What is an introvert?
As a refresher, introverts generally treasure their alone time, are less motivated than others by external rewards, consider their message before speaking, and prefer one-on-one interactions to group outings. “An introverted person would rather spend more time in their own head with their own ideas and thoughts, rather than join in on what is happening externally around them,” says s recruiter and career coach AJ Vollmoeller, president and owner of Future Force Staffing & Career Services.
If this only sort of sounds like you, keep in mind that these are only broad-strokes traits of what it means to be an introvert. That's because there are four introvert subcategories, and knowing with which you most identify can be helpful for identifying which of the careers for introverts are best suited for you.
Which of the 4 introvert types best describes you?
In 2011, psychologist and researcher Jonathan Cheek, PhD, named four introversion subgroups: social introversion, anxious introversion, thinking introversion, and restrained introversion. The differences between each essentially highlights why you're introverted, which is super-important for making professional decisions.
"Knowing what type of introvert you are is key for finding the best-fitting job environment possible," says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. "Increased self-awareness is empowering and allows for greater overall discernment as to what is helpful and supportive and what is not. Knowing the specific strengths and sensitivities that are part of each type of introversion allows introverts to select a career and work environment that is as tailor-made to their unique needs as possible."
4 Types of Introverts
For your consideration, the four types of introverts go as follows:
1. Social introvert
This is the classic picture of an introvert—a wallflower who keeps to themselves, but is open to occasional social interactions. “A social Introvert doesn't mind joining in on what's happening externally around them, but only in small doses and preferably in smaller more intimate settings,” says Vollmoeller, who you may also recognize from Married at First Sight. They operate happily alone, and really bask in "me time." For social introverts, canceled plans are a blessing, not a curse. While that doesn't mean they're unfriendly or even shy, it does mean that working on a team is not a job's selling point.
2. Anxious introvert
The main difference between social introverts and anxious introverts is the clear delineation of, well, social anxiety. Anxious introverts tend to steer clear of social interactions to avoid feeling panicked by a sense of insecurity and awkwardness. “Anxious Introverts constantly appear on edge or nervous and tend to shy away from social or other situations that may trigger anxiety, and are typically highly avoidant to the point some may interpret it as being rude,” Vollmoeller adds.
3. Thinking introvert
This is someone whose natural introspectiveness makes them come across as a little, well, head-in-the-clouds, if you will. “Thinking Introverts are most comfortable when reading, learning, studying, and researching, and tend to truly pause and think before they speak,” Vollmoeller says. While in this state, thinking introverts are conceiving brilliant ideas at a rapid-fire pace, and this ideating habit is what classifies them as introverted—not any strong avoidant feelings against social interaction. So unlike social and anxious introverts, thinking introverts are happy to work on a team.
4. Restrained introvert
Finally, a restrained introvert is someone who shows up to a party as a caterpillar, might cocoon in the bathroom for a hot minute, and then blossoms into a social butterfly. They're reserved at first, but once they get familiar with a person or situation they're willing to open up. “Restrained introverts often show little or no emotion and tend to be more reserved, thoughtful, and grounded,” Vollmoeller adds.
What should you look for in a career as an introvert?
Not sure which path to choose while taking your next career step? Vollmoeller says that the biggest factor is choosing a non-customer-facing position, so as to avoid situations that feel uncomfortable or triggering. “Introverts tend to excel at jobs that require lots of solo work and brainpower to complete,” he adds.
Beyond the type of career itself, Vollmoeller says it’s important to keep the company’s work culture in mind when pursuing and accepting a job. “Some company cultures revolve around being social, high energy, and upbeat, while others are more traditional and professionally focused,” he explains. “For an introvert, even doing a job they love in a company culture that is overwhelming or uncomfortable for them can be challenging.”
What careers are best for introverts?
Mistal says this is ideal for social introverts, allowing you to work more one-on-one with clients and colleagues versus being part of a vast conglomerate.
Pros: High upward mobility
Cons: Moderate stress and flexibility
Salary Range: “Accountants made a median salary of $73,560 in 2020. The best-paid 25 percent made $97,530 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $57,110,” according to U.S. News & World Report.
