Popular media often views introversion and shyness as the same. The two get connected because they are both related to socializing. In the academic community, there is a difference. Introversion is a preference to spend more free time alone rather than socializing. It’s about you. Shyness is a fear of how others may perceive you; of whether they will disapprove of you or reject you. It’s about other people.
Both can feel like a weight when you’re in a job search, because reaching out to people is essential to the process in your job campaign. You need to network. You must interview to get the job. If you’re concerned about your reservations or reluctance to network, here are some ways that might help.
1. Know yourself
Typically introverts are quiet, but they aren’t necessarily shy. Pay attention to how you feel when you are around people. Imagine how you would feel if you had to make a speech or presentation. If you would feel anxious, you may have a fear of the situation. Or perhaps you struggle with not knowing what to say or have physical reactions like sweating or blushing.
You may just be a quieter individual who prefers to spend as much time as possible in the company of your own thoughts and ideas, even when with other people. You may care a great deal about people but be confident in your own skin. Mingling or giving a talk doesn’t scare you; you’d just prefer not to.
Recognize, write down and deal with the aspects of networking or interviewing that bother you most. If you’re pushing yourself to meet people, practice with friends or family. Tell them about your interests and strengths. If you don’t feel comfortable interviewing, role-play with a trusted confidant or professional career coach until you feel confident in interview connection and collaboration around what they need and how you can help – your career success stories. And if fear is keeping you from moving forward, ask yourself this magical question, “What is the worst that can happen?” There. You have a tangible to address (probably much worse in your imagination than in reality).
2. Make a plan
One of my favorite truisms is that Preparation + Persistence = Progress. Planning your job search strategies and activities will give you momentum that takes you out of “winging it” mode and into “control throttle”. Plan what you want to say in your phone calls. Create your positioning statement to let others know what you want and offer.
Prepare for events and interviews. That positioning statement is important here too. Anticipate questions and practice your responses. A common trait with introverts is thinking to talk. If this is you, focus on listening rather than self-promotion in initial job search conversations. Carefully select what events to attend and target those at the top of your list. Have a list of open-ended questions to ask network contacts (“How did you get started in the __business?”) and interviewers (If I were your hire, what would you want me to do first?”).
3. Use social media.
Technology is a great tool for preparing to meet folks in person. Use LinkedIn and other social media sites. I think it’s interesting that clients frequently say they “on there but doing nothing” with regard to LinkedIn. And other sites? Well, it’s usually an “I’m not going there” or “That’s social; I keep it separate.” You could be missing the big boat, particularly if you’re a reserved person.
Facebook, Twitter and other sites can set the stage for bonding with others. Adjust your mindset in how these can be used. Facebook enables you to connect with people you’ve lost touch with. And here’s the deal. They might be the perfect contacts. With discretion and personal messages, you can connect, tell people what you want and need, give back, and show you care. It’s networking in its finest form.
On Twitter, you can make new friends in a target industry by following interesting people (your definition of that), replying to their tweets that touch you, and posting message of your own. The sky’s the limit.
And LinkedIn; well, more than 93% of recruiters and hiring folks go there first to scout and screen talent. How can you justify not being there? As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!” Beef up your profile, with special attention to your headline, summary, and skills. Post a friendly headshot photo. Join groups, connect and regularly use LinkedIn to find opportunities and to be found.
Whether it’s your preference or fear driving your hesitation, you can move forward toward your goal. It’s not about changing your personality or natural style, but embracing and expanding who you are. Sometimes stretching beyond your comfort zone, yes, but in ways that can work for you.
Photo: trinidad sky