Jobs for Shy People: 8 Career Areas Where You Can Shine

Smiling young woman wearing glasses and a white long-sleeve top holding her left arm close to herself with her right handWhile exploring potential jobs for shy people, don't think in terms of limitations. Instead, keep this in mind: Your shyness has probably helped you develop strengths that can lead to success in many careers. So you should focus your job search on areas that fit your skills and interests—because shyness doesn't have to hold you back from achieving your goals.

It's true. People who describe themselves as shy excel in many occupations, including careers where they're in the spotlight. Succeeding is all about recognizing what you have to offer, learning to work with your unique strengths, and seeking help if you feel that your shyness is becoming overwhelming.

This article lists eight career areas with some of the best jobs for shy people. It also examines what it means to be shy and explains how shyness differs from other similar traits. Plus, you'll discover tips on acing job interviews and succeeding at work as a shy person.

8 Career Areas Where Shyness Won't Hold You Back

Smiling man in jeans and gray shirt holding a pencil while leaning over a wooden desk covered with large technical drawingsShyness is often considered a negative trait or something that has to be overcome. So if you're shy, you might be asking yourself, "Is being shy bad for my career?" The answer is a definite no.

Why? Let's start by dispelling a few myths about shy people. For example, people who experience shyness aren't any less ambitious than their more outgoing coworkers. Nor does being shy mean that they are difficult to work with. And many people who describe themselves as shy actually enjoy interacting with others—under the right conditions.

So the best jobs for shy people aren't always occupations that involve working alone. Rather, if you're concerned that having some shy personality traits will hurt your career, a good strategy is to focus on the strengths you've developed as a shy person.

What are those strengths? Studies have found that people who are shy have strong powers of observation, are good listeners, and tend to be more empathetic than people who don't describe themselves as shy. And they're often very creative. Plus, shy people are generally judged to be more trustworthy.

In other words, shy people have a lot to offer in many occupations. The following career areas contain jobs that can suit the strengths of shy people without the expectation of changing their personalities and magically becoming outgoing socializers.

The average salaries cited below are based on May 2018 estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rounded to the nearest thousand.1 Job growth numbers are based on projections for the 2016-to-2026 period.2

1. Management

Did you just do a double take when you saw the word "management?" It might be surprising, but shy people can perform very well in management roles. That's partly because they tend to be willing to take themselves out of the spotlight and focus on the needs of their staff. In fact, one study found that proactive workers perform better under the supervision of quieter managers than they do under more outgoing bosses.3

Still, if you're shy, working in a management role may require stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes. So you might have to adopt a managerial style that works with your personality. For example, because shy people tend to be good listeners, you could focus on one-on-one interactions with staff members. And finding a good mentor can help you develop your strengths as a shy manager.

2. Skilled Trades

Does hands-on work appeal to you? Many shy people like working in the trades because they can focus on specific tasks without a lot of personal interactions. And the interactions that do take place on the job tend to be focused on things like problem-solving, so it's possible to avoid a lot of small talk.

This kind of work can also be good for your confidence because you see tangible results. Plus, everyone relies on skilled pros like plumbers and HVAC technicians, so you never have to feel anxious that you might be bothering people. Think about it: Someone who is experiencing plumbing problems will always be happy when a plumber arrives.

  • Plumber
    • Average salary—$58K
    • Predicted job growth—16 percent
  • Welder
    • Average salary—$44K
    • Predicted job growth—6 percent

3. Counseling and Human Services

Many shy people have learned how to be good listeners. That's partly because they often pause to evaluate a social situation before jumping in. Observing human behavior from a shy perspective like this can help you develop the kind of thoughtful empathy that is beneficial in counseling and human services careers.

You could even focus on clients who are looking for guidance on how to get over shyness. (Many people have good luck with cognitive behavioral therapy when dealing with shyness that has become debilitating, so counselors can play an important role in helping other shy individuals.)

  • Social worker
    • Average salary—$53K
    • Predicted job growth—16 percent

4. Information Technology

Information technology (IT) might be one of the first fields that come to mind when you think of good careers for shy people. After all, IT professionals often work alone at computers, which is a good setup for anyone who is nervous about social contact.

If working alone is a priority for you, IT occupations can definitely involve solitary conditions. One survey ranked careers by "social orientation importance level" on a scale of one to 100. A high ranking meant that being social was very important in a career, and a low ranking meant that it wasn't very important. Not surprisingly, some of the lowest rankings were for IT jobs.4

  • Web developer
    • Average salary—$74K
    • Predicted job growth—15 percent

5. Science and Engineering

We all know the stereotype of the reticent scientist working alone in a lab. However, many shy people have other personal characteristics that can make them excellent scientists or engineers. For example, people who are shy are often careful observers and, in general, don't rush to conclusions until they've gathered all the facts. (They've often learned to do this in order to avoid accidentally entering into what they see as embarrassing situations.)

In addition, science and engineering are diverse career sectors, with plenty of opportunities for more social interaction as you gain confidence. So you may be able to adapt a position to suit your comfort level with personal interactions.

