Obtaining a Leadership Position as an Introvert

By: Heidi

Going into my Junior year of college, I was feeling rather content with where I was at starting a new job at Career and Internship Services as well as taking on a leadership role as the Volunteer Coordinator for UMD’s yoga club. During Junior year everything starts to become a little more real and intense. Running for a leadership position in my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma was not something on the top of my priority list, but it was something that was fun and exciting to consider. As the applications were sent out, I started to think a little more seriously, “what position would I run for?”, and “could I really pull this off?” I personally have never held a high position in an organization let alone an executive board position of a chapter with 100+ women.

obtaining a position in leadership as an introvert

One of the main reasons I was so hesitant to running for a position is because I didn’t feel like I would be a good leader because I am introverted. What I needed to learn is that there is already a misunderstanding that introverts are shy, when actually we are great listeners, which is fitting for leadership roles.

For the longest time, I did not know or understand my own strengths. This is where I used my results from the CliftonStrengths for Students to my advantage. Everybody has their own strengths and in this process, I realized it was about time I stopped doubting myself. Ask yourself “would I be a good fit?” Now change the question to ask “why would I be a good fit?” to understand from a different perspective. The most important thing is to run for a position that aligns with you in which you could passionately contribute to your organization.

If you find yourself wanting to run for a leadership position but feel hesitant, that is natural! What do you have to lose? Take the time to understand what would make you a strong leader because chances are the answers are already there.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Kelli Tungay

The Power of Introverts – A TED Talk Breakdown

By: Ashley

For this week’s blog post I chose to do a breakdown of Susan Cain’s TED Talk The Power of Introverts. Susan gave this passionate TED Talk back in February of 2012 and it is a must watch for everyone. Susan starts out the talk with a story about summer camp that she attended as a young girl. She talks about how she brought with her a suitcase full of books because in her family that is what they did together, it was considered a social activity. I have similar experiences with my mother, we would often read books together and discuss them, like a mini book club of sorts, and I too always brought books to summer camp. She continues by saying that they were encouraged to be outgoing, rowdy, and social at camp and that when she pulled out her books she was asked why she was being so mellow and it was implied that she wasn’t showing camp spirit. The message seemed to be that being quiet wasn’t the right way to go, that she needed to be more extroverted and so she put her books away for the summer and oddly enough she felt guilty about doing so. That message carried on into adulthood where she became a lawyer just to prove that she could be bold and assertive even though deep down she wanted to be a writer. Next she says something that I thought was really interesting; as many of you fellow introverts probably understand, we often put ourselves in situations that aren’t ideal, we go to crowded bars and hit up parties even though we would rather be at home or having a quiet dinner with friends, we do this to appease those around us and to seem “normal.” Susan says that this making of introverts into extroverts is not only a loss to ourselves but also a loss to the world. Introverts, like extroverts, respond optimally when they are in the right environment, different stimulations bring out different results. Where an extrovert shines in social situations, an introvert may require more freedom to work independently before revealing their ideas. But this need for freedom and solitude often gets the introvert’s idea passed over for someone more vocal, or extroverted.

Power of introverts

She then goes on to tell about how nowadays we have a bias for extroverts over introverts. This bias can be seen in classrooms and workplaces. Students now work in pods and perform copious amounts of group projects, even in subjects like math and creative writing. Often it has been observed that the ideal student is seen as an extrovert, whereas introverts can often be seen as troubled children. The open concept office has taken away the ability for alone time, which is crucial for introverts. She says this shift in favor of the “man of action” over the “man of contemplation” has to do with the change from an agricultural economy to a world of big business. You know the best talker isn’t necessarily the one with the best ideas. She says that there is a need for a better cultural balance between introverts and extroverts, we need collaboration but in order for us introverts to come up with our own unique solutions to problems we need more freedom to be ourselves. Often introverts feel guilty because they want to be alone, even though some of the greatest thinkers have needed to be alone and have done incredible things, but coupled with this solitude the collaborative piece will always be needed. Susan makes it very clear that she doesn’t hate extroverts. I too love extroverts as I live with a very vibrant one. I don’t think the point of the TED Talk is to shame extroverts. I think it is to tell the world what all us introverts are thinking. Let us do our thing and you will be astounded.

