Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a coach, speaker, and author who is dedicated to getting you promoted to the next level – fast. We had a chance to chat with the "introvert whisperer" about what it means to be an introvert and what introverts must do in order to succeed professionally in an extrovert-centered world.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to create a career coaching website?
Introvert Whisperer is the convergence of several things. I began career & leadership coaching because I had spent 21 years in management at Intel Corporation, where I was promoted 10 times. I felt I had real-world experience that could benefit others. At the same time, I could also see that I was attracting introverts to my coaching; and being one myself, I could add insight on how I had to do things to succeed professionally that was unique to what you typically find. Introverts tend to have some common challenges, but most advice tends to be oriented to extroverts, which isn't useful for introverts. I bridge the gap by providing practical, unique career guidance that works amazingly fast.
Has the evolution of online job searches been a blessing for introverts, or does it do more harm them good because introverts aren't forced to interact with actual people as much?
I think online job search is too easy for introverts to hide behind. There is an "implied" idea that since a job posting exists, it is "the" way to get a job – but that's not the case. Everyone still needs to connect to a person to get noticed and get hired. That requires networking – and there isn't an introvert that thinks networking is fun.
What would you say is the biggest myth about introverted employees?
If I had to pick just one myth, it might be that introverts don't like to get up and give talks (present or give a speech). An introvert tends to be quiet when in a group setting because they are listening, processing, and determining whether they have something to add to a discussion. When talking is what I call "open-ended," meaning there isn't a specific purpose or reason to speak, they tend not to because they have so much going on in their mind with listening and processing. But if they need to get up and speak for a reason such as a project presentation, they can do that all day long. People often misunderstand their silence as social anxiety, but it's not.
If someone were to say to you, "I'm an introvert, and I feel uncomfortable in face-to-face interviews," what piece of advice might you give this person?
I believe an introvert needs to practice for interviewing with other people. The biggest challenge an introvert faces in an interview is thinking spontaneously about a question they may not have thought of before. Obviously, even with practice you can't think of all the possible questions you'd be asked in an interview; but you can get more practiced on a wide range of questions along with questions that you've never answered. Learning to speak extemporaneously is a skill that can be developed through practice. Another way for an introvert to learn to speak extemporaneously is through speech classes or toastmasters.
What kinds of suggestions do you have for introverts who shiver at the idea of networking?
I have so many that I wrote a book on networking just for introverts! I'll share a few of the most important suggestions.
First, don't ever try to work the room. The idea of working the room will cause most introverts to shut down and go home before stepping foot in an event. Keep the focus on only two or three people you can connect with at a meaningful level. By focusing on a couple of people, it's not as overwhelming; and an introvert can warm up to something that isn't superficial. Introverts detest meaningless chatting, and it sucks out their energy fast.
Second, if you need to expand your network, do it with people you have something in common with even if it's not professionally oriented. By having something in common, it makes meeting new people and connecting deeper much easier. The commonality gives an introvert a context of understanding about the other person, which makes starting a conversation much easier.
Third, you're never going to love networking, so get over it and do it. You probably don't like going to the dentist either, but you do it because it's in your best interest to do so!
What kinds of challenges are especially difficult for introverts when it comes to office politics?
Unfortunately, many people (especially introverts) think they can stay out of the fray of office politics if they hunker down and focus solely on their work. That's very wrong thinking. If you are in any group of people, you're involved in office politics. Introverts will probably get ignored when it comes to important support and decisions. Being ignored professionally never helps a career and usually impacts it negatively.
Office politics doesn't have to be played negatively, so you don't have to defy your personal values. It requires that you spend time with management and influencers in order for them to know your value to them and the business. Oftentimes, introverts do tend to focus on the task and ignore relationship building, so it requires deliberate and conscious daily effort to nurture relationships at work. It can pay off in countless ways if they do.
Finish this sentence: "If an introvert is thinking about asking for a promotion or raise at work, the first step that he or she should take is…"
…to make sure you and the boss are on the same page on your job performance expectations. These are the foundation for making your case that you are a rock star and need to be paid the big dollars. You can keep updating the boss on how you are meeting and exceeding those expectations on an ongoing basis, so when the time comes to ask for a raise, it becomes an easy sell. You never want to ask for a raise without the groundwork being laid well in advance. If you haven't, then your request raises flags of all sorts like not having a clue about your work or the priorities of the boss.; and the next time you ask, it will be a harder sell because you've caused them to be resistant on this topic.
Regarding introverts in the workplace, do you think it will be easier or harder for them to flourish and achieve success in the future?
Introverts are at a professional disadvantage from day one. The U.S. culture is extrovert-oriented. That means we measure the "goodness" of each other by how outgoing we are and how easy it is to develop relationships; and with that package, extroverts are easily the center of attention. We love our extroverts.
It doesn't mean an introvert can't get ahead and succeed in a very big way. It does mean an introvert has to be more conscious about their own behavior tendencies and have adaptation strategies for important situations so they can be the success they know they can be.
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