Introvert? How To Survive in an Extroverted Office (And Vice Versa)

introvert

This guest post was written by Jabril Robinson, a Career Development intern and graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at NU. It was originally published on The Works blog on August 21st, 2014.

Personality is defined as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s unique character” (Psychology Today). Understanding one’s personality type is crucial, not only in adapting to a workplace environment, but also selecting a workplace to be a member of in the first place. One of the most common examples of personalities comes down to extroversion and introversion. Although these may be widely used terms, I’ve noticed in my experience that relatively few people actually understand what encompasses an introvert or an extrovert, and what essentially makes them different. If you are one of those individuals who find the subject to be perplexing (or just have a general interest), please read on!

Q: What is the difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert?

A: Introvert: Not surprisingly, introverts are re-energized by having “alone time”. Even when working with small groups of people, they can be quickly overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations or surroundings. Depending on the situation, a large crowd of people can be an instant red flag to an introvert. When it comes to work, introverts prefer to concentrate on one task at a time, and observe a situation (or group of people) in advance, before jumping in.

Careers that promote the strengths of introverts include scientists, writers, and artists. Famous examples of introverts include actress Julia Roberts, actor Clint Eastwood, host David Letterman, and author J.K Rowling.

A: Extrovert: Often referred to as “social butterflies”, extroverts make a living through social stimulation. They focus on elements of the external environment (in contrast to an introvert’s inner mental realm), such as the people on activities around them. Extroverts thrive in active, fast-paced jobs, such as sales, teaching, and politics, where skills such as adaptability, problem-solving, and quick decision-making are critical. Extroverts learn firsthand by doing, and prefer to talk through ideas and solutions. Multitasking is an extrovert’s bread and butter.

Famous examples of extroverts include Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, actor Tom Hanks, and former NBA player Michael Jordan.

Q: Are there misconceptions regarding Introverts or Extroverts?

A: Indeed! For instance, shyness is a trait commonly used to describe introverts. Firstly, both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Shyness is essentially a feeling of uneasiness of anxiety experienced in social situations. Here’s the key difference between shyness and introversion: while introverts prefer less social stimulation, shy people often desire social interaction, yet avoid it for fear of being rejected or criticized. Boom! Introverts rejoice!

A misconception involving extroversion is that all extroverts are loud, annoying, and talk too much. While this may be true for some individuals, not all extroverts are such. Extroverts simply prefer to think out loud, whereas an introvert may do more internal thinking before speaking–just a style difference.

There are several other misunderstandings when defining introversion and extroversion, which brings me to my next point….

To be a successful employee, it is crucial to understand not only yourself, but also the personalities of those around you in the workplace. Issues can arise when introverts and extroverts interact. Introverts may see extroverts as bossy, while an extrovert may see an introvert as shy or withdrawn. Whether an introvert or extrovert, here’s some advice that may help you understand what is going on across the fence:

What extroverts should know about their introverted colleagues:

1) If we need alone time, it is not because we don’t like you, rather because we need it–don’t take that as a personal insult.

2) If you want to hear our opinion, please be patient. We aren’t in a rush to speak up–we know we will have our turn eventually.

3) We are not lonely people, but we are choosy about who we associate ourselves with. If you try to turn us into extroverts, you will not be one of those people!

What introverts should know about their extroverted colleagues:

1) If we try to get you to loosen up, we aren’t doing so to annoy you. Honestly, we mean well.

2) If you are struggling with small talk, we can help with that–it is a useful skill, whether you like it or not.

3) We are not all the same–just like introverts. There are extroverts who have a quiet side too–you just have to keep an open mind.

Not sure where you fit on the extroversion/introversion spectrum? Set up an hour-long appointment with a counselor in the Office of Career Development! Utilizing personality assessments, we can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what career paths may best serve your abilities.

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. He has a growing interest in personality assessment, such as Strengthsquest, True Colors, and several others. Currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program, Jabril seeks a Master’s degree within student affairs. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu!

