How To Stand Out At Work When You’re An Introvert
It can be tough to know how to stand out at work if you’re an introvert. Speaking up during meetings doesn’t come naturally to you, pitching ideas in front of a crowd can seem intimidating, gathering around the water cooler is just no, and you don’t necessarily show up to happy hours to bond with your coworkers… so how will anyone even notice that you work there, let alone that you bring value to the company and have some stellar ideas? It can be a tough spot to be in, but not completely hopeless.
You don’t have to be loud and the center of attention to get noticed in the workplace — think about it, how many of those characters do you have in your office, anyway? Instead, you can use your quiet, introvert ways to your advantage and be remembered for those personality traits instead. If you don’t stand around cubicle walls talking with co-workers, you’re hardworking and persistent with tasks. If you don’t speak up during meetings you’re a valuable listener. If you rather tackle projects alone, you’re a self-starter. Just how do you convey those positives towards your boss? Below are seven tips to help you stand out in your office if you’re an introvert — you won’t have to change who you are, you’ll just have to become better at expressing it.
1. Display Your Skills & Knowledge Online
If you don't like talking about your past experiences and projects, you can always build yourself a portfolio or blog that showcases your knowledge without having to speak. For example, if you've worked on projects in the past, create a Squarespace portfolio that showcases them all under one space. Or if you're very knowledgeable in your field, start a blog that writes articles about relevant topics and let's you show your expertise. Then when someone asks about your skill set (or you want to prove to your boss how experienced you are to spearhead a project), you can share those online platforms with them and let that do the talking.
According to career-development site Levo, "Creative websites, professional blogs or other demonstrations of skills and accomplishments (even resumes) can serve as a foundation for future conversations and can give actual meaning and substance to subsequent interactions, including interviews and networking. To butcher Bonnie Raitt’s timeless classic, 'it gives you something to talk about.'"This way, you don't have to spend a handful of time talking about yourself — instead, you can show them directly.
2. Realize Your Introversion Is A Strength (And Flaunt It)
You won't be able to stick out at work if you think your quiet nature or shyness is a set back. Instead, observe your introvert qualities and pinpoint why they're actually strengths. This will give you the confidence to realize you bring a lot to the table, even if you're not the loudest one in the meeting.
Stephanie Peterson, contributor to career-growth site Muse said, "Don’t let extroverted ideals cloud your vision. If for example, you’re the type to lose yourself in solitary work, realize that your ability to contentedly read, write, research, code, or create for hours at a time is incredibly productive! Further, a tendency like this suggests that you're independent, self-motivated, and likely to contribute innovative ideas to your team." Instead of being a loner, you're self-motivated. Instead of being quiet, you're focused. Hype up these traits and become known in the office for them — they'll work in your favor.
3. Make Sure You're Not Hiding Behind Your Label
While you're introvert ways are strengths, make sure you don't hide behind the label as an excuse to opt out of things that intimidate or scare you. While peacing out of a happy hour or networking even is totally fine (social exhaustion, anyone?) saying no to a career-boosting project or making connections of grabbing coffee with influential people are terrible moves. Don't let "I'm shy" become your get out of jail free card.
Peterson said, "Next time you’re thinking of saying no to an opportunity under the guise of being an introvert, pause and think about the real reasons behind your decision. If it's all dread or disinterest, then you're probably right to skip out. But if fear is suggesting you run away from something with clear potential to enrich your career, consider rising to the challenge." Sometimes we have to do things we're uncomfortable with — don't let yourself bow out of amazing opportunities because you're committed to your label.
4. Focus On Creating A Few Meaningful Connections
You don't have to make a ton of great connections at work in order to stand out. If you're an introvert, that can sound ridiculously intimidating, not to mention exhausting. Instead, focus of quality, not quantity.
According to Christina Park, leadership contributor at Forbes, "To take some pressure off yourself, stop comparing yourself to your extroverted colleague who simply oozes charisma and easy charm. Focus on making a few deep and meaningful connections, rather than flitting around the room and handing out business cards to everything that walks." If you have connected well with a couple of people at your work, they'll become your cheerleaders. They'll think of you and your skill set when it comes to picking people for projects, and will hype you up if anyone asks about you and what you're capable of. You don't need everyone on your team, just a couple works, too!
5. Speak Up About Things You're Passionate About
While extroverts are amazing at small talk and engaging people from the get-go, you can stand out from the crowd by skipping the elevator talk and speaking up only when you're passionate. If a topic comes up that you're super knowledgeable about or that really enjoy, now is the time you should join into the conversation. And people will remember you for it because you have so many valuable and interesting things to say.
Park pointed out, "Introverts tend to dislike small talk, but enjoy meaningful discussions on subjects they’re passionate about. Identify your work-related passions, and find ways to connect with others by using your mutual interests as a springboard."
For example, you can discuss how you ended up on your career track, talk about an article that has something to do with your industry, or email your boss about interesting new trends or project ideas. You don't have to talk often — just when you do, make it meaningful. People will remember you for it.
6. Fill Existing Needs By Proposing Projects
If speaking up at meetings or engaging in long conversations at the water cooler just isn't your cup of tea, opt out of the "social butterfly" label and instead try on "problem fixer" for size. Use your tendency to listen carefully to your advantage and wait till you hear about a problem that needs to be fixed. Then, offer a solution in the form of a project you can lead. You might not be the most social in the office, but if you're constantly coming up with solutions you'll definitely stand out.
Michael Somoroff, award-winning artist, film director and teacher, told Nancy Ancowitz in Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, "Search others’ needs and create projects that are solutions to their desires. This ensures a certain kind of success because the projects have a place in the world, since people already want them." A problem solver is invaluable, and that's exactly what you'll be.
7. Stand Out From The Crowd By Listening Well
People love knowing they're being heard, and they usually feel a fondness towards those that listen to them. If you don't like being the center of attention, instead be the person that listens. In a meeting, back up a colleague by repeating what they said and listening to them. If your boss forgets a point the team discussed a couple of weeks ago, remind him what it was. Bring up things people said days ago and offer how that was a great idea and should be perused. You might not be chatty, but people will recognize you as an important part of the team because you're invested and paying attention.
Casey Carpenter, career coach and contributor to career-development blog Rana Campbell said, "With today’s frenetic pace, others often don’t feel heard. Make it a point to quote your colleagues; paraphrase their remarks and demonstrate your superb listening ability." People love being heard, and you'll stand out for being your regular, introvert self.
What you may interpret as weaknesses as an introvert could actually be strengths if you use them to your advantage in strategic ways. See? Standing out isn't so hard after all.