Let’s take on two of the dirtiest words in business: self-promotion and introversion. Self-promotion is often thought of as crass, pushy, and unattractive. And it can be. But it can also be a mutually beneficial way for you to share what you can offer your stakeholders that they need.

Introversion also gets a bum rap. Introverts are often thought of as loners and losers. And we can be. But not most of us. After all, we’re half the population. So, in truth, we’re a hefty hodgepodge of humanity. We’re detectives and billionaire investors, astrophysicists and window washers, computer programmers and cellists, chess masters and acrobats.

It’s been said that 40 percent of top executives are introverts, including the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Avon CEO Andrea Jung, and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes. You think they’re all braggarts? Name dropping motor mouths? Or maybe they’ve figured out how to thrive as introverts in a ruthlessly competitive business world.

Introverts can have: Scruples. Or not. Creative genius. Or not. Deep intelligence. Or not. We can be great problem solvers, strategists, and orators. Or not. We can be shy. Or not. And, believe it or not, so can extroverts*. We can also get the same results. We just go about things differently.

Some research indicates that introverts and extroverts are different physiologically. You can read and explore plenty in the fascinating world of personality type—and you can learn about other dimensions of a personality too. However, my main concern in this blog is concrete and simple: to help introverts advance in their careers.

So whether you learned—like I did—that you’re an introvert by taking a personality assessment such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® tool or you’re a self-described introvert who typically prefers to think and act before she speaks, you’ve come to the right place. I’m here to offer you tips, quips, and insights to make your work life easier.

Marketing guru Seth Godin talks about the difference between “me-centric” and “you-centric” self-promotion which he illustrates with this example: “‘I’m fifty and I just made an album because it was time for me to make one.’ vs. ‘These songs won’t let go of me and I want to share them with you because they matter.'”

Who ever said that you have to act pushy and self-serving, and even make a fool out of yourself to be effective at self-promotion? Instead, why not use your quiet strengths such as thinking deeply, listening, working independently, researching, gaining expertise, writing, and building lasting one-one-one relationships to raise your visibility?

Consider what Tom Rath says in his book, Strengths Finder 2.0, which builds upon a vast body of research by scientists at Gallup: “Our studies indicate that people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.”

So you don’t have to brag. You can actually help people, solve their problems, and offer them something they’ll value. And you can get ahead by doing things you’re actually good at. Here’s the clincher: you can benefit too. Maybe even quietly. What’s so dirty about that?

PS – See a 5-minute video which complements this blog post in a fun way. Full disclosure: it also plugs my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead (McGraw-Hill).

*Also spelled “extraverts” by Carl Jung and the communities of the MBTI® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.


  • Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi L. Quenk, and Allen L. Hammer, MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, 3rd ed., Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, Calif., 1998, p. 298.
  • Del Jones, “Not all Successful CEOs Are Extroverts,” USA Today, June 7, 2006.
  • Robert Ornstein, The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the Mystery of Who We Are, HarperCollins, New York, 1995, p. 55. See also Allen L. Hammer, editor, MBTI® Applications, chapter written by John Shelton titled “Health, Stress, and Coping,” Oxford Psychologists Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1996, pp. 198–200.
  • Seth Godin’s Blog, “Self Promotion,” April 30, 2008, sethgodin.typepad.com.
  • Tom Rath, Strengths Finder 2.0, Gallup Press, New York, 2007, p. iii.

Copyright © 2010 Nancy Ancowitz

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