Job Requirements: Have a degree (and preferably an advanced degree), pass the CPA exam, and keep up with continuing education
2. Freelance Writer
Whether you're a social, thinking, or anxious introvert, Mistal says this career option is great. It appeals to the story-crafting desire that many thinking introverts have, and allows both social and anxious introverts to operate independently. Furthermore, introverts are more naturally inclined to express themselves in writing rather than verbally. "Introverts usually make incredible writers, which is crucial if you want to communicate and create content for the audience you serve," Lucht says.
Pros: You get to build your own schedule and cover what you’re passionate about
Cons: Payments aren’t always on time
Salary Range: Fully dependent on location, pitching, etc.
Job Requirements: Willingness to pitch, meet deadlines, and communicate professionally and grammatically
3. Medical Professional
Mistal recommends a medical environment for restrained introverts. Job security allows for longevity, and room to grow with their colleagues. "Doctor, orthodontist, and dentist offices also offer small, close-knit team environments and a steady, long-term patient base that the introvert can get comfortable with and be less restrained over time," she says.
Pros: Depending on your job title, the role can be very lucrative; medical professionals like nurses and doctors are in high demand
Cons: Long hours
Salary Range: Depends on your exact role. According to U.S. News & World Report, registered nurses made a median salary of $75,330 in 2020; nurse practitioners made a median salary of $111,680 in 2020; and orthodontists made a median salary of $208,000 in 2020—just to name a few.
Job Requirements: Depends on your exact role, but likely an advanced degree
4. Data Analyst or Data Scientist
Mistal says jobs focusing on "numbers, formulas, and spreadsheets" are best suited for anxious introverts. If you're not into the idea of interacting with people but enjoy seeing how they function via Google Analytics, this could be a good path.
Pros: There are many data analyst and scientist jobs, not to mention optimal potential for future growth in the field
Cons: Few if any
Salary Range: According to U.S. News & World Report, data Scientists made a median salary of $98,230 in 2020.
Job Requirements: A background in engineering, math, computer science, and/or business (in most instances; it depends on the specific role)
5. Travel photographer
Excellent for a creatively minded social introvert who wields a camera like a shield, Mistal suggests travel photography as a great option for a social introvert. Because, let's face it, using your photography skills to capture beautiful landscapes probably feels way more comfortable than the crowded, boisterous world of wedding photography.
Pros: Requires frequent travel
Cons: Requires frequent travel
Salary Range: Fully dependent on role.
Job Requirements: Background in photography, willingness to pitch publications and corporations your ideas and services
6. Civil-service professional
With a restrained introvert, the objective is to lean toward an industry that won't be pushing out workers like a factory. Stability is their key to success, and that's why a government job might be worth looking into. "Government and civil-service jobs are traditionally low-turnover, given their history of providing pensions and retirement benefits," Mistal says.
The list of potential civil service categories include everything from foreign affairs (good for thinking introverts, as well!) and management analysis (could be nice for anxious introverts) to information technology manager.
Pros: Fully dependent on role.
Cons: Fully dependent on role.
Salary Range: Fully dependent on role.
Job Requirements: Fully dependent on role.
7. IT consultant/manager
For an anxious introvert who likes working with their hands but would rather eat glass than present in a group meeting, IT might be a fitting career path. "I recommend jobs where social interactions aren't a key requirement of job success, such as work with tools or machinery, like IT Hardware, trades, farming, construction or heavy equipment operator," Mistal says.
Pros: Among the top 15 best-paying jobs in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report
Cons: High stress and minimal flexibility
Salary Range: According to U.S. News & World Report, IT Managers earned a median salary of $151,150 in 2020. The best-paid 25 percent made $191,470 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $116,990.
Job Requirements: A bachelor's degree in computer or information science (additional requirements vary based on the specific role)
Working within the sciences might allow options for the thinking introvert. Mistal asserts that this type of introvert works best when they're using their imagination, formulating hypotheses, and organizing concepts.
Pros: There are political, medical, and data scientist roles
Cons: Dependent upon specific role
Salary Range: According to U.S. News & World Report, data Scientists made a median salary of $98,230 in 2020; epidemiologists or Medical Scientists made a median salary of $74,560 in 2020; political Scientists made a median salary of $125,350 in 2020.
