Finding meaningful employment as an introvert

employment purpose Dec 13, 2019
passion led us here

I started retrained as a life coach after experiencing burn-out and chronic illness as a result of a workplace environment which was not at all suited to my health and wellbeing.

I know firsthand just how miserable life can be when your career is leaving you drained and exhausted.  And this is a problem that is all too common.

I care passionately about supporting introverts to thrive and we spend so much of our lives at work that finding a way of working that is suited to your personality type is an essential aspect of creating a life you love.

I consider myself very lucky to have now found a career path which is well suited to my personality, but I still hear far too many stories of introverts who are still struggling with this.

And so I decided to start a conversation about how we can, as introverts, make the world of employment work for us.  The following nine people have generously offered to share their story of what they learned about themselves and the world of employment on their journey to finding work that is suited to their personalities.

If you’re also an introvert who loves their job, feel free to tell us your story in the comments at the bottom of the blog.

And if you’re still struggling with this yourself, I hope you find inspiration in their stories.  I would also invite you to join my free World Introvert Day Unparty where we will be exploring in more depth how introverts can create career success on their own terms.


Your dream job can be what you make it

My journey began with my first corporate office job in 2013. Prior to that I went to college to study Game Development and Game Art where I graduated in 2012. When I moved back home upon graduating I quickly found out that the prospects of obtaining an entry level job at a game company based on where I lived would be non-existent. This was a very monumental series of challenges to overcome. I struggled with my identity; I had spent so much time and effort in college, taken on a large amount of student debt, and while working retail the outlook was looking grim.

My fortunes turned around when a friend forwarded my resume to a local healthcare company because she was moving to a new position and knew I’d be superb in her current role. Fast forward three years and I came to learn about a process improvement team. I learned about the Six Sigma methodology, which upon taking a training course it instantly clicked and a new passion emerged to want to work with teams in documenting and trying to improve business processes.

What I like about my current job is I get to exercise the intuitive analytical side when I’m not running meetings and I’m in charge of leading my meetings so it forces me to socialize and learn from those around me in a positive environment. I also get to assist people in learning and hopefully appreciating what they and others do in their day-to-day work tasks.

My main takeaways from my journey so far are:

  • Your dream job can be what you make it.
  • Even if you have to course correct and go down a different path it doesn’t mean your a failure, and maybe you can find away in the long term to break into the industry of your choice with newly acquired skills.
  • Genuine curiosity in what you do, what others do around you, and what your company does will help you succeed in the long run.

Good Luck to anyone soul searching for more meaningful work, I’m looking for my next level which will be even more meaningful and hopefully impact those around me positively.

Sam Cole, LinkedIn profile


The Introvert Advantage

For years I felt like I didn’t say enough in meetings or talk as much as everyone else. This made me doubt my abilities  and stopped me from progressing. Then one day I was involved in a team building event where we learned about our personality types. I realised not only was I an introvert but so were most of my colleagues. This gave me back my confidence. They were just the same as me and yet I had been able to rise up through the ranks and once I felt more sure of myself that was it… nothing was going to hold me back!

I have learned that being an introvert gives me a lot of power and is why I am so good at my job. I think before I speak and can relate easily to other introverts. In my profession that turned out to be incredibly useful.  I am also quite self contained with my emotions so am able to deal with stressful situations whilst appearing calm and collected on the outside. These skills combined have allowed me to fulfill a national policy role within the HMPPS.

I enjoy structured social interactions and have developed some basic work related small talk. I learned that I become more animated when talking about what I do rather than spouting meaningless chatter.  I have observed that in my job introverts get listened to more readily than extroverts who talk a lot and say nothing.  I have used my self depreciating sense of humour to good effect. In my role it’s often good not to give too much away so that works well for me!

I gear up for work presentations and meetings and then take a rest collecting my thoughts. I also watched a ted talk about power poses which really helps me to appear confident when I am actually very nervous. I seek to control situations where possible and avoid not being prepared where I can as this adds to my stress.

So I guess I have a public and private persona like most people and have found a way to relate to them both as parts of me which makes me come across as genuine (which I am) and this helps me feel confident and like my real self even in a room full of people.

I have taken time to practice what I want to say and achieve before heading to a meeting so that I don’t have to think on my feet too much. This means that if I feel uncomfortable or nervous I can rely on talking passionately about the subject until I feel more at ease.

I enjoy my job mostly … it’s a challenge. But nothing worth doing was ever going to be easy.

Lucy Ives


I built my business my way

There is an assumption that being an introvert can hold you back in business. I know it’s an assumption that I (an introvert) made. I always knew I wanted a career in healthcare and when I switched from ‘conventional’ medicine to a Herbal Medicine degree it was fuelled by a desire to treat people more holistically and help them on their journey to better health, without really realising how much more business skills I would need. (I wouldn’t just be turning up at my clinic and treating patients. I’d also need to market myself and let people know who I was and what I did).

