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.
We are all on the hunt for great ideas to augment the job search process. One of the best methods to uncover some “tried and true” paths to land a job, is taking the time to read the job search stories detailed in other people’s blogs. Here are some unique ideas posed by other writers. (I have offered one of my own for good measure).
Join the Toastmasters
Job interviewing can be a challenge, and almost everyone can develop a case of the jitters. Well – practice makes perfect. Giselle General, President of her local Toastmasters club in Alberta, Canada says membership in the Toastmasters, a public speaking organization, can offer you a needed edge during employment interviews and help build your career network. As she explains in CESA, perfecting your presentation skills in front of a group has great job search value.
- It teaches you timing. Toastmasters has a system laid out to help you learn the basics of public speaking: “The impromptu speaking sessions are timed, so in your short time to speak you learn how to make your response short, sweet, relevant and with impact.” She also points out this skill helps you to stand out in the crowd. “Interviewers listen to dozens of responses all day long, therefore it’s important to make every second and every word count and not bore them to tears. If you’re memorable – you’re more likely to get the job.”
- You learn fear management. Interviewers are notorious for throwing people off their guard with tough questions. “The worst part in interviews is when you get that unexpected question and don’t know how to respond. In Toastmasters, you get this all the time so you learn your own style of managing the initial shock and coming up with a good response based on what you know.” She goes on to explain that, “Every time people are anxious or blank out, they say a lot of filler words (like um). Toastmasters helps you manage and reduce those with practice and awareness; we count them so you have a target to say less of these next time you speak.” (Find your local club here.)
Reverse the Job Posting Process
Another interesting viewpoint comes from Helen Schranz, a barrister (attorney) and part-time teacher who found herself transplanted (and unemployed) in a foreign country. In her blog helosphy, she suggests reversing the traditional job search process to find the right job.
- Advertise yourself. “Put an ad in relevant journals, papers, post online, sell yourself, ” she explains. Envision the job that you would like. “Write out what it is you are good at and your best skill sets. Think of the hours you want to work and where you want to work, what quality of life you want and how you can support this while maintaining balance. Then put it out there.”
- Keep active and improve yourself. Of course focusing on your job search is key, but don’t neglect other areas of your life. “Never sit around doing nothing while waiting for responses. Learn new skills, meet friends, volunteer, work for free if needs be…Build a business plan, prepare for that 5k run, make time for friends and family. Engage in all the other things that will be beneficial in supporting your goal.”
Follow the Grant Money
If you find yourself living near or on a college campus – stay informed concerning grants that have been awarded to various academic departments. These awards, which can be sizeable, often create job opportunities. If you happen to possess a needed background (for example you are well versed in Excel) you may land a part-time position.
- Read the local papers and visit university websites. Grants won by universities are frequently an important news item and are covered in the local media. Be sure to note any discussion concerning hiring opportunities and when the work will actually begin.
- Contact the university employment office. Let them know you are interested in working in some capacity for a grant – they will help you and direct you to the right professors or staff. Frequently there are jobs at varying levels and pay grades, so be sure to ask questions concerning the different opportunities which might exist.
- Talk to your professors. Are you taking a course that is particularly fascinating? Don’t forget that your instructors do more than teach courses. Inquire about the research or grants they are involved with – and if there is the possibility of work.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist and career coach located in East Lansing, Michigan. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.
I recently finished reading “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell — a very clever book which poses the theory that we don’t need to process the entire story to actually grasp the “gestalt” of that story. Of course, the real skill lies in knowing what information to consider and what information to ignore. While reading, I couldn’t help but think of how this concept of making decisions on thinner “slices” of behavior or information could apply to workplace practices.
Is less information better? Well, in some cases it might be.
Consider the traditional employment interview for a moment. When you think of all the business practices we openly malign (yearly performance reviews for example) employment interviews have really escaped their fair share of deserved criticism. Why is this? One reason is that employment interviews have simply been a fact of work life — an accepted way of doing business. It seems that when you consider the prospect of a new job, an interview is always the first thing you anticipate.
The Down Side
You might think the run of the mill interview does a pretty good job at doing what it was supposed to do. But this is not the case — they are a bit like a living fossil in the world of business practices. In actuality, the predictive validity of the standard interview is quite low, primarily attributed to subjective error. Shocked? As told to me by a professor, “People by nature are hopelessly curious. The idea of making decisions about a candidate without speaking with them in person makes us feel uncomfortable, even at the cost of making our decisions less accurate”. We just seem to want all of the extra information that can run us in the wrong direction – and resist evaluating candidates based upon key qualifications, tests and work history alone. We allow ourselves to think that we “just know” who is right for the job. That’s the first mistake we make.
The Bright Side
Researchers have investigated practices that help improve the “hit rate” of the employment interview as a selection technique. Of course, these practices attempt to keep decision makers on track and help them focus on information critical to the job in question. The practices are designed to limit the subjectivity of the interview process and idiosyncratic interviewer practices. You can read more about that here, if you wish.
Utilize the time with a candidate wisely. Here are some key findings from past research which you can apply within your organization:
- Finalize the job description. Be sure it is accurate and up to date. Jobs will evolve and “reshape” over time. Be sure that all of the current tasks and responsibilities are captured.
- Utilize the job description to hammer out a set of meaningful questions. I would suggest a set of core questions about the job in question. Use “critical incidents” for the job as a basis for questions. These are behaviors that separate excellent employees from the pack.
- Pose the same questions to all the candidates. This allows a comparison of answers after all of the interviews are completed – a fascinating process.
- Use behaviorally anchored rating scales to evaluate core areas of skill or knowledge. This process helps make ratings concerning candidates more straight forward. Learn more about that here.
- Train interviewers to convey accurate information about the job and the organization. That way a candidate can decide if there is a real fit between person and job. If possible offer an RJP (Realistic Job Preview) before the interview begins.
- Have more than one interviewer evaluate a candidate. A panel works well if you have the manpower. More than one view of a candidate can begin an active discussion about a candidate’s qualifications for the job in question.
- Pause, digest, then decide. Train interviewers to delay the actual decision until after the interview and all relevant candidate information has been reviewed. A little time and reflection can go a long way — no “gut” feelings allowed.
Interviews aren’t going away, that’s a given. So let’s manage the “information overflow” wisely.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. Contact her practice at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.