Job Requirements: Bachelor’s to Master’s degree
If you're a thinking introvert who keeps putting off that big side-hustle project, now could be a good moment to make it a reality. "Introverts, in my experience, are also most likely to thrive running a business and being their own boss because they don’t shy away from executing on projects alone," Lucht says.
Pros: You’re self-employed
Cons: You have to be incredibly organized to make it work
Salary Range: Dependent upon type of company, location, etc.
Job Requirements: Dependent upon type of company, however, degrees aren’t always a necessity (just look at Bill Gates)
10. Any kind of virtual assistant
Positions that use tools like the internet and other mediums that provide for indirect social connection are your friend. "Remote work is good for this type, as they will appreciate working alone and won't feel isolated," Mistal says.
Lucht echoes this notion, adding that you don't even have to work for a big organization in order to thrive. Rather, you can use your powers to help level someone up in a one-on-one way. "If the thought of starting a business makes you cringe, the online-business job market is rapidly expanding, meaning you could work remotely for someone who has built their own empire as their virtual assistant, project manager, or copywriter," she says.
Pros: It allows you to get introduced to an industry to determine if it’s right for you
Cons: Your schedule and livelihood is in the hands of someone else; upward mobility is not always quickly available
Salary Range: Dependent upon specific role
Job Requirements: Dependent upon specific role
FAQs About Introverts and Careers
What are top paying careers for introverts?
According to Vollmoeller, tech is always going to be the top-paying career choice for introverts. “At least for the foreseeable future,” he says. “There are a lot of avenues within tech and raises/advancements happen often which leads to quickly advancing your compensation and career.”
Should introverts avoid sales careers?
Sales is often considered to be a more social job industry but according to Vollmoeller, it’s still a great option for introverts. “A career in sales doesn't necessarily mean a person is a closer,” he says. “Sales closers require help from a team around them of pre-sales, post-sales, and business development reps (BDR) professionals.” With that in mind, he says that introverts can make great pre-sale and post-sale reps. “Pre-sales positions are typically a more technical role that explains the product or service at a very detailed level during the closer’s courtship of a new client,” he explains. “Post-sales involves implementing the new product or service for the client and typically does require conversations with the new client, but the conversations are about implementation and tend to be more professional than social.”
Can introverts become successful HR?
Since human resources jobs require adequate responsibility and optimal analyzing skills, Vollmoeller admits that HR roles can benefit some introverts. “HR could be a difficult career choice for some types of introverts, but a good career choice for others,” he says. “HR comes with a lot of responsibility that requires time spent thinking and investigating which is preferred by a lot of introverts, however, a portion of HR responsibilities are employee-facing and sometimes require uncomfortable conversations (even for extroverts). In my opinion, being an HR generalist is not the right role for an introvert, but other titles that all fall under HR that require less employee interaction are Payroll Specialist or Compensation and Benefits Manager.”
Is it a good idea for an introvert to go into a career in marketing?
Marketing is very team oriented and, as such, it’s not the most introvert-friendly career. That said, it depends on the type of introvert you are. “Though marketing does not require a lot of social interaction, it is very much a team-oriented career that also requires knowledge of current trends which can be difficult to stay on top of for an introvert because they are not naturally exposed to them in social settings,” Vollmoeller explains. “Careers within marketing companies, like graphic design, are better suited for an introvert who wants to work in marketing but does not like keeping up with modern social trends.”
How do introverts get promoted at work?
The same way anyone does! “Work hard and be good at what you do,” Vollmoeller says. “Being recognized and promoted in your career relies on your abilities to do your job effectively and better than others, not who talks the most or is the most social.”
Even if you’re an introvert, there are ideal careers out there to accommodate your preferences and traits. In other words, you're certainly not doomed for failure. Many introverts have a silent power of paying attention to details, keeping their head down while working, and creating thoughtful results—no matter what job they hold. "Being comfortable with the quiet is an introvert’s greatest advantage in career and business," says Lucht. "They can literally do anything—and do it really well—because they focus intensely on the priority at hand while bringing their own unique and subtle magic to it."
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