I’m a self confessed introvert and the founder of My Career Groove. Yes, I consider myself highly creative. Yes, I love solving problems. Yes, I’m an entrepreneur, but I’m also a deep introvert, who would rather curl up with a good book, than face another networking meeting.
Now the typical entrepreneur is generally seen as gregarious and extroverted (and from an introvert perspective loud). So the question I had to ask myself, will the fact that I’m a definite introvert (not even borderline) make it almost impossible to succeed in this startup adventure?
Initially I thought the whole startup scene was entirely dependent on acting as an extrovert. Think open office plans in startup hubs (could not think of anything worse), pitching to a room full of investors, and networking an entire room, (like your life dependent upon it) and heaven forbid engaging in small talk.
Yet in spite of these so-called limitations, I’ve quickly learnt that I’m not only in very good company (Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Marissa Mayer are all introverts), but there are huge advantages and strengths in being in introvert. So instead of becoming a pretend extrovert, I’m embracing my ‘true’ nature and just leveraging off my strengths.
And then this got me thinking, many of the job search tactics are similar to those faced by entrepreneurs, such as networking and the ability to think on your feet (in particular during job interviews). After a quick search of Google, I discovered a series of articles that provided suggestions on how to overcome the burdens of being an introvert. Not only did I find the articles condescending – but also in my opinion to suggest that somehow you are severally disadvantaged being in introvert, is just plain wrong.
Deeper connections during networking events
I know networking is critical to success, which is why I engage in at least 1 networking event most weeks. Initially I felt awkward, but I’ve come to realise that I’m pretty good at creating real opportunities to share and engage. Instead of feeling the need to network with everyone in the room, I have a good conversation with just a few people (sometimes only 1 or 2 people). I also have the capacity to understand people’s feelings and I can tell almost instantly, whether they are bored, engaged, interested, or just full of BS. So while I don’t drop hundreds of business cards, I do get to understand people and remain in touch with people I genuinely like.
It is these closer relationships that really create opportunity in life, including for your career. Instead of thinking you are no good at networking, you need to understand that you are BRILLIANT at networking, as you have the capacity to create powerful and REAL connections. It is these real connections that will propel your career success.
Plus, there are other introverts in the room that are not comfortable and feel smarmy in the networking space. The key is to simply see networking as an opportunity to give, not take. It is this giving and connections that will propel your career.
You possess the right stamina during the job search process
Job-hunting, like the entrepreneurship process can be exhausting and requires stamina. For a successful job search, you need to get really strategic and focussed and it does involve long periods alone, planning out the right strategies and writing job applications. An extrovert on the other hand, craves stimulation, so the idea of adjusting a job application, or researching a company, is about as exciting as ‘watching paint dry’.
As an introvert, you have a distinct advantage, in that you are happy to sit alone working it out. Some of the most critical job search activities are right up your alley. These include:
- Using Google to uncover opportunities in the hidden job market
- Crafting a resume and job applications that really highlight your value
- Leveraging social media networks (effectively)
- Managing the deep research activities, such as background research on companies and people that will be interviewing you.
- Creating an effective online brand (think LinkedIn)
All of these tasks require the capacity to spend long periods alone, so you can think creatively. So you have a distinct advantage over many extroverts.
You don’t need external affirmations
As an introvert, I don’t require external validation for My Career Groove. I’m never hovering over my Facebook posts to see how many likes I’m gathering (I’m not even disappointed if I get zero likes, it is just a lesson). I don’t feel like I have to make a thousand pitches for fame and glory. When I pitch, it will be for the right audience (real investors, or for practice purposes), not for an award.
I do ask for advice (constantly from my mentors), but I don’t need people’s approval to take the next step forward with my business. I’m also very strategic with my time, so seeking glory is very low on my list or priorities, unless it serves a real purpose (that is growing my business).
Likewise, an introverted job seeker won’t need external affirmation. This means you will be able to use your own judgement as to whether a new job is worth pursuing. You also won’t take setbacks and rejections as hard as an extrovert. Yes, rejection is tough, but you won’t necessarily take it as personally. This provides you with the backbone to keep soldiering on, in spite of adversity and the tough nature of a job search.
You can use listening to your advantage during job interviews
Most people think extroverts have a distinct advantage over introverts during a job interview, as they can quickly think on their feet and come across as personable and light. However, while the extrovert has the gift of the gab and can role out responses to interview questions, they forget to listen to cues, effectively define the problems and use research to their advantage.
As an introvert, all that time in solitude has enabled you to thoroughly research the organisation. When someone asks deep thoughtful questions, you think that person is decisive and smart. Your ability to sit in solitude and really understand the organisations needs will separate you from the rest of the pack of candidates, even if you are not the most gregarious and engaging candidate.
Also keep in mind that the true purpose of a job interview for you is 2 fold:
- To find out what the company needs during the interview and to speak specifically to those needs, so you become a must have job candidate.
- To get the best possible job offer
It is NOT about merely surviving an interview, but becoming the job candidate that engages and connects effectively, and asks the right questions. It is about the opportunity to sell your skills effectively, and mirroring the needs of the potential employer.
AND Remember in many cases the job is radically different from the job advertisement and you should never make an assumption about what the employer needs.
This is where an introvert will succeed, as you can use your listening skills to really understand the employer requirements and then address employer requirements. An extrovert is less likely to pick up on the cues, and have a greater tendency to make assumptions (which could be wrong).
So no, being introvert is not a burden and there are many advantages over extroverts. I personally think that viewing introvert characteristics as a negative during the job search is just wrong. Does that mean, introverts are better at the job search game than extroverts. No. All I’m saying is that it is time to recognise that introvert traits are undervalued and instead of articles on how to behave more like an extrovert, we should have some articles on how extroverts should try and be more like introverts. Or better still, let’s just all work to our many strengths we all possess.