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Succeeding as an introverted professional
If you are introverted, it is often difficult to assert yourself - especially in an environment with many extroverts. As a result, introverts often feel undervalued and unseen. How do you make sure you still get and seize opportunities at work?
You are in a meeting and your supervisor announces a new project, asking, "Who wants to pick this up?" Before you've even had a chance to think about it, three colleagues raise their hands. Opportunity gone. And afterwards you think: I would have liked to do that project too.
It is a recognisable situation for many introverts, say coaches Marloes Bouwmeester of The Successful Introvert and Karolien Koolhof of Quiet Quality. Both help introverts with the challenges they face in their work.
"Many introverts are not very good in unexpected situations," says Bouwmeester. "They want to think about something for a while. Then when a great opportunity comes along, they are already too late, because extroverts think and act at the same time."
Koolhof also often hears this in conversations with people she coaches. "They say they felt overwhelmed by the announcement. Another factor is that they often don't feel seen or heard. Because introverts are quieter and less noticeable, they are more likely to be passed over at promotions or when a nice project comes along."
Qualities are overlooked
This is not only annoying for those to whom this happens (often time after time), it is also a waste for the company. The qualities of these people are thus underused. "Worldwide, one in three people is introverted," says Koolhof. "That's a lot of qualities that are then not seen or not seen enough."
Bouwmeester: "I know many examples of introverts who left an employer because they didn't feel appreciated enough. Only when they were gone did the employer see what they all contributed, because all sorts of things suddenly went wrong."
Don't wait until an opportunity presents itself, make sure your supervisor knows what you like before then.
Karolien Koolhof, Quiet Quality
Managers can help introverted employees by taking into account how they prefer to work. For example, by firmly announcing that a project is coming up and giving people a few days to respond.
But according to Koolhof, the responsibility lies mainly with the (introverted) employee. Bouwmeester advises: "Find a way to profile yourself that suits you."
Telling what you are good at is not the same as bragging
That advice may sound uncomfortable to people who are introverts, but it doesn't have to be, according to Bouwmeester. "It starts with knowing what you naturally excel at and how you can use that to make a valuable contribution at work. Your natural edge, I call it. Many introverts are not aware of this, they think what they do is quite normal."
By knowing what your natural edge is, you can decide faster whether to take an opportunity or not. "And tell others about what you do. Not to brag, but because others can benefit from it. That way, people are more likely to know how to find you when there are projects that suit you."
Above all, Koolhof advises being proactive. "Don't wait until an opportunity presents itself, but make sure your manager knows before then what you like and what your ambitions are. Introverts are very strong one-on-one, so request a conversation with your supervisor to tell them what opportunities you would like. Then your supervisor can think about that when an opportunity arises."
Being visible without over-shouting yourself
If you know you want to say something in a meeting, it may help to let the person leading the meeting know about it in advance. Koolhof: "That person can then give you the space to do so." That way, you don't have to over-shout yourself, and you do make sure you are visible.
Koolhof also advises starting the conversation about what it means to be introverted and what qualities and challenges go with it. That way, there can be more mutual understanding.
She sees companies becoming more aware that different people's brains can work differently. "By naming what you are good at and what you have more trouble with, you ensure that colleagues and managers are more likely to give you the space you need to get, or take, opportunities."
Are you an introverted professional looking to find a new challenge in the Life Science industry? Experts at QTC Recruitment can help you find the perfect role and guide you through the application process. Check out the available opportunities for you here.
Also published on Nu.nl (edited)
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