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Are There "Best Jobs" for Introverts?

Updated on August 22, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

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Introvert, Extrovert, or Both?

Are all people either introverts or extroverts? Can they be a little of each at times?

Two of the finest examples I can give of an introvert that appears extroverted are comedian-writer Steve Martin and talk show host Johnny Carson.

I think their lives have combined the best of both sides of the equation and each has been able to call up extroversion when needed or wanted. In fact, some extrovert discussion groups claim that Steve Martin as an extrovert.

This brings me to the notion of labels.

While I hesitate to place people into labeled boxes, it is true that most individuals tend to lean toward the qualities or characteristics of either introvert or extrovert. However, I have heard conversations in which it was said that extroversion is good and introversion is undesirable; I think that concept is a myth that is harmful and inaccurate.

Introvert and Extrovert

The hilarious antics of Steve Martin on TV's "Saturday Night Live" and in comedy concerts show extroversion, but his serious manner of performing and discussing art and literature, and his excellent banjo playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers show the opposite. In television interviews, he is supremely serious about art and culture and presents a powerful force.

How many people are both introverted and extroverted? Perhaps more than we guess.
How many people are both introverted and extroverted? Perhaps more than we guess. | Source

A Range of Behaviors

Some introverts may have shyness; others are simply examining their lives and exercising profound intuition. Some extroverts are gregarious and good leaders, others may represent the temporal characteristics of the unloaded wagon rolling along a cobblestone street - loud and empty.

At any time point, either "type" may be less introverted or extroverted than the day before and labels may prevent them from being themselves. I believe that people are often Mostly-Introvert or Mostly-Extrovert and that extreme or prolonged stress (e.g., catastrophe, disaster, illness, long-term job stress) can cause a person to migrate to the far end of the scale.

I believe that this is a reason that the assessment tool called the IPAT 16 Personality Factor test is laid out as a series of scales on a continuum for each personality trait that span Introversion to Extraversion, from Thinking to Feeling, etc. Think of the well-known "On a scale from 1 to 10..." survey answers. A 1 would represent a personality description, while a 10 would represent it's opposite; but neither would be good or bad. In other surveys, a 1 means you don't like something at all, and 10 means you like it most of all, so the scales can be confusing.

At any time point, either 'type' may be less introverted or extroverted than the day before and labels may prevent them from being themselves.

A Continuum of Personality Traits

The personality (behaviors) we display are somewhere along these scales and on certain days and in specific circumstances they will likely register at a different point. One cannot stop the flow of a trait along a continuum any more than one can stop the blood pressure of a patient in order to measure it.

In my opinion, personality traits are all continuous measures, because they are all behaviors and behaviors can change. As in state-trait anger and anxiety, I personally think all of these other personality factors can occur as a one-time response (state) or as a more permanent part (trait) of one's overall personality repertoire.

There are also likely more than 16 personality traits, nothing inherently good or bad about any of them. If a person wants to migrate a little toward the other end of the continuum for a particular trait, they can probably learn to do so, at least part of the time and part of the way. I think that flipping from one end all the way to the other is usually not going to happen, however.

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Balance of Opposites

We can consider the notion that opposites balance:

  • Think about the concept of opposites like the Asian concept of yin and yang (I think of them as the positive and negative of electric current).
  • Place that concept of opposites into a sphere that is divided down the center by a transparent wall having a small opening in it.
  • The opposites may flow, reaching into and partially filling the space of the other, even crowding it; but, balance is the goal we may want to achieve and may never fully attain. That can be true for introversion and extroversion.

We then have a flow that is like the "string of pearls" concept -- Life events flow one into the next. Historic events - the passing of days - behave similarly.

The process repeats throughout an era like a continuing set of circles or even a spiral. There is actually a theory of history repeating itself according to fractal equations. But it all flows.

