You may feel pressured to be more outgoing and extroverted, especially during your job search. Don't despair: Introverts possess many strengths, many of which are even admired by employers.
If you haven't already admitted you're an introvert, you may need to recognize the characteristics of one. They prefer to think before they act. They regain energy by being alone. They need time to formulate ideas in their heads before talking about them. They prefer depth over breadth; this is true of relationships and information. An introvert prefers fewer deep and meaningful relationships over hundreds of contacts. Introverts also tend to dive deep into topics they're interested in. Creativity, strategizing and remaining calm under pressure are several other strengths not to overlook. Self-awareness is the first step to appreciating the desirable qualities and overcoming those that limit your career and job search.
Meet people one-on-one. The thought of networking in a big crowd is scary, repulsive, intimidating and many other less-than-positive descriptors to an introvert. It isn't as though they can't network—they can—they're just more comfortable meeting individuals one at a time. And because introverts are good listeners, they come across as likable. The secret to maximizing your listening skills is not to worry about what you will say next. Conduct research on the person you will be meeting with and construct a list of questions you want to ask. Feel free to write these questions down and refer to them if you need to. Introverts sometimes become sidetracked in their own thoughts. A list of questions will help you feel more confident.
You are not shy. Introverts tend to dislike small talk and this often leads to the perception that they're shy or unfriendly. Shoot down this misconception by developing a repertoire of questions you can use to make small talk. When you use these questions, you won't feel the pressure of not knowing what to say and you can move on to building rapport. This is particularly important when you're meeting someone for the first time. A little sleuthing on social media might also provide some details that make it easier to engage in small talk.
Share your ideas. Introverts are strong at ideation, that is, the creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas. They just need time to think. In an interview situation, you may not have as much time to process your ideas and answers and formulate a confident response. With a little planning, an introvert can anticipate likely scenarios he or she can prepare for in advance. It is alright to ask for time to respond during an interview. You may even want to explain that you need a moment to formulate your answer before you speak.
Avoid back-to-back scheduling. When possible, build time into your day to recharge. That means scheduling an interview or meeting and allowing yourself time after the event to be alone and recharge. Be sure you ask how much time to allocate for an interview. It will help you gauge how much energy you will need to store up.
Think on your feet. There will be times when you are asked an unexpected question or put in an unanticipated situation. The more practice and experience you have interviewing and networking, the more comfortable you will be in crafting your response. You can and should roll play interview scenarios and craft accomplishment stories to answer questions.
The phone is your friend. Introverts prefer to text or email rather than speak on the phone. But you can take advantage of the fact that you're masked behind the phone. You can have your notes, script and research in front of you to reference without notice. Remember to smile while you talk and add more inflection to your voice than you may normally do in person. You want to make sure the caller can hear your interest and enthusiasm. If caught off guard by a phone call, be sure to ask for a minute so you can gather your materials.
Tap into the power of your passion. Introverts can be passionate and when given the opportunity to speak around a topic of interest, they even exude confidence. Look and listen for opportunities to share your interests during an interview and when networking. Better yet, plan ways to gently steer the conversation toward these areas and ask questions. Undoubtedly, you will have an opportunity to share your accomplishments.
Seek first to understand. Exploring the employer's needs and expected performance outcomes is another strength of introverts. Again, it is important to conduct research on the company so you can formulate thoughts and translate them into questions. The interview should be a mutual exchange of information and fact finding. Tap into your introverted tendency to seek answers and develop creative solutions.
Mind over matter. Lisa Petrilli, author of "The Introvert's Guide to Success In Business and Leadership," writes about how introverts can network. In one post, she writes about her experience as an introvert at a conference. Petrilli suggests overcoming the dreaded "they're just not into me" message by extending yourself. She also learned that, to varying degrees, most people are not that comfortable networking. When she made the effort to introduce herself to someone, she found in almost every instance, she was warmly received.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.