How to use your strengths as an introvert and take control of your job search
Do you avoid situations where you need to interact with new people?
Does the idea of searching for a job fill you with dread?
Would you rather be doing anything else than trying to “create your brand” and “sell yourself”?
Do you begin to hyperventilate just thinking about “networking” and talking to people you do not know?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might define yourself as an introvert. While all introverts are different, they share some commonalities:
- Introverts prefer to be alone or talk to people one-on-one, rather than in big groups.
- Introverts enjoy being with others but may need down time after to reenergize.
- Introverts can be perceived as reserved, even-tempered, and quiet, especially before others get to know them.
- Introverts typically think and observe before acting and may take their time before speaking up.
Not many people enjoy searching for a job, even the most extraverted. What we know from psychological research, however, is that people who are more extraverted have an easier time job searching. They are more comfortable talking about themselves, selling their skills and strengths, and speaking with confidence, even if they do not feel confident inside.
For introverts, the interpersonal demands of the job searching process push them out of their comfort zone. Many introverted individuals share other traits such as being shy, sensitive, and self-conscious.
The more uncomfortable you are talking to people you do not know, the more challenging and overwhelming the job search process may seem.
Looking for a new job requires you to interact with new people in new situations, all of which take enormous physical and emotional energy for more introverted individuals.
Books about job searching (such as What Color is Your Parachute and Switchers) emphasize the importance of networking as a strategy to improve your chances of finding your next job. They highlight the well-known statistics that you are more likely to find a job by using your social network than by finding and applying for job ads.
If you are highly introverted, the advice to network – to talk about yourself with people you do not know – may fill you with dread and terror.
But, wait! Before you feel discouraged, here is the good news:
As an introvert you have many strengths that you can use to successfully navigate the job search process. These strengths include your ability to observe situations and people, to be thoughtful about how you act and what you say, and to prepare for new situations by gathering as much information as you can.
Rather than feeling like the job search process will be terrifying, you can take control and make your job search fit your personality and strengths.
Job Searching Strategies for Introverts (but still applicable to extroverts)
The first phase of the job search process for introverts involves a LOT of preparation. One of the hallmarks of introverts is that they hate being thrown into new situations for which they are not prepared. They feel more confident when they have time to prepare and consider all the possibilities of what could happen.
By following the steps in the Preparation Phase, you build up your confidence in selling yourself, which gets you ready to tackle the more extraverted activities in the Action Phase.
Step 1: Update Your Resume
Crafting your resume is a vital first step because it forces you articulate your career identity. A great resume by itself may not land you a job, but the process of crafting your resume helps you clarify who you are professionally, what skills and strengths you possess, and what value you can bring to an organization. If your resume is just a list of where you have worked, check out some online articles (Career One Stop, Indeed.com, Monster.com, or Vault.com) for tips for making your resume sell your strengths. The time you spend creating a resume now will make your life easier later. Not only will you be ready to apply if you discover a great job opening, you will be prepared to answer interview questions such as, “Tell us about yourself” and “What do you consider your greatest strengths?” and “Why should we hire you?” If creating or updating your resume feels overwhelming, consider working with a career counselor or hiring a resume writer.
Step 2: Update Your Social Media Presence
In today’s technological world, job searchers will want to use social media to create a professional persona online. At the very least this means creating a LinkedIn profile, being sure to include a recent picture of yourself. Once you have a great resume, taking that information and creating a LinkedIn profile is easy. If you need inspiration, find helpful blog posts on LinkedIn, and you can also check out profiles of other people in your field to get some ideas. While you may use LinkedIn for networking later in the Action Phase, right now you are only focused on your online image.
Step 3: Check Out Job Ads
Set aside a few hours to scroll through job advertisements for the type of job you want. The purpose of this step is to gather information about the number of jobs being advertised, the experience and skill set employers are looking for, and what companies seem to be hiring. Check websites like Indeed, Monster, Ziprecruiter, Careerbuilder, and usajobs, and find the job boards that are specific to your industry or profession. Put in key search words that reflect your industry, training, degree, job title, skills, and experiences. Read through the job descriptions and requirements; if you see specific words or phrases that you think match you, consider adding these to your resume. If job ads consistently mention