Job search is rarely easy for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for introverts.
Networking, in particular, can be agonizing. But it’s the best way to land a job you covet and deserve, so you’ll have to push through.
Fortunately, a lot of job search networking happens virtually via LinkedIn and other social media, so introverts can dodge in-person meetings quite a bit.
And they may be able to push off in-person job interviews for a time, since so many of them are conducted virtually these days, and virtual interviews are probably here to stay.
But at some point in the job search process, most job seekers will probably have to meet in person with people.
I’m an introvert. But I didn’t know this about myself until I was well into adulthood.
I used to envy people who dealt well with confrontation, or were easily able to argue and win a point on the spot.
I typically need time to think out an issue or problem, before acting or speaking on it.
And I’m not crazy about being in a crowd. Sure, I can work a crowd well, but I much prefer small groups of people. When I have to be among a lot of people for any length of time, I need time alone afterwards to decompress.
Although I haven’t had to job search in quite a long time, I know that it would be challenging for me, being an introvert.
Do you suspect you may be an introvert?
Take a look at the definition below to see if you are indeed an introvert, and to find out how to de-stress throughout your job search.
Click on any of the links below to take you directly to that section:
What Is an Introvert?
Dictionaries describe introverts as shy, reticent people, or a “person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts.” Both are not on the mark.
Psychology Today says:
“Introversion is a basic personality style characterized by a preference for the inner life of the mind over the outer world of other people. One of the Big Five dimensions that define all personalities, introversion sits on a continuum at the opposite end of which is extroversion. Compared to extroverts, introverts enjoy subdued and solitary experiences.
Introverts do not fear or dislike others, and they are neither shy nor plagued by loneliness. A crowded cocktail party may be torture for introverts, but they enjoy one-on-one engagement in calm environments, which is more suited to the make-up of their nervous system. Evidence suggests that, unlike with extroverts, the brains of introverts do not react strongly to viewing novel human faces; in such situations they produce less dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward.”
The Different Kinds of Introversion
According to Melissa Dahl, Executive Editor of New York Magazine’s The Cut, there are 4 shades of introversion:
Social: Social introversion is the typical definition of introversion, in that a preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones.
Thinking: This one is a newer concept. People with high levels of thinking introversion don’t share the aversion to social events people usually associate with introversion.
Anxious: Unlike social introverts, anxious introverts may seek out solitude because they feel awkward or self-conscious around other people, because they’re not very confident in their own social skills.
Restrained: You could also just call this reserved. Restrained introverts prefer think before they speak or act.
Do some characteristics of introversion apply to you, but not others? Then you may be an “ambivert”.
Susan Cain author of QUIET POWER: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, says that means,
“You fall smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed.”
Introversion Can Be a Plus
It’s the people who make the most noise (typically extroverts) who get noticed, but they don’t always offer well-thought out information. They’re often impulse-driven and don’t think things through before jumping into a conversation.
Conversely, introverts DO usually think things through before offering an opinion or suggestion. When faced with conflict, we tend to step back and ponder the pros and cons before stepping into the fray, which makes for sounder decision-making.
That means being an introvert is actually a big plus . . . in business, job search and career, and most situations in life.
Job search strategist and fellow introvert Bob McIntosh wrote about some of the many positive traits he and other introverts like us possess, including:
- We like diving into deep and sincere conversation with smaller, more intimate groups of people.
- We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style.
- We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own.
- We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners.
- We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking.
- We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces crowded with people and activity.
- We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect.
Some Say Introverts Make Better CEOs
Analysis by Harvard’s CEO Genome Project revealed that “while Boards often gravitate toward charismatic extroverts, introverts are slightly more likely to surpass the expectations of their boards and investors.”
They also noted that although a high level of confidence may double a candidate’s chance of landing a CEO role, that confidence doesn’t necessarily translate to high performance on the job.