  • Engineer
    • Average salary—$99K
    • Predicted job growth—8 percent
  • Microbiologist
    • Average salary—$81K
    • Predicted job growth—8 percent
  • Cartographer
    • Average salary—$68K
    • Predicted job growth—19 percent

6. Healthcare

At first glance, working in healthcare might not seem like a great fit for someone who's shy. After all, healthcare workers have close contact with other people, often in very intimate circumstances.

But an important aspect of many healthcare jobs is that the work is focused on specific tasks, so most conversations that take place on the job are similar in nature. For example, an ultrasound technician must always give a patient the necessary instructions to prepare for an exam, so the conversation follows a set "script." In other words, talking to a patient during a medical procedure often feels a lot easier than approaching a stranger at a party and trying to think of something clever to say.

Plus, the quieter presence of a shy person can be comforting to people who need medical care. And you can feel confident knowing that you are helping other people with vital elements of their healthcare.

  • Phlebotomist
    • Average salary—$36K
    • Predicted job growth—25 percent

7. Creative Fields

Many shy people excel in creative fields, even in the performing arts. Believe it or not, a lot of successful performers describe themselves as painfully shy when they're not on stage—including Lady Gaga and Kanye West!

It's possible that spending a lot of time looking inward allows shy people to develop rich imaginations. And focusing on something creative, like a piece of writing or a work of art, allows you to really immerse yourself in what you're doing. Many people feel less anxious when they are focused on creating something.

  • Writer
    • Average salary—$73K
    • Predicted job growth—8 percent
  • Fine artist
    • Average salary—$58K
    • Predicted job growth—6 percent

8. Animal Care

What more could a shy person want in the workplace besides the lack of judgment and unconditional love that's offered by pets? (Plus, pets don't gossip or drink all the coffee.)

As well, many shy people find being around animals to be relaxing. And since everyone loves their pets, animals provide a focal point for conversations. In fact, research shows that pets can play a big role in bringing people together and establishing social bonds.6 So a shy person can gain confidence and develop social skills by caring for pets.

  • Dog trainer
    • Average salary—$35K
    • Predicted job growth—11 percent (for all animal trainers)

What Does It Mean to Be Shy?

Young woman in a denim button-up shirt and gray skirt sitting on a stool in front of a narrow wooden bar with a potted plantAre you shy? Ultimately, you're the only who can answer that question. After all, it comes down to how you feel. In general, you might be shy if you're anxious about being around other people, especially people you don't know. You might be so worried about being judged, criticized, or rejected by others that you avoid social situations.

Why are people shy? You won't find just one answer. Psychologists say that shyness can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Personal experiences can also play a role. For example, a person who experiences bullying or teasing can become extremely self-conscious and shy.

Sometimes, people who are louder and more outgoing will tease quieter people about being shy. But contrary to popular opinion, quiet people aren't necessarily shy. Some people are quiet simply because they prefer to observe others, or because they are focused on other things.

It's also important to realize that shyness and introversion are different. Introverts get their energy from being alone. They want (and need) time to themselves in order to recharge. In contrast, shy people might want to spend time with people but feel too anxious or insecure to reach out to others.

So if an introvert and a shy person both receive an invitation to a big party, the introvert might stay home because he or she thinks that the party sounds exhausting. And the shy person might desperately want to go but feel too overwhelmed with fear to attend. Of course, some people are shy introverts who might stay home for a combination of reasons.

Shyness is also different from social anxiety disorder (SAD). People with SAD have extreme anxiety related to social contact. Unlike shy individuals, who often relax around others once they feel comfortable, people with SAD might never feel at ease in a social situation. In fact, SAD can lead to disabling symptoms such as nausea, sweating, or trembling just at the thought of being around other people.

If you're experiencing symptoms of social anxiety, or if your shyness is interfering with everyday life, it's important to talk to a mental health professional.

Job Interview Tips for Shy People

Smiling young businesswoman holding papers while seated at a wooden table with two businessmen seated across from herFor many shy people, applying for a job is very stressful. Shyness can present extra challenges in a job search, particularly when it's time for face-to-face meetings. Here are a few simple tips to help you ace an interview:

1. Do your homework.

Get a head start by thoroughly researching each place you apply to. Having advance knowledge about a business or organization can save you from experiencing awkward pauses during an interview. You'll also feel more relaxed heading into it. After all, fear of the unknown is one of the biggest factors that makes job interviews seem frightening.

It's also a good idea to come up with a few questions beforehand that you can ask the interviewer(s). Odds are high that at some point, they will want to know if you have anything to ask them. And, as you may have experienced, shy people can't always come up with a quick response in conversations.

Also, try to create a well-developed "elevator pitch." That's a short summary you can give when people ask you about yourself. (It's called an elevator pitch because, ideally, it can be spoken during the time it takes to ride an elevator. Shy people often don't like to be long-winded anyway, so you could excel at this.)

2. Don't overbook yourself.

Looking for a job can be exhausting for a shy person. So try to schedule enough time to recover between interviews.

