An Introvert’s Perspective
By: Jessica Smith
Welcome! My name is Jessica, or as others might call me “she’s quiet, but…”. As part of my learning goals and professional development, my supervisor has challenged me to write a piece for members of our field. I have been waiting for a topic to come to me. As I get closer and closer to starting my journey as a Student Affairs professional, I have found I have been examining parts of myself, and asking if I am really up to the challenge. The majority of my insecurities come from the fact that I am an introvert, there I said it; I, Jessica Smith, am an introvert. This of course is not news to anyone I know, because like I said, people often know me as being “quiet, but”.
The idea of this topic came up one day when I was talking with a coworker about first impressions and office gossip. She told me that most of my coworkers described me as being quiet, and then another added “but she knows her stuff”. That just struck me, for a couple of reasons, the first because I never thought that the two had anything to do with each other, so why feel the need to add the “but”? The other reason it struck me, was because I was described as quiet. I am not debating over the fact that I am quiet, I know I am, but if the roles were reversed, I know I would not refer to a person as being loud.
The world is made up of introverts and extroverts, each of us come with our own special qualities. However, when I look back on my Student Affairs journey, I find that is was often looked down upon when someone is an introvert. Around times for Resident Assistant selection, I remember hearing my supervisor’s debate over extroverted and introverted individuals, and which would make the better Resident Assistant. Knowing that those debates exist in our field, is part of the reason that I myself have been asking if I, an introvert, am ready to take this next step to become a Student Affairs professional.
I know I struggle with small talk, have a fear of public speaking, and often listen first and speak my mind later. But why I ask, is that a bad thing? I still challenge myself and do those things; they just are not my strengths. I always tell people “I will tell you anything you want to know, you just have to ask”. I often see small talk as disingenuous; I want to be able to get to know someone, to open up, and to share things with that person on a true and genuine level. That being said, I consider myself as being introverted, because I do not offer that part up right when I first meet a person; I want to be able to get to know someone before I expose myself conversationally. If anything, that makes me a good asset to this field, because I want a genuine and authentic connection with students. I know it is something that needs to be worked for and earned; I know that because it is something I practice within my personal life as well.
Through various personality tests that I have taken in graduate school, I have found that not only am I an introvert, I am also considered to be a harmonizer, a soother, a feeler, I put others needs before my own, and I compromise as opposed to being assertive when making decisions within a group. If you ask me, those are some of the qualities that should come attached to my name, and those qualities are what should be debated over when it comes to whether I should take the next step.
Jessica Smith is a second year graduate student at Springfield College and will be starting as a Complex Coordinator at WPI on November 2nd, 2015