Accept and Use Your Introversion as an Asset
FastCompany says it’s important to be yourself even though, as introverts, we often feel like we’re swimming against the tide:
Know yourself. Be self-aware, appreciate your gifts, and know your limits to set personal boundaries. Find work that is a great fit and to which you’re able to bring your best.
Be confident. Affirm yourself and visualize success. Worry less about what others think, and do what makes you happiest and which serves others.
Stretch. Rather than using your difference as a crutch or an excuse, use it as a starting point for stretching, adapting, and engaging with new things. Don’t compromise who you are, but do expand your talents by appropriately pushing yourself.
Embrace mistakes. Stretching yourself may result in a misstep here or there, so don’t strive for perfection. Instead, focus on your own learning. If you stumble, pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Reflect on your actions so you can be more effective next time.
Appreciate others. In the process of appreciating your own gifts and talents, recognize the unique contributions of others. Happiness is linked with the gratitude and connections you have with colleagues.
How To Care for Introverts
Another FastCompany article offered this infographic with tips on how to treat introverts.
Tips to Make Job Search for Introverts Less Stressful
Introverts typically have a harder time with networking than extroverts. Here are some ways to keep your cool as you do the important work of networking into your next job or promotion.
Karen Wickre, author of Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count, says:
“The common wisdom is that you’re forced to network only when a big change looms: you’ve been layered or demoted; you don’t like the new pivot (or the new boss); your job is going away altogether. The idea that you have to get out there to transact when you may feel most vulnerable is not fun. And if you do make a helpful contact, humbling yourself to get a good word, or good lead, can make you feel downright desperate (shouldn’t you be able to do this on your own?).
Then there’s the stress of putting yourself in the hands of strangers, or near-strangers, for guidance. Add any kind of time pressure — say your job ends very suddenly, a big loan payment is due, or you’re in the midst of family upheaval — and you’re likely to feel abjectly bad at a time when you need to appear to be on solid footing.
Here’s a little secret: at some point, every one of us is going to need help from someone we don’t currently know.”
She further offered,
“Another helpful key to overcoming fear and loathing of networking is to practice connecting a little every day, especially when you don’t need help, and there’s no deadline.
Here’s my No. 1 guiding principle: Nurture your network before you need it.”
Rebuild Your Existing Networking and Expand in New Directions
If you haven’t been doing this all along, here are some tips from my article, How Do I Rebuild My Network for Executive Job Search?
Reconnect with your existing job search network.
Connect more deeply with the people you already know and relied on in the past – friends, colleagues, various associates, current and former customers/clients, vendors, fellow members of professional associations, etc.
Reach out to new people on a regular basis.
Then, cast a far-reaching net to build out your job search network (online and off-line) with fresh faces, including executive recruiters and people working at your target companies. LinkedIn is tailor made for this.
Create a personal brand communications plan to stay top-of-mind with your network.
While you continue to make more of the right connections, gently remind your network of your unique ROI to your target employers, reinforcing your personal brand and good-fit qualities. This helps you penetrate the “hidden” job market, where most people land jobs.
Social Media Makes Job Search for Introverts Easier
According to personal branding pioneer William Arruda,
In the digital age it’s never been easier to deliver your brand message without having to pack your calendar with face-to-face activities.
Build your brand in bits and bytes.
Social media is the best tool for personal branding – and it’s perfect for introverts. Social media is the opposite of being at a large professional association meeting or delivering a presentation to an audience of fifty people whose eyes are focused on you.
Let others do the talking for you.
Don’t toot your own horn: let others tout your brilliance! If it feels uncomfortable to overtly highlight your accolades, solicit the assistance of your existing fans. They’ll be happy to do it for you. Their contributions will come in the form of testimonials and recommendations.
Avoid public speaking.
Instead, get your message across through video. I can reassure you that video lets you deliver the more powerful part of public speaking: the delivery of a complete communication.
In-Person Networking That Won’t Stress Out Introverts
Executive job search strategist Erin Kennedy offered these tips in a LinkedIn update to effectively network in person less stressfully:
Choose events wisely. Research to find out what companies will be there. Decide if it is something you’d really like to do.