She closes her talk with 3 calls for action I absolutely loved, here they are:

  1. Stop the madness for constant group work – I 100% agree with this one, I think that learning to work together is important but I also think it is just as important to learn to work independently.
  2. Go to the wilderness, unplug, and get inside your own head – this is fantastic. I think it is so easy to forget who we are these days with social media and the ability of anonymity on the internet, that it is healthy to get away from it all and get inside your own head. Have an epiphany like Susan talks about.
  3. Take a good look inside your own suitcase – use what is in it and open it up to others, the world needs you and what you carry. This is a wonderful statement because what is in your suitcase is who you are and who you are is nothing to be ashamed of. My suitcase would be filled with Tolkien novels, horror movies, and a subscription to Scientific American. My question to you is: what’s in your suitcase?

Lastly, Susan sends everyone off by saying “I wish you the best of all possible journeys and the courage to speak softly” and I think that quote is beautiful. We live in a society that prizes outgoing and energized individuals and Susan makes a case for those of us who are quiet and contemplative. I encourage everyone to watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk because it is entertaining as well as informative.

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Photo source: Doug Robichaud|Unsplash

Interviewing as an Introvert

By: Meg

Interviewing is tough. You want to make the best impression on the people who could be your employers: be friendly, outgoing, confident, and ready for the job. Sounds like an Extravert’s game. Not necessarily! Play to your strengths as an Introvert and you can have the best interview ever.

Interview tips for introverts

Active Listening

A big part of interviewing is learning what they want to hear. You can usually catch this by how they ask questions, what questions they ask, and in what order. Make it known that you’re listening and considering what they have to say. Then you can answer the questions knowing that what you’re saying matches up to what they are looking for as best it can.

Think Before you Speak

In an interview, people get nervous. They speak quickly because silence is scary. Silence is your friend. If you begin talking before you know what you’re going to say, you may trip over your words and say something different than what you intended. So don’t process out loud. Listen (actively) to the question, and then take a minute to formulate what you have to say. Once you’ve figured it out, you can say it clearly and confidently.

Know your Stuff

For anybody, the best way to ace an interview is to know your stuff. Know your strengths and weaknesses, know about the company and what you can bring to the table. Coming in prepared will help you shake off any jitters. It also lets you frame what you’re going to say in your head. Some introverts have problems “bragging,” which can be a problem with interviewing. So don’t think about it that way. Use your quantitative achievements, and state those as facts. For example: “I raised $500 by creating and managing an auction at the annual fundraiser, which was a $200 increase.” You can refer to items on your resume, but go beyond that.

Now here’s the tough part:

  • Small talk – Yes, it is necessary. Make it natural. In Minnesota, we really do like to talk about the weather. Talk about something simple that you can chat about.
  • Show your Passion – As an introvert, it can sometimes be hard to show other people my passion. Here’s the trick: The interviewers probably have similar interests. They’re here too, right? So treat them like an insider into your world, and share your passion with them. Just don’t get to caught up in it.
  • Be Confident – Something everybody worries about going into an interview: Are you good enough? But an interview isn’t about if you fit this specific benchmark, it’s about how well you’ll fit into the company and the position. It’s as much an audition for them as it is for you.
  • Ask Questions – Make sure to ask meaningful questions. Ask about the position and its development, your predecessor(s), and the office culture. Ask about the future. You want to make sure this is going to be a good fit for you.

So prepare for your big interview. Do research on the company, and on yourself. Figure out what works. And be yourself.

Stop in with any questions you have about your job/internship hunt or interviewing. You can check out Interview Stream any time and look at and record yourself answering popular interview questions.

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Confessions of an Introvert (#4) – A Survival Guide

By: Katie

It’s not always easy out there for introverts. The world just isn’t made for us. The good thing is there are several things introverts can do to make life easier and better.

