As an introvert, I love my freelance, work-from-home position.
I was first smacked in the face with the realization that I am an introvert in 2013. I was a 34-year-old executive producer of a two-and-a-half-hour-long morning newscast. I was also part of a news leadership class that included seven other employees from TV stations within my company. We met a few times a year at various locations.
My epiphany happened during the summer gathering which overlapped with the news directors’ conference. Translation: A. Lot. Of. People. All. Day. Long.
At the end of the first day, I had been in class for eight hours and shared two meals with my cohorts, plus I was expected to attend a party that night that included my class and all of the aforementioned news directors.
I remember standing in someone’s hotel room, holding a drink, looking around at everyone socializing and having a good time and thinking…I can’t do this.
I said goodbye a few minutes later, using the excuse that I typically worked a nightshift and was not used to being awake all day long. But the reality was I had not had a minute to myself all day. All I wanted was to curl up on my hotel bed, turn on the TV, and decompress before I had to muster the strength to do it all over again for two more days.
‘Standoffish and Aloof’
Later, I learned some of the news directors made unflattering comments about me. Apparently, this event was a great opportunity to network and get my foot in the door at other TV stations for future jobs.
Only I didn’t get that memo. I kept to myself, which was what I knew best and found the most comfortable, and maintained my usual speak-when-spoken-to attitude. However, I was called “standoffish” and “aloof.”
I’d always known I wasn’t as outgoing as most people and sometimes preferred solitude to socializing. But this experience taught me something essential:
It wasn’t just that I liked to be alone and do my own thing. No, I needed to be alone and do my own thing.
That night, I realized I needed to recharge because I had nothing left to give. All my energy had been spent on other people.
Most importantly, I grasped that it was okay to walk away. I wasn’t being distant or “antisocial.” I was taking care of myself.
Employers Only Wanted Extroverts
Fast forward to the last quarter of 2019 when I decided (for the umpteenth time) that I’d had enough of the news business and began seriously pursuing a writing career. Looking at job postings online brought mixed emotions: the thrill of the idea that I could have a different life, and the agony of reading descriptions from companies on what they were looking for in a candidate.
These postings used words like:
And my personal favorite…
- Rock star
On any given day, those aren’t the first adjectives that come to mind when talking about an introvert. In my mind, this is how I read those elaborate pleas for a candidate that would knock the socks off management:
“We want someone who’s talkative, opinionated, loud and proud, boisterous, over-the-top, i.e., not you.”
Finally, I Hit the Jackpot
I was looking at a range of jobs in the digital world: social media specialist, digital content manager, digital marketing specialist, communications specialist, and so on. But it wasn’t until I started looking for positions that included “writer” in the title that, finally, I stumbled upon the words that seemed to speak directly to me:
“You love the expressive quality of language and, more importantly, you love to write. You prefer privacy and solitary activities…”
I’m sorry, what? Did I read that right? Are you looking inside my soul right now?
I had never seen a job posting written like that. Not only did it use the words “privacy” and “solitary,” but it spoke to the applicant’s needs rather than demanding what the company needed.
Needless to say, I applied. I did a phone interview, submitted a writing test, and even put on makeup for a video interview. Then I received an email telling me I got the job. It was part-time contract work, but I was beyond thrilled.
I Was Trying to Be Someone I Wasn’t
You see, I’d been through several interviews in the past few months, well, all my life for that matter, where I could do the job, but I knew deep down I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was attempting to be more extroverted because I knew that’s what the employer wanted. That’s what a successful employee looked like to them.
This was the first time I could just be myself and actually do something I wanted to do without compromising my personality.
Now I could work from home. I didn’t have to listen to scanners or answer phones — or talk to anyone at all, really. I didn’t have to go to meetings. I didn’t have to muddle through pleasantries or small talk. I didn’t have to have my focus broken by someone else’s small talk. I no longer had to listen to lengthy, drawn-out, loud exchanges about sports. The list goes on and on.
I was lucky, though. I was fortunate to have my husband’s emotional and financial support allowing me to chase my pipe dream of privacy — with the understanding that we wouldn’t be dining out or traveling as much for the time being. I was grateful that a digital marketing company took a chance on someone who had no experience writing for businesses whatsoever.
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As an Introvert, I Love Working From Home
Still, in the end, I’m the one who decided I’d had enough pretending and putting up with what I thought I had to in order to stay employed. I went in search of calm, quiet, and peace. Now I’m sipping coffee, listening to jazz music, and watching a candle burn as I write at my desk.
As it turns out, my contract work morphed into a full-time job just about the time everyone was starting to take coronavirus seriously. I began working 40 hours a week from home along with the rest of the country. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love it! I actually look forward to meetings now. I get in the video conference, participate when necessary, and get out. It helps that they’re a pretty fun group.
I’ve read a lot of articles like this one that predict the virus will change the way offices operate. Those who are now successfully doing their jobs from home may be allowed to stay. Those who have to go back to work will likely have more space and fewer people around them. I can see these changes benefiting introverts who struggle (in silence) with the open office layout and all the aggravation that comes with it.
Don’t Give Up
My advice to other job-seeking introverts is: Don’t give up. You don’t have to sacrifice your happiness. Freelance work is a great way to start calling your own shots and get your foot in the door. You may need to supplement with other activities, though, until you build up a clientele. I drove for Uber and Lyft on the side. I also walked dogs for Wag and Rover.
Remote work offered me the solitude I craved and gave me a purpose to fill without sacrificing my personality. I have a feeling the post-coronavirus world might make it a little easier for introverts like me to find their private joy, too.
Funny, I just looked up synonyms for “solitude” and here’s what came up:
In fact, the only positive-sounding words, listed much later, are “peace and quiet.”
The definition of solitude is “the state or situation of being alone.” On that note, Oxford, I think you need to add a synonym for introverts: