Introverted or Shy? How to Compete in Male-Dominated Jobs

When Indra Nooyi, former Pepsi Co. CEO wrote her self-titled biography, she included details on her upbringing in India. The Yale grad learned early in life to meditate as a way to manage stress. And, at dinners, she and her siblings practiced public speaking. For most grads, getting a good education is just one rung in climbing the success ladder. But, how do you stay competitive in male-dominated industries? From knowing your personality type to speech and debate classes, here are a few leveraging techniques.

Take Speech, Debate and Communication Classes

“Whatever kind of introvert you are, some people will find you ‘too much’ in some ways and ‘not enough’ in others,” Laurie Helgoe

If you have trouble finding the right words or feel like your voice isn’t heard, don’t get yourself down. Despite low-key personalities, introverts are often the best listeners. However, because they’re quiet, they’re sometimes ignored by domineering alpha males who out-speak them. Hence, speaking fluently publicly and without fear is a goal for most introverts.

Communication classes can improve your dialog skills both offline and online. For example, mastering email communications can help you put out the occasional fire or miscommunication. And, you’ll learn tips like only apologize once so you don’t sound like a pushover. Or, AVOID USING ALL CAPS so you don’t come across as aggressive.

Take online speech or debate classes where you can use your webcam or visit  your local college. Expressing your opinion helps you build confidence whether you’re proving a point or challenging others. It’s also easier to push back – without sounding offended or scared if someone pushes your buttons.

A few tips:

  • Practice speaking in front of a mirror, and then with others. Discuss your strengths, goals and accomplishments. Learn to give a 30-second elevator speech.
  • Listen intently to others and follow-up with them. This starts relationships you can cultivate as you grow into leadership roles.
  • Correct any weaknesses, (not making eye contact, a stutter) to build your self-confidence.
  • Agree to disagree to get back in neutral territory. Introverts aren’t used to intense verbal exchanges.
  • Voice your opinion in calls and meetings. You don’t have to speak for long but contribute.

Practice Yoga and Meditation Techniques

“After an hour or two of being socially on, we introverts need to turn off and recharge … This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression,” Jonathan Rauch

Is your neck or back tense? Do you slouch? Stretching, yoga and meditation can help you balance your core. And, introverts need that. Because you have a quiet strength and are a deep thinker, you take on more stress and pressure at work. Hence, proper stretching and yoga poses can align your spine and reduce head, neck and back pain. They can also lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Sign-up for classes in your community or online.

Take a Myers-Briggs Test

“Beware of those who seek constant crowds; they are nothing alone,” Charles Bukowski 

Are you not a people-person? Do you avoid the office cooler chatter? Don’t feel bad. Introverts are deep thinkers who work well independently. The most successful introverts include JK Rowling, Marissa Mayer and Eleanor Roosevelt. Hence, Myers-Briggs testing (MBTI) can identify your personality type.

MBTI is a 45-minute test that determines your personality type and gauges how you might interact with others. Around 85% of Fortune 100 companies use this testing to determine which applicants would make a good fit for their teams. Because companies need a balance of all personality types, don’t count yourself out.

The 4 personality types include:

  • Introvert versus Extrovert: Introverts rely on faith and beliefs to make decisions. Extroverts rely on other people or the world around them.
  • Intuitive versus Sensing: Do you need all the facts? Then you’re sensing. Prefer new opportunities and ideas? Then you’re intuitive.
  • Feeling versus Thinking: If you’re logical then you’re a thinker. If you solve problems based on others’ opinions, you’re a feeler.
  • Perceptive versus Judgmental: If you’re flexible and easily adjust, you’re perceptive. If you plan everything, then you’re judgmental.

Tip: Try to find out and study the personality types of your male counterparts. This can help you understand and communicate with them better.

Build a Community Around Your Personality Type

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to,” Susan Cain 

Once you find your personality type, seek out others with similar traits. This can give you a sense of camaraderie in the workplace. Like-minded dialogs can improve workflows because you’re not forced into cliques with people who are too chatty. You’ll also have others to collaborate with as you climb the corporate ladder. This is the premise behind Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.

The Facebook COO and billionaire speaks often about empowering women in the workforce. Many have to juggle their career, education and family at once. Hence, having a sisterhood can reduce the pressures of male-dominated environments.

Note: Include a few extroverts and some male coworkers in your community. They think differently and can help with other coworkers, meetings and clients/customers. As an example, in a work conflict between two coworkers, an introverted manager might suggest a seating assignment change (avoids conflict, less confrontational). An extrovert might bring the coworkers together in a meeting (immediately resolves the conflict).

Escalate It If Your Voice Isn’t Heard

“In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent,” Criss Jami 

Some work environments still practice an “Old Boys Club” mindset. If you find this, reach out to HR. Keep track of the steps you take to report the conflict and contact the EEOC. When all else fails, consider changing departments or jobs. Your health and well-being are more important than stressful environments that can contribute to health-related issues.

Stand Up For Yourself – Confidently

Introverts are passive, not pushovers. Hence, come out of your comfort zone to avoid others over-talking and ignoring you. Voice your thoughts in meetings and stand up for yourself. Public speaking classes, meditation and yoga can help build your confidence. And, if you’re not treated fairly, reach out to HR, the EEOC or your job recruiter. Don’t waste your talents in environments where you can’t get ahead (your traits are too valuable, so don’t waste them).