As well, in order to avoid feeling rushed and flustered, make sure you know how to get to the location of an interview beforehand. You don't want to feel anxious when you arrive. Feeling extra stressed could make you feel even more shy.

3. Be honest.

It's OK to admit that you find interviews stressful. (Here's a secret: Even the most confident and outgoing people can find them tough.) Acknowledging this may even help break the ice.

4. Be positive.

You might think that shyness would handicap you in a job interview, but the truth is that shy people can come across very well. Think about it: As a shy person, it's almost impossible for you to appear too arrogant. You're unlikely to brag unnecessarily or dominate the conversation. And many employers see those qualities as positives. So focus on your strengths and don't assume that you're bombing an interview while it's happening.

You can even talk about your shyness. But present it in a positive light. For example, if you're asked the very common job interview question about your "greatest weakness," you could mention that it can be difficult for you to express your opinion in a meeting. But emphasize that you are both aware of this issue and working to improve it.

Shyness at Work: When Is It a Problem?

Young woman in a pale-blue blouse pinching the bridge of her nose while slouching over a table with her laptop half openIt's important to remember that there's no shame in being shy. Almost everyone feels shy sometimes. (And anyone who says they don't might be lying.)

However, shy feelings can also interfere with your career success if you're not conscious of the risks that shyness can create. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. A woman is afraid to send an email because she feels nervous about reaching out to the intended recipient. But as a result of that fear, she procrastinates sending the email until it's too late, so she misses a deadline.
  2. A man is so self-conscious that a high percentage of his thoughts at work involve worrying about the social interactions in his office. As a result, he makes some careless mistakes because his shyness makes it hard for him to focus.
  3. A worker has a brilliant idea but is afraid to share it in a meeting. Near the end of the meeting, a coworker proposes the same idea and gets a lot of praise.

If you're concerned that your shyness is affecting your career performance, it's important to address those concerns right away. That's because shyness can snowball.

How does this happen? Improving your social skills is a bit like stretching your muscles. If you don't use those social skills, they can start to atrophy. In other words, the less you reach out, the less positive feedback and pleasant experiences with others you have, which can reinforce your negative feelings about yourself. As a result, shy people sometimes have distorted ideas about their own social skills.

Here are some tips on how to overcome shyness if it's holding you back at work:

1. Seek help.

Shyness is a personality trait, so it isn't necessarily something that has to be "cured." But if it's holding you back, plenty of help is available. Many people have experienced the same things you're feeling and have achieved great success.

Counseling can be an effective way to learn how to deal with shyness. As well, some good books on shyness and social anxiety include:

Some people find that joining groups where they share a common interest with others can help them learn to feel more relaxed in social settings. Other people have success with groups focused on personal growth, such as Toastmasters.

2. Set small goals.

You likely won't become extremely outgoing at work overnight—and that's OK. Instead, focus on small goals that feel realistic. Perhaps you could set a goal of saying "good morning" to a coworker every day or speaking up at least once in every meeting. If it helps, try writing out some of your ideas before sharing them in public.

Remember to think about what you have to offer as an employee. Being shy doesn't make you any less important or valuable. Keeping this in mind can help as you take small steps toward feeling more confident.

3. Watch your self-doubt.

What causes a person to be shy often comes down to insecurity. Many people who are shy are extremely hard on themselves. So a shy person might perceive a short conversation as a failure, even if the other person thought it was perfectly fine.

If you find yourself obsessing about a possible social misstep or replaying a conversation in your head, slow down and pay attention to your inner voice. Focus on the positives and remember that everyone feels awkward or quiet sometimes. (Just imagine how noisy the world would be if we were all talkative and outgoing all the time.)

4. Don't self-medicate.

You may have heard the expression "liquid courage" in reference to alcohol. And many people feel that they're more confident and less shy after a few drinks. However, studies have found that it's actually our belief that alcohol will give us courage that makes us brave, not the alcohol itself.5

Of course, you want to avoid alcohol in job situations. Alcohol can impair your judgment at work. And in many workplaces, you could be fired for drinking. But there may be another lesson here. If our belief that something will make us more confident can actually play a role in overcoming shyness, maybe it's possible to rewrite that script. Perhaps you could tell yourself that you're more confident after a walk, or that you're brave when you have a good idea.

Move Ahead With Confidence

Shyness doesn't have to be a disadvantage in the workplace. In fact, shy people are thriving in many careers. So focus on your strengths and what you want to do. And, of course, get the right training so that you feel more confident as you move forward. Find a great program near you by entering your zip code into the school finder below!

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 16, 2019.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Projections, website last visited on May 16, 2019.

3 Harvard Business Review, "The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses," website last visited on May 16, 2019.

4 O*NET OnLine, website last visited on May 16, 2019.

5 The Atlantic, "The Fun of Being Drunk Is All in Your Head, Not the Bottle," website last visited on May 16, 2019.

6 HABRI Central, "The Pet Factor - Companion Animals as a Conduit for Getting to Know People, Friendship Formation and Social Support," website last visited on May 27, 2019.