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Learn how to talk about your strengths.
Knowing how to communicate your strengths in interviews, on your resume, or elsewhere is essential. It’s much easier for extroverts to talk about their related strengths because they are recognized and valued. It’s not always so simple for introverts. That’s why it’s so important for introverts to recognize the skills they possess and learn how to show them off. Being able to use your strengths to your advantage will help you stand out in this extroverted world.

Figure out what environments work for you.
This can include environments at work, in a classroom, or at home. Maybe this means you need a job that allows you to work independently, or maybe this means you can’t live in a rowdy house of people who won’t let you spend time alone in your room. Whatever it means for you, don’t try to fight it, and figure out how to put yourselves in the appropriate environments that will allow you to be who you are.

Learn how to turn on your extrovert switch.
Unfortunately, introversion isn’t valued nearly as much as extroversion. Even more unfortunately, the world is built for extroverts to shine while introverts get left behind. It can be tremendously helpful as an introvert to learn how to flip the extrovert switch on when you need to. Learning how to function as both an introvert and an extrovert will open up more opportunities for you and make you even more valuable as an employee or intern. It will also help you stay sane when faced with the task of networking or striking up a conversation of small talk with strangers, things that probably don’t come as naturally to you as remaining silent.

Take care of yourself.
While you need to learn how to turn on that extrovert switch, you also need to know when you can’t do it anymore. I know from experience that you can reach a point when you just need to step away and do your own thing. If you go through a day that requires a lot of people-ing, go home and sit in silence. If you just want to be inside your head instead of talk, take the time to read or journal or watch Netflix. If you’ve been busy all day or all week, just do nothing on the weekend. It’s so easy to become drained and not allow yourself the time to recharge, so make sure to set your boundaries and protect your mind.

Know when to say no.
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to introverts, although I am admittedly awful at it. I’ve actually had to rely on friends to tell me to resist the urge to immediately accept any opportunity or responsibility that comes along. Knowing when to turn down an opportunity or responsibility is difficult enough already, but actually following through and declining is even worse. However, knowing when to say know and actually doing it can prevent you from becoming drained and overextended. There’s nothing wrong with saying no when you can’t do or don’t want to do something.

Don’t feel guilty about being an introvert.
In a world that believes extroversion is superior and introversion can be considered a flaw, it’s easy to feel like being an introvert isn’t okay. You might end up feeling like you need to hide your introverted qualities or fight against them. When you inevitably lose this battle, you might feel like you’re letting others down or that you’ve failed. It’s important to not feel guilty about needing downtime or alone time, and to not feel the need to justify it. For you, it’s not boring or wasting time, it’s productive. You need to recharge so you can be at your best, which benefits you and everyone around you. There’s nothing wrong with resting your mind and yourself.

So signals the end of the Confessions of an Introvert series – this introvert has confessed just about all she can. Don’t forget to stay awesome, introverts!

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Confessions of an Introvert #3 – Own Your Introversion

By: Katie

It doesn’t take much digging to find lists of articles online written to help introverts stop being introverts. In light of that, I’m totally okay with being the bearer of “bad news” here: guess what? You actually can’t stop being an introvert. (*gasps from the audience*) I know, it’s crazy. Want to know something else? You actually should be proud to be an introvert, and I’ll tell you why.

Introverts are Thoughtful
Introverts are thinkers. They do so, frequently and deeply. While extroverts may respond right away, introverts prefer to take in information, process it, analyze it, come up with something valuable to say, and then speak. This also leads introverts to be great listeners. Instead of interrupting someone to speak or offer their opinions, introverts can simply stay quiet and listen to what others have to say.

Introverts are Creative
The people who easily become lost in their heads also tend to be people who are great at coming up with new ideas. Thinking leads to imagining, visualizing, and planning. Introverts think themselves into a box, and then think themselves right out of it, making them very creative.