Get there early. Whether it’s a Zoom meeting or an in-person gathering, the earlier you arrive, chances are there won’t be as many people and you can chat with the few that are there.
Don’t work the room. Plan on talking to five people – more if you are up to it. This way you know you have an “out” but still feel good that you talked to five people.
Ask questions. If you don’t want to talk, listen! Most people like talking about themselves. This is networking without extending too much of yourself – yet the other person ends up thinking you are great!
Who will be there? Research to find out who will be there. Who do you want to talk to? What do they do? How will knowing them help you?
Job Interviews (like Networking) Are Harder for Introverts
Most people dread job interviews. For introverts, that dread can be even worse, leaving us feeling that we don’t stand a chance against competitors who are extroverts.
Think again, says Susan Peppercorn, an executive and career coach, who offers 5 ways introverts can conquer interviews with less anxiety:
“Preparation is the introvert’s best friend.” Study whatever information you have about the job and the company before you go to the interview. Make a test drive to the office so you’ll know the way, exactly how long it should take to get there, where to park, where the entrance is, etc. Rehearse your answers to common interview questions. Know which questions YOU will ask.
Tell a story
Introverts can have a hard time talking about themselves and their accomplishments. They see it as bragging. Peppercorn says, “When you talk about yourself with very high regard without any information to back it up, that’s bragging. But when you’re talking about an accomplishment, it’s a fact.”
Learn to be a strong storyteller. Review your resume and/or LinkedIn profile, pull out the juicy Challenge – Actions – Results stories you’ve wisely included in them, rehearse the relevant stories and be ready to use them in interviews.
Have alone time
Arrive at the interview early to allow some time alone to review the things you want to be sure to insert into the conversation. To keep from draining your energy, it’s a good idea not to schedule too many other activities into the days you’re going on interviews.
Plan your small talk
Because introverts generally dislike small talk, in person interviews can be super stressful. You’re likely to perform much better if you prepare bits and pieces of small talk for the interview. Find out which people will be interviewing you and look them up on social media channels for tidbits you can use to break the ice or move the conversation along.
Remember that many interviewers are not so good at interviewing. In fact, if they’re introverts themselves, they could be struggling just like you.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to be introverted
You may think, like I used to, that being an introvert is a negative character trait. But we have many stellar qualities that extroverts often lack. We tend to be better listeners and critical thinkers. We make excellent leaders. We’re thoughtful and consider the consequences of our actions. We don’t make rash decisions and blindly act on them.
For overall help with interviewing, see my guide to job interviews.
How To Nail Virtual Interviews if You’re an Introvert
Being online instead of in person for an interview may give you some measure of comfort.
If you can do it from home, you won’t have the added anxiety of driving to an appointment, getting yourself there on time, finding parking, being in a strange environment, etc.
But these interviews can still rattle you.
As with any interview, preparation is key.
Career coach Nancy Ancowitz has some tips.
When you’re nervous, use these self-talk tips before your interviews start:
“First, reframe your fear into excitement. Second, speak to yourself in the second or third person. For example, say to yourself: “You’re excited to describe your relevant accomplishments.” Also, remember to breathe. Consciously. During the interview.”
If you tend to ramble when you’re anxious.
“Prepare crisp answers to common interview questions, weaving in those keywords—and practice out loud. Video record yourself; trim what you can. You may know the STAR (situation-task-action-result) method for structuring your answers. Or just briefly convey how you solved a relevant problem. It may help to provide one main point and ask: ‘Would you like to hear more detail about that?'”
If your virtual interview takes place in a public space.
Not everyone has the luxury of a separate quiet room in their home to use for their virtual interviews.
She suggests you line up a space in advance and case it out so you’ll be more familiar with it.
“Fallback options might include your car or a room you reserve at a library.”
More about ease-your-anxiety prep for virtual interviews in Nail Your Virtual Interviews – 21 Things You Need To Know, Do and Master.