Here’s a question someone asked on one of the online forums:

How Do I Break Out Of My Shell?

I’m considering a career in marketing/advertising but I’m awfully shy. A friend recently suggested that a career like this would “force” me out of my shell and I would learn to love it.

I’m very doubtful but let’s just say that he’s on to something… How do I even begin? I’ve been reading up EVERYWHERE that these people are very outgoing, natural leaders, opinionated, creative, the list goes on. All things that I don’t think I am.

Can this stuff be learned? Or is nature greater than nurture.

And IF it can be learned, where do I begin?

My Response:

It sounds like you are considering a career change based on what someone else wants. So my question to you is this: What do you want?

The short answer to your question is, yes, it can be learned. There is no such thing as a natural born leader, sales rep, engineer, runner, etc. Some of the best leaders out there are introverted and introspective while some of the poorest sales reps I’ve met are outgoing and opinionated.

I started my career in engineering because, for 18 years, I was shy and preferred to work with machines rather than people. I still like the challenge of pulling a machine apart just to see how it works, or spending several days hiking through the desert alone. But I also enjoy teaching communication programs, speaking to large groups and selling.

If you are looking to change careers, make sure it’s because the prospect of engaging in the day-to-day challenges really excites you.

If you can imagine yourself waking up every morning and thinking, “I can’t wait to take on the challenges of today”, then you need to make the move into that career. That is where your passion lives.

On the other hand, if you envision yourself waking up and dreading the prospect of going into the office, then you do not need that career. There are too many people out there now who are stuck in careers that are slowly killing them but they stay because they need the money or the medical benefits or they just don’t know what else to do.

My recommendation, look at what brings joy and passion into your life and make your career choices based on that.

If you are just looking to “break out of your shell”, join a Toastmasters group or take a Dale Carnegie course. Then start thinking about career changes after you’ve put the shyness question to bed.

Good luck.