But you should hire me anyway.
Some people aren’t tall. Some people aren’t of a certain ethnicity. And some people aren’t extroverts. A common misconception is that personality type can be changed. And while it may be true that, for instance, something like anxiety can be controlled and largely lessened, it still doesn’t mean that someone isn’t anxiety prone. I can pretend all day that I’m tall, but it doesn’t actually make me that way.
Personality types are much the same way. I am introverted, and while I can and do often smile at people and am one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, it won’t change the fact that after long interactions with other people, I need my alone time. For an extrovert it’s exactly the opposite. Yes, they can sit still and be alone, but their true self is out with friends. No amount of practicing or conditioning can change that.
The modern world is hard for everyone for some reason or other. But for introverts it’s particularly difficult to know where we fit in. Amid Facebook this and Twitter that, being expected to text someone right back, and when everyone and their mom has a blog, being an introvert can be tough. For someone like me, I turn to working hard to fulfill a sense of self-assurance I don’t get from the rest of the world.
But as it turns out, working hard may not be enough.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read a job description that required a potential applicant to be a “people person.” What does that even mean? I’m always nice to people, even when they aren’t to me. I always smile, even when I’m tired or upset. And I’ll always try to help people if they need me. Yet I was always told at past jobs that I was too quiet, and needed to open up more and interact with people more. As a person who is introverted to the core, it was quite embarrassing and often hurtful to hear those kinds of comments. It made me feel as if, despite all my efforts, what I was doing was simply not enough.
My fear is this: that one day after graduation when the job searches start up, I’ll go into an interview and get told that the company is looking for someone who is comfortable talking to people a lot, and likes to work in an atmosphere with people in close quarters who constantly bounce ideas off each other. Because that just isn’t me. I do not have the salesperson mentality. But I will smile and have a conversation with you when we both find ourselves getting coffee at the same time in the break room.
I want to tell all potential employers, regardless of line of work, to not dismiss the quiet interviewee in favor of someone who seems like they’d be more fun to work around. Because often the introvert is the one who can stay the most focused for the longest time, work the most efficiently, and produce work of a higher quality with no help.
I realize being social counts for a lot. But as long as I’m friendly, does it matter that I’d rather sit quietly and do my work alone? As long as I’m doing my work and doing well, does it matter that I don’t speak up at meetings as much as others? There are far better ways to judge someone’s character in the workplace than by tallying moments when they’ve expressed good social skills. After all, extroverts aren’t graded on how long they can go without speaking. Why should the opposite be true for people like me when that’s truly just the way we are?
I write this with a hint of bitterness at the lack of understanding I’ve been met with in the past, but with a larger hint of hope. Because I do understand that it takes talking and effort and trips outside of the comfort zone to advance in the world. But I also don’t want to dread going to work everyday, knowing I’m going to have to interact with fifteen people before ten in the morning.
There has to be a happy medium somewhere. So maybe when I tell you I don’t have a Facebook or that I went to a movie alone, the fact that I work hard and am great at what I do can balance it out.