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Introverts Lead on the Job and in the Job Search

By Wendy Gelberg

A study reported in a recent Harvard Business School newsletter revealed that introverts can be just as effective as extroverts in leadership roles on the job - and in some situations, even more so.

The study found that "leaders need to adapt their style depending on the type of group they are leading," with extroverts being more successful with introverted followers and introverts being more successful with extroverted followers.

Similarly, it's reasonable to believe that introverts can be as effective as extroverts in the job search process - and in some cases, even more so. Here again, the key is being able to adapt your style.

I'm not talking about changing your personality, but rather about exercising either introverted or extroverted skills, as appropriate to the circumstance.

Remember that introversion and extroversion are preferences, like being right- or left-handed. One hand may be dominant, but we manage best when both hands are available to use as needed (often one in support of the other).

Your natural introverted skills will often complement the extroverted behaviors of others - for example, with the interviewer who spends more time talking about the job than finding out about you.

By listening carefully and understanding the problems the person hired for this position will need to solve, you'll be ahead of the game as you tailor your remarks to address those problems.

But you may need to apply more extroverted skills in other situations, such as a networking exchange with someone who seems more reflective and less responsive. Have some questions, conversation starters, or comments ready to lead the conversation.

It's okay to take the initiative and provide some gentle direction, in networking and interviewing, if the situation calls for that.

Bottom Line:

Be prepared to flex your responses to match the situation. Let your introvert skills shine when they help you be most effective, and develop your extrovert skills to use when they will work better to help you reach your goals.

About the author...

Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at

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