Confessions of Introvert 3

Introverts are Problem Solvers and Decision Makers
With the ability to think deeply comes the ability to concentrate deeply. Introverts easily become absorbed in thoughts and ideas. This leads to focused, in-depth conversations, both internally and externally. Introverts can maintain focus and keep working until they reach a conclusion or find an answer. Additionally, the desire to think leads introverts to make more informed decisions, making sure to consider the options and consequences before acting.

Introverts are Detail-oriented
Fun fact: research shows that introverts are better at noticing detail than extroverts. Introverts show increased brain activity when processing information due to being overwhelmed by stimuli, which is not seen in extroverts. Introverts can observe and take in large quantities of information, picking up on the little details others might not see. This is also part of the reason introverts become tired after being out and busy all day: their brains have been working so hard.

Introverts are Independent
When given the option to work in a group or work alone in class, I’ll work alone. It’s not that I don’t like working with people or can’t do it, I just like to work by myself. Many introverts feel the same way. Not only do introverts like working alone, they’re also good at it. Introverts learn to figure things out on their own without needing to ask for help.

Introverts are Writers
Introverts’ love of thinking and introspection often leads them to be skilled writers. Thinking before speaking and before writing operate on a similar principle: planning what is verbalized before it is actually consumed by others, either out loud or in writing. Writing allows introverts a buffer between their minds and the minds of others, something that allows introverts to clearly and confidently articulate what they want to say.

With all the awesome qualities introverts possess, why wouldn’t you want to be introvert?

The next installment of Confessions of an Introvert will serve as a short survival guide for introverts. It’s not always easy to be an introvert in this extroverted world, but I can help you figure out how.

Read the rest of the Confessions of an Introvert series

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Confessions of an Introvert (#2): You Don’t Know My Life!

By: Katie

Lady Gaga. Emma Watson. Mark Zuckerberg. Barack Obama.
Christina Aguilera. Bill Gates. Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi.

What do they have in common? Well, not the following things.

Introversion is a commonly misunderstood personality type. There are so many popular misconceptions surrounding what it means to be an introvert, many of which could not be more false. In my previous post, I explained what it truly means to have an introverted personality. Now, it’s time to debunk the common myths surrounding this personality type.

Introverts can’t be outgoing, fun, or friendly
Introversion and shyness are not synonymous, and introversion and sociable are not mutually exclusive. Introverts can be outgoing and extroverts can be shy – none of these traits can be attributed to either personality type. Introverts just may have fun in different ways than extroverts. We often have a limited amount of energy to do intense socializing, so we often enjoy calmer nights with just a small group of friends or a simple movie night. We just may have fun doing things others consider boring.

Introverts can’t speak to people, and definitely not to crowds
If that were true, the world would be much more silent (actually…we might kind of like that…). I identify very clearly as an introvert, and yet I have been in several positions that involved speaking to groups of people: a tour guide, a teaching assistant, a RockStar. I guarantee you there are plenty of introverts in similar positions all around you. Introverts can be great public speakers, actors, musicians, and everything else you’d think only extroverted personalities could handle.

Introvert Myths

Introverts don’t want to speak to people
Introverts don’t avoid talking to people because they don’t like it. Not most of the time, anyway. (If we’re talking about small talk, then perhaps. On more than one occasion, I have said small talk is the bane of my existence. I know it’s cold outside, you know it’s cold outside, everyone knows it’s cold outside. I, along with many introverts, don’t feel the need to say empty words to each other. Please don’t make us. *End rant*) If an introvert isn’t talking to you, it’s most likely they just don’t have anything to say or just need their time to be silent. Introverts often prefer to really think about something before they say it, and other times they just prefer to listen to others and absorb what they’re saying.

Introverts don’t like people
I will admit, I have been known to say this. It’s most often when I’m walking through the hallway and others are refusing to move at a reasonable pace, or I’m grocery shopping and someone is taking up the entire aisle. But I don’t truly hate people, and other introverts don’t either. We just typically prefer a few close friendships to tons of acquaintances, and a few good conversations to tons of shallow ones. We like people-ing (yes, that’s a verb in my world), just not in large doses.

