Introverts are widely misunderstood. People often conflate anxiety, antisocial tendencies, and social awkwardness with introversion, but they aren’t the same. This assumption is a problem because it creates a cultural bias towards extroverts, especially when it comes to work. Introverts are often great networkers and thoughtful communicators, which are extremely valuable career skills. The best jobs for introverts allow us to flex those skills in an arena that feels safe.
Put simply, introverts tend to recharge by spending time alone while extroverted people are energized by relationships and being around people more than not. Lisa Orbé-Austin, New York-based psychologist and career coach, points out that introversion is not chiseled-in-stone personality trait, and it could be freeing to recognize that. “Introversion definitely shouldn’t be considered a diagnosis — more like preference, like your dominant writing hand,” she explains. “You can probably write with both hands, but your non-dominant hand generally takes much more effort to write with unless you practice using it.” So introverts can develop skills normally associated with extroversion — like public speaking — even if they may not come as naturally to them.
All that being said, introverts might want to choose career paths that both allow them to showcase the skills they have naturally and challenge them to build new skills. Here are a few surprising suggestions for career paths that our experts say can nurture introverts.
Although I'm well-versed in the multitude of celebrity introverts, I was a little surprised when Aimee Daramus, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, suggested acting as one of her top pick jobs for them. Apparently, introverts often work best when they have time to think about what they’re going to say before they say it. “Actors can control the narrative and prep for it in advance by memorizing their lines,” Daramus says.
Acting also gives introverts a controlled way of interacting with people. “Having a stage persona isn’t as intrusive for some people as having a more personal interaction with someone you don’t know.” Having a role to play is a good way for introverts to perform socially but also allow them to keep their inner workings private.
But what about all the events that go along with celebrity? “Not all introverts are socially awkward,” says Daramus. “Some can be great at socializing and really love it. It’s just that they can only take so much of it before they need a break. That opens up more job options as long as they can get a break when they need it.”
Introverts are famous for showing up to parties only to end up forgoing drinking games in favor of having deep conversations with cats. It’s not because we don’t care about people. We want to show our affection, but we often feel drained by the small talk that goes along with dealing with humans. Personally, I find the company of animals energizing because we can skip all the talk about the weather and go straight to showing our soft underbellies.
Veterinary work lets introverts do their thing and keep the chit-chat to a minimum. “Introverts are going to get peopled-out eventually, but they would thrive in a job where they can create space for others,” Daramus says. Working with animals is a great way for introverts to facilitate a caring environment, but because veterinarian’s patients are animals, they are less likely to get overwhelmed with the social aspects of the work. Introverts can work all day with dogs and cats without feeling depleted, she explains.
Social Media Manager
Because introverts are often good connectors and really enjoy others, they may want to find work that allows them to be social from a distance, Daramus tells me. If you like the work of marketing, making connections, and creatively engaging with others, working in social media is a great way to go.
Social media managers create brand campaigns and use online platforms to engage customers for their clients; this requires a lot of the native skills of introverts without forcing them into cocktail party discomfort. It also involves creative and thoughtful communication, which introverts excel at, but it allows us the distance that we find comforting.
Introverts are also great at letting others take the attention, and social media managers are the behind-the-scenes wizards that come up with great ideas but aren’t in the spotlight themselves.
Introverts can flourish as writers and journalists. Being an observer and storyteller, Orbé-Austin says, "allows for contemplative thought [rather than] immediate action, gives space for reflection, and allows for communication through writing.” That’s basically my job description.
I love writing because I get to have the intellectually curious conversations I crave on my own terms. I get to express myself, but even when the story seems like it’s about me, it’s not really about me; I’m just using me as an example to get an idea across (like right now), and that can feel both rewarding and safe for introverts like me.
Writers also have to be in touch with our feelings and also able to reliably predict how our words will land with readers. “People high on introversion tend to be more attuned to the emotions of themselves and others,” says Matthew Mutchler, psychotherapist and associate professor of counseling psychology at Delaware Valley University. That’s what writing is all about — creating an emotional connection across distance.
And frankly, a lot of other professions
Ultimately, dear introvert, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. There’s no reason to think of your introversion as a liability, notes Orbé-Austin. “There are a multitude of dimensions you should consider including interests, skills, values, work environment preferences, motivators, lifestyle preferences as well as other aspects of your identity when you make a career decision,” she says. In other words, you aren’t just an introvert; you are complex. You can claim this aspect of your personality as a major part of your identity, but you don’t have to.
Mutchler agrees. “We need to think of introversion or extroversion as a continuum, not a dichotomy,” he says. “People should learn their strengths and seek career/job opportunities that play into that."