July 6, 2012
Are you an introvert? Check out these career tips
Pop personality quiz: True or false?
You’re the kind of person who prefers small groups.
Big networking events make you feel like you’re dying inside.
Small talk isn’t really your thing.
Given the choice between picking up the phone and sending an email, email wins every time.
Mostly true? Maybe you’re an introvert.
“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain (Crown, 2012)
“The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” by Marti Olsen Laney (Workman Publishing, 2002)
“Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected,” by Devora Zack (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010)
“I get a little anxious before meetings, I hate networking and I like to assess a situation before I jump in,” says self-described introvert Nicole Weir, who discovered her personality style while enrolled in an organizational behavior class in college a few years ago. Bearing that in mind, Weir recently landed a job at a Redmond boutique firm that she says is a great fit for her personality and work style.
While much of the prevailing job-search advice focuses on extroversion (get out there and network, promote yourself as much as possible, make those cold calls), it tells only part of the story.
“Half of the population are introverts,” says Jessica Butts, a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator trainer, psychotherapist and former human resources manager based in Bellevue. “Because we live in a world that appreciates and rewards extroversion, unfortunately, introverts often feel left out and misunderstood.”
Common misconceptions about introverts are that they are shy, aloof or socially awkward. That’s not necessarily true, explains Butts. “Introverts like to socialize, network and work in teams, just not for as long,” she says. “It’s really about where you’re getting your energy. If you’re an extrovert, you get a boost from being around people. Introverts need solitude and down time to recharge.”
Butts describes a recent client who was exhausted and depressed. “After we talked for a while, we realized her job was the problem. She was an introvert and didn’t know it.”
Beth Buelow, a career coach and owner of The Introvert Entrepreneur, based in Tacoma, advises introverts to honor their personality preferences. If you know which types of tasks drain you (phone calls, meetings, client lunches) and which ones fuel you (strategy, writing, project planning), you can not only find the right career, but also better manage your productivity while on the job.
A prevailing personality-type rule of thumb is: Extroverts talk to think, and introverts think to talk. Andrew Flannery, a Seattle-based management-consultant professional and current job seeker, uses thinking time to his advantage in his interview prep. “I do a lot of research via LinkedIn and come up with questions ahead of time,” he says.
Buelow also recommends coming up with at least one success story for each position on your résumé. “Write it down. Rehearse with a friend. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be,” she says.
Loose-form happy hours and unstructured job fairs can be intimidating for introverts. Butts and Buelow advise choosing organizations and events that offer structure and are likely to lead to solid connections.
A Power Chicks International “un-networking” event, for example, led to the introduction that helped Weir land her dream job. If you RSVP to an event online, pick two to three people you want to meet ahead of time and then scan nametags until you find them.
As for breaking the ice, both Buelow and Butts recommend putting your introvert card right out there. If you go up to someone and say, “I’m an introvert, and it took all of my energy to just walk up to you and introduce myself,” the person will not only be flattered and find you courageous, but you’ve also just opened the door for an interesting conversation about personality types.
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