The prospect of job hunting can be particularly challenging for an introvert. If you find yourself on the introverted side of the I-E continuum, you’ve likely felt that key segments of the search process were stacked against you. Between the “on the spot” nature of interview questions and required networking — the process can seem a complete mismatch with regard to your strengths. Unfortunately, the proverbial “one size fits all ” workplace bias, can also extend to the selection process. So, what are the best techniques to bend the odds in favor of finding the right job-person match?
While many people confuse being introverted with shyness, introversion is in fact about how an individual handles stimulation and processes information. Fortunately, as the importance of embracing individual differences increases in the workplace, the so-called mysteries of introversion will become more universally understood. This aside, turning ourselves completely “inside out” while job hunting is simply not necessary. Introversion is not the problem or a weakness — the challenge is to effectively relay vital information concerning our strengths, as they mesh and align with potential roles. This effectively increases the potential of finding that “best fit” opportunity.
Mechanisms that help to communicate the “whole story” become critical. In many cases, introverts possess a unique set of qualities that are not fully expressed within the traditional job search process. (Many of these qualities can only be appreciated with time.) This can lead to inaccurate or incomplete impressions concerning capabilities. Ultimately, this a communication gap that we cannot afford.
A few thoughts to consider:
Let your network work for you. Not earth-shattering news — but, strategic none the less. (More on branding for introverts from HBR here.) You may not personally wish to broadcast your accomplishments at every turn — and you likely have limits on your desire to network. So, start small, and concentrate on connecting with one or two individuals at events which provide networking opportunities. Also remember that others may be more than happy to do some of this for you. Let your trusted, established connections know exactly what you are looking for — as they can also serve as a powerful marketing team. Those willing to recommend you for a role, team or project, can contribute to the positive buzz. This may lead you to the right role.
Yep, you’ll still need an “Elevator Pitch” (or two). It’s difficult to communicate important messages about our work when answering questions in a pinch or presenting — so craft the messages you wish to convey at your own thoughtful pace, on your own time. As discussed by Susan Cain, find methods that allow you to start with smaller steps. Fill 2-3 note cards with vital information concerning what you bring to the table and your target role. Then choose the salient points. (You can also utilize a recording device to video yourself delivering the messages.) It can take a few “takes” to perfect the messages — but, you’ll likely find an opportunity to use them.
Build a 3-D social media presence. Utilize social media channels to represent your work — as this process allows you to build your presence with the forethought you crave. Start a blog in a niche area to gain visibility. “Flesh” out skeleton profiles with examples of your work and the real-life problems that you’ve solved. Many sites allow room to highlight past projects — so be creative in this regard. LinkedIn for example, allows you to upload images, video, documents and other information about you and your work directly to your profile.
Express your Personal Value Proposition (PVP). Educating others about you and your unique qualifications is what the job search process should be about — and a personal value proposition is critical. (Read the HBR post here.) Companies such as the 1-Page Company, allow you to develop your own proposal as a vehicle to let organizations know exactly what you bring to the table. The platform has the capability to help you communicate your skill set and your creative solutions to specific problems.
Live your dream. Passion for your work can carry you a very long way. If you have a dream role or “vision” project, attempt to make this a reality. Interestingly, you don’t necessarily have to wait for a single employer to give you the go ahead — you can make it happen your way. If you are open to freelance work, O-Desk and Elance offer a great platform to link you with the work that you enjoy and aligns with your strengths. Sites such as Kickstarter, offer an opportunity to gain funding for your dream project.
Practice the “power pose”. Gaining a mental edge before an interview is also important — as sometimes our own bodies betray us. Recent research has shown that our physical stance shortly before an interview, can affect what we project (and how we are subsequently evaluated) during that interview. Spending as little as 2 minutes in a “power pose” can lower the amount of the stress hormone cortisol flowing through our bodies. I’d say it’s worth a try.
Know your limits. The job hunt can include many situations that are quite stimulating. While activities such as networking, professional meetings and conferences are important to find a job you love — know when you’ve had enough. Many introverts can feel drained after participating in these types of situations, so leave ample time to recharge.
What techniques have you utilized to help find a role you love?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.
