Introverts make up about 25 percent of the general population. If you’re an introvert in a job search, you may feel at times that your job skills are not being valued because your job search skills are holding you back. And you may be right.
Introverts tend to dislike the whole concept of networking. The idea of meeting strangers, making small talk and asking for favors is just not what an introvert is wired to do. Introverts often think more and process more before they speak, and this tendency makes them less quick and natural in interviews. Here are some tips for playing to your strengths as an introverted jobseeker.
Introverts thrive on getting to know a subject well; they tend to develop deep knowledge instead of the extrovert’s broad, generalist approach. This is an introvert strength that can really help your job search. Use your research skills to learn about your target companies, and use written notes to prepare for interviews. You’ll stand out as a serious candidate who really understands the industry and the company.
Although networking with strangers can be daunting for an introvert, here is where you might be able to leverage your relationships with extroverts. Find your most energetic , outgoing and connected friend, and ask for her help in meeting people. Most extroverts love to connect people, and chances are, they’ll be thrilled to be of service.
Introverts are generally better listeners than they are talkers, and this can also be an advantage in your job search. During networking meetings and interviews, listen intently for messages about challenges the company or the manager is facing. Use thoughtful reflective language to show that you’re listening – and hearing. Respond with questions to deepen your understanding. (“It sounds like your customer base is changing over time – getting younger and more digital. What does that mean to your marketing and creative team?”)
Ask good questions about the working environment, and don’t be afraid to own your introversion. Be up front with issues about how you work. It’s much better to be considered and passed over for a job than to get a job with working conditions that will make you miserable. Ask about the office (“I’m an introvert, and I find that I’m most productive when I have quiet space to work on projects and concentrate. Can you tell me about the office layout?”)
Consider careers and managers that favor introversion. Trust me, there are whole companies made up mostly of introverts, or where their good qualities are essential for the job. Accounting firms, information technology companies, scientific communities – all these workplaces are filled with people just like you. On the other hand, if you decide to work in a large public relations firm or in the hospitality industry, or in politics, you’re bound to be surrounded by raving extroverts. You do the math.
Jonathan Rauch wrote a great article for the Atlantic Monthly called “Caring for your Introvert.” In it, he write: “We [introverts]tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. “Introverts,” writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I’m not making that up, either), “are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct.”
As an introvert, you may have trouble getting a word in edgewise. But you may be able to use your strengths to make a strong impression without saying too much. Keep Winston Churchill’s quote in mind: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”