everyone meets each category – it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ analysis. Although, I found I hit the mark for every factor of being an introvert.
“How am I supposed to be a consultant without having the ability to bring thorough and insightful discussion to the table?”
This was the ultimate question I asked myself before pursuing this profession, with the guidance from Xander Talent. As I described earlier, just not having the ability not to speak, is not the defining characteristic of being an introvert, but it’s still a major part. I initially attempted to combat the problem by forcing an extroverted persona, engaging with people, and speaking as much as I possibly could to effectively stand out from the crowd. Although, I found this drained me almost immediately, my social battery was taking a beating! I found myself contemplating ways to keep up the façade, and it continuously chewed into me – bending your character to be something you’re not, is not fun.
With that being said, it sounds like being an introvert is completely negative. But it doesn’t have to be how to survive in an industry where being an extrovert is, for lack of a better word, valuable. I’ve used my lived experiences to offer insights and advice into how to use what could be perceived as a negative into a strength and make the most of an introvertive personality by constructing a few points that will help:
Be true to yourself
Don’t make the initial mistake I did; do not create an illusion of who you are to fit in. As an introvert, you’ll find very quickly that people will see through this. It’s cliché but being genuine with your personality and how you present yourself to others is a great way to build trust and rapport – especially in management consultancy, where you are constantly interacting and building relationships with stakeholders.
Play to your strengths
I prefer to have a discussion with my inner-self first before raising points with the wider project team – it makes it extremely difficult to initiate discussions, however, it allows me to be incredibly analytical. Don’t use the inner discussion to question yourself, or what worth you bring, it can be self-destructive. Instead question points raised, question how you may take an approach from a different angle, question anything around a topic but yourself. Being an introvert means you have an opportunity to be methodical by slowly taking information in – we take a lot of time to think, have this conversation with yourself and I’m certain you’ll find something that works!
Don’t compare yourself to extroverts
There are strengths and weaknesses with both characteristics. In this, it does not mean one outweighs the other in terms of advantages – there are just differences. I found myself doing this numerous times, and it only gets you into a pit of further self-doubt. Be proud of who you are… period.
Overall, extroverts should understand the struggles of an introvert in the workspace and have insights into introversion. Furthermore, I hope this will give introverts the ability to dig in and realise their potential. Take time and reflect on who you are and what you can do, more so than what you can’t do – you may surprise yourself.