Making a career as an introverted employee: ‘Don’t wait for an opportunity to come’ | Work

Making a career as an introverted employee: ‘Don’t wait for an opportunity to come’ | Work
Making a career as an introverted employee: ‘Don’t wait for an opportunity to come’ | Work

When you’re an introvert, it’s often difficult to assert yourself – especially in an environment with a lot of extroverts. As a result, introverts often feel undervalued and unseen. How do you ensure that you get and take opportunities at work?

You’re in a meeting and your supervisor announces a new project, asking, “Who wants to take on this?” Before you can even think about it, three colleagues raise their hands. Chance gone. And afterwards you think: I would have liked to have done that project too.

It is a familiar situation for many introverts, say coaches Marloes Bouwmeester of De Successful Introvert and Karolien Koolhof of Quiet Quality. Both help introverts with the challenges they face in their work.

“Many introverts are not very good in unexpected situations,” says Bouwmeester. “They want to think about something. If a great opportunity comes along, they’re already too late, because extroverts think and act at the same time.”

Koolhof also hears this often in the conversations with people she coaches. “They say they felt taken by surprise by the announcement. In addition, they often don’t feel seen or heard. Because introverts are calmer and less conspicuous, they are more likely to be skipped at promotions or when a fun project comes along.”

Qualities are overlooked

That is not only annoying for those who this happens (often time and time again), it is also a shame for the company. The qualities of these people are thus insufficiently exploited. “Worldwide, one in three people is an introvert,” says Koolhof. “Those are a lot of qualities that are not or insufficiently seen.”

Bouwmeester: “I know many examples of introverts who left an employer because they did not feel valued enough. Only when they had left did the employer see what they all contributed, because suddenly everything went wrong.”


Don’t wait for an opportunity to present itself, but make sure your manager knows what you like before then.

Karolien Koolhof, Quiet Quality


Managers can help introverted employees by considering how they prefer to work. For example, by announcing that a project is coming and giving people a few days to respond.

But according to Koolhof, the responsibility mainly lies with the (introverted) employee. Bouwmeester recommends: “Find a way to profile yourself that suits you.”

Telling what you are good at is not the same as bragging

That advice may sound uncomfortable to people who are introverted, but according to Bouwmeester it doesn’t have to be. “It starts with knowing what you naturally excel at and how you can make a valuable contribution to your work with that. I call that your natural advantage. Many introverts are not aware of this, they find what they do very normal.”

By knowing what your natural advantage is, you can decide faster whether you want to take a chance or not. “And tell others about what you do. Not to brag, but because others can benefit from it. That way, people are more likely to find you if there are projects that suit you.”

Koolhof mainly advises to be proactive. “Don’t wait for an opportunity to present itself, but make sure your manager knows before then what you like and what your ambitions are. Introverts are very strong one-on-one, so request a meeting with your manager to tell which opportunities you would like to have. Then your manager can think about that when an opportunity arises.”

Be visible without shouting over you

If you know you want to say something in a meeting, it can help to let the meeting host know. Koolhof: “They can then give you the space to do that.” That way you don’t have to shout yourself over, and you do make sure you are visible.

Koolhof also advises entering into a conversation about what it means to be an introvert and what qualities and challenges come with it. In this way, more mutual understanding can arise.

She sees that companies are paying more attention to the fact that different people’s brains can work differently. “By naming what you are good at and what you have more difficulty with, you ensure that colleagues and managers give you the space you need to get or grab opportunities.”

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The article is in Dutch

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