I’ve been a faithful reader of Susan Cain’s blog, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” for some time now (Cain has a book coming out soon). As an introvert myself, I’m fascinated with work that explores the ways in which introverts experience and cope with the world.
Cain’s post today really resonated with me. She posits that introverts might become so used to conforming to extroverted norms that they choose careers that don’t really mesh with their introverted qualities. (I considered becoming a journalist, but figured out soon enough that I simply would not be able, on a daily basis, to approach strangers and ask them questions!) In today’s post, she posed four questions to help introverts (and others) figure out what career path might be best for them. The questions are:
1. What or whom do you envy?
2. What did you love to do when you were a child?
3. What work do you gravitate to, even when it’s unpaid or unnecessary?
4. What makes you cry?
These questions suggest that a career is something that you are drawn towards, or maybe even called to, rather than something that is a rational, deliberate choice. I think my mistake in my early 20’s was thinking that I could “choose” a career, and force myself into an externally defined profession; ultimately that didn’t work for me. In the end, I find I can only do what I am drawn to do: to write, to teach, and to use my skills to help others whenever possible. Those are the things I find myself doing over and over, even when I’ve sworn not to! I seem to be constitutionally incapable of fitting into someone else’s corporate or institutional structure (or perhaps I should say, I am lucky enough that I have been able to survive without doing so).
Of course, many career choices are made out of pragmatic or economic concerns, and it is probably only the privileged who can choose based on affinity. But it’s worth considering, at turning points in our lives or times of reassessment, whether our career paths resonate with who we truly are.