Introverts can’t be leaders
It’s true that many introverts are happy to work further away from the spotlight, but many others love to lead and thrive doing so, including the 40% of CEOs who identify as introverts. Introverts lead, they just lead differently. We may prefer to lead more by example than by command, or more through collaboration than direction. Certain parts of the introverted personality, like the ability to listen rather than talk and think of new ideas rather than follow the old ones can make introverts powerful leaders

Introverts need to fix themselves
Alright, it’s time to drop the sass and get serious. This is the one that gets to me the most. It isn’t typically stated explicitly, but it’s always there. The prevailing viewpoint is that introverts would be more successful and happy if they could just become extroverts. It’s true that it can be useful to be able to turn on the extrovert switch when needed, but introverts in no way need to train the introversion out of themselves. It’s not possible, and would only lead to an unhappy introvert and a loss of all an introvert has to offer. Introversion can make things more difficult, but it also gives a person so many advantages that aren’t as common in extroverts. To all the extroverts out there, don’t try to fix us; to all the introverts out there, don’t try to fix yourselves.

Which sets the stage for my next Confessions of an Introvert post (segue alert): how introverts can recognize their strengths, and how they can use those strengths to their advantage.

Other “Confessions of an Introvert” posts

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Confessions of an Introvert: Can we all just be quiet for a minute?

By: Katie

I have a confession to make. I…(deep breath)…am an introvert (holds breath and squeezes eyes shut, preparing for verbal attack).

I remember hearing the definition of the word “introvert” for the first time and thinking, “Yep, that’s me.” I also remember thinking how unfortunate it was that I so strongly identified with an identity I thought was the lesser. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who has ever felt this way.

In 2010, the American Psychiatric Association considered adding “introverted personality” to the official list of mental disorders. The introverted personality and “introverted disorder of childhood” are included in the World Health Organization’s official list of mental disorders.

Confessions Introvert 1

Embedded in our culture is the idea that introversion is wrong and that introverts suffer from an impairment that puts them at a disadvantage. So it goes. The introverted life isn’t always an easy one, especially in a world where extroversion seems to be the gold standard for personality. As Susan Cain explains in her TED Talk, “The power of introverts” (which is awesome, check it out!), many of our institutions are built for extroverted individuals to shine. As a result, the influence of the introverted mind can easily be lost, and the prevailing understanding of what it means to be an introvert isn’t very accurate.

So what is an introvert, really?
In the most basic terms, introversion and extroversion simply refer to the way a person gets their energy. Extroverts gain their energy from interacting with others. For an introvert, on the other hand, the way that energy is gained is more solitary. Introverts rely on times of quiet and solitude to recharge and take a break from a world that won’t stop moving and talking. Constant noise and activity can be incredibly draining for the introverted personality, so times of rest are essential to recover from that overstimulation.

“Solitude matters, and for some people, it is the air that they breathe.” – Susan Cain

The loud world makes it difficult for introverts to think (something we love to do), so they need time to withdraw from others and into their own minds. If introverts aren’t given this time, they shut down. If I’ve been out in the world all day moving and talking, I either become quiet and disengaged or I begin completely zoning out. It’s not fun for me, it’s not fun for you, it’s the worst.

But that’s not all…
Don’t get me wrong, introverts aren’t only happy just being alone. The introverted personality also enjoys spending time with others, they just tend to prefer doing so in smaller groups, particularly when those people are ones they know well. Introverts are the type of people who will probably prefer a birthday party with a group of their closest friends rather than a massive ordeal with loud music and big crowds and fireworks and insanity. Horrifying, I tell you.

These are just a few of the common, natural tendencies associated with introversion. There is much more to the introverted mind than this, and there is much more variation that you might think. (Introverts can love public speaking? Introverts can enjoy going to parties? What?!)

In future “Confessions of an Introvert” posts, I’ll point out the misconceptions people hold about introverts, the strengths of the introverted mind, and how introverts can embrace their introversion and learn to shine in all their thoughtful, quiet way.

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