It is possible for a introverts to progress in an extroverted career. Overwhelmingly, the literature of success has long indicated that extroverts are best-placed for success due to their confident and exuberant personalities. This view is both dated and untrue. You don’t have to change your fundamental introvert personality to thrive. 

Are you introverted or extraverted?

The terms introversion and extraversion were first introduced into psychology over a century ago by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Extroversion is characterised by an orientation of one’s interests and energies towards the outer world of people and things rather than the inner world of subjective experience. At the other end of the spectrum, introversion is characterised by an orientation towards the internal private world of one’s self, inner thoughts, and feelings, rather than towards the outer world of people and things. Generally, extroverts are more outgoing, gregarious, sociable, and expressive, while introverts are more quiet, reserved, and deliberate. 

Extroverted individuals are often associated with positive attributes and outcomes in the workplace. This bias can manifest in various ways, such as in the workplace where extroverted employees may be more likely to be promoted because their traits are considered ideal and desirable for success, or in social situations where introverts may be viewed as shy or unfriendly. Various studies have also shown that extroverted individuals are more likely to be perceived as attractive, confident, dominant, and influential. Indeed, the strengths of extroversion are highly valued in many settings, while the strengths of introversion continue to be overlooked in modern workplaces. 

This leads many to the question: Can introverts be successful in extroverted careers? 

Introvert Barack Obama. Photo: Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0
Introvert strengths

The short answer is yes — from Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Meta Platforms) to Emma Watson (actor and activist) and Barack Obama (former President of the United States), many introverts have thrived and succeeded in ‘extroverted’ careers that regularly involve interacting and engaging with a diverse range of people.  

First, it is important to recognise that introversion and extroversion are not binary traits, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to popular belief that extroverts are more suited for ‘extroverted’ careers, more studies are showing that success in an ‘extroverted’ career (or any career for that matter) is not determined solely by one’s personality type, but rather a combination of situational and personal factors such as the organisational or team culture and climate, nature of job tasks or environment, prior work experiences, and job-related attitudes and mindsets. Introverts also possess good leadership qualities, but the value of their strengths is not often understood. 

In a 10-year study called the “CEO Genome Project” which conducted 17,000 assessments of C-suite executives, including 2,000 CEOs, it was revealed that while boards are often impressed by charismatic extroverts, introverts are more likely to exceed the expectations of their boards and investors. The study also found that successful CEOs tend to demonstrate four specific behaviours — namely, they make decisions with speed and conviction, they get buy-in among employees and stakeholders, they adjust proactively to a rapidly changing environment, and they reliably produce results, all of which are behaviours that can be cultivated and enacted by introverts and extroverts.

“Contrary to the popular belief that extroverts are more suited to ‘extroverted’ careers, more studies are showing that success in an ‘extroverted’ career (or any career for that matter) is not determined solely by one’s personality type, but rather a combination of situational and personal factors … “
Factors for success

Introverts also perform better in certain environments — in a 2010 study by Wharton School Professor Adam Grant and his colleagues, introverts were found to be more effective leaders than extroverts in a dynamic, unpredictable environment, as they tend to listen attentively and are more receptive of suggestions from their proactive employees.  

It is important to note that introverts, similar to extroverts, can also have strong social skills and enjoy interacting with others, they just might not be as comfortable with constant social interaction. Many introverts are also good in public speaking, sales, or teaching. While public speaking may not come naturally to them as compared to extroverts, they often prepare more, engage in introspection to improve themselves, and focus on the key message and audience of their presentation.

A review of the studies conducted on introverts and their strengths shows that introverts tend to:  

  1. Have better focus and attention to detail Introverts tend to be more focused and have more attention to detail, as they are less likely to be distracted by external stimuli. This attention to detail can be beneficial in roles that require a high degree of accuracy and precision, such as data analysis, research, and editing. 
  2. Have strong listening skills Because introverts listen before they talk, and are thus good listeners, which can be a valuable asset in the workplace. Correspondingly, they are also often able to provide thoughtful and insightful feedback, and are good at mediating conflicts. 
  3. Possess the ability to think critically and independently Introverts tend to be good at analysing and interpreting information, because they are often more reflective and tend to think before they speak or act. This can also be beneficial in problem-solving and brainstorming, as it allows for more possibilities to be considered. 
  4. Be good team players Although introverts may not be as comfortable with constant social interaction, they are often able to collaborate well with others and contribute valuable insights and perspectives to their teams. This is because introverts tend to be more reflective and tend to be more aware of the emotions and perspectives of others. 
  5. Be more resilient to stress and challenges Introverts may also be more resilient in the face of stress and adversity than extroverts, due to the higher level of self-awareness they possess which help them to better understand and manage their own emotions. 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that many of the above-mentioned skills and abilities are not exclusive to introverts, as many extroverts do possess these skills and abilities as well. So  when examining fit to a career, it is arguably more important to evaluate individuals based on relevant abilities and skills, rather than personality traits. 


DrXi Wen (Carys) ChanDr. Xi Wen (Carys) Chan is a work–life researcher at Griffith University’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing. She conducts research on the work–life interface, flexible/remote working, self-efficacy, work-related stress and burnout, and leader–subordinate interactions.

She is also a regular employment relations and work–life contributor to media outlets such as BBC Worklife, ABC Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, The Conversation, Channel NewsAsia, and HR Daily.

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