what's a people-loving introvert to do for a career?
October 3, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What's a good career or job for an introvert who enjoys working with people?

I'm very introverted - need lots of alone time to recharge, enjoy spending time alone. However, I very much enjoy working one one one with people. I hate sitting at a computer all day, but I can't stand the thought of teaching or jobs such as sales and law that require you to be aggressive. I enjoy attending meetings at work, but not speaking up in big meetings. Any ideas for a career for an introverted, not at all aggressive person who likes to talk to one person at a time and hates sitting in a cubicle alone all day?
posted by sunrisecoffee to Work & Money (21 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
posted by c'mon sea legs at 7:51 PM on October 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Social worker, like an advocate
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:03 PM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I could imagine a lot of jobs that fit this bill: anything that involves working with individual clients/customers, rather than groups of them. In my own life, that would include tutors, mechanics, investment advisors, dental hygienists, etc. What are your other strengths or interests? I'd advise listing them so you can get more specific suggestions. Depending on how much and how often you need alone time, maybe something like accounting (for individual/small business clients) would be good, since you'd have time with the client but also a lot of time alone working through their accounts.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:03 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Site managment and production management on smaller projects both have strong elements of this. You get plenty of alone time as you are generally the only person in that position and you have regular and stimulating work with people, with a strong leaning towards working one on one or with small groups. It may not be totally what you are after as there is a level of dealing with larger groups that can't really be escaped, but it's worth thinking about.

I've always found that kind of work to be very colaborative, with aggression being quite counter productive.
posted by deadwax at 8:04 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

University research administration (which I wandered into by way of being a research coordinator at individual labs) is a nice balance of this for me. I work in-depth with individual researchers for short periods of time on their particular issues, and with a small number of coworkers in my office daily. I have a lot of computer time but I'm also often popping in and chatting with coworkers during the day about random work issues, attending and/or leading small information sessions around campus or on other nearby campuses.

If you've any interest in this sort of thing, you might touch base with the institutional review board at a campus near you. Committees are required to have outside community members involved to help evaluate research projects and would probably welcome you with open arms, it's usually a very low time commitment, and it will give you a bit of experience with research design and research regulations that will look good on a resume if you ever wanted to move in this direction as a career.
posted by Stacey at 8:11 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Academic Advisor.
posted by ainsley at 8:14 PM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I definitely think some kind of counseling job sounds up your alley. But I want to point out one thing: how well can you, as an introvert, deal with seeing eight or more clients in a day, without a whole lot of time to recharge or have time for yourself?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:19 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Having a personality very similar to yours, I'll recommend my job, which I love. I'm a clerk in the courts system. It requires no education beyond high school, so you could adapt easily without higher ed expense. A court clerk takes payments on fines, answers questions about legal processes, and advises people of their rights, interspersed with recharging desk work processing cases.

What I love about the job is that you really do get to help people. Often they are agitated and worried about the charges against them, so they're grateful for the information you provide to guide them through the steps of resolving their case. The job is also frequently a challenge, as sometimes those same people are agitated at YOU. A non-aggressive demeanor really helps calm people down (and it gives you practice in assertiveness, if you happen to struggle with that). Every day is interesting and just the right amount of social!
posted by houndsoflove at 8:25 PM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Public librarian! I am also an introvert who likes working with people, and it is a great job for me. Virtually all of your interactions with library patrons are one-on-one (computer training, recommending books, helping them find information). You get the satisfaction of helping people who really need it. It breaks my heart how frequently people love us just for being nice to them, because no one else is. You get to know your regulars really well, but you also meet new people all the time.

There are library jobs where you're expected to present (at schools or nursing homes or meetings of other librarians), but those assignments are pretty easy to get out of, in my experience as a person who is terrible at public speaking. At most libraries, patrons come to you, so you don't have to be aggressive in approaching people (a thing I always hated about working retail) - and even when you do approach someone, you're not trying to sell them anything, so they are nice to you. Plus most librarians have some off-desk time during the day, which is a great way to get work done and recharge if you find some patrons interactions draining. (Some of them are.)

