Introversion and Your Career

over 5 years ago from , Designer, Made by Porter

Being an introvert has its strengths and weaknesses, but in the design or creative industry, it can help or hinder you, depending on what you're doing.

Do any other introverts have a story to tell about introversion and their careers? Any extraverts deal with a lot of introverts? If so, how was your experience?

For me, as an INTJ, I have a hard time speaking to a wide range of people, especially if someone else on the team can do it better than I can. I rather just stay in my lane until I really need to lead. Im more comfortable leading with a team I've built myself than joining a team and trying to lead it. At the end of the day, I rather show my worth through my work than to spend time talking all day unless we have to communicate to get the job done.

With that in mind, I had to build my own design business because joining teams and doing the 9-5 job wasn't working at all for me, mostly because I was too introverted. If the scale for introversion to extraversion was from -100 to 0 to +100, I would consider myself a -85 in normal situations. It can shoot up to -50 or -35 if Im talking to a bunch of developers or designers, around like-minded people, or in a one on one situation.

With my story told, do any other introverts have a story to tell about introversion and their careers? Any extraverts deal with a lot of introverts? If so, how was that experience?


  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 5 years ago

    Introvert here, with a massive brain-dump :]

    I want to start with this:


    So I work at a company that (as part of our business coaching services) runs Myers Brigg tests for our clients, and we have several MBTI certified business coaches. In other words: I've been around this test a fair bit and while it has its merits...

    1 ) The test is quite controversial.

    There's some heated debates around the merits and origins of this test.

    The read on WikiPedia is a good start if you want to learn more about this; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator

    2 ) Personalities are not as black/white as "8 letters".

    A lot of people score differently at different points in their lives. Or even simply in different settings!!


    Back to dealing with your own introverted self - and I can only talk from my own experience;

    As I mentioned; I'm an introvert. I'm feeling at my best when I'm sitting at a computer, creating stuff. Whether it's crafting this message to you, learning about animation or messing around with javascript.

    I hate crowds. And I've never quite shook that awkward feeling when I go up to someone I've never spoken to before and asking them something. Anything. Even at a shop where you're supposed to ask someone for whatever they're selling. And I'm 35, so, you'd think ...

    HOWEVER. The trick, for me, is feeling passionately about something. When I'm doing what I love doing, I'm the most open, approachable person ever. Whether that's out on a court playing some hoops (I love basketball!) or in a professional environment. Even with clients. I know what I'm doing. And I love it.

    There's nothing easier for me, than talking about stuff I love doing, with people that want to know about it, or people that want to trust me to be good at it. That's clients, potential employers, colleagues, etc.

    So, oddly enough, pick your topics. Be "assertive" in that. Steer a conversation. Find common ground, deal with awkwardness that way.

    You don't have to talk to everyone in the world. Let that slide. It's not about being understood, liked, or even listened to by everyone.

    The funniest thing is; this makes job interviews HELLA easy. I love them. Might be my most favourite thing to do. From both sides - interviewer and interviewee.

    After all, what's better than having a chat about something you love? :]

    .edit: career-wise, while I don't have big name companies, I've done everything I've wanted to do thus far, for several companies, small, medium, and freelance! Nothing will deter you if you just spread your love for the field!

    15 points
    • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

      Definitely understandable. I've been studying a lot of psychology for the past 6 years, so I'm trying to understand the theories from the likes of Carl Jung and others. I feel when it comes to MBTI, I feel you have to dig deeper into what's being articulated.

      I think MBTI is more like a key or map to the theory of a larger, cognitive system. They're all based on present day pattern about how you process and make decisions. That changes based on nature vs nurture. Learning about how the theory works can help you become more aware of why you do the things you do and can help you figure out if you want to improve the negatives, or praise the positives.

      I definitely understand the world a lot better, and actually like people a lot more because of a system instead of just "feeling it out". I've tried the latter, but it never worked for me.

      As for your story, this is how I am as well. I wish I could of better articulated what I said earlier as I feel the same way when I find something passionate. I can talk all day about music production, or why doing A vs B can be more efficient. If Im contained to a certain role or system that's limiting, inefficient or not exciting, I tend to just fall back, and just "get the job done.

