In my prior story I talked with an information technology (IT) manager who was downsized from a major media conglomerate a month ago. An introvert who tapped into his strong professional network for job leads and introductions, the IT manager, whom we called Adam Chan, already landed an appealing offer from a competing major media conglomerate.

Given all the grim news on the employment front, I shared Chan’s story to demonstrate that it is possible for an introvert to find a suitable job during this economic downturn – and it doesn’t have to take forever. While statistics like “33.3 percent of the jobless had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer last month,” paint a bleak picture, it’s not the only picture. Chan certainly painted his own.

Today we’ll speak with another introvert, an account executive we’ll call Sharon Ryan, who was laid off from her job at an advertising agency seven months ago. Ryan is focusing on retooling her career rather than rushing to get a similar job. She says: “I am looking at this ‘time off’ to identify a new career path that will better match my talents – something that may come more naturally to me as an introvert, as opposed to something that I have to work harder at to succeed.”

Ryan shares how losing her job was a mixed blessing. “It is a demoralizing blow to the ego,” she says. “No matter how much heart and soul you put into your work, nothing is guaranteed. It’s also stressful because jobs are scarce, health care is expensive and unemployment pay only goes so far.” However, she points to the flip side: “This experience has had its benefits. It forced me to take a hard look at my career path to determine if it’s right for me and my personality.”

“Working in advertising requires constantly being in the spotlight, being competitive, and a frequent presenter or public speaker,” says Ryan. She adds that extroverts* seem to thrive in advertising because the field rewards those who think on their feet, are particularly assertive, and who speak up a lot at meetings. “I’ve had a successful career for the most part,” she says, “but have found that the constant struggle to ‘fake’ certain things has left me exhausted.”

“I tend to be more reserved and thoughtful before offering an opinion,” says Ryan, “which can be seen as a weakness in account management, where you’re expected to offer opinions in the moment.” She adds, “I am more laid back and reflective versus aggressive and competitive, which are traits that I think are often linked to success in advertising.”

When I first met Ryan, at a workshop I offered a couple of months ago, she had planned to explore career options outside the advertising business. However, now her plans have shifted. For practical reasons, she explains, she’s not going to make a dramatic shift right now. “I’m taking classes in the areas of marketing research and internet marketing,” she says.

“Marketing research is a better fit than account management for me as an introvert because it is more directly focused on the area of understanding human behavior, which is one of the reasons I went into advertising to begin with,” says Ryan. “And importantly,” she continues, “it allows me to tap into my strengths such as listening, thinking deeply, analyzing and writing.” Ryan says that she finds the thought of writing research findings and recommendations appealing.

Shoya Zichy, author (with Ann Bidou) of Career Match: Connecting You You Are with What You’ll Love to Do, says, “Introverts are best suited for jobs in which they don’t have to work on teams all the time.” She shares that introverts do best when they can spend a large part of the day working in a fairly private space. She continues, “Introverts get energized from their inner resources – that is, from spending time alone to recharge their inner batteries. Even if they like being with people, which most introverts do, interacting too much can drain their energy.” Adds Ryan, “As an introvert, I need alone time to think deeply and decompress. I use that time to consider my options and to reflect on what’s important to me – and where I want to grow.”

For more detailed information about career options for introverts, check out 200 Best Jobs for Introverts by the editors at JIST and Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D. The book includes a wealth of information including descriptions of the jobs, annual earnings, percent growth, and annual openings for each type of job. It also rates each position for its level of solitary work and its level of contact with others.

The book contains many lists such as “The 50 Best-Paying Jobs for Introverts,” which include positions as diverse as astronomers, lawyers, political scientists, aerospace engineers, economists, market research analysts, and technical writers. It also has “The 200 Jobs with the Most Solitary Work,” which includes statisticians, soil and plant scientists, and fine artists – not to mention embalmers!

“Doing research has been helpful during this transition,” says Ryan. She stays current on trends in the advertising industry by reading articles and blogs. She’s been exploring new career options through many avenues including internet job sites, online searches about growth industries, and browsing in bookstores. Ryan also says that she’s found it helpful to take career and personality tests. Incidentally, Zichy’s book includes a fun 10-minute quiz, the Color Q Personality Style Self-Assessment, which can help you learn about your personality’s strengths and challenges as well as careers options that could be a match for you.

Ryan addresses another important aspect of her time in a career transition: “While introverts value their quiet time,” she says, “it’s important to avoid cutting yourself off from others.” She shares how networking is a critical tool for learning of job prospects. And, like Adam Chan, she relies on the support and advice of friends. “Building new one-on-one relationships with other unemployed professionals, for example, through groups, has also helped me learn more about new careers I’m considering,” she says.

“On a personal note,” says Ryan, “this time has also enabled me to pursue my passion for helping animals by volunteering at a local animal shelter. It has been a nice distraction – not to mention just good for the soul.” So Ryan is taking her “time off” to invest in a career that will be a better match for her once she returns to work and in taking care of what matters to her personally.

Before I sign off, I’d like to share a 10-minute video titled Best Jobs for Introverts, by Shatkin, who says, “If you are an introvert, you can find rewarding work. You might have to look a little harder than other people because a lot of the growth in the economy is in extrovert friendly occupations. However, there are many rewarding occupations where you can find satisfaction.”

*Also spelled “extraverts” by Carl Jung, as well as the communities of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and other personality assessments, such as the Five Factor Model.

Note: I have changed the names of the job candidates I interviewed to honor their requests for confidentiality.


©Copyright 2010 Nancy Ancowitz

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *