3 Career Mistakes Introverts Often Make and How to Avoid Them

The reason we study history is to learn from both the good and bad things others have done. We try to repeat the good things and avoid repeating the bad ones. Generally, that history lesson is isolated to leaders of nations and sometimes business leaders.

Why not history lessons for those of us introverts coming up through the ranks?

I’m here to help introverts avoid some of the more common problems they create in their careers, driven primarily by their personality tendencies. I see these things introverts do to screw up their careers almost daily.

Yes, these career mistakes can be avoided — we can all change without compromising who we are.

1. Underdeveloped Social Skills

Granted, not all Introverts are socially underdeveloped, but many are. It’s easy, especially if you’re an Introvert, to simply not interact with others enough to build your social skills. Let’s face it: it’s hard to develop the all-important Know-Like-Trust recipe with someone difficult to interact with.

Do this instead: If you aren’t sure this is you, find out immediately. You need to get some feedback. Ask your boss who will give you the most unvarnished view of your behavior. Ask an HR representative, coach, or therapist. (This may have been something your mother never told you but should have.) Consider taking speaking, emotional intelligence, communication, or even sales classes to help build your social skills. Without adequate social skills, you are in for a career and life of disappointment.

2. Lack of Strategic Relationships

This is related but separate from #1. You won’t get far by your good looks or skills alone. Your career growth is dependent on whom you know and who knows you. As you climb the ranks, your ability to reach new levels will increasingly become about the relationships you have made. Think about it this way: Do you think Bill Gates got to where he did solely on his computer genius? No, he had equal prowess in determining whom to align with. And yes, he is a big-time introvert.

Do this instead: You may need to practice to get your relationship-building mojo going, but building skills is what career growth is all about. Start by thinking through 2 or 3 people you think would be good for you to know now and in the future. Start slowly getting to know these people and forming reciprocal relationships. A good place to start is with a group “rising star.” They are always easy to pick out and get to know on their way up.

3. Adapt to Your Situation

As Darwin said, adapting is central to our existence. Change is a constant, even though it’s an urban myth that we resist change. If you aren’t figuring out how to adapt your interaction style or perform your job continuously, you will quickly become a problem. This is the best way to become obsolete or difficult to work with. Yes, you are an Introvert, but is all of that tendency serving you well in all situations? Probably not.

Do this instead: Be conscious of the situations that don’t turn out as well as you would like. For those that tend to repeat, think about alternate behaviors and interactions you can have that might reshape the outcome the next time. Look at how and what others do as possible models for what you could do. You won’t adopt behaviors that make you cringe. Keep in mind that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way but expecting different results. If you need additional ideas, comb the Internet for ideas or find books to help you develop solutions.