As a natural introvert, I’m sometimes annoyed by the many misconceptions people have about us. We’re not all shy and we don’t necessarily dislike people (I love people!). The only meaningful difference between introverts and extroverts is from where we draw our energy. Extroverts are energized by their interactions with other people, while introverts replenish their energy with time spent alone.
With all of the advantages extroversion affords people in our modern world, it can sometimes seem that an introvert has no chance when competing with extroverts for jobs. Since extroverts draw energy from meeting new people, networking comes more naturally to them. Similarly, extroverts may have an edge in job interviews, where they may appear to be more outgoing or comfortable. What’s an introvert to do?
Fortunately, it turns out that introversion may not necessarily be the disadvantage that it appears to be in a job hunt. For example, a team of German researchers found that extroversion had no significant effect on the duration of unemployment (PDF). (On the other hand, conscientiousness, a trait shared by many introverts, has a positive effect on the probability of finding a job.)
Consider what personality traits you have that would serve you well in a job search. Are you highly organized, goal-oriented, and self-reflective? Do you have strong analytical and research skills? Each of these are beneficial in your job search, and your task is to maximize these qualities.
So, introverts of the world, check out our tips for finding and landing your dream job:
- Look for jobs that suit your personality, in organizations that match your mindset. According to Susan Cain, author of the New York Times bestseller Quiet, introverts may try to behave in an extroverted manner because society values extroversion so much. But there are plenty of jobs that suit introverts, so there’s no need to change who you are. In addition to taking note of the job requirements (for example, avoiding jobs that require lots of public speaking), you may also want to do research on the organization’s culture. If they emphasize teamwork at the expense of independent work, or if they have an open office layout, it may not be a good fit for you.
- Pace yourself. Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert, suggests that introverts go slow during the networking phase. Since introverts tire more easily in social settings, don’t expect to be able to hit up a different networking event each night of the week. Challenge yourself (because, hey, you do need a job!), but you won’t do yourself any favors if you wear yourself out. Introverts run the risk of coming across as arrogant, misanthropic, or shy, so you’ll want to conserve your energy so you can be at your best! (And introverts can be charming, thoughtful, and insightful in social situations—they just do better in small doses and in small groups.)
- Connect online. We’re living in an age where a great deal of human interaction happens online, so you might as well use this to your advantage. You can do a lot of networking from the comfort of your own home by sprucing up your Idealist and LinkedIn profiles, sending messages to former colleagues, and spreading the digital word of your job search.
- Practice appearing confident. Confidence has a certain look to it, and that look includes good posture, a strong handshake, and eye contact. These are things you can practice and perfect before your interview.
- Be aware of your personality and spell out the positives. As an introvert, you may be especially good at listening and practicing “silent” leadership. Don’t be afraid to talk about these qualities and how you can use them to help move the organization forward.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare! Introverts like to think before they speak. What a lovely quality! So take the time to think carefully before you respond to a question in a job interview. Also, practice responding to questions that are likely to be asked before you arrive at your interview.
Any job-seeking introverts out there, please share your concerns and tips in the comments.