Our balance changes each minute, but our time flows forward. Life flows as energy flows (the body produces electricity to function and functions, producing electricity - another circle). In my opinion, without positive and negative, there would be no life, thus no chance for introversion and extroversion. An introversion and extroversion are opposites, but connected.

Examples of Famous Introverts

  • Johnny Carson
  • Albert Einstein
  • Bill Gates
  • Jane Goodall
  • U.S. Grant
  • Steven Hawking
  • Sherlock Holmes (fiction)
  • Steve Martin
  • Isaac Newton
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
  • Mr. Spock (Star Trek)

Life events flow one into the next. Historic events - the passing of days - behave similarly.

String of Pearls Continuum

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Our balance changes each minute, but our time flows forward.

Personality Testing for Job Matching

Aside from all this, introversion is defined by a variety of dictionaries (and Carl Jung) as being withdrawn, reclusive, and reticent; but able to attend to details and concentrate with great intuition. Usually, shyness is somewhere in the definition. Extroversion is then defined as having the qualities of gregariousness and assertiveness, with the adjectives outgoing and loud tossed in among leadership qualities.

Some individuals use both introverted and extroverted characteristics to their advantage. For example - I may be extroverted while teaching a class, but am not loud outside class and do not enjoy being around people that are loud in other public settings like libraries, where there is constant noise these days.

On the Meyers-Briggs test, the Kersey instrument (based on 16 personality factors and Carl Jung's work), and similar tests used in the workplace, for self-improvement, and for fun, I have somehow scored equally as two opposite types. Many individuals may show such scoring in the future as our understanding of the human personality deepens and expands.

Online discussion groups exist for the personality "types" and people can join them to learn more about all this. Check the following links and search Yahoo Groups, Google Groups and other sites online.

KERSEY TEMPERAMENT TEST

More on Assessments and Job Personality

I would suggest any of the following occupations for individuals that consider themselves introverts.

Some Working Environments Introverts Might Enjoy

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Working with laseres in a laboratory.Benjamin Fronklin - Writer, Inventor; 1767.
Working with laseres in a laboratory.
Working with laseres in a laboratory. | Source
Source
Source
Benjamin Fronklin - Writer, Inventor; 1767.
Benjamin Fronklin - Writer, Inventor; 1767. | Source

Careers and Jobs Suggested for the Mostly-Introverted

Accounting

Acting - (Good for some introverts and not for others)

Air Traffic Control

Animal-Related Occupations

  • Veterinarian
  • Vet assistant, technician, and technologist
  • Animal Keeper (zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, pet shops)
  • Animal Breeder/Fish Farmer
  • Guide Dog Instructor/Animal Trainer
  • Zoologist

Archeology and Related Careers

Architecture

Astronauts

  • While astronauts must be able to get along together well in close quarters in tight space capsules and space station with limited space, they must also be able to work long hours on individual projects without interacting with others. An extreme example is the stranded man on Mars in the film "The Martian" and another is the astronaut who finds her way back home alone in "Gravity."
  • Asteroid Miners in the near future may find it necessary to confront long, tedious work assignments alone, without human interaction or with interaction involving only robots.

Author

Law & Law Enforcement

  • Attorneys (non-trial)
  • Body Guards (will need to call on their assertive skills from time to time)
  • Security personnel, Investigators
  • Crime Lab Technologists

Engineering & Technologies

Fine Arts, Graphics Arts

Healthcare

  • Dentistry and Dental Lab Careers (tremendous detail work)
  • Other medical/healthcare jobs that require attention to detail and concentration - Surgery is one.

Information Technology (IT) Careers

Inventors & Inventions

Maintenance, Repair and Construction Careers

Mathematics & Statistics

Planning

  • Research & Development
  • Grant Writing
  • City Planning
  • Landscape Architecture - Parks, college campuses, industrial complexes

Sciences

This list will probably give you some ideas for other jobs and careers that would be well suited to your talents, goals, and overall personality and to those of other individuals you may know.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS

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