Tips to Survive Business School as an Introvert
When you think about your typical business major, people generally think of someone unafraid to speak up, to sell themselves, who networks well and socializes well. You might think about the life of the party; someone excited to talk at length and in detail about their next business venture. Most, if not all, of these traits, are generally associated with someone who is an extrovert.
In contrast, introverts tend to be people who like focusing more on their thoughts and ideas and focus more on what’s going on internally versus externally. They prefer the company of a few close friends and family and shy away from social situations that involve lots of people. This doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like people - it’s just that socializing isn’t something they are motivated and excited by.
While there are many ways we can categorize introverts and extroverts, it’s best to go straight to the source. When psychologist Carl Jung first coined these terms in the 1920s, he defined extroverts as people who were recharged by being around other people and introverts as those who recharged by being alone.
And while that distinction still rings true, that doesn’t mean that every person in the business world is extroverted. In fact, there are many introverts in the business world, and you can count yourself among them if you consider the following helpful tips.
Tips to Survive Business School as an Introvert
For many, the beginning of a successful career in business involves attending business school. This might feel particularly stressful for introverts, but rest assured, keeping some of these tips in mind can alleviate some of the stressors in attending b-school.
Tip #1 Prioritize valuable alone time
Group work is the cornerstone of most business programs, and being able to demonstrate your ability to work well with others is a huge component of getting into the most competitive programs. However, studies show that not all great brainstorms come from group environments. Dangers of group work such as groupthink, overly domineering team members, and lack of ownership can arise when working in groups. However, most programs will value group work. As an introvert, it is essential to balance your time spent working with others along with time working alone. If you know that you will be working in a group on a project, carve out tasks that you can work on independently and then present or share with the group. Take on roles where you can support the work being done instead of leading the charge. Connect with your teammates one on one and maybe work together with a more extroverted team member to get support in communicating information to the team.
Tip #2 Learn to self-monitor
In her Ted Talk, “The Power of Introverts,” Susan Cain discusses the concept of self-monitoring. She defines this as the ability to modify your personality to suit the needs of a situation. For introverts, this means taking on traits of extroverts, such as putting themselves out there more or being the first to raise their hand in a classroom setting. Lots of professionals do this in their jobs - from teachers to actors, to public speakers, and of course, business majors. For some jobs where a lot of public performance is critical, this skill is invaluable if you are not as naturally extroverted as your job demands. This might also mean rehearsing a lesson before giving it, writing a speech, and practicing it repeatedly. It might even mean writing a script of what you will say to a potential client or contact before saying it.
For others, this might involve learning how to sell yourself and your ideas. For extroverts, this again might be something that comes more naturally to them. However, for introverts, this is something that can be practiced and learned.
Tip #3 Don’t underestimate the power of being an introvert
There are many advantages to being one of a few introverts in an extroverted setting. Extroverts naturally gravitate toward the great listeners that are introverts. Introverts also tend to be better at forming long-lasting, deep bonds with people, as opposed to the social butterfly nature of extroverts. As an introvert, you might also be much better at taking your time to process information, opting to take a slower, more thorough approach to thinking about problems. Extroverts tend to lean towards snap decision making and an introvert might be the balancing power that a room full of extroverts need.
Tip #4 Be confident in your unique skills.
As you embark on your journey into the business world, keep in mind that you have special skills that will get you the results you desire. But the road to success is marked with trials and you will have many obstacles in your way. You might doubt your skills and your ability to connect with others. You might feel overshadowed or simply talked over by your extrovert peers. Don’t lose faith. Continue letting your unique skills of listening, problem-solving, team-building, and deep thought shine. The business world needs more introverts, starting with you!