KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Keep Your Introversion from Getting in Your Way Professionally

The only way to bring in enough money when you're self-employed is to constantly market your services. If you're an introvert, you may find your introversion getting in the way of putting yourself out there.

You may not believe me when I say that I'm an introvert, especially because you can find me all over the Internet—here on my blog, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on profession-related e-mail lists. But I am indeed introverted, and I've found several ways to work with my introversion rather than against it to keep it from hampering my success as a self-employed editor:

  • Rather than using the phone, I correspond with colleagues and clients by e-mail (or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn) whenever possible. This allows me time to think through what I want to communicate and usually decreases the likelihood that I'll communicate in a foolish manner. When I'm on the phone with someone, I worry about whether I sound goofy, whether I'm remembering to say all of the things that I wanted to communicate, and whether I'm boring the other person. Baseless fears, maybe, but there they are.
  • I do work that doesn't require lots of face time. Rather than being someone who covers science meetings (like many of my medical-writer colleagues) and who therefore has to go around interviewing people in person, I'm someone who edits documents that come out of science meetings. Believe it or not, I started my career as a newspaper journalist. Despite being an excellent writer who garnered many front-page stories, I lasted only 2 years. It was emotionally exhausting!
  • I use social-media platforms to appear as the extrovert that I am not.
  • I team up with extroverts when I need to appear in public, such as at meetings of professional associations (or at parties at the homes of friends). I let them be the conversation-starters and thus take the pressure off myself to perform.
  • I don't schedule public appearances on the fly. I schedule them well in advance so that I have time to get ready mentally. It's not that we introverts hate being around people; it's just that spending extended time with others tends to tire us mentally and emotionally, so we need time to prepare ahead of time and then time to recuperate afterward.
  • I've stopped mentally bashing myself for being an introvert. I used to think that society devalued introversion in favor of extroversion. Extroverts may get a lot of attention from others, but that's because they command it, not because their way of being is better than introverts' way of being. Both extroverts and introverts are valuable parts of the human mix.

If you're an introvert, what things do you do to help yourself?


Anonymous said...

An excellent post as always. I, too, am an introvert who surprises people with the fact - and like you, I'm not ashamed of the fact that I need own-time, rather than people-time, to recharge. That's all it's about, really - it's not that we don't like people, as such, it's just that we need no-people time, too!

I don't think I do anything particularly different and I'm guessing a lot of people will do this stuff too. In fact, I think it's an advantage to be somewhat introverted in our profession - I know a lot of extroverts who couldn't *bear* to work alone from home all day, and wouldn't get half as much done as we do - but then we wouldn't thrive in their environments either!
-- Liz

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks, Liz. We introverts really do bring lots of value to the world.

My extrovert husband—see what I did there? point 4!—used to laugh and look incredulous when I would insist to him that I am an introvert. "But you hide it so well," he'd say. But now he understands, and he's pretty good at not trying to assimilate me into the extrovert hive mind. ;-)

Dick Margulis said...

Great post, Katharine. I'm in the same club—an introvert faking extraversion to the rest of the world, and I use basically the same strategies you use. When listmates claim they "can't" do that, I just shake my head, because if you and I can, so can they.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Dick, I'm honored to be in the same club with you.

Shakirah Dawud said...

Thanks for that, Kathy. I work the same way, and have the same (probably) baseless fears you do. The digital age has produced several wonderful megaphones for introverts.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Shakirah, I'd never have guessed that you're an introvert too! I admire how well you get your name out there. You're inspiring.

ProofingSandy said...

Glad to see that there is hope for introverts! You are a shining example for us all.

I, too, am much more extroverted in social-media settings. Never been great at face-to-face mingling. While I try to improve in that area (and I think I'm getting better!), I know that "I yam what I yam" and try to not force myself to be someone I'm not.

Sarah said...

Great topic! I can relate.

Kristine Hunt said...

You know, it's funny.... I am sort of half introvert/half extrovert. I despise talking on the phone to strangers and don't especially love public speaking. I could go for days happily holed up at home. I prefer using e-mail and social media for most communications.

But.... I really do like talking to people face-to-face in social settings. Just when I'm ready and in situations in which I feel comfortable.

I suppose one reason I have stuck with copy editing books is that it is relatively solitary work. When I had an office-based career, it was a bit exhausting interacting with people all day, so with editing I can choose my social time and be introverted the rest of the time.

Never let those extroverts tell you that resistance is futile! =]

Elizabeth Macfie said...

Thank you for this guidance, Katharine, which will help me include techniques for introverts in my business networking workshops.

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