4 Ways Introverts Can Grow at Work

Since senior year of college, The Niche Movement Chief Editor Carmen Vernon has received the same year-end feedback: Seek to learn more from your colleagues.

To get the most out of her current position, Carmen has learned she needs to make connections and advocate for herself to grow in her role. She only hurts herself when she goes to the office, works all day, and neglects to seek out conversation and connection. In this blog, she provides some steps to break this habit and seek new opportunities.

My number one piece of advice to my fellow introverts: “Get out from behind your desk.” My fellowship supervisor senior year of college said this to me, and I have never forgotten the comment. Last year my first post-college boss echoed the same sentiment to me during my year-end review. So clearly, I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to building relationships in the office.

If you stare at your computer screen for 8+ hours of the day and forget to talk to the people around you, you’ll certainly be productive, but you’ll also hurt your career. Senior year of college, I worked at the university’s alumni association. By not talking to my colleagues about their work, by not exploring all three floors of the office, and by not sharing my hopes and dreams with them, I missed out on connections that staff members could have provided to Indiana University’s vast alumni network.

The bottom line: Forming relationships at work allows you to meet people who will propel your career and invest in your long term professional growth.

The steps below set you up to form connections and get new experience at work. All it takes is a little persistence.

1. Invite a colleague to coffee

Everyone loves a good coffee break. And everyone loves to talk about themselves, so find a cafe close to your office and devote an hour to coffee. Aim to take a colleague who you rarely work with but admire or want to learn more from.

Ask your colleagues how they got to the company, what they did before, and what they’re working on now. See how you plug into their picture of the company. Tell them how you hope to grow in your current role and where you hope to go next. Then tell them your ultimate dream job.

If they know you and your goals, then they’ll think of you when new opportunities arise.

2. Seek out shadowing opportunities

Now that you made some friends over coffee, it’s time to see if you can learn from them on the job.

Your role is one tiny piece of the puzzle at your organization. There might be other departments that you know nothing about, or there might be certain roles on your team that you want to better understand. Regardless of the reason, reach out to shadow.

If you have an interest in someone else’s job role, ask to sit in on their team meeting or ask to sit in on a phone call they’re having with a partner, funder, or client. You won’t learn unless you experience it. And you won’t experience it unless you ask.

3. Ask to be put on a new project

Shadowing allows you to see a more holistic view of the organization. You get a sense of how distinct roles and distinct teams work together to achieve common goals. If you sat in on a meeting for a project that inspires you, ask your boss to be considered in the future when similar projects pop up again!

But be sure to articulate why you’d like to be on these projects when you ask. Explain how this type of work will help strengthen a particular skill set that you’re committed to mastering.

Then follow up to that future statement with an overview of the past. Remind your boss of all your milestones achieved in the past that demonstrate how you can successfully take on this next challenge.

4. Advocate for professional development opportunities outside of the office

Enroll in a class. Go to that conference. Attend a one-day workshop. Leave early for a networking event.

The office can only teach you so much. Sometimes you have to get out from behind your desk and your office’s four walls to learn a new skill, meet a prospective client, or become a stronger, more confident professional.

As before, articulate why the experience is vital to your growth when presenting the opportunity. The worst your boss can say is no. You’ll never know unless you ask.

Remember, start with coffee. Build the relationship. Once the relationships are solid, you’ll have more opportunity for new projects and professional development.

What other tips do you have for introverts to succeed in the workplace?