I’m a dog lover by and large, but my cats outnumber my dogs 2:1. I have been around these “fuzzy babies” for years and find their differences fascinating. They can coexist, but they must adapt to each other.
Dogs, with a few exceptions, are more active than cats. While most dogs enjoy a lot of activity, cats can usually be found lazing around in a sunny spot or asleep. Their long hours of idleness are only occasionally punctuated by a bout of frenzied motion, especially as they get older . . . or get into the catnip. Cats simply play when they feel like it . . . or when you’re trying your best to get a good night’s sleep.
Dogs are more social than cats too. They are pack animals and enjoy the presence of others, dog and human. They seem to crave it. Dogs often sit by the door awaiting their owner’s return. Cats don’t really seem to suffer from any sort of separation anxiety. They are self-sufficient, like their own company and don’t require much social interaction.
The characteristics of these two different animals remind me of human personality types–introverts and extroverts. Dogs are like extroverts. They long for social interaction and like to be active and part of a crowd. Cats are more like introverts. They can be by themselves for hours on end without any real effort.
Unfortunately for cats (and introverts), this is pretty much a “dog eat dog” extroverted world. Not only is life fast-paced, but most people (at least in the U.S.) are extroverts. So, they set what society considers the “norm.” Extroverted qualities are admired and, although it is perfectly natural for introverts to be…well…introverted, they are commonly misunderstood by those with extroverted tendencies. It’s that interesting mix of cats and dogs (introverts and extroverts) that leads some cats to dart under the furniture for cover. This all begs the question, how do introverts survive–and thrive–in this extroverted world?
The rest of this missive is for introverts, so the extroverts can exit stage left if they so desire. Or, they can stick around and try to gain some understanding of their peers.
Although our world seems to work better for extroverts, introverts can carve out a space for themselves without too much effort. The first thing you must do as an extrovert is take an inventory of your talents, interests, and skills. What is it that you can do or would like to prepare to do? There are several books on the market that address introverts and careers. Start looking for resources that are directed toward your personality type. You might find that you are more suited to careers that allow you to spend much of your time alone.
What if your job takes you into the business world? Are there any jobs for you there that will mesh with your personality? Certainly! While you cannot expect to completely avoid communication with others, there are some positions that will allow you to be yourself. If you are an exacting person who loves numbers, have you considered accounting? Is your interest in marketing? Have you considered a market research position?
Regardless of where you land, you will need coping skills so that you won’t be tempted to dart under the furniture when then dogs get a bit rowdy. One thing that you need is time alone. Being with people constantly tends to wear on introverts. Thus, you need to make certain that you carve out some “me time” for yourself after work or school. You need time to unwind and recharge. In addition, you will find that you require more preparation time for meetings, presentations, interviews, and any other situation that forces you to use verbal skills. You don’t typically think as you talk but before you talk. You will need to know what you will say, how you will say it, and explore possible comments or objections beforehand. If you really have difficulty communicating in crowds, it might be a good idea for you to join a group that specializes in training participants to get over their fear of public speaking.
So how do introverts survive and thrive in an extroverted world.
1) Know yourself – your interests, skills, and talents.
2) Look for a career that will fit your personality type (your college career office can help).
3) Take time to recharge your batteries.
4) Learn your limitations and come up with ways to mitigate them.
As Assistant Director of Recruiting within the Wake Forest Schools of Business Corporate Relations team, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She manages all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school. Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002. She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles. Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories. Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank. Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and will complete her Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest in 2011. Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.