All the business advice I got when I was starting out was the way to build up a busy practice was to ‘get out there’ – networking, giving talks, running workshops and generally doing lots of extroverted things. I can’t do business like that! It took me a while to realise it but there is a different way of doing business.

As an introvert I am reserved and reflective, I like to observe and I think carefully before I speak, and I like to listen and really understand people through one to one conversations. I love making genuine connections and understanding what makes someone tick. I’m also really passionate about what can be achieved by a functional medicine approach to health and how transforming herbal treatment can be, so on a one to one basis I can talk enthusiastically about it.

Once I realised that I could use these skills rather than trying to pretend to be someone I wasn’t I started to engage with networking events, workshops and online forums – but I approached them differently. I turn up and I listen. I ask questions. I find out people’s stories. I don’t have a perfect ‘elevator pitch’ I just honestly respond to what people ask me, which usually means I talk to less people but the ones I do talk to usually develop into more in-depth sharing. And people began noticing me. People began seeking me out because they had heard of me. And I built my business my way, using my superpower.

I bloody love my job, and love my clients and love the work we get to do together. We spend so much of our life working, we should be able to love what we do and be ourselves whilst we are doing it.

Michaela Scott Medical Herbalist at Bespoke Botanicals Ltd.


Work to live, or live to work?

The quest of living our lives well is the inevitable journey each individual must take. It is the perpetual drive to retain the mystery and magic in a world that is sometimes inhumane, hostile. We work for a huge portion of that time, so we need to make work ‘work’ for us. My story is as much one of trial and error as it is of success.

I began my working life on a much lauded management training scheme scheme that promised development and a decent salary – who could refuse? But I lasted less than two years – I found it dull, repetitive and my character was clearly not a fit for the corporate requirements. They found me challenging – I questioned the status quo on a regular basis! We agreed to part and I discovered a far more agreeable working environment in a small, growing print packaging company.

I stayed with this company for nearly fifteen years – there was the room to develop , a hard working team that demanded long hours but one in which I could learn all aspects of the business (bar accounts- missed that one). I flourished there until the company was merged into a bigger more corporate entity. The politics of business began to have a greater impact, and I don’t like meetings for meetings sake! I recognised the new demands were threatening my well- being and decided to cut my losses and leave.

Motherhood demanded the greatest portion of my energies for the next few years – alongside the effects of fibromyalgia, just getting through the day was the greatest struggle. Move forward a few years to 2012 when I opened my Etsy store – and started the path which led me to here – where I spend my days either creating my handmade books, or uploading new designs to my stores at print on demand sites, or creating illustration for my new range of prints I now sell in a local heritage centre and online.

Working for myself has driven me to understand how to market myself, learn social media, and given me the push to get my work into the local community – I don’t earn a lot of money, but I have developed a way of giving my days meaning. I have a reason to get up in the morning – I was contemplating my book covers for my latest order at 4 a.m this morning! And the idea that my handiwork is spinning off to Japan thrills me! I have sent my books all over the world, and that idea of connection is a great source of delight to me. It’s crazy to think my designs are on walls somewhere across the pond! Now I am creating print work that I am showing to galleries in the UK.

And I shall tell you a secret – I am aphantasic – which means I have no visual imagination whatsoever. I have no visual recall – I cannot see a picture of my own children in my head. So that explained to me why I have surrounded myself with images all my life. Strange but true!

Deborah Corr, Modestly


Becoming a more visible, confident and energetic version of myself

I spent the first 15 years of my working life in offices. Mostly big corporate ones, later on in smaller businesses. I always loved the people I worked with, but I worried that I came across as aloof and unapproachable. At some point most days, my brain would become scrambled and I couldn’t work out what to say. ‘Normal’ conversation began to be something I dreaded. Looking back, my introversion had morphed into social anxiety, which was extremely unpleasant to live with.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the work itself, and had no real ambition to climb the career ladder. I felt stuck. It was as if all the potential that I knew I had, was sitting inside of me somewhere. Untapped. Ignored.

When I first became aware of the concept of introversion related to energy, I remember a sense of relief, understanding and self-acceptance. Finally, I understood why I was so fundamentally unsuited to the environment I was in. Spending so much of my time in a closed space, surrounded by other people, having to talk more than I had the capability to do – it took up all my energy. ​​​​​​​There wasn’t much left over.

Going out on my own as a freelancer was the best decision I’ve ever made. Ironically, I started out doing the same sort of work that I didn’t enjoy in the office, and things have evolved since then. But because my energy isn’t drained all day every day, I’ve been able to tap into that latent ambition. I’m constantly growing and evolving, and am now a more visible, confident and energetic version of myself.

