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The Gift Of Being An Introvert

Contributed by : Dilip Saraf

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Most of my clients come from engineering, science, and technology. Although not all are engineers a large majority comes from high-tech industries. Apart from engineering, R&D, and technology fields many are from marketing, sales, channels, and other functional areas of a business. Interestingly, about 70% of my client pool is typed as Introverts. This issue comes up during my Client Intake Questionnaire, where I ask them to type themselves using the Myers-Briggs typing test.

Although statistically 50% of a general population can be typed as Introverts"much like the two sexes"there is a general negative reaction to being typed as an Introvert. Most would rather be Extraverts and they often ask me if being an Extravert is somehow better.

My answer is always the same: It is just your preference in how you choose to spend your time at the end of the day or at critical times when you need to be internalizing something difficult, critical, or important. Then I tell them the names of famous Introverts: John F. Kennedy, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Albert Einstein, Angelina Jolie, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Meryl Streep, Steve Wozniak, Marie Curie, Warren Buffet, Sir Isaac Newton, and Barack Obama, which assures them somehow that being an Introvert can't be all that bad.

The clients' preference for being an Extravert perhaps comes more from their being shy more than being an Introvert. Shyness"also called diffidence"is the feeling of apprehension, lack of control, or awkwardness felt when a person is near, approaching, or being approached by others, especially in new situations or unfamiliar people. Shyness may come from genetic traits, the environment in which a person is raised, and personal experiences or early imprinting. There are many degrees of shyness. Stronger forms are usually referred to as social anxiety. The primary defining characteristic of shyness is a largely ego-driven fear of what other people will think of a person’s behavior, which results in the person becoming scared of doing or saying what they wants to, out of fear of negative reactions, criticism, or rejection, and simply opting to avoid social situations, instead. In a business situation shyness can get in your way of success. So, you must find ways to overcome shyness and become more assertive"even little forward by practicing such behaviors.

One famous example of an extremely shy person, who overcame it is that of Katherine Graham of the Washington Post. When she inherited the publishing empire upon her husband’s death she was afraid to even look her own employees in the eyes and say, Good Morning! When talking to even one person she was unable to say what she had on her mind and ended up reading what she wrote, without even looking at them. She forced herself to overcome this pathological shyness and then went on to become the most powerful woman in the US!

Being an Introvert, on the other hand, is a preference orientation, where the person at the end of their day generally prefers to be alone"not in crowds or partying"in familiar surroundings such as their family. This is how Introverts derive their energy to recharge themselves. It is believed to an inborn personality trait or preference. Extraverts, on the other hand, prefer to go partying at the end of their day and will find avenues to recharge their batteries in the presence of other people"even total strangers"who are willing to pay attention to their antics. They will even buy drinks for total strangers if they are willing to listen to their stories of greatness and openly admire them.

So, if you're typed as an Introvert, be assured that there is nothing that you need to change to be different. Being aware of it and coping with the needs to socialize can be useful in one's career and professional growth if you find strategies that allow you to work around your Type preference.

Here are some tips for those, who feel that being an Introvert is getting in the way of their success:

  1. First acknowledge that being an Introvert is just another way of manifesting your behavioral preference and has nothing to do with being good or bad.
  2. Avoid opportunities that present themselves more naturally for Extraverts, where being an Extravert is to your advantage. Typically, these opportunities are in sales, marketing, show-business. Even in show-business there are some highly successful people typed as Introverts (see the list above).
  3. If you are in an environment where you need to exhibit Extraversion consciously respond to the situation with some effort. Remember, this is not your natural orientation, so you can affect it situationally and you must learn how to do that. If you cannot affect this, just be yourself and enjoy the scene. Otherwise, find another Introvert in that group and hook up with them.
  4. If you are in a profession dominated by Extraverts, find strategies that work with your personality without assuming a different persona. In the case of one Introverted client she decided to attend a party and enjoy herself by going one-on-one with many at the party and circulating throughout the evening, rather than just sticking with one person as she used to previously do.
  5. Find ways to expand your reach through means that work rather than affecting a behavior that makes you uncomfortable. For example, if you are not the type who stands in front of group and tells loud, colorful jokes at a party, then find other private ways to make yourself visible, such as by helping the host with the arrangements and being yourself seen as another host.

Being an Introvert is one kind of a gift, as is being an Extravert. If you understand what you need to do to get to your goals you will always find ways to attain them!

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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