If you identify as an introvert, you probably know all too well what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this comment: “You’re just too quiet.”
For many, this isn’t an easy bit of feedback to stomach, and it can be a challenge to navigate the job search when you have to contend with the label of being too quiet or reserved for a particular role, promotion, or leadership position.
But if you’re an introverted nonprofit professional seeking your next job or opportunity for advancement, be confident that your voice is vital to the conversation. Here are some tips to help guide you in finding the right space to contribute and grow as a quiet leader.
Culture check | Are introverts welcome?
One of the most important things you can do as an introvert on the job hunt is to make sure a potential employer demonstrates a welcome environment for team members like you. It’s important to assess culture fit in a few specific ways. Be on the lookout for clues about:
- The workspace: Is it an open-office arrangement? Are there cubicles? Are there any private spaces? Consider the noise level and distractions you may encounter and how that will impact you.
- Communication styles: Take time to ask about how people communicate. Ask your prospective manager how often she conducts meetings. Is there an agenda? How often do check-ins happen? Think about what you want. Maybe that’s the freedom to use email primarily or maybe you want to rely on in-person meetings. Express concerns if you have them and explain the methods that work best for you, and if you don’t see room for your preferences, consider whether that is a deal breaker.
- Your team: Find out about team dynamics and try to understand how much time you’re expected to dedicate to collaborative work vs. independent work. Are there other introverts? How do they handle the distribution of duties and deadlines? Is there a consistent team lead?
You can be an introvert and a leader
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and founder of Quiet Revolution, advises introverts to resist the urge to put on a more extroverted performance just to fit in. Instead, try these tactics in order to understand and stay true to your personal style and preferences.
- Don’t count yourself out for front-and-center roles. Even as an introvert, you can still be a compelling leader. Trust your commitment, authenticity, and expertise to speak volumes without the need to be the most boisterous personality in the room.While your approach may differ from your more extroverted colleagues, this doesn’t mean you should exclude yourself from pursuing roles that require public speaking or networking. And don’t forget, as an introvert, you have an advantage when it comes to tapping into a natural ability to listen to others and build relationships. Use these and other strengths—like creative thinking, concentration, and attentiveness—to foster genuine connections as a fundraiser, communicator, and marketer.
- Ask for what you want in your own way. As an introvert, you may avoid self-promotion, but don’t let this stop you from communicating your interest in a new role or promotion. Set up a private meeting with a colleague or manager and prepare for the conversation. Getting your points organized and on paper ahead of time will allow you to present your candidacy in a way that’s comfortable while also allowing you to feel confident.
- Set realistic but actionable goals for socializing. Do you feel daunted by the prospect of networking? Challenge yourself to talk to at least one or two new people at your next networking event. If you set a goal that doesn’t feel too overwhelming, you’re more likely to walk away with a meaningful connection or experience.
Introverted does not mean not less impactful
You don’t need to be in a leadership role to make a difference or to set an example as a quiet leader.
Whether you’re on the hunt for your first nonprofit role or you’re evaluating how you can best develop your social-impact career, rest assured, nonprofits need introverted voices like yours.
Remember to recognize your strengths as an introvert and nurture these qualities. Find a home with a supportive group that embraces what and how you contribute to the conversation, and establish goals for that next promotion or role and methods for vocalizing and achieving them.
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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.