      2 points
      • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 5 years ago

        I see where you're coming from, and it's something coaches have highlighted to me as well.

        Maybe I worded it a bit harshly, since I do agree the MBTI can help you understand people a bit better. However, a lot of people label themselves "INSJ" (etc) on their social profiles and whatnot, which I think is the wrong way to use this test.

        100% what you're saying. It's hard when situations aren't ideal and there's no signs of change on the horizon. And I do think you're doing the right thing by just getting the job done, in most cases.

        Alternatively, talking to the right people is a good trick to get systems/processes changed. We all complain to colleagues, industry friends and online. But that doesn't change the status quo.

        Handing a CEO (for example) viable* solutions instead of problems can get stuff done. Especially if you get others to independently highlight the issues at hand to the same person, or to similar people if there's a board of directors.

        (* viable = immediately implementable, depends heavily on resources at hand.)

        I don't believe in politics. I do believe in getting people to speak up about issues they have - to the right people.

        2 points
        • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

          Haha, yep Im guilty of that. My reasoning is just to get you ready for my crazy way of doing things. I understand most people would rather feel it out and make their judgement, but others like to know why and better understand that person's line of thinking. Knowing this is how I currently do things I feel will attract the right type of people who need my line of thinking. Hopefully I said that correctly!

          And no pressure man. I understand you can't express much tone through writing, so I don't get offended from stuff like that. I actually dealt with a lot of that lately, trying to explore bettering systems with the job I'm working with. A lot of times, we couldn't come to terms and I rather leave since its seems as if I'm the only non-fit of the system. So it's hard to generalize it as I'm super picky with the systems I work with. After the age of 6 or 7, I was the extreme anti-authoritarian of my parent's family system and my neighborhood's culture system. So yeah, that was definitely the "nature" forming that trait.

          1 point
        • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

          Also I know about the people who say they only do this and that because of those four letters, or use it like astrology. It gets way deeper than the four letters, way deeper. Down to measuring your cognitive patterns.

          Mental health illnesses is also done this way, by measuring the amount of times you do a certain pattern in a certain amount of time. Sad part about mental illness diagnosis and labels is that it's all negative sounding. Especially hurtful for someone where a mental illness is not as severe, but because of the negative definitions of the labels, it makes the person feel worse.

          Not all people are the same and I don't believe in a "normal baseline". There are some people who sit in the middle of whatever spectrum you want to reference and there are some people who sit at the extremes. What people want to do with that information is up to them. However they see that, as right or wrong, again up to the individual. My opinion on that, though. Love to hear yours so I can learn and better refine my theory on this.

          0 points
          • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 5 years ago

            Meh - I think we're on the same line, just wording things differently. Largely anyway. We both seem to have a live-and-let-live approach.

            Bet we could discuss this for hours actually ;)

            0 points
    • Tim SilvaTim Silva, over 5 years ago

      The Myers-Briggs test is pseudo-science and just as illegitimate as astrology, reading palms, and carrying dead cats to get rid of warts. These types of silly games shouldn't be taken seriously in the professional world and we should try to avoid spreading it within our industry. I have been seeing folks like Sean Wes spreading this nonsense for a few years and it really bugs me that the UI/UX/entrepreneurial communities are so naive about this stuff. :/

      If you don't believe me, watch some criticism videos about it, or just read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator#Criticism

      I have a degree in psychology and sociology, and I have been following the likes of skeptics including James Randi and Penn & Teller who have been exposing bunk science and claims for many decades.

      Santa Claus is a lie, and so are personality tests.

      2 points
      • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

        What are ways we could quantify personality theory and cognitive functions so it could become hard science? Also, isn't it similar to diagnosing mental illness, as thats also pointing out certain patterns you do over a certain period of time?

