When you think of a designer, you may picture someone extroverted and outgoing who dramatically sells their creative vision. You may wonder whether someone who is more introverted can also succeed in the design field. Having successfully worked in this field for the past 15 years, I can say that the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes.
As an introvert, I am a quiet person who speaks up only when needed. I am not one to look for the focus to be on me, except for maybe at our annual Christmas parties where I wear a cool Christmas jacket that I buy specifically for the occasion. When I am at work I am not much of a talker. Instead, I am concentrated and focused on my work. I believe that both extroverts and introverts bring value to the workplace in different ways, but sometimes the skills and values of introverts can be overlooked. Here are some ways that we bring value to the team.
- Introverts are good listeners who often have the answers to questions that others may miss. While others are speaking, introverts are natural observers, and we specialize on picking up on minute details. We do so by staying quiet while others have the floor, internalizing all that’s been said, and contemplating how we will reply if necessary. Through listening, introverts have the advantage of seeing the bigger picture that’s often overlooked by others. Things that may cross an introvert’s mind in the situation may include identifying the missing pieces to a problem or tapping into their creative skills to determine alternative methods for achieving a goal. Listening is an opportunity for us to solve a puzzle using the cognitive and experiential intelligence that stems from simply paying attention.
- Introverts tend to focus on the details, always listening to others and learning. When I am handed a loose sketch plan, I am able to quickly and precisely bring it into AutoCAD and draw it up to scale. I can be trusted to get the details right. Introverts have the ability to remain hyper-focused on their tasks, to meet deadlines and to perhaps take on opportunities to learn new things. Many of us are curious and love broadening our knowledge by learning a variety of different skills to contribute to the team. Whenever there is a new tool or technology to learn, I am quick to dive in and master it so we can begin putting it to use in our work.
- Introverts are team players. I am a supporting player who allows my teammates to shine, and I don’t resent them for it. I am content to produce good work and don’t need the attention to be on me. This doesn’t mean that I am too shy to talk to our clients; in fact, I enjoy it very much. I know that I have important knowledge and perspectives to contribute, and I appreciate the opportunities to share those with the team.
- Introverts are hard workers. This serves me well in the workplace and also at home. I have two older kids, who are now 20 and 22 years old, who I raised as a single parent. Today, one is a manager at a restaurant, and one is in the army. I believe one strong trait that they got from me is my work ethic. Over the years, they’ve observed me at my work, always focused, always working hard, and staying in jobs for a long time. I am proud to have passed this discipline on to them and I delight in seeing them blossom as independent adults.
One of the things that makes the design field exciting is that many different personality types can contribute to successful projects. As an introvert, I use my attention to detail, listening skills, and work ethic to benefit our projects and to contribute to the team. In a USA Today poll, 65 percent of executives across all industries viewed introversion as a barrier to moving up the ladder (“Not All Successful CEOs Are Extroverts,” USATODAY.com). That’s a view that can limit their firm’s growth, limit the professional growth of their employees, and quickly become a self-fulfilling prophesy. As evidenced by my own career path, introverts can not only succeed in the design field, they can become valuable team members without the pressure to be someone they’re not.