"That's nonsense! This is not a time for false humility!"
These words were said to me in 1996 by my advisor at the time, John McCarthy. We were talking about an academic major and I was considering one path while he was clear on another. I suggested that the road I wanted to take was maybe "lesser" than what my friends decided. He disagreed. His point stuck with me- have confidence, be who you and stop being so falsely humble.
He didn't mean to be proud (often considered the opposite of humility). Rather, he meant that, like Fr. Thomas Judge often said in the early 20th century, "humility is truth".
In other words...
-if you want to take this class, do it. If you don't, that's ok.
-if you're smart, own it.
-if you are good at painting, be honest about that.
Be who you are- that's what it means to be humble. Oh, and don't be a jerk along the way. (My own interpretation.)
Fast forward to a conversation I had recently with a friend considering making a career change. She was honest in admitting that she doesn't like to promote herself. "I'm an introvert after all..." She argued as if that disqualified her from bragging about herself.
That's when I go back to the wise words of Dr. McCarthy and say to my friend and anyone else of the introvert persuasion, "nonsense"!
Get over it. I'm an introvert like you wouldn't believe. I get it- the need for alone time. The predictable rhythm of a weekly schedule. Deep thinking... All of it I get and appreciate. It's who I am and it may be who you are.
And guess what- very little of that will get you hired. The system is just not built that way. Instead, it favors the loud, proud and brightly adorned. I wish I could change that but I just can't. Schools do it. Businesses too. Our culture raises up those who can toot their own horn and introverts need to accept this. This doesn't mean change who you are but it does mean an occasional season of career skill-sharpening.
So what are you to do? Do you become a phony and start acting like a celebrity or can you stay true to your own introversion? Can you design an extraordinary career and maintain what's deeply good about your introversion?
Absolutely. Good news- you can be both introverted and phenomenally successful at work. Did you know that Bill Gates considers himself an introvert? Warren Buffet too. They've done alright for themselves.
I have three suggestions for how you can promote yourself without feeling like a phony.
1. Keep your website fresh. We talk about this all the time on the blog. You have to have a good website to promote yourself. It does the talking for you. Keep your website fresh, current and contemporary- it's a way to extend your voice.
2. In your interview (presuming you will have one that leads to a new job), practice your intro and closing lines. You need to be clear about your narrative. "I'm about to turn 30 and always wanted to do ... " or "Before my kids graduate from high school, I've made a commitment to ..." You get the point.
The close is also very important. When an interview wraps up, they always ask you for your questions and you ought to have two in the can ready to roll. Then, you can ask for a final thought.
The script for the final thought is very simple and goes like this: "Mr. Jones (interviewer), can I say one final thing before we wrap up today? I just want you and the group to know that
a) you'll never regret hiring me and
b) no one will work harder to accomplish the goals that you want for this position than me. I know I can do a great job for you."
This works every time. It projects confidence and moxy without being arrogant.
3. Look for a place to work that values your introversion. You want a place where you can be yourself and really fly. Most introverts will want to avoid open-office concepts such as cubicles, etc. Too many distractions.
With all of this said, introverts, while making up 30-40% of the workforce still need to practice being (occasionally) extroverted. This will help you keep your career moving forward and keep you honoring your own introversion, which is a gift in an of itself.