I’m Akshay, a Finance Graduate here at Optus who is a self-declared introvert and I’m here to share my experiences of how I’ve navigated (and thrived!) in a large corporation. First, I wanted to share this quote by author Susan Cain as it summarises introversion perfectly;
People often assume that introversion is related to, or means being shy, means being antisocial in some way. It’s really not that at all. It has to do with how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. This operates at the level of the nervous system, it’s not merely just like a preference. Introverts really feel at their most alive, at their most energized when they’re in quieter, lower-key environments.
Susan couldn’t be more right. Rather than associating introverts with being shy (and extroverts as being loud), instead, we should think about which environments will suit people best. When thinking about workplace culture, starting at a new job can be intimidating, especially when you’re an introvert and you don’t know what your new environment will be like.
So, if you’re like me, and are a self-declared introvert looking to pave your way to success in a traditionally extroverted workplace (yes, Optus does love an open-floor plan), check out these six tips.
Introverts tend to prefer the mental space to problem solve and analyze issues, before speaking out. Whether it be at a networking event or in a team meeting, don’t hesitate to add your own personal input. Demonstrating the ability to generate innovative ideas and solutions helps introvert win over everyone’s good grace.
As a graduate, I’m here to learn and soak up as much as I can. Introverts can often be mistaken for not knowing as much or lacking confidence because they don’t automatically say what they know. The key is to prepare ahead of time. Continue to ask questions, write up a list of goals and ideas that you may wish to convey to reference when asked during a meeting and build a sense of inner confidence about your ability to successfully convey your internal knowledge to others.
While introverts may naturally prefer to be in a quieter environment, most organisations have open-floor plans, so it’s important to find ways to embrace it. Having ongoing conversations around you can be stimulating, allowing quick decisions to be made amongst your team in-person, on the spot. When I need my quiet time, I either chuck on my headphones or I take my laptop to a quieter part of our campus.
Working in finance can get frantic at times. As an introvert, I can often get overwhelmed by the pace of the workplace. To maximise work efficiency and reduce stress, I’ve made it a regular habit to schedule breaks into my work schedule so that I can recharge and keep my ideas flowing throughout the day. During the afternoons, my team and I regularly go for a quick coffee run to help us recharge and unwind. In my personal experience, I’ve noticed that having others to bounce thoughts and ideas off can actually help prevent a build-up of stress – which is a big motivator for me to connect with my peers and form great relationships.
Just like in university, having a ‘tribe’ will help you feel supported at work – whether they’re your peers or superiors. Having a network is important, however, I’ve learnt that a good network has nothing to do with ‘networking’. You’ll naturally build a quality network when you do good work, or when you connect with people over shared passions. So, if you’re an introvert and networking isn’t one of your strengths, don’t sweat it. Put yourself out there and make yourself uncomfortable. Focus on doing good work and being real.
Learning new skills and behaviours may be uncomfortable at first, but with conscious repetition and refinement, you can manage your introversion—and thrive in the extroverted business world. Introverts can be known for being serious all the time. Don’t be afraid to show unexpected flashes of humour or talk about your hobbies. It may take a little extra effort, but it will definitely help you excel in the workplace.
Remember, your personality is yours to own. Embrace the opportunities, take on new challenges, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Find out more about the Optus Graduate Program by visiting the Optus profile at GradAustralia.