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Finding a Job That Fits

By Wendy Gelberg

As an introvert, chances are you've felt some degree of disconnect with the rest of the world at times. Our society prizes extroverted behaviors and undervalues introverted ones, and this often gets played out in work environments.

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If that's been true for you, you can take advantage of the transition period between jobs to find a new opportunity that feels right, that really fits.

What constitutes "fit" is subjective. There's no formula that applies to everyone, and introverts and extroverts can be both happy and successful in almost any job.

This article will explore "fit" in terms of the natural preferences of introverts. However, it's important to remember that, even within this group, there are individual variations.

Also, there are many dimensions of personality to take into consideration, in addition to introversion or extroversion. For more detailed information on finding the right career based on the broader perspective of Personality Type and temperament, check out two books, Do What You Are, by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, and Career Match, by Shoya Zichy, or consult a career coach experienced with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. 

We'll look at some questions to think about as you consider your next opportunity, in terms of specific job responsibilities, interactions with managers and co-workers, and company culture. Some of these questions can be addressed through networking and informational interviews; some can be asked in a job interview or answered in a conversation with prospective co-workers or by a tour of the office/observation; and some can best be answered through self-reflection.

"Fit" in Relation to Job Responsibilities

Introverts prefer to focus their energy on the inner world. Jobs that provide a measure of solitude and time to reflect and think deeply about things will take advantage of your introvert preferences.

The job interview will be a good source of information about the specific job responsibilities, although some of the questions that follow are ones that you'll best answer through inference rather than direct inquiry.

Questions to think about:

  • What is a typical day like?
  • Does this job allow you to focus on one task at a time, or is multi-tasking more the norm?
  • Can you manage your own time or is the day structured for you?
  • How much interaction with other people is there? What's the nature of the interaction - your role in the interactions, number of people at a time, frequency of interactions, opportunities for breaks?
  • If the job responsibilities are less than ideal, what (if anything) can you do - in or outside of work - to manage your introvert preferences and make the job work for you.

"Fit" in Relation to Managers and Co-Workers

This is harder to gauge but important to think about, because it can be a challenge working for and with people who don't understand your more reserved manner or who mistake your reflective style as snobbishness. This information will most likely come from informational interviews with company insiders rather than from the job interview.

Questions to think about:

  • How - and how often - will your manager want to communicate with you for updates and progress reports? Face-to-face? Phone? Email?
  • What is the energy level of the hiring manager and others; how does it mesh with your own?
  • How often are staff meetings held? How are they structured?
  • How are group decisions made?
  • Are there opportunities for individual contributions, or are most activities/projects team-oriented?
  • If the people you'll be working with and communication styles are less than ideal, what (if anything) can you do - in or outside of work - to manage your introvert preferences and make the job work for you.

"Fit" in Relation to Company Culture

Companies have personalities, and even if the job itself is a fit, and a specific manager seems compatible, the culture of the company may be at odds with your personality. This may be reflected in expectations made of employees with regard to frequency and kind of interactions, as well as in the physical environment itself. You can uncover much of this information through observation and informational interviews.

Questions to think about:

  • Does the company promote camaraderie through social functions that employees are expected to attend?
  • How does the company view those who don't participate?
  • Do people typically eat lunch together?
  • What is the physical layout of the offices? Are there cubicles with little privacy, conversations that waft over the cubicle walls, or people interrupting your flow of thought? Do you have a private work space with the opportunity to concentrate on your work without interruption?
  • Are there places to go to recharge your battery?
  • If the company culture is less than ideal, what (if anything) can you do - in or outside of work - to manage your introvert preferences and make the job work for you.

Bottom Line:

Finding the right job is complicated, and it will involve more than introvert/extrovert considerations. The suggestions above don't take into consideration one dimension that one introvert recently pointed out as being essential to many: passion for the job. The answers to the questions above don't have to be perfectly aligned with your introvert preferences for the job to be a good fit. But understanding the extent to which a specific opportunity matches your natural preferences, and what you can do to compensate when it doesn't, will increase the likelihood that your next transition will be a positive one.


About the author...

Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at wgelberg@careersolution.org.


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