Cathy Topping, Your Web Toolkit


The gifts of introversion

I’m an accountant, and whilst it may seem an obvious career choice for an introvert, there are many aspects to my role which I have struggled with. Things like networking events, presenting to large groups of people, taking the lead in difficult conversations, all of which have become more important as my career has progressed. I began to feel overshadowed by my extrovert colleagues who loved doing this type of work and I felt like I was beginning to fall behind my peers.

What I have learnt over the last 17 years is that my introversion and the strengths I have as result of it help me to stand out, compared to be extroverted peers. I have the ability to make deeper, more valuable connections with new contacts as I listen and react to what they are saying. When having difficult conversations, I have empathy for the person I am talking to and can understand what is driving their behaviour and respond to that rather than reacting to what others see on the surface. I have the ability to absorb what is happening in the organisation, cogitate over it, and develop ideas of how things can be changed or strategies we should be adopting to help build a better business.

I think the world of work is changing. Based on the organisations I have had experience of working in, the leadership are embracing diversity in all its forms and want to hear from people with a different perspective to their own as they realise this can only lead to a better business. This is the time for introverts to share their views as they will often be ones that haven’t been heard before.

Kathryn Wellum-Kent, LinkedIn profile


Quiet confidence

I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher and, fifteen years after qualifying, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

During my training, my tutor said to me, ‘you’re going to have to learn to be louder if you want to make it as a teacher’. In the early days of my career, I tried to be ‘louder’ especially with some of the more challenging classes I taught.  However, I soon realised that the louder I shouted; the students shouted louder.  I’ve worked with some really disengaged students and they were so used to being shouted at that it had very little impact. A quiet confidence was much more effective. I also think one of the super-powers that comes from being an introvert is empathy and this so important as a teacher.

Five years into my career as an English teacher, I trained a Specialist Dyslexia teacher and assessor. Working on a one-to-one basis with students who’ve struggled to understand why they find traditional learning environments so challenging was very rewarding.  I can understand what it’s like to not fit in and a quiet, calm approach helps put people at ease in a pressured situation such as a dyslexia assessment.

I worked in the role of Dyslexia Specialist for six years and then took a huge gamble and opened my own English and Maths tuition centre.  The teaching aspect of this comes very naturally to me. However, I’ve found the ‘business’ side of things much more challenging and putting myself ‘out there’ is very daunting!  I can stand up and teach English to any number of students but to stand up at business networking events and introduce myself, or even worse give a presentation about my business, has been a whole different scenario.  I suppose, as a teacher it’s a bit of an act whereas the networking events are the real me.

After realising I can successfully run a business, I’ve started Hull Dyslexia.  I offer dyslexia assessments as well as training and advice for school and businesses.  I never thought it would be something I could do but I absolutely can. Vlogs and videos are the next challenge, but I know that the best results are when I stay true to my introverted self and don’t try to be something I’m not.

Liz Martin, Hull Dyslexia



I work as a freelance writer + social media strategist, specializing in paid ads. While I’ve had to learn plenty on how to manage my time and finances better than I ever have before, I have no regrets. While I’m not waking up every day at lunch time, I’m also not forced to get out of bed, leave my apartment and work on someone else’s schedule. No more condescending looks from my supervisor as I walk in a few minutes late; I’m my own boss now.

Raquel Serrano, Twitter profile


Selling through listening

I am technically an omnivert–sometimes an introvert, sometimes an extrovert. Like, I’ll get overwhelmed and insecure at a party, but once I know someone well, I’ll talk their ear off.  A great job for both omniverts and introverts is retail sales. This is because human interaction is a human need, even for people who like to be caved up, and it forces us to interact in a way that is less threatening–we are expected to approach customers, unlike randomly approaching someone at a networking event.

We think of sales as an extroverted, aggressive job, but actually, even the best extroverted salespeople have a quality of bending like a reed to their customer. Sales is as much about listening and being flexible as it is about pushing.  In fact, pushing may be an outdated mode.

The strengths of introverts in this job is that we can be more understanding of differences–like if a customer looks like they have no money or looks different in any way; we follow a customer’s lead–so if it looks like they don’t want something, we’ll figure out what they do want instead of force it on them; and we can listen, as long as we don’t get too energetically overwhelmed.  Sometimes listening to someone talk about their kid or their bad back for 20 minutes yields for them a positive image of the store, and they’re more likely to come back and tell their friends.

Carol Maskus, The Diagonal Oenophile Blog


And if these stories have inspired you to make 2020 the year when you too find work that you love, then I would encourage you to join my FREE World Introvert Day Unparty where we will be exploring how you too can learn how to create career success on your own terms.

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