        0 points
      • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

        More reading, just incase what I said didn't cover much. What are your thoughts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_psychology?oldformat=true

        0 points
        • Tim SilvaTim Silva, over 5 years ago

          Great questions; I don't have many answers. Most soft-sciences have this looming issue. The truth is, humans are far too complex and fluid to put into boxes. Mental illnesses (I studied lots of abnormal psychology) are often dealt with using best-guessing. The DSM (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders) is known to unreliable. It is important to attempt to do this, but there are limits to our accuracy. It isn't the fault of psychology or psychologists; humans are simply too complex, changing, and riddle with unexpected variables. Can Psychology be a hard science? I'm not so sure. It's like predicting the weather; we can only go so far. Personality tests are far worse than the DSM in that they are often popularized by the same types of people who sincerely believe in ghost stories and reject most forms of reason. :p

          Regarding analytical psychology, introverts and extroverts are never static. Some days and in some contexts we can all play either role. The truth, imho, is that we are mostly 50/50 each, with 10-20% degrees of variation depending on the context. There are extreme cases, but those aren't common. To me, this doesn't make the categories reliable or even useful.

          One of the only measurements of humans that does have both internal and external validity (although it is also iffy) is IQ. Countries with higher IQs tend to be superior.

          0 points
          • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

            Right! There's no real hard science way to explain it. But for people like me, who want to find the solution to everything, its extremely hard to just roll with "just go with the flow" or "some things you can't solve". Meanwhile, were close to finding different dimensions and discovering god particles. That's extremely complex too. In all, I think its not impossible, just that the human mind has to be thought of in a completely different way.

            As for introvert/extravert, I also think that its more of a spectrum than fixed. Sometimes I'll have more energy when Im around people who share the same interests. At the same time, I do think there's certain patterns that happen more often than others, almost all the time. Like a person might show introverted tendencies most of the time, from age 0-35, then become more ambivert as time goes along. Back to nature vs nurture.

            What are your thoughts on multiple intelligence theory? Do you think there's a way to measure your intelligence in things other than pure logic/problem solving abilities?

            1 point
  • Dau j., over 5 years ago

    Last time I did this test I've got INFP or so. The definition fit me quite well back then, nowadays I believe I would lean towards more extroversion and less introversion.

    After my first internship some guys way worse than me got their job offers but I didn't. The explanation was that I'm not a team player.

    This struck me quite hard and even after 4 years working as a front end developer, multiple awards on international level I'm still asking myself if i'm really a team player? Similar thoughts go hand in hand with imposters syndrome.

    I've been freelancing for the last couple of years. I don't think it's because of my lack of team spirit or introversion but I really like the freedom to choose the projects and the clients that I want to work with. And I like setting up the way I work.

    I try to avoid handing out my phone number for clients. Phone calls are stressful and counterproductive. If it's possible i'd rather have an email discussion than a real one.

    Especially when I have to argue or stand my ground on some features. It's much easier to write it down than trying to explain it verbally. When it gets intense I start forgetting the words, mistaking them, interchanging them and so on. I also lose my marbles quite quickly.

    I consider my introversion a problem that I have to work on and i'm constantly trying to push myself into uncomfortable/weird situations. Not especially work related. I believe the more awkward and strange social situations I encounter, the better I deal with them.

    4 points
    • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

      What are some moments when you tend to be more social and center of attention, but don't become aware of it until the next morning?

      For me, its when one person asks me to explain something that I know a lot about. Its starts one on one, and I get really passionate and what not. Then people start wandering over just to listen in and out of no where, a crowd forms.

      0 points
  • Kyle Greely, over 5 years ago

    Wow, I'm so glad to see these posts here. I'm an introverted UX Designer, and I thought I was the only one who was experiencing problems in my professional life due to my social ineptitude. I'm a really quiet person and I don't speak loudly or often unless it's with friends - especially now that I am working in my second language, I find it really hard to assert myself in meetings because most of the time I am playing catch-up, just trying to understand the conversation that is taking place.

    This hasn't led to too many problems as of yet at my current job, but at past jobs it has basically led to me either quitting or being terminated. Many of my former employers told me that I don't speak up enough or I appear like an unfeeling asshole because you can't read the emotions I'm experiencing on my face. As a UX Designer, this is particularly worrisome for me because it's my job to stand up for users, and I find that difficult unless I'm really comfortable with my team.

