If you’re an introvert, you may think that a job search is infinitely more difficult than it is for your extroverted brethren. A job search often requires interpersonal networking, reaching out to strangers, self-promotion, and other activities that are particularly difficult for an introvert, says Wendy Gelberg, career coach and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. But in the area of job searching—as with every other area of life—it can be incredibly helpful to positively reframing how you think about the situation. For example, in what ways might being an introvert prove an asset?
Let’s start with networking. If you think of it as “hitting up people for a job,” “schmoozing,” or “working the room,” networking will indeed seem dreadful, says Gelberg. Networking can seem far less daunting if you realize it allows you the opportunity to cultivate relationships and to be a resource for other people. Moreover, since introverts tend to be good listeners and to tune in to what’s important to others, networking actually plays to your strengths when it’s one-on-one. As for the artifice that can surround the notion of networking, especially in group situations, “take off your job seeker hat, and put on your professional hat,” Gelberg says. “You have knowledge to share, and you can relate to another in that deep one-on-one way.”
As a part of networking and in areas such as setting up informational interviews or contacting a hiring manager, you most likely need to reach out to people you don’t know. If you prefer to connect with people with whom you already have established relationships, that can make you feel incredibly awkward, says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author Self-Promotion for Introverts. Instead of letting yourself ruminate on that, focus on a goal that’s bigger than yourself, such as making a real contribution to an organization through your skills and talent, she says.
As for any concern that you’re “bugging” people, think of your job search as an opportunity to connect with and learn from others. By offering your services, you are actually helping an organization reach its objectives. “Remember that there’s a boss or client and an organization out there looking for someone just like you,” she says. “So make it easier for them to find you.”
Still, reaching out to people can be tough, and it can be much easier when you can get an introduction. For that reason, LinkedIn can be an introvert's best friend, says Gelberg. We know more people than we think we know, and the degrees of separation between you and someone you're interested in talking to are closer than you might think at first glance. That's not to say making the jump to LinkedIn or giving it greater focus won't be difficult. "But when you see how powerful it is, and how much easier it is to make connections and find others with connections you're interested in, it does become easier,” she says. Remember, people have either been in your situation or know someone who has, and are usually at least willing to have a conversation with someone.
The self-promotion that a job search can require is also difficult for introverts; you may feel far more comfortable letting your work speak for itself. Unfortunately, in this society, it’s safe to say self-promotion is a must. Again, reframing can help.
"Don't think of it as bragging, think of it as reporting what happened," Gelberg. For example, point to results in terms of dollars or numbers or how a situation changed. You may also wish to refer to what others said about you or awards you received. Referring to concrete measures or situations helps create a fact-based story, which can feel more comfortable for introverts, she says.
It can be especially helpful to practice talking about your accomplishments with someone you trust. A trusted advisor (a spouse, friend, colleague, or family member) can give you a reality check that you are sending the right message, and especially can make sure you’re giving yourself enough credit. Gelberg points to an introverted vice president of sales who had great difficulty taking credit for his team’s growth but instead only gave all the credit to his team. “Make sure you have the right balance,” she says.
Introverts tend to excel at research and planning in advance. Use those skills to dig deep in your knowledge of the company, create stellar cover letters and resumes, and prepare for interview questions. "Many people view a job search as a numbers game—sending out hundreds of resumes in response to endless ads," says Ancowitz. "However, especially as an introvert, you’ll do better by approaching your search with depth rather than breadth. Use your advantage as an introvert to research organizations and opportunities you want to target."
She also advises that you look for people in your network who are willing to put your resume in front of the hiring manager or to make a positive introduction. "Take the time to craft targeted communications—cover letters and thank-you notes—and be sure to follow through on everything you commit to," she says.
Interviews are another tough area. But again research is key: The more you've prepared to answer the expected interview questions, the more accessible the information, says Gelberg.
Even though an interview is stressful, as an introvert you have some advantage. For example, you are not likely to jump ahead or interrupt the interviewer, as an extrovert might. Moreover, a one-on-one interview session especially plays to your strengths of being a good listener and building relationships. So do your research: Prepare thoughtful questions.
In addition, be sure you come to the interview armed with what you want to convey to interviewer about yourself. What is your message? In the end, you can't control what the interviewer asks but you can control the message about yourself that want to impart, says Gelberg.
Ancowitz agrees. "Remember, people love talking about themselves," she says. For all-day or panel interviews, she advises that you do even more to prepare as these can be particular exhausting for introverts. Look for ways to de-stress and energize yourself, such as taking a walk around the block or stepping in the rest room stall for some quiet time.
Looking for a job can be stressful for anyone—extrovert or introvert—but by playing to your strengths, reframing situations positively, and focusing on self-care, snagging that killer job far more likely.
For more career advice for introverts, see: