Introverts are naturally shy, preferring to keep to themselves or a select group of people rather than being surrounded by a larger group that they may not know as well. Being placed in an environment in which they are forced to look beyond their discomfort in order to get their job done can be a challenge that some may not want to face. Unfortunately, in the professional world it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert; you still have to complete learnerships if you want to stand any chance of getting a job after graduating university.
As an introvert, you may be wary about starting a new learnership – trust us, we understand: a new job, a new location, a new schedule, and new people to interact with and report to. However, it doesn’t have to be intimidating or uncomfortable! Here are some ways you can thrive in your new learnership as an introvert:
1. Apply to companies with a solid internship program – think structure
Companies with structured internship programs will feel less stressful to the introvert, as compared to companies that aren’t used to hiring students for a small chunk of time. This is because you won’t have to worry about whether or not you will get what you need out of the experience because they are prepared for you. While all experience is good experience, learnerships with less structure can be a little hard on the mind. You don’t want to have to chase your superior for work, or have to constantly ask for guidance on tasks that are ill-explained. With a structured learnership, you will get the professional development you need without the worry of stepping outside of your comfort zone to get it when it isn’t given to you.
However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t apply for other opportunities as well because you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
2. Say hello to someone new every day, especially if you are working at a large company
There is no denying that the first few days of working a new job can be daunting, particularly when you are the newbie that doesn’t know anyone, and everyone else seems to be buddy-buddy. Add in the fact that you are introverted and you may find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Rather than either a) feeling like you have to introduce yourself to everyone in the room (and thus getting extremely overwhelmed), or b) avoiding introductions with anyone, make a point to say hello to at least one new person a day. You may feel hesitant when it comes to introducing yourself as the newest learner, but it comes with the job. Start with your peers – are there any other students completing a learnership at the same time as you? This may be the easiest way to make a friend or acquaintance in the beginning, as they will be in the same position as you. Suggest getting coffee or taking your lunch break together so you can learn a bit about each other and what you are each hoping to get out of the experience. Moving forward, you may be able to work together.
Next, consider introducing yourself to someone who works full-time within your department. Ask them about themselves and how they got to where they are in their career, what they studied in school and what other jobs they held before landing where they are. Not only will you be acquainting yourself with the people within your company, but you will be getting valuable tips and lessons from someone who has been in your shoes before.
Before you know it, you will have made introductions with most of the people around you, which will help lift the burden of being the new guy. Making these connections will ultimately help you feel more comfortable throughout your learnership experience, and you will slowly realize that you are feeling less and less like an introvert, and more and more like part of the team.
3. Ask questions and get comfortable with being uncomfortable
The whole point of a learnership is to learn, right? You’re not going to know very much when you start, and it may take some time for you to come to grips with the dynamics of your new working environment. With that, you’ve got to accept the fact that you will be among the most underexperienced in the room. Not knowing what’s going on and the odds of doing things wrong are great… which can be super uncomfortable and intimidating to the introvert. But, guess what? It’s expected!
To avoid getting stuck in the learning curve for too long, step outside of your comfort zone and ask questions. If you are confused or if you missed a step or instruction, simply ask for clarification. Your superiors would rather help you through a task than find that you did it wrong because you were too afraid to ask. Otherwise, they’ll wonder why you even bothered applying. You should also be diligent about taking notes which can truly help you step beyond the curve. Notes allow you to refer back when you forget what was said; they may even negate the need to ask a question.
4. Don’t dive in too deep, too fast – take your time
With all of these suggestions, it’s also important to remain true to yourself and get comfortable on your own time. Many introverts perform their best when they are able to take the time they need to get a job done, rather than struggling to meet someone else’s deadline. However, deadlines are a real thing in the professional world, so talk to your superior about the way you work and their expectations so you can find a happy medium.
When you are given a task, take a true assessment of its requirements so you can figure just how long it will realistically take you to complete it, based on the way you work. Who else needs to be involved in the job for it to be completed? In what order do the tasks need to be done? Once you have a grip on these points, create a task list and a schedule so you can execute the job to the best of your abilities.
Learnerships can be scary for the introvert… but they don’t have to be! Follow these steps and you will create a much more comfortable experience.