    Has anyone gone through anything similar? How did you compensate?

    3 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 5 years ago

    I’m Not an Asshole. I’m an Introvert

    2 points
  • alex belman, over 5 years ago

    I know that I can be an introvert of the worst kind, that sometimes I get to spend whole weeks without talking to anyone, and feel as good as rain! For me, this contact with another human being is like a flow of energy, which much like the Jedi Force, shines a different hue depending on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Introspection I would say that it's super necessary in some fields and professions because it facilitates the concentration and the deep analysis required, for me sometimes a bit of The Big Silence is crucial to learn more quickly when there is something that I need to know already. I consider myself an intelligent person and even when I prefer individual to group activities, I recognize the value of a fluid communication to carry out large projects. I have been art director in newsrooms with up to 50+ people under my wing, illustrators, graphics, photographers, producers, designers, other art directors, etc. which, believe me, without constant communication with them, could have been a total chaos. Now I work on my own as a freelancer, just picking up the telephone or chatting with clients over Skype occasionally. And in both circumstances I am able to find my personal space, that where I retrain myself to recharge batteries or go out to the crowds to make new friends when my spirit asks for it. My advice is: Find your own emotional center and nourish it with what it asks of you at any given time. You decide when and how much you interact.

    1 point
  • Mal SMal S, over 5 years ago

    There's nothing wrong with being shy or introverted unless it's something you want to change. If you're fine with your group of friends and that's enough for you I don't see a reason to change.

    If you see it as a problem that's preventing you from getting that promotion or making new friends and growing your social connections then I think that's a good reason to change, not change your personality but change your perspectives.

    There's a condition called social anxiety, that's mistaken a lot of time with being introverted and shy. Everyone has it one form or another, even the most extroverted person. Most introverts has a hard time with this because they see it as, it's who they are and they self identify with that. I'm shy, I don't have anything to say, I might be boring, people will think I'm weird... etc. These triggers can make you stay home rather then network, stay quiet rather than speak up.. Anyways just my 2 cent as someone who is dealing with it. Getting better everyday :)

    1 point
  • Ross Gibson, over 5 years ago

    Wow @ChrisPorter this was exactly the thing I needed to read through today. I too identify with a lot of the same feelings and sentiments you mentioned. I also have tested as INTJ, and often I come to the same conclusion to just 'get the job done' when I feel that the system I am in does not allow me to flex my creativity as much as I want to.

    The passion is there but my desire to know the why or the logic behind decisions hampers my ability to focus and has often led to me not performing as well as I should. This has made finding the company I best fit in with difficult, and I have yet to find that place where I feel comfortable. I have always known I was naturally introverted but I didn't realize it was part of the reason I have struggled in life. I even have sought out medical help recently to try and help myself accomplish tasks better; thinking that mild attention disorder treatment might help me push through those 'get the job done' moments.

    Getting to read everyone's responses here makes me think that these feelings we seem to identify with can be better served by having more discussions like this so thank you for opening a dialogue! I'd love to set something up where we can all have these discussions on a deeper more active level other that just a DN thread. Perhaps a Slack channel or Hangouts meetup. Let me know if anyone else is interested in doing this, I know I would greatly benefit from talking to other designers who feel this way!


    1 point
    • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

      Glad to see you post Ross! It can be tough. All you can do is improve upon your strengths and any weaknesses that get in the way, do the best you can to become better. Being around people is probably a big one. You can either work at it or do it your own way. Its your own life, so do what fits you sir.

      A book that I found dope was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Definitely a great read. Helped me learn about how to extravert in my own way. Also helped me feel comfortable about being alone. If you can't learn to love yourself and enjoying yourself alone, how can enjoy a partner? You're on the right path sir.

      Also, I'm down for a Slack channel or something.

      0 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 5 years ago

    I realised I was a massive introvert about 5 years ago. It was a great relief as I previously thought there was just something wrong with me.