To get a full time job, you'd probably need a master's degree, which is dumb and mostly unnecessary but true. There are plenty of part-time jobs doing librarian work. But honestly, degree aside, it's a wonderful job. Part of the reason jobs are hard to come by is because people never leave - it's low-stress and fulfilling. Only downside is working nights and weekends, which - ugh. Oh well.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:33 PM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Paralegal, maybe. I am an introvert and I like that I mostly get to work a lot with a bunch of people who are familiar to me, and then sometimes supplement that with contacting people from outside my office.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:35 PM on October 3, 2012

Therapist! I'm an introvert and becoming a therapist has been perfect for me. One on one interaction doesn't require the same amount of energy output as a big group interaction. And in one on one therapy, the client often does most of the talking while the therapist intervenes occasionally with a question, statement, idea etc.
posted by rglass at 8:53 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Super-introvert here, more and more so as time goes by and I grow more cynical about humans. I'm in corporate communications, I write a lot of the time, my participation in meetings is largely as an observer, and I get to interview people one-on-one for our reports and newsletters and the like. I'm fortunate because it's a great company I work for and I'm 100% in agreement with their mission, so I get the added bonus of feeling like I'm doing Work That Matters. I've done some variation of this for 20 years, as a writer/editor/publications person. The market has tightened up considerably in this field in recent years but it's nice work if you can get it.

I can't imagine being a therapist, they have to be "on" for others so much of the day.
posted by headnsouth at 9:04 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm an introvert (although very interested in other people), and so far, I absolutely love working as a dietician.

It's one on one, not as overwhelming as I imagine therapy could be but still personal, meaningful and (hopefully) helpful. And good listening skills & not being pushy, aggressive or extremely talkative are IMO definitely assets.
posted by sively at 11:42 PM on October 3, 2012

I came on here to say public librarian, but goodbye waffles beat me to it and stated everything very well. It is the ideal job for lots of one on one interaction, and is very gratifying.
posted by Jandoe at 12:05 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Massage therapist. Quiet, peaceful environment, and one person at a time. I love it!
posted by windykites at 3:09 AM on October 4, 2012

You might really enjoy speech therapy. Typically we work in small groups or one-on-one, in schools or medical settings. The job growth is predicted to be strong as baby boomers age, and since speech therapy in the schools is provided under IDEA. There is alone time in planning and completing paperwork. In the school setting there is a nice balance of working with individuals, kids, meeting with staff members, and meeting with kids' parents.
posted by shortyJBot at 3:27 AM on October 4, 2012

Seconding massage therapist. I'm quite an introvert, but working one on one with just a few clients every day works for me. It might work for you, too:

not at all aggressive person

I can't imagine a less aggressive job.

who likes to talk to one person at a time


hates sitting in a cubicle alone all day

No cubicles ever!
posted by parrot_person at 3:42 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tax accountant.
posted by h00py at 5:04 AM on October 4, 2012

More particularly, tax accountant for individuals and small business.
posted by h00py at 5:05 AM on October 4, 2012

I have a very similar personality. I love working one on one with people but need lots of down time to recoup. I was a librarian before and that didn't work for me. I was in academic libraries so I did lots of group presentations, a little one on one instruction (I enjoyed that part), and lots of meetings.

I moved into clinical research at a university which is an awesome fit! I'm a research nurse, however, you could do something similar as a research coordinator. Typically a BS is required to get started as a coordinator though there were positions at my institution that only required an AS. You work one on one with patients who are enrolling in research studies explaining studies to them and ensuring all study procedures get done according to protocol. If it is a behavioral/survey type study you may administer the survey. Depending on the type of study there may be a lot of collaboration with people in other departments (scheduling, lab, etc.).

My last job was about 30% paperwork at my desk & 70% people interaction time (patients and various people in other departments) which worked well for me. In addition, my coworkers and I regularly chatted throughout the day about various projects and got to go on lots of walks taking research supplies here, there and everywhere :) Also, almost no meetings. Yay!

Stacey's suggestion of research administration is also good. And her idea of volunteering as the community member on the local IRB would be great experience for any job in clinical research!

The other thing I like about clinical research is there is a lot of opportunity. There are a lot of people needed to make clinical research work so there are a variety of different jobs in the area and various pathways for advancing. PM me if you have any specific questions.
posted by newsomz at 6:17 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another vote for public librarian! I'm fairly introverted, and goodbye waffles described it really well. I love my job.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:13 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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