Job Hunting for the Shy and Introverted: Networking

Shynetworking_jan2012_webThe 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.


  1. Shy & Introverted

    What jobs do you suggest for shy people and introverts such as myself?
    Also, I don’t have an email address, so please don’t respond to the false one listed below.
    However, if you could please respond within the comments, I would greatly appreciate it!

  2. Jared Cole

    There are several jobs available for shy and introverted people. The key is finding jobs that focus on the strengths of shy and introverted workers like listening, analyzing, and critical thinking. It’s also important to avoid high-intensity jobs that require lots of quick decision making and face-to-face interaction.

  3. Michael

    There are very few careers that would be compatible with shy and introverted people. Few by name and also by availability, making it pointless to reference. It’s like some of the jobs I’ve heard friends get, like working as a computer technician making huge salaries on a high school education. Because they worked for a private store and the owner was very impressed with their work. If you’re lucky and in the right place at the right time, you might get something like this. But for most of us, forget it.
    Even getting the degree for a career requires becoming something you’re not. Such as taking a public speaking class.
    I’m also skeptical on the statistic of 25% are introverts. I suspect that if employees are being judged to be shy and introverted by their jobs, then it is inaccurate. Considering that the majority of jobs are for outgoing people (sales, customer service), and many are forced to work these out of necessity; to make a living.
    The jobs I’ve worked were almost always a good fit. I’ve done prep cook for restaurants, custodial work, and manual labor. Almost always I work alone and I’m able to work at my own pace. Rather than work immediately, on demand of the customers. I got a lot of praise as a prep cook because I was able to manage my time so well and get things done so quickly, but also having the perceptive nature and attention to detail that is common with introverts, which allowed me to do more than other coworkers. Like better prepare the volume of food based on customer demand from day to day, and even helping line cooks keep things in stock from the freezer, etc., by just noticing the sound of empty drawers being pulled open, or seeing the contents nearly/completely empty.
    It’s true we are good listeners and this allows us to be much more perceptive than the majority of extroverts. This provides us with many qualities that are highly valued in an employee, and makes us uniquely superior to other employees. In almost every job I’ve had, I’ve often been able to see and prevent a problem before it ever happened. It tends to be an undervalued skill, until you’re absent on a sick day or on vacation. And then suddenly they realize just how much of a difference you make in keeping a place running smoothly. 😉

  4. Jessica Jordan

    I need some advise on networking. I know it’s something that I need to do but I’ve got no idea how to start. I don’t have any contacts or friends. My family are all retired. I’ve been out of school for over 20 years & even though I’m Facebook friends with some of my classmates I’ve had no contact with them. I didn’t go to college and I don’t belong to any social group and I don’t know of any to join especially because I’m a single mom & don’t have any friends to introduce me into any clubs. I’ve also been out of work for just over 3 years unable to find work in my area & unwilling to have a 2 hour commute because there isn’t anyone to help with transportation for my daughter. I recently went for an interview at an employment agency and was told that it would be near impossible for them to be able to sell me to their clients due to the fact I’ve been out of work so long. So as you can see I really need help but don’t know where to even start. If you have any suggestions please contact me at the email I’ve given.

  5. Treker Antone

    The problem I see with many job postings is the lack of training available should someone wish to reinvent oneself with a career that would encourage them to become more outgoing and more extroverted like in “Sales”. Regardless if someone has much knowledge or not it would be encouraging for a company to give potential employees the oportunity to become more “people oriented” so those attributes can strengthen.

  6. jaime

    Hello. I’m introverted and shy, but mostly introverted. It’s very difficult my whole life because i don’t know how to socialize. And it’s very hard in trying to find a job. Any other advice you can give me would really help me out.

  7. tony

    corprate america hates introvertes, look at the adds,”and your leadership skills”,were the losers in our sociaty. Used,abused,ignored,dumped on and left for dead.

  8. Jared Cole

    Michael, shyness and introversion come in a variety of types and levels. Not all introverts are the same and there are several jobs that can match their strengths.
    It’s different for different people. Just because someone deals with shyness or introversion doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy being a leader or public speaking. A great example of this is Steve Martin, who is considered to be one of the greatest comedians in the U.S. and is a self-proclaimed introvert.
    There are no documented statistics claiming the real number of those who consider themselves shy or introverted, but most estimates say 25%.
    It comes down to the individual. They need to understand themselves, their passions, and their dreams to find out what they want in a career. They will have to make the decision as to what they can or can’t achieve.
    Thanks for your insight and opinion.

  9. Jared Cole

    Jessica, networking isn’t always easy for some. It’s all about finding a connection and providing value. If you read through some of our back log of blog posts, you can find loads of information on how to market yourself, explain long gaps in your resume, and how to improve your networking skills. Here’s a blog about networking to help you start:

  10. Jared Cole

    Jamie, Thanks for posting a comment. Due to the high number of responses on this article, I’ll definitely come back to this subject on different aspects of shyness and introversion when it relates to the job search. Thanks again for the input, and if you have any other topics you want covered, let me know.

  11. Jared Cole

    Tony, The U.S. culture doesn’t perceive introverts in the best of light. They often interchange “shy” and “introvert,” which are two completely different things. You define the success you want. Anything worthwhile isn’t going to be easy, but it comes down to individual preference and what works best with you. Thanks for your honest opinion and welcome it any time.

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