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Introverts vs. Extroverts, From College to Career

Everyone wants to have a happy and productive day at work. Choosing the career that brings the most happiness is often a matter of choosing a path that suits a certain personality type. The outgoing and gregarious extrovert might thrive in a more public position, while the quiet and studious introvert might need a more personal approach.

Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and author of "200 Best Jobs for Introverts," sees personality type as a significant key to success in the working world. When choosing a career path, it is important to understand the difference between introverts and extroverts, then choose a job that fits in with a certain personality style.

Both types have unique strengths and weaknesses. Understanding how those differences affect education and job performance can help determine which careers are likely to be most satisfying to a particular type.

'I'm the life of the party! Where is the party?'

Extroverts are often the center of attention. They prefer a public role, one that puts them in direct contact with new people and experiences. They talk more than listen, work through problems out loud, and sometimes act before they stop to think. An extrovert is happy when there are many projects or issues on the table to be resolved. Their energy is very clear to everyone around them, as they are outgoing and almost always enthusiastic.

Extroverts thrive in jobs that give them the opportunity to interact with others in a meaningful way. They enjoy open communication with both colleagues and strangers, as well as the challenge of solving multiple problems at once. Jobs that work well for extroverts include those in business management; international business and marketing; and public administration. Those who are interested in medicine might do well as a physical therapist, pharmacist, registered nurse, physician's assistant or doctor. Teaching, especially on the college level, is also a promising position for an extrovert.

'I think I will just sit down over here. Quietly. Alone.'

Introverts are perfectly happy with being on the fringe of the party. That does not mean they are less capable than their extrovert counterparts, however. Introverts have a very quiet energy and focus. They listen closely, think things through and then act decisively. They tend to focus on one thing at a time, turning their fine-honed powers of concentration to getting the job done. They are reserved, self-contained, and often serve as a valuable source behind the scenes.

Introverts do well in jobs that have a clear structure, allow them to work on their own, and offer challenges that require a great deal of thought to figure out. Introverts might do well as accountants or financial advisors. Computer engineering and computer science are good fields for introverts, as well as communication studies or international relations. For those who prefer hands-on work, microbiology and biochemistry might be appealing. Working in architecture or civil engineering can also be an attractive option for those who prefer to work alone or in small groups.

How personality types translate into the work or school environment

When a person winds up in an environment that doesn't fit well with their personality type, it shows. "Many people don't realize what a critical role introversion and extroversion issues play in their job satisfaction and job effectiveness," Shatkin said in an article posted on the Michigan news website MLive. "Sadly, they often don't realize it until they're in jobs ill-suited to their personalities. It happens to extroverts and introverts alike."

Unfortunately, each personality type can run into issues when it comes to doing school or work that doesn't suit them. Finding unique solutions can help.

For instance, the introvert who can't stand public speaking can make a point of reminding themselves that it is a requirement for the grade, and will soon be over. The extrovert who hates the lecture class might form a study group to talk about the subject matter afterward. The introvert at work can make a point of closing the door to avoid interruption from coworkers, while the extrovert can make a point of always leaving the door open.

To learn about personality is to understand the unique quirks, attitudes and abilities that allow a person to thrive at work and in the classroom. Understanding personality type from the start can help an individual choose the career path--or make the career change--that is right for them.