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Being An Extravert In An Introverted Field

I have a very strong preference for Extraversion when looking at my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Some workplaces attract people with a specific preference. My day job is in Information Technology, where many people have a preference for Introversion. But before I get too involved in telling this story, let’s be clear on some basic definitions.

I am talking about Extraversion and Introversion as is laid out in the MBTI, not popular culture. There are a few key differences. Primarily, this is talking about a preference not a static state. I prefer Extraversion, but that doesn’t mean I can’t function in an Introverted state. Popular culture has invented the term ambivert, meaning that you act in both states. This is an unnecessary and confusing term as everyone acts in boths states at some point or another. The term ambivert ignores the concept of preferences altogether,  which I believe does us all a disservice. Also, what is meant when looking at whether one has a preference for Extraversion or Introversion? Simply put it answers, where do you put your attention and get your energy? If you put your attention to and get your energy from the outer world of people and things then you might have a preference for Extraversion, whereas if you put your attention to and get your energy from your inner world of ideas and images you might have a preference for Introversion (you can read more about Extraversion and Introversion from the Myers & Briggs Foundation here).

So when I say I have a strong preference for Extraversion, that indicates that I prefer to get my energy from and put my attention outward towards people and things. But it is just a preference, I am quite capable of looking inward, however I find that more draining. For example, I may come back from facilitating a workshop full of energy while spending time looking at code will leave me mentally exhausted. That being said, IT in general can be said to be a field with a preference towards Introversion. These are some things I have discovered working off-preference.

The majority of my time is spent at my desk working on my computer. I drink plenty of water and move around regularly, however there isn’t much interaction with other people in my day-to-day. As a result, I experience an almost permanent mental exhaustion. One way to combat that is to work with people in personal as opposed to over email. This isn’t always possible, but when it is it can give a brief window of relief.

In general, people don’t understand that there is something wrong. This doesn’t surprise me, since we tend to look at things through the lens of our own preferences. I remember one time doing a team building session that focused on behavior styles (DiSC). Of the four main styles, I was one of three people in the i group. This was out of about 40 people. So, there can definitely be some different expectations of what constitutes a good environment.

Even though most jobs and work environments have a tendency towards one preference over another, it is possible to find positions/roles that benefit the other side of the preference coin. For example, in my current role I sometimes do training and product demos. These type of things play nicely with my extraverted preference. Many similar preference pleasing roles can be found in a variety of workplaces. For example, perhaps in an extravert heavy professional like sales and service there are roles that might benefit someone with a more introverted preference, such as accounting or bookkeeping.

All in all, while it may be easiest to find a workplace with the same preference as you, you can usually find something to match your preferences in any job, even if it is just a small part of the overall picture.

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