The outgoing and extroverted population dominates U.S. society. While various studies show different numbers, introverts in America average about 25%. Businesses are run on relationships and trying to find a job on your own can be difficult because employers tend to hire those they trust instead of taking a risk with a relative stranger. Just because you’re intimidated by the prospect of interacting with large groups of strangers or find long periods of small talk exhausting doesn’t mean you have to be at a disadvantage at finding a job. Here are some helpful hints to better understand yourself and use your strengths as a shy or introverted person to connect with others.
There’s a Difference
There is a difference between being shy and being introverted. Shyness is the fear, discomfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is near, approaching, or being approached by other people. Introversion is a matter of energy. An introvert internalizes and processes everything around them in greater detail than extroverts, so social activities and busy schedules can greatly drain introverts. There are many different degrees and types of shyness and introversion. To many, these traits can appear to overlap, but they require different approaches when it comes to networking.
There’s a Time
For introverts, time management is key, because you shouldn’t treat networking like a marathon. Know what time of day you feel most energetic and upbeat, and schedule your networking interactions around that time of day. If you are going to a meeting or social event with several people, clear out time before and after the event to keep your energy levels up. Try relaxing on your favorite couch and listening to music, or visiting a quiet museum that’s nearby after the job fair.
For the shy person, being ready to boost confidence is crucial. Practice your elevator pitch, develop talking points, or practice with others so you can feel confident meeting with others or going to an event. Planning ahead of time will let you go at your own pace and help you move out of your comfort zone with ease.
There’s a Place
Where you choose to network can make a big impact on your networking success. For those with a more extreme case of introversion, consider making small, intimate encounters with individuals of interest instead of trying to meet as many people as you can at a seminar. It’s about making a few solid relationships and avoid thinking you have to connect with everybody. If you’re going to an event, show up early before crowds arrive to help manage your energy. This will help you meet and get to know individuals instead of trying to mingle your way into a small group or conversation.
For the shy job seeker, make a list of professionals, influencers, and peers who you feel would be great sources during your job search. Next, list them in order of difficulty to meet outside your comfort zone. When prepared and ready, you can slowly work your way from the easiest to hardest. You’ll realize most people in your desired profession enjoy helping others and are flattered when someone is interested in them and their job.
If shy job seekers attend group events, it may seem impossible to approach a circle of people talking and force yourself into that conversation. Try going around the direct method by asking the host or organizer to introduce you to people. If you know someone you’d like to speak to is attending an event, contact him or her ahead of time. If you can, bring a friend with you to the events so you can have a sense of comfort and familiarity, and someone who can encourage you to meet others.
There’s an Advantage
Whether you’re shy, introverted, or both, you have an advantage when interacting with people: listening. Use your listening talents to engage others in conversation and identify their needs. You’ll be surprised how many of the fast talking, super outgoing extroverts you meet love having someone who will just listen to them. Your listening and loyalty to their conversation can help build relationships faster. You can then find commonalities to later follow up with to keep the relationship going.
There is nothing wrong with if you prefer to spend a quiet night curled up with a book and music. You have a long list of skills and talents that are valuable and needed at the workplace. If you are shy or introverted, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your perspective when looking for a job.