If there is one thing working in a warehouse as an introvert has taught me, it’s that job stereotypes can be misleading.
The day came: My first day on the job — well, internship — at a big global distribution company. Passing through the warehouse turnstiles for the first time, filled with apprehension and dread, I immediately felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
Past the welcome desk, I could make out an endless sea of concrete flooring, towering racks of packaged products, and miles of conveyor belts snaking across the facility. It was a lot to take in, and I vividly recall a shiver passing through me.
Days prior, I’d eagerly accepted this internship for the summer so I could get some “real-world experience.” I was expecting a comfortable role in the back office with my own desk, a cup of coffee, and a computer which I could stare at for eight hours a day without having to engage in too much conversation. That would be ideal and introvert-friendly, right?
First Impressions Are Not Always Accurate
What I wasn’t expecting was to be constantly surrounded by the din of forklifts, heavy machinery, and alarm systems. I wasn’t expecting an “extroverted” job, like having to interact with warehouse associates on a daily basis, much less while wearing a blue leadership vest.
I went home that day and sat on my bed, stunned. As a once-proclaimed extrovert who realized I was actually an introvert after a taxing call center job, it felt like I was in for another brutal summer.
But now, more than a month in, I feel both lucky and relieved to be able to share the reasons why a warehouse can actually be a great job fit for introverts.
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Why Working in a Warehouse Is Actually the Perfect Job for Introverts
1. You’ll be able to enjoy the familiarity of a daily routine.
My first few days on the floor, I felt vulnerable and not at all in control of my surroundings (which is anxiety-provoking to us introverts). I was given access to a dozen different computer programs, capable of doing everything from tracking shipment delays to shelf inventory to the process paths being worked by each employee. I remember staring, open-mouthed, at the screen for a good 10 minutes as people bustled all around me, just watching the numbers constantly auto-refresh and change.
Introverts tend to be very self-focused, and as a result, we get overwhelmed easily in novel situations. Having to pay attention to so many different things at once made me feel overloaded, and I spent the first week helplessly trailing my manager as she strode across the floor, saying words that made absolutely no sense to me. On the other hand, I immediately noticed that my fellow interns were extroverts, eagerly jumping into the fray, asking questions, and trying to absorb as much information as humanly possible.
However, there is one universal truth about any warehouse (or job really) — if you spend long enough in it, you will start to understand how the operations work. Warehouses rely on predictability and routine to process orders on time, and as the weeks went on, the acronyms and software began making sense. Needless to say, introverts thrive on predictability and routine. So I started being able to understand what tools and actions to use as specific scenarios arose, which felt really empowering.
2. You’ll get to know the employees on your shift on a more personal level.
Meeting all 40 associates on my shift for the first time was terrifying. My introverted tendency to be overly self-critical weighed hard on me during the first two weeks — all of them understood the warehouse and its operations infinitely better than I did,and I always felt self-conscious approaching them about a managerial request. One thought kept repeating in my mind: What right or qualification do I have to tell these employees anything? Given how much time we introverts spend being both self-reflective and trying to “fit in” with crowds, it isn’t surprising that many of us experience imposter syndrome at some point.
But introverts excel at having meaningful conversations and creating genuine bonds with people. I made it a point to spend at least a little time every day learning the associates’ names and asking them about their lives: Where are you from? How long have you been working for ______? Do you like it here? I found that many of the associates opened up to me, talking about their children, their interests, and their goals for the future. And because I was working with the same group of people every day, it felt really satisfying to be able to do so.
Ironically, my fear of being an imposter actually helped me become a more effective intern. By being honest with my coworkers about what I didn’t know, they were willing to help me and were more responsive when I asked them something. I started looking forward to seeing them every day, exchanging banter and talking about shared interests we had. One of them even complimented me on my smile, which was a definite high point for me.
Do ever you struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
3. You’ll see exactly what impact you’re having day-to-day.
Many of my friends are interning at larger corporations, working comfortable hours with the freedom of logging in remotely several days a week. If you had asked me on my first day, I would have told you that their jobs are an introvert’s paradise. But, one month in, my opinion has done a 180.