Do you supervise individuals who would describe themselves as an introvert?
If the answer is yes, you may want to take a moment to examine how you manage them. In many cases, we hold misconceptions about introversion which can lead to ill-fated supervisory decisions. I’d like to help.
While many people confuse being introverted with shyness — introversion is in fact, about how an individual handles stimulation and processes information. Those on the introverted end of the introversion/extroversion continuum, require a different set of workplace conditions to excel, and we need to become sensitive to their needs.
Small changes in management and workplace elements, can transact into a more comfortable environment which is conducive to success.
A few things to rethink:
Putting them on the spot. It would be misguided to expect an opinion from an introvert at the “drop of the hat”. One hallmark of introversion is the need to sit with one’s thoughts and process information — often far from the “madding crowd”. If you offer an introvert a period of time to process, you’ll likely take full advantage of their skills.
Publicly recognizing them. Stop yourself. Really. Many introverts would rather jump off a cliff than have attention shifted in their direction without notice. If they are about to receive an award or accolade, let them know what you are planning ahead of time. They’ll appreciate the gesture and have time to prepare.
Teaming. It’s not that introverts are against teaming — they would just rather contribute on their own terms. This means time to ruminate over issues on the table and offering a bit of a lull before they will jump into the conversation. To an introvert, teaming can become a bit of a workplace nightmare, in direct opposition to how they would normally approach their work. So, be sure to offer opportunities for introverts to start the idea generation process before team meetings and allow points in the conversation where they can jump in. (Try pausing 8-seconds before moving to the next topic.)
The power of a quiet space. You don’t have to be an introvert to appreciate a calm environment in which to process information. Incorporating spaces within your office design that allow for both peace and privacy, is always wise. (Read more about that here.) Someone leaning toward the introverted side of the continuum, will be forever grateful.
They have nothing to communicate. By nature, introverts can be less likely to share their thoughts — which makes it even more important to check in with them regularly. Send them an e-mail, asking how their projects are progressing. They can reflect and respond on their own terms.
Introverts cannot lead. Truth be told — you are dead wrong here. Recent research has shown that those on the introverted side of the continuum are more open to a differences in opinion than their extroverted colleagues. As a result, they are more likely to make more informed decisions. In fact, it has been shown their hesitancy to monopolize the conversation, can actually make them powerful team members. Sounds like leadership material to me.
Are you an introvert? What workplace conditions help you excel?
I am a “card-carrying” introvert — leaning toward the introverted end of the introvert/extrovert continuum.
As expressed by Susan Cain – I am also proud of it (I too, thought of summer camp as a confusing form of torture). I’m one of those individuals who gathers strength from focusing “inward” and would rather brainstorm on my own than among a group of people. Like other introverts, I rehearse what I am going to say in a team environment — and feel more than a little drained after attending a party. I tend to “choke” if things go wrong, and I’m put on the spot. Meetings without defined agendas are problematic, as gathering my opinions before weighing in on a topic is important. Speaking in front of others can be challenging — however, the conversations that emerge are wonderful.
Like many introverts, I am also a bit misunderstood. As a youngster, I was continually asked why I wasn’t “smiling” at social gatherings, when in actuality I was having a perfectly good time observing the scene and watching others. (Just not waving my arms and jumping up and down with glee.) In college some of the other students in my dormitory let me know that at first meeting they found me “stuck up” or “shy”. But, that just wasn’t the case. I thoroughly enjoyed social gathering with friends and love to laugh.
At LinkedIn, I’ve written about a challenging task for introverts — working on a team. (You can read “A Note About Introverts and Teams” here.) I spent the better part of a month reading about introversion and how this might impact workplace experiences. This included how introverts process information and how they might be most effective overall. I also had the opportunity to interview businesses that have developed novel methods to ensure that all voices are heard within a group setting. (These techniques were quite amazing).
But, by far – the most interesting aspect of the post were the comments from readers. Fellow introverts, team members and managers who just want the best and most productive outcome for all of us in the workplace. These comments let me know that our differences can combine to form a stronger team environment – and that mutual understanding and respect is really where our efforts should lie.
Are you a “card-carrying” introvert? What are your workplace experiences? Tell your story.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.