“The role I have right now, it is not something that has been given to me by someone. It is something I have chosen for myself” – Malala Yousafzai…
For a long time, I believed I was an extrovert. Well, because of my playful and bubbly nature. I loved to laugh with friends, meet new people, dance and sing. Being alone was never my style as I considered it boring. I could strike up a conversation with anybody. I don’t need to know you. If I had something on my mind that needs discussing or solving, I would walk up to a stranger and talk. Most of the friends I made in my university days started that way. Most thought I was crazy for doing that but we are still friends, lol. My temperament is sanguine mixed with a little bit of choleric so, boring wasn’t in my dictionary. I also consider myself to be funny as well.
As I grew older and mature, life began to unravel in ways I couldn’t really comprehend. Everyone around me developed different attitudes to cope with situations and with this came changes in personalities. For a long time, I wanted people to remain the same. Let us all ignore life and pretend we are pretty colourful ponies. Let’s prank call Chidi’s house and annoy his mum. No one really needs to change because life offered them lemons.
The changes around me were a bit much and with time, I started changing too. I withdrew, stopped going out and saw my friends less. I developed a hobby of watching TV or reading novels all day at home. I would lock myself in my room and daydream. I became too comfortable with the new me. Making friends or talking to people became stressful. I didn’t want people in my space. I didn’t fancy large gatherings anymore as I preferred by close knitted friends’ company. To make it worse, I would rather go to a friend’s house than have them coming over to mine. I slowly became an introvert.
This affected not just my social life but more importantly, my business. My introverted personality restricted my ability to network. Networking according to Wikipedia is a socioeconomic business activity by which business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognise, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.
I once owned a t-shirt clothing line called Mokhola and this suffered a lot due to my inability to interact with people in promoting it. It got so bad that I wouldn’t even wear my own t-shirt to promote it. Even if I did, I avoided people so they wouldn’t ask me too many questions. I was comfortable with only my close friends knowing about my business and relied heavily on them advertise it for me on their social media platforms. I relied mainly on referrals from my close friends. Even when I spent money on making 5000 flyers, I distributed barely a thousand.
Generally, entrepreneurs are perceived to be spontaneous and commanding; verbally skilled individuals who are able to inspire clients, investors and employees with the sheer force of their personality. Some people see them as born leaders who are able to sell their visions to anyone. Being an introvert doesn’t mean one cannot become a successful entrepreneur. J. K. Rowling, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates just to name a few are known successful introvert entrepreneurs.
Introverts are known to have the ability and skill to focus and critically think for a long period of time. They crave solitude in order to process information better. Introverts prefer to think about their task, ideas or business plans thoroughly before executing or implementing them. They need to know that their business plan is worth pursuing therefore, they welcome external validation. Also, unlike extroverts who verbalise their information and love to be the centre of attention, introverts like to listen and speak only when they have something valuable to contribute. This is a great skill to have as listening to customers with a view of understanding them is an essential business trait. Listening to customers as well as employees encourages innovation. Furthermore, as opposed to the popular belief, Introverts do not entirely feel awkward around people. They would rather prefer to be in a smaller group.
To make your introverted personality work for you and to you improve your chances of becoming a successful entrepreneur, here are some tips that may help you.
- Self-Promotion: The way you choose to measure your worth as a person will serve as a major factor in the business choices you make. Thriving in business involves marketing yourself to the right people in the right way at the right time. This is not as hard as you think because your marketing components are based on who you are. Don’t assume people know your business and exactly what you do. You alone know your strengths, weakness and capabilities. It’s up to you to actively promote yourself by updating people on your accomplishments, services or products you can render. Quantify your worth. Although this may be somewhat subjective, but, you cannot base your self-worth on what others think because you’ll never be able to receive enough positive reinforcement to feel good about yourself. There is no competition in real self-worth. Your self-worth is above the need to compare, not because it cannot be compared to but because doing so is futile.
- Embrace Your Personality: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Give yourself permission to go deeper into your own nature (not too deep, we don’t want you getting lost in your thoughts). If you love your alone time, reading books, or watching the rain fall, that’s what you should be doing instead of going along with what other people think is fun. There is nothing wrong with thinking deeply, solitude and enjoying one-on-one conversations instead of a big party. All you need to remember is to use the time you have to maximise your potential by reflecting on business plans that make you happy. Solitude and the ability to process thoughts effectively are important factors for innovation and creativity. So, go deeper into your creativity.
- Network Online: As an introvert, networking can be a stressful thing to do. Trust me, I know. But, networking has taken on a whole new meaning with the advent of internet and technology. There are webs of millions of people who are just a few clicks away from receiving an electronic message from anyone anywhere in the world. You can keep up with competitors and competition demands by cultivating contacts at warp speed. You don’t have to leave your office or home to connect with people; use online networks to meet and connect with the right people immediately. There are various platforms such as Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is exceptionally good if you’re trying to connect with people professionally and in different sectors. There are also various professional groups on Facebook you can join and participate in as well.
- Collaborate with an Extrovert: If you feel that you are unable to connect to people at the level that will help promote your business, why not try collaborating with an extrovert who can. Embracing our opposites paves the way for a richness, depth and astounding results that simply cannot be achieved without it. With an introvert’s strategic thinking skills and an extroverts marketing and networking skills, together, they can effectively and efficiently manage a business. Think of it this way, an extrovert can be your wingman in the world of business. A good example of this collaboration is Steve Wozniak (introvert) and Steve jobs (extrovert) of the Apple Empire. Steve Jobs was in charge of strategic marketing while Steve Wozniak was focused on product development. A match made in heaven!
As Malala stated above, choose a career path that is suited for you, one that matches your personality. Don’t compare yourself to anyone or wish you were like someone else. Technology and the internet have made networking much easier and fun. Online networking is a great way to connect with people who can help your career and discover new opportunities. And if all is lost, there is an extrovert out there who shares your passion for the same business.