In the same vein that many introverts are uncomfortable in new situations, we also don’t do well with tolerating ambiguity. Unfortunately, ambiguity is the nature of many corporate internships, with interns often being given projects that are not very well-defined and limited in scope. As much as companies like to toss around words like “marketing strategy” and “budget reduction” to captivate potential interns, in my own experience — and those of my peers — summer projects often feel like busywork with no real intent for continuation once students head back to school.
Any introvert will tell you that while they may not love social situations, they will work with a conviction and passion for things that really matter to them. And, strange as it might sound, working in a warehouse can give us that. It is gratifying to see the daily total of pending customer orders slowly trickle down to zero, as well as watch everyone working together as a team to ship out deliveries on time.
There is also a feeling of shared purpose between every employee on the floor regardless of job title, and that sense of unity can be very empowering for introverts. When I help locate a missing shipment, mark an item as damaged, or allocate associates to a different part of the warehouse, I know that my actions have real, tangible benefits for some customer out there who’s eagerly awaiting a delivery.
4. You’ll feel more comfortable initiating new ideas — and vocalizing them.
As my familiarity with the warehouse operations increased, I started being able to anticipate problems before they arose, and proactively thought up potential solutions:
We seem to cut it close when processing 2:30 p.m. deliveries. Let’s designate an associate to move the carts to a central area so they can be loaded into the trailer faster.
Some of these order batches are really large, and our employees risk straining their backs while picking them. Let’s mandate a stretch break halfway through each batch.
Although I was self-conscious about bringing these ideas to my manager — it’s often difficult for us introverts to speak up — I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive they were. I realized that my greatest introvert strength as an intern was coming into the warehouse with a fresh set of eyes and being able to look at operations with a fresh perspective. Much of the leadership team had been working there for several years, and were used to the status quo. Thus, I was able to identify opportunities which more experienced employees may have taken for granted. And, in the process, I raised my profile at work (even as an introvert).
Although many introverts are slow to warm up to new things, we tend to find success in our chosen career fields once we start feeling comfortable with it. The world is filled with high-performing introverts who have reached pinnacles of success in their industries, from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey. So why should the rest of us be capable of any less?
It is disheartening to constantly get bad gut feelings about different jobs, and it can leave introverts feeling like there is nothing out there which suits our unique personalities and talents. (Believe me, I’ve been there, far too often!)
But I challenge you to change your mindset. Each job which leaves you feeling dissatisfied is another potential career that you have crossed off your list — which means you’re one step closer to finding the ideal career for you. Rest assured, there is something out there for all of us. Keep taking time to explore your options, and it will be a matter of time before you find it. And, the more you embrace your introversion, the more your introvert qualities can help you excel on the job, too.
Stay Open to New Job Opportunities as an Introvert — They May Surprise You
From the day I first stepped foot into the warehouse to writing this piece a month or so later, a lot has changed (for the better). I am excited to go to work every morning and anticipate the small things that will bring me joy — like learning something new about the warehouse, talking to the associates, hanging out with the other interns (to name a few).
If there is one thing this experience has taught me, it is that stereotypes can be misleading, and that positive experiences can be powerful teachers. A lot of my initial anxiety was based on my stereotypes of what warehouses were like. Never could I have foreseen how much I would enjoy the company culture and what I do.
I have entertained questions from curious friends asking if this is what I want to make a career out of — many cannot fathom working a job that requires running around for 6-8 hours a day. I truthfully cannot say for certain. All I can be sure of is, at this moment, I like what I do and am content to keep doing it.
I leave my fellow readers who may currently be in between jobs, looking for internships, or simply curious for a new experience with a simple call to action: Explore opportunities with distributors if you can! You may be surprised to find it is exactly what you’re looking for.
You might like:
- I Finally Found the Right Career When I Embraced My Introversion
- I Found the Perfect Introvert Job
- These Are the Ideal Careers for Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type
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