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How can an introvert get ahead in a deeply social company culture?

bill gates
Reuters/Pascal Lauener
More like win-trovert.
Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can an introvert get ahead at a company whose culture involves lots of extracurricular socialization? Answer by Jay Bazzinotti, product manager.

There are six factors to becoming successful:

  1. Who you know
  2. Your attitude
  3. What you know
  4. Luck and timing
  5. Persistence
  6. Self-confidence

Nothing—and I mean  nothing—is more powerful than who you know. Even if you are an introvert, you must start making contacts and friends, and finding and cultivating mentors. The people you meet early on in your career are going to make or break you later on, so it’s best to start getting them on your side now. Learn to play golf and tennis and softball and go out and do those things. You’re an introvert? Too bad. If you want to make it in a career, then learn to play golf and hang out with the bosses. Being able to play golf is as good as having an MBA. Being able to play good golf is as good as having an MBA from Harvard.

Your attitude determines your altitude. When someone asks you how you are, there is only one answer: “I have never been better,” said with a huge smile on your face. You are always positive at work. The building is on fire? Smile and tell everyone to get their marshmallows. The company is going broke? Smile and tell them how it’s going to be ok. People will forgive you almost anything if you remain positive. As the president of my old company said, “I would rather have one average employee with a great attitude than five dour experts. Attitude sells product.” Never be anything but positive.

What you know makes up for many other weaknesses. If you become an expert, they can’t do without you. When you are needed it makes you known. The more you are known, the better it is, because nothing beats who you know. But it’s hard to stay on top, and easy to get stale. And if you become indispensable, it’s much harder to move up because they can’t afford to lose you in your position. You have to know how to use your expertise to your advantage.

Luck and timing exist, but luck occurs when preparation and opportunity meet. You make your luck by being prepared. It’s not luck when they pick you for a big project; it’s because you prepared and they are taking a risk choosing you. Preparation is what will make you successful. Timing is important, but you create the timing and you create the luck. Then you let them mix together and create the magic of opportunity. As Mohammed Ali once said, “The will to win means nothing because everyone wants to win. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

Persistence means you keep trying. You’re going to fail sometimes. You’re going to be set back sometimes. Mohammed Ali says “Being thrown to the mat means nothing because everyone gets thrown to the mat sometimes. But to be a champion you have to get up and fight one more round. All you have to do is fight one more round.”

Self-confidence makes up for almost every other weakness. Self-confidence is nothing more than believing in yourself, a thing that can never be taught. Much of the time—in fact most of the time—self-confidence is nothing more than faking it. Everyone is afraid and making it up as they go along. That’s what you have to do too. Never let them see you sweat. Never let them see you afraid. Never let them make you lose your temper. Whether it’s right or wrong, people will follow someone who is never in doubt, even if they are frequently wrong.

These are the things you have to do to be successful, whether or not you are an introvert. Good luck.

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