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Being an introvert: 'Don't let anyone tell you you're too quiet'

Being a (quiet) breath of fresh air in a room full of loud, gregarious extroverts might even be the key to your success, writes Pauline Dunne.

Pauline Dunne Documentary maker

WHEN I WAS in sixth year, I remember sitting in my Guidance Counsellor’s office fervently filling out one of those personality tests that aims to tell naive seventeen year old’s what they should do with their lives.

I got “office clerk”, both times. I did it twice because I was so appalled at the result the first time round and I was sure something must have gone wrong.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being an office clerk, and in ten plus years since that day, it has definitely crossed my mind more than once that maybe the old 9 to 5 isn’t such a bad deal. Ultimately though, I had a different plan in mind.

I wanted to write for magazines and work in the unpredictable world of media.

I was also extremely quiet

This industry sounded exciting and I was eager to find a way to break into it. The only problem was, I was also extremely quiet. No one could hear a word I said. They still can’t. Not unless I use my loud voice where I feel like I must be shouting the head off whoever is sitting opposite me, and even then it’s touch and go.

The media, as far as I knew, was a place where only people with booming voices and boisterous personalities survived. I tried to imagine myself as one of them, but it seemed too far removed from the reality of who I was and my comfort zone.

I had hoped that personality quiz might come up with some alternative career, equally as attractive to me as journalism but without the noise. Office clerk, unfortunately, just didn’t cut it.

So, instead, I applied for Legal Studies in Waterford IT. Mainly, I must admit, because I wanted to move away from home with my two best friends. But, also because I thought it might be interesting, and if I was going to be an office clerk then it may as well be in a compelling environment.

I haven’t looked back

A few months into my foray with the law though I realised, as much as I found it hard to imagine myself as a journalist, it was even harder to imagine myself trawling through never ending pages of legislation and case files for the rest of my life.

So, once I managed to convince my parents that of course I would return to finish my degree in Legal Studies if and when it all hit the fan, I left Waterford behind, and embarked on a one year journalism course in Rathmines College in Dublin.

Thankfully, I haven’t looked back since. I’ve worked in magazines, online, TV, radio and now animation. I’ve really enjoyed my career so far, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve found myself in plenty of awkward and nerve wracking situations, but I’ve always got the job done and come out the other end relatively unscathed.

One of my lecturers said to me when I was finishing up in college, “Other people in this class will go further than you, not because they’re better, but because they’re louder”. He was right. I’ve seen it happen. If you’re ballsy enough to go up to editors and pitch your ideas, or if you’re a networking genius, of course you will progress faster. That’s life. But let’s not write the rest of us off just yet. There are other ways to succeed, and more than one definition of success.

Being an introvert is not a weakness

Being an introvert is not a weakness. If you want to work in the media, or as a teacher, or as a barrister who has to stand in front of a jury and argue someone’s innocence every day – don’t let anyone tell you you’re too quiet. Because if it’s what you really want to do, you’ll find a way to make it work for you.

Being a (quiet) breath of fresh air in a room full of loud, gregarious extroverts might even be the key to your success.

You might be surprised to discover all the different jobs that exist in industries that you have never even heard of. So, even if you don’t end up fronting the news, you are likely to find yourself in a position that suits you much more than you would have if you had shied away and taken the safer option.

To quote Jim Carey:

You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Pauline Dunne is a Post Production Assistant in Brown Bag Films in Dublin. The Little Mouse in the Corner is her first radio documentary, and she can be found silently retweeting other people’s opinions on Twitter @PaulineDunne88, and posting the odd photo of her cat on Instagram @paulineann88. Hear more about being an Introvert on The Documentary On One on RTÉ Radio 1.

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Pauline Dunne  / Documentary maker

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