Welcome To The December Co-Op Crash Course

crash course

In case you still haven’t turned the page on your calendar yet, December is here in a big confusing 50-degree way. November has passed – you can’t even look at mashed potatoes any more and you’re shamelessly blasting those Sam Smith Christmas covers like they’re going out of style (which, they will be on December 26th).

Here at Career Development, we’re excited to fill your Christmas break with awesome career tips and tricks –

Welcome to the December Co-Op Crash Course!

For the next couple of weeks we will be sharing and over-sharing about the do’s and don’ts of office culture, email etiquette, and more.

Basically, by the end of this, you’re going to be the best co-op ever.

Welcome.

Join us tomorrow for our first post of the series!

How I Became A Part-Time Soldier

Part-time Solder, full-time student Source: northeastern.edu

Part-time Solder, full-time student.
Source: northeastern.edu

This post originally ran January 27, 2013 on The Works.

The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.

When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.

Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.

After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.

Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.

Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.

After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.

I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.

Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.

Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.

So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.

So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .

ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.

References available upon request

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

Looking back to high school, I didn’t realize how easy I had it getting recommendations for college applications: one from my guidance counselor, ask two favorite teachers, done and done. With big plans to enter college undeclared, I wasn’t at all worried about the subject matters taught by these teachers.  I also wasn’t worried about etiquette of the recommendation process, since I had explicit instructions from my guidance counselor –  provide a stamped and addressed envelope for each college you’re applying to and post-it with earliest deadline on top.  Send a thank you card no later than that first deadline.  So simple. Looking back now, I realize that these concepts are also relevant for getting professional references.

  • Of course I chose my favorite teachers, right? Why would I even consider that pre-calculus teacher who gave me the stink-eye all of sophomore year for giggling with my best friend through each class (I’m sorry, but he shouldn’t have seated us next to each other). The same concept still applies. Choose people who have positive things to say about you and will be able to speak to your overall character.
  • At this point though, subject matter matters. It is important to consider who will be able to speak to the specific skills that will be required in the position you are targeting. It’s okay to tell a reference which skills you believe will be most important and to ask her/him to emphasize those.
  • Since job references probably won’t be a one-shot deal like mailing a stack of college applications, it’s important to keep your references updated as you apply to jobs. Since you won’t often know when exactly a potential employer is going to call a reference, keeping her/him updated on jobs to which you have applied ensures that s/he can speak knowledgeably about your goals.  In the case of a written recommendation, you should ask about 5-6 weeks in advance of the deadline. However, it’s rare that an employer will ask for a written reference, they usually want to speak to the person directly.
  • The most nerve-wracking part of asking someone to serve as a reference is probably the initial request. Hanging around after class worked in high school, but, as a professional, stopping by someone’s desk unannounced is not recommended. Asking via email ensures that the person knows exactly what you want and has time to think about his answer. It’s important to be clear about what you’re asking – the subject line might read “Job reference for [your name]?” – and you should get right to the point at the beginning of the email before further explaining the specifics of why you are asking this particular person.  It can be helpful to mention specific projects or tasks you’ve worked on with that person that you think will relate to skills needed for the new job. This helps the person understand why you are specifically asking her and gives her some guidance in regard to which of your skills to highlight. Even if you’re 99% sure the person will say yes, it is polite to give him/her an out. Use language like “would you be comfortable…” or “Do you feel you know me well enough to…”
  • I remember seeing classmates being scolded for being late with thank you cards. Though it is unlikely anyone will directly scold you for skipping this step, people will surely take notice and it’s just good manners to thank someone when they do you a favor It’s important to follow up once someone has agreed to serve as a reference by sending a thank you (email or US mail are both ok, but no need to send both). It’s also good practice to update your references on your job search periodically and DEFINITELY let them know once you have accepted a position. Thank them again for their support in helping you reach your goal.

So maybe it’s not quite as simple as it was in high school, but it’s not bad right? There may not be a guidance counselor holding you accountable (read: stalking you in homeroom), but you can totally handle this. Choosing appropriate references and maintaining open communication with them is going to be key for strengthening your job candidacy, long-term professional contacts, and ultimately taking that leap into the “real world.”