A Lot of Ways to Win Your Game of Solitaire

By Vickie Elmer
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 18, 2008

When Kathy Dunne started working from her Arlington home about 18 months ago, she thought it would be good for her daughter, who has special needs. But the change has also benefited Dunne. It gives her time and "mind space" that feel important to her introvert side.

She values what she calls "that solitary time -- time to think things through at my own pace." That kind of time can be nearly impossible to find in many jobs -- especially in today's team-oriented, open-space workplaces.

Dunne handles software implementation for nonprofit groups that are starting to use Salesforce.com, a relationship management program. She considers herself a "partial introvert" -- a person who needs time alone to recharge and think.

Her field, technology and computers, offers thousands of jobs for people who would rather work at the PC than work a room. About a fifth of the top 50 jobs listed in the book "200 Best Jobs for Introverts" (JIST Works, $16.95) are tech positions, including computer programmers, network systems analysts and database administrators.

The list includes lots of engineering and science jobs, as well as such blue-collar work as auto mechanic, heating and air-conditioning mechanic, roofer and truck driver. Some introvert-friendly jobs that are plentiful around the Beltway include lawyer, technical writer, aerospace engineer and desktop publisher.

What you won't find are many jobs in health care, education and social services -- they require too much close work with clients or colleagues.

With the growing number of service jobs and the push for collaboration, "it gets harder to find good work, growing work for an introvert," said co-author Laurence Shatkin.

Introverts, he said, "bring a lot of strengths to the workplace," from original thinking to the ability to concentrate and "think things through in detail."

He said, "A lot of hands-on work is very suited to introverts," including many blue-collar jobs.

The book draws on data from the Labor Department and Census Bureau and has 75 pages of lists. Among them are part-time jobs, those that pay best and those with the most solitary work.

Even if you don't read the book and its lists, you may want your next job to offer more possibilities for an introvert. Consider these suggestions:

· Look for a workplace culture that isn't built around "yack fests" and meetings, Shatkin said. Find one run by introverts or where a high percentage of the jobs are based on independent work.

· Try a Myers-Briggs or other assessment test to determine your key characteristics. Although such tests cannot tell you what career will fit you perfectly, they can point you in the right direction.

· Find a career coach or adviser who works with introverts or is herself an introvert. That understanding will give you a big head start.

· Don't try to be an extrovert, at least not for long. You will only end up torturing yourself.

Dunne suggests that you know where you are on the scale -- extreme introverts have different needs than partial introverts. Be clear with yourself and your bosses about your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, she knows she cannot abide "being put on the spot to speak extemporaneously," so she avoids it.

"I don't rule out going to an office at some point," she said. She thrived in such an environment for years.

Now though, she likes it that her bosses are in California and she's at home -- working at her own pace and setting her own priorities, except when her daughter is at home or a client has a pressing need.

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