    I used to get a really busy, clouded mind after a busy day interacting with a lot of people. It made it really hard for me to make reasoned decisions. I used to think that I was destined to work alone or remotely, as I found I could be so much more productive when alone. And I hated working in busy offices.

    But the key thing for me was to learn how to recharge my energy, I've developed various ways of shutting myself off to recharge and they're pretty effective (Cycling to work, mindfulness, using large headphones and listening to white noise). I find I'm able to work 9-5 in a busy office 5 days a week with no problems.

    And now I can enjoy the benefit of collaborating with other people and still be productive, which to me is really what design is all about.

    1 point
  • Account deleted over 5 years ago

    This was a huge problem for me in the beginning. But you know, not having for food breaks you so you suck it up and go outside your comfort zone. At least that happened to me. Now, I don't have problems with being shy or speaking in front of many people.

    1 point
  • Nick NobleNick Noble, over 5 years ago

    INTP here, though I don't believe those are very accurate. Freelance has worked extremely well for me.

    I do have a few super trusted vendors (read: other freelancers) I pull in from time to time, but otherwise being able to own the work is what allows me to feel confident talking about it.

    I also go far out of my way to not work with shitty people (or ones I don't feel compatible with) and that has gone a long way in improving my ability to talk to people in an effective manner and execute without too much self analysis.

    1 point
    • Steve McKinneySteve McKinney, over 5 years ago

      I relate to this, if decisions and changes are made arbitrarily I find difficult to explain the rationale because I feel like there was none.

      1 point
  • Mike HeitzkeMike Heitzke, over 5 years ago

    Like Dirk noted, I feel like a lot of us are guilty of allowing ourselves to get stuck in our comfort zones and being in the trap of "just being too introverted to deal" (forgive my paraphrasing). These are also separate issues imo.

    Being introverted in a very corporate environment like I am now can be very exhausting, both mentally and physically. For most days, I have to conserve my energy throughout the day, make sure I have breaks between meetings (if at all possible) and honestly, try to offset my day so I have time to myself either really early or late.

    I don't believe it's ever really held me back career-wise. Not being introverted anyway, it's just a tendency that I can actively push against, but it can also be very taxing.

    Easily the most tiring things i've done work-related, have been leading or co-facilitating Design Sprints. No way around it, you're around a group people for many hours a day for many days in a row, and you're the leader, steering discussion, etc.

    1 point
    • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

      I agree with you on being comfy with your introversion. I feel to get better, you have to extravert your way. One system Im going back to now that I have time is to do a networking event every Wednesday night.

      The first few will be close to my place, smaller events. Later on, I'll go to bigger events, that might not be in my area. Hopefully I would get better with using my energy toward interacting with people!

      1 point
  • Chris Porter, over 5 years ago

    For me, tt's hard for me to have social interaction on back to back days. I've started to find my sweet spot. If I interact with one person for at least an hour in one day, I'll need at least 1 full day of rest to recover. Once I start interacting with people multiple times, back to back days, I become either annoying or annoyed.

    I'm currently using meditation and exercise to combat it, but its still a tough struggle. Most of the time its because of the capacity my mind has for what's called Extraverted Sensing, aka, external data via your senses. Its my weakest function I'm trying to improve. Its big for being in the moment, enjoying the external data like sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch.

    Lets just say, a typical extravert, especially with Extraverted Sensing as their primary function might have about 1TB of space to "deal with sensing data". I on the other hand, probably have about 512mb of that space to "deal with sensing data". So I needed to adjust my system, way different from other people, to help me deal with life. That means cutting out the 9-5 office job for freelancing. That means setting up my calendar to only have one event with other people a day. It's tough, but I feel a lot better and can work better.

    0 points
  • Craig RozynskiCraig Rozynski, over 5 years ago

    Shy folk tend to have more empathy, which is a good design trait to have.

    We might have issues with things like social anxiety but extroverts have their own problems too, like being obnoxious.

    It's not that black and white either – there will always be people shyer than us and those that are more outgoing than us too, perhaps the trick is being content with the 'settings' we have.

    0 points