Introverts, Introversion — Tips for School and Job Success

Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, the recent book by Susan Cain, brings to our attention another personality dimension that affects school and work success.

We know that – personality-environment match – the degree of match between your dominant Holland personality type and surrounding environment significantly affect,

  • Job performance,
  • College and career success

Susan Cain makes a convincing case that this is also true for introversion, introverts.

In fact, these personality dimensions are related. Studies show that four of the Holland personality types are significantly related to Introversion-Extroversion (I-E).

As their descriptions suggest, the Enterprising and Social Holland personality types are associated with Extroversion, and the Realistic and Investigative types are significantly related to Introversion.

In other words, if your dominant personality is Investigative or Realistic, you likely fit near the Introversion end of the I-E scale. If you are high on Enterprising or Social, on the other hand, you are more likely to be high on the Extroversion end of the scale.

Introversion/Extroversion scale

This also holds true for the Holland work environments – Realistic and Investigative environments are dominated by persons who tend to be introverted, and Enterprising and Social environments by those who are extroverted – this includes college major environments.*

Personality-Environment Match and Introverts' Success

Introverts' (and extroverts') success is essentially about personality-environment match. As Holland's theory describes, how people having a similar personality and interests in a work setting (job, college major, for example) creates an environment in which some people fit, and others often don't. Similarly, introverts, together, create an environment that encourages and rewards being an introvert.

(Culture can also have a powerful influence on this environment – Susan Cain does an excellent job in describing how American society has been influenced by Dale Carnegie, Harvard Business School grads, and others to create Extroversion as a Cultural Ideal.)

So, the degree to which your level of introversion matches the I-E environment you are working in – education program, college major, job – is likely to affect your performance and how happy you are in it. Generally, you want to choose an environment that fits your personality.

Tips for Introverts

  1. Learn about yourself. How introverted are you? Sometimes the stress and exhaustion caused by "information overload" are confused with introversion. Many people pretend to be extroverts (and often do not realize they are doing so).

    The introduction in Quiet book has a useful informal quiz you can use to measure where you are on the I-E dimension. The Wiki web article on I-E has sample items that are also helpful.
  2. Appreciate and value who you are. And, if you are introverted, appreciate that,
    • At least a third of Americans are also,
    • Introverts have many strengths, and
    • Many are well known and respected leaders, scientists, and innovators.
  3. Choose to act as an extrovert knowingly, thoughtfully. You can do it best, says Cain, if it is for "core personal projects" – work you consider important, people you love, or anything you value highly – ones you consider "meaningful, manageable, and not unduly stressful, and that are supported by others".

    But you do not want to act out of character too much, or too long. Create and look for "restorative niches" where you can be your true self.

    In choosing a work environment, ask yourself: Will it allow me time to do activities that fit my true self?
  4. Read books like Quiet – to better understand yourself, your environment, and positive ways to think and act in it.
  5. Consider introversion when you are making important personal decisions, especially if your dominant personality is Realistic or Investigative.

And, if you are working with others – parents, educators, counselors, corporate talent development professionals – Quiet has valuable insights and tips for action.

[Disclaimer: I have no connection with Quiet's author or publisher – LKJ]

* Keep in mind, though, that there are exceptions... among normal, healthy individuals. This is the reason we use phrases like "tend to be" and "likely." And, people do vary in the strength of their being an introvert, extrovert, or Holland personality type.