I think that this may be the most complicated post for me to write from a general perspective. Excepting various jobs in retail and food service and my college work-study doing phone work for the college’s IT department I have only ever worked for my current library. All of my perceptions of what it is like to be an introvert at work — especially an introvert in a library is colored by my personal experience.
Yes, I work at a library. You may think that is the perfect job for an introvert. You’d be surprised. Currently I handle all of the library’s interlibrary loan transactions. I enjoy this because it allows me to work alone and concentrate deeply. The “J” function of my INFJ personality really shines paired with my introversion (aka I like to organize, plan, and work with details). The other two jobs I’ve had and loved at the library include handling course reserves and copy-cataloging (loads of concentration, organizing, and working alone). What may be surprising is that my job — and many library jobs — are customer service jobs. Folks may think that I’m hiding in the stacks and shelving all day and instead I’m in meetings, and answering phone calls, and fielding impromptu research questions, and handling various and sundry crazy situations. I’m required to think on my feet and deal with all sorts of people; and, yes, that includes difficult people. While I’m really good at organizing and doing my actual work; I still have difficulty dealing with the people side of things.
Trust me it isn’t because I’m perceived as quiet and shy. Quit the opposite. I have a reputation with the other library staff of being fairly loud and outspoken. There are several reasons why I’m “outgoing” at work:
- I work in a small library: two library assistants and five librarians. Add in just over a dozen work-study students and that’s our library. I don’t have a very big “audience”.
- I’ve worked at this library since 2004 and I know my job well.
- Given the smallness of our staff, we’re expected to work at a team. Loads of meetings and loads of talking. If I wasn’t able to work in some sort of team I’d be screwed.
- My loud and abrasiveness is mostly because I don’t know how to deal with people. Seriously. I go from quiet to “BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH.”
Each year, in my annual review I get tons of “outstandings” on my actual work. I’m on time, diligent and go the extra mile. I always …. ALWAYS … get no higher than “satisfactory” on things like professionalism and working well with others.
My problem is that I’m trying to be extroverted when I’m not. And, of course, whenever I try to be something other than me I fail. Well, at the very least I’m stressed and cranky.
This work year is operation To Thine Own Self Be True. I don’t really need to be loud about my job. I work with good people, I do a good job, and I’ve no reason to doubt the security of my position.
There’s no advice-like conclusion to this post; rather I’d like to solicit feedback. How do introverts communicate in meetings? When I’m in a room with extroverts I feel the need to talk over to be heard. But do I need to be heard? Perhaps the best way would be to be myself — keep to myself — and then let people come to me with questions or go to folks individually with pertinent remarks and information. As long as I can do my job and do it effectively then I should have to bend to the extrovert idea of constant talk, feedback, and group work.
We’ll see how this experiment works!