By Monica Schrock, Regular Columnist.
I did what everyone told me to do.
I went to college, made good grades, did those internships every Summer, and got a degree in business marketing. I applied to some jobs that spoke to my skills and my passion. I worked for nonprofits because I wanted to use my marketing education for good.
But regardless of the cause, every office job had an expiration date of happiness.
Like clockwork, a year and a half in, my friends anxiety and depression would move in. They made themselves comfortable until I got the nerve to leave that job.
It wasn’t the work, I could do the work all day.
It was the office politics, the mandatory meetings, the forced creativity, and all the external distractions that come with an open floor plan.
I didn’t know then, but the perfect storm of stimuli was draining the life out of me. It didn’t matter how fulfilling the work was, I had a threshold for office culture.
Maybe I would have lasted longer in a cubicle. Honestly! I had no space to feel and think. The endless meetings with forced participation made me into something I wasn’t, and the networking that had me climbing a ladder for more of the same.
The atmosphere was not optimized for an introvert to thrive.
Have you ever felt this way?
I thought it was me, I really did. What is wrong with me? I get great jobs, the ones I’m supposed to get. I’m learning new skills and working to further causes for health, animals, and the environment.
But I kept hitting this wall. I would go home, fall asleep, wake up at 9 pm, and fall asleep again.
I would love to say that I broke this cycle myself, but I was in it.
But then, I got laid off.
Now an ego hit happens when you get laid off, no matter what the reason. I’m not going to lie, it felt bad. The lay off wasn’t about my caliber of work, but it didn’t matter. I was bummed.
Something happened though. Survival mode kicked in and I knew I had to get work. I took a few projects I found online and started to get my confidence back. The confidence I had lost in office jobs all those years because nothing was ever good enough. Grow, grow, grow! More, more, more! Every win was squashed by the next goal, the next project, the next obligation.
I realized that my happiness wasn’t about climbing a ladder or getting a pat on the back for a quarterly report. My happiness was being in charge of my own time, environment, and energy.
At that moment, I knew that the career choice I needed to thrive as my introverted self was: entrepreneurship.
It’s been a couple of months now, and even though I’m working harder than ever, I’m happy. In an office, I was never alone. Now, I’m alone most of the day and I’m organizing my schedule in a way that works for me.
I decide when I work, how much I work, and how much I interact with people. As an introvert, I get overstimulated easily and now I get to control that.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It takes drive, courage, risk, and some serious organizing, but it can be the path to your own version of success as your introverted self.
I know you can have this too. If you’re sitting at your desk and you’re vibing this article, I have a few tips to help you when you take the leap.
Understand your limits
Odds are, even as an entrepreneur, you’re not going to be able to avoid people completely. Maybe you’re managing clients, coaching, or networking to get more business. The main advantage is that you control how much you can do in a day, week, or month.
How many one on one sessions can you do in a day, week, or month? How much networking? How many phone calls? You now have the freedom to create your schedule in a way that helps you work best and still have the energy to live your life.
Respect the limits you give yourself and remember that you became your own boss so you don’t have to push your energy past the point of burn out.
There are no “shoulds” for your business
Seriously! Let this be your free pass to not do something for your business just because you read it somewhere or some expert told you. Most business advice out there is not created from an introvert’s perspective. Rebel like you always have, even in your business.
Yes, learn things of course! Listen to the podcasts, read the marketing books, and test the systems. But remember to add your own perspective and listen to your gut. You know when you feel uncomfortable from growth, and when something just isn’t you. Listen to that distinction and you’ll find your stride.
There is no should for your business. Take everyone else’s advice with caution. They want to help, but they aren’t you. What works for them, might not feel natural to your business.
Do you, and find the strategies that feel good to you. Run with them.
Learn when and how you work best
Entrepreneurship is freeing. You make the rules! But there is definitely an adjustment period. Knowing when and how you work best saves you a lot of time and puts you in the right environment to focus.
I work best alone at home with my cats and my coffee, but some introverts like coffee shops or even working with another person.
Do you need more time in the morning to get going? Or do you like to start working early and have more time at night?
Keeping a schedule is still helpful as your own boss, but the joy is in flexibility. If you need to sleep in, do it! If you’re finished with some projects and just need a day to stay in and recharge, do it!
Hustling isn’t something that seems to serve most introverts, but almost any entrepreneur will warn you that it’s necessary. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be chaos and pots of coffee at 1 a.m. It can be mornings of writing, afternoons with clients, and a mid-week day off.
It can be what you want it to be.
Now I’m free to be me. An introverted copywriter who helps other introverted entrepreneurs find their voice and own their greatness.
Who are you free to be?
Monica Schrock is an introverted copywriter and marketing strategist who teaches introverted entrepreneurs to build a successful business working for themselves without changing who they are. Monica sits on the board of Women’s Voices for the Earth, and is available for one on one consulting or coaching sessions. She connects directly with introverted entrepreneurs on her blog Unsocially Inclined.