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2018 Introvert Career Outlook Survey

Recently, I asked a small subset of Riskology readers to take a short survey about “how things are going at work.”

The goal was to get a general overview of how introverts are feeling about their jobs and where things are headed for them.

Personality in the workplace continues to grow as a topic of interest, and understanding introversion / extraversion has been a big driver of that interest.

The U.S. economy has also been on a steady increase with shrinking unemployment numbers.

At the same time, a recent series by NPR reports that soon almost half of the U.S. workforce will be contract workers. That’s an enormous shift to a very different landscape from what we’re used to.

So how are introverts actually feeling? Do they consider themselves adequately compensated compared to their peers? Do they feel like their careers are improving and they have opportunities to grow?

I collected 177 responses to the survey, and here are the primary insights with a bit of commentary.

42% of introverts are already contract workers.

NPR recently reported about 20% of the U.S. workforce is now employed in contract work. I asked, “Have you ever done work on contract or been hired as an independent contractor?”

42.4% of respondents answered that they had.

There are a few factors that make these results an imperfect apples to apples comparison:

  • Survey responses were not limited to the US (but the Riskology audience does skew American—about 75% of readers).
  • The question was worded to capture all current and past contract workers. It’s possible (and likely) that not all respondents are currently working on contract.

However, the difference is so great that I don’t think the results should be ignored. Introverts appear to be more than 100% more likely to work on contract than the general population.

Why could this be? For now, I can only share a few guesses:

  • Introverts are more likely to seek remote work, and remote work is more likely to be contract work.
  • Introverts are more likely to be self-employed as freelancers than the general population.
  • The industries that introverts are naturally drawn to are more prone to offer contract positions.

Again, these are guesses. More research is needed to better understand the results. But the results are compelling nonetheless.

Introverts are not in the “sharing economy.”

I asked survey takers if they’ve ever done one-off jobs in the peer-to-peer service economy. This would include driving for Lyft / Uber, completing work on TaskRabbit, delivering for Amazon, or other similar short-term and on-demand jobs.

88% of respondents had not.

This question was worded funny, but additional instruction spelled out how to answer.

Other sources in recent years have reported as much as 34% of the U.S. workforce has participated in this kind of work, so introverts seem underrepresented here.

The sharing economy tends to be very customer-service oriented—a type of work introverts often report they are not enthusiastic about—so that could be one explanation for the lack of participation.

My own investigation into this type of work revealed that, in general, it’s not a very good deal for the people providing the service. Introverts tend to be more analytical; perhaps they’ve come to the same conclusion.

Introverts feel…okay…about their careers.

45% of introverts surveyed reported generally positive feelings about their career outlook compared to 36% who felt negatively.

That’s more positive than negative, but research done by PEW in 2016 revealed about 49% of Americans were “very satisfied” with their jobs. There’s improvement to be made here.

More surveying and research needs to be done to begin to form a picture of why this disparity exists.

Introverts are more worried about job insecurity.

This survey’s respondents skew both female (59%) and higher income (54% report earning over $50k vs. just 27% in the general population).

That’s great news for introverts in general, but it’s tempered by some bad news.

Only half of respondents said they feel secure at work and that their jobs are not in jeopardy.

That lags significantly behind Pew Research’s findings that 60% of all Americans feel secure at work, and the higher your income the more secure you tend to feel.

So, introverts in this survey seem to be doing pretty well financially but worrying more about what the future holds.

63% of introverts see growth opportunity in their fields…

In more positive news, a healthy portion of respondents said they feel like they have room and opportunity to move up in their fields.

Considering the intense pressure workers have experienced recently in the form of wage stagnation, increasing automation, and a mismatch between skills and available jobs, it’s encouraging to find that most introverts have positioned themselves to move up the career ladder and see opportunity ahead of them.

…but they’re still thinking about a career change.

A whopping 89% of introverts surveyed said they’ve considered changing careers in the last year. And over half of them have strongly considered it.

I wonder why? That’s not a rhetorical question.

If I had to guess, I’d wager it has to do with the lack of job security described above. Perhaps introverts are feeling like they could take their skills to another industry and find more stability.

Or maybe it’s about income growth? As shown earlier, introverts seem to be doing well financially, but only 54% of respondents said they feel like they’re paid competitively.

Maybe they think a change could net them more money. Qualitative answers to the question, “What is your biggest fear about the future of your career?” surfaced a lot of sentiment around income / financial insecurity.

What did we learn? What comes next?

Overall, this small survey surfaced some interesting information about introverts:

  • They do a lot more work on contract than the general population
  • They’re not into the sharing economy
  • They’re not that positive about their jobs
  • But (comparatively) they’re doing pretty well financially
  • They see a lot of opportunity to grow their careers
  • But they’re also considering making a career shift

Perhaps it’s just the nature of surveys—or the nature of introversion—but the results leave me with as many questions as they do answers.

  • Why are so many introverts thinking about a career change when they see so much opportunity to grow in the field they’re already in?
  • What is it about the work they do that makes it feel so volatile?
  • How do these results compare to other personality traits? Are introverts in a bubble or do these findings align with other sub-populations?
  • And many others!

When I run this survey again, I’ll try to do a better job capturing data that might give us more insight into these questions. I’ll also probably try to align the questions better with existing large-scale surveys so that direct comparisons can be made with more confidence.

In the meantime, if you want a peek at the underlying data, you can find it all here.