"The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world."
-- Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Introverts and extroverts -- the former draws energy from being alone, while the latter is energized in social settings. Most of us are neither wholly introverted or extroverted, but it's estimated that between about a third and half of us are, overall, introverts. That has implications not only for how we socialize, but also how we work.
Introverts are not all the same, but they generally have certain traits in common, such as preferring to listen than to speak, thinking before speaking (or acting), and preferring to work alone or with relatively few people. They are often somewhat reserved and more detail-oriented and will more likely wait to be approached when in a social setting instead of approaching others.
Here are some of the best jobs for introverts:
- Social-media specialist: This kind of job didn't exist not so long ago, but introverts can rejoice that it's here now. People in this position would spend much of their day online, sharing items on various social-media sites and responding to things that others post. They can help companies establish online presences -- or they might even be promoting themselves, such as through blogging.
- Computer/web worker: These folks are also at computers for much of the day, whether they're designing and maintaining websites and databases, or programming software. Some such jobs can pay rather well, but they can also require a lot of expertise.
- Creator: Another good line of work for introverts is one where they're working largely on their own, creating things. They may be writers, artists, designers, illustrators, game designers, wooden jigsaw-puzzle cutters, furniture makers, seamstresses, and photographers. Private chefs can fit in this category, too, creating meals for their clients and delivering them.
- Nature worker: Foresters, farmers, and others working in nature spend time with entities that aren't talking to or interacting with them -- such as trees, fields, lakes, rocks, and animals. You might be studying, preserving, watching, or guarding a forest, perhaps in a park, or you might be farming organically, spending most of each day tending to growing crops. You might be a geologist, park ranger, zoologist, botanist, marine biologist, landscape architect, fisherman, or planter of trees. (Such jobs exist!) These jobs are great not only for many introverts but also for people who would much rather be outdoors than indoors.
- Library or museum worker: Libraries and museums tend to be quiet spaces, and they offer some jobs that don't feature a lot of human interaction, except occasionally with colleagues. You might, for example, be a museum curator or archivist, studying, cataloging, and maintaining historical items or pieces of art.
- Statistician: If you like math and working with numbers and prefer that to a lot of interacting with others, you might enjoy working as a statistician. It might seem an obscure line of work, but there are many different kinds of statisticians, such as biostatisticians who study clinical trials and actuaries who work in the insurance field.
- Engineer: Many fields require a lot of math work, and engineers are a perfect example. They come in a wide variety, allowing an introvert to focus on a field of interest. For example, there are civil engineers, electrical engineers, architectural engineers, petroleum engineers, robotics engineers, environmental engineers, aerospace engineers, industrial engineers, medical engineers, and chemical engineers.
- Scientist or doctor: Many doctors deal with patients all day long, but not all doctors. Some are pathologists, for example, studying tissue samples and diagnosing diseases (among other tasks), while others are researchers, studying diseases and other things in labs. Other introverts without doctoral degrees might work in labs as researchers. Many might be other kinds of scientists, too, such as astronomers, physicists, chemists, or biologists.
- Trade worker: If you like to be doing hands-on work and don't mind getting dirty, you might be a plumber, electrician, plasterer, roofer, carpenter, welder, or worker in any of a number of trades. You might be a mechanic, too, fixing cars, small engines, heating and cooling systems, or other things.
- Night worker: One way to avoid the crush of humanity is to work at night, when far fewer people are out and about. Introverts might consider being security guards, for example, or healthcare workers working the late shift, or truck drivers.
If you're thinking about what kind of career would be best for you, go ahead and think about the fields that interest you and the skills and training that you have, but also consider how you're wired -- the personality traits that will make some kinds of work much easier and more enjoyable.