I recently read an excellent article called ‘An Introvert’s attempt at networking showman’ on HR Zone from a HR practitioner called Paul Carter. In this article Paul gives an overview of his experience and how he has to discover or use items of his personality at these events to gain more out of them than he ordinarily would if he remained within the usual comfort zone of an introvert.
Paul, I share your pain, or at the very least, your discomfort. Being a HR practitioner who has also tested as an introvert, and with someone with some very obvious introverted tendencies (recently described by someone as shy but confident) I thought i’d look at taking this further.
I’ve worked in senior positions within HR now for the last 5 years, having worked my way through entry and junior positions in a fantastic organisation that invested in my development and of which I will always be eternally grateful. However, I have become more introverted with age. I’m 30 by the way.
As i’ve got older, the roles i’ve operated in have become more senior. Yet I don’t draw the distinction that the more my career has developed, the more introverted I have become. I don’t accept that the correlation is a factor, but an inevitable consequence. By that I mean, if I got older and did not progress my career into senior positions I remain convinced that I still would have become more introverted over time.
I’m the type of moderate introvert that doesn’t lack confidence, shy away from a difficult discussion or be afraid to speak up in a room full of others.
I’m the type of moderate introvert that doesn’t lack confidence, shy away from a difficult discussion or be afraid to speak up in a room full of others. Some of those who know me might, in fact, be entirely surprised that I am an introvert. Those who know that up until very recently in my spare time I was a musician who sang and played guitar in a rock band but did not know that I am introverted might be even more surprised. But it’s true.
What I do find difficult sometimes is networking, which involves starting a conversation with a random person out of nothing. I also don’t find the need to say something for the sake of saying something. Extroverts might be able to charm and perceive to be competent through their confidence (as well as actually being competent) but as an introvert I demonstrate competence through my contribution, successes and output.
My biggest weakness – I struggle to maintain eye contact and the fact I am conscious of it and try to overcome it, makes it even more difficult for me. As I warm to people, this issue tends to go away.
So has this ever held me back? For the most part, no.
Whilst it is probable I might not have been selected for a role because of a false opinion of being introverted meaning that I am limited or am lacking a certain something, I have generally found that it has allowed me to be more respected. I have been told by some colleagues in the past that when I say something, people listen more, because it will be of value.
PsychologyToday.com state that introverts are “energized by solitary, often creative pursuits”.
This is certainly me.
I am at my most enthusiastic when i’m developing a policy or strategy, preferably in isolation but not complete isolation. “Thinking time” to reflect or ponder a situation is extremely valuable to me. Designing something that will add value to my employer has always been a particularly motivating factor which ties in with the creative element.
What do I not enjoy, aside from the networking side of networking events and conferences? Large scale meetings, larger groups of training courses and big staff meetings. But I don’t avoid them by any means and I try harder to be heard in these environments because i’m aware that i’m potentially out of my comfort zone.
I made a choice, many years ago, to either allow my introversion to hold me back and prevent me from being as fully effective as I knew I could be, or front up and be conscious of how being an introvert would affect me so that I could act in contrary of it to be effective.
In reality, I chose an alternative option. I opted to be mindful of my introverted tendencies, assume the extroverted skills I would require in certain situations as was required of me, but to embrace my natural personality as much of the time as I possibly could – warts and all.
Doesn’t work all the time, but no one’s perfect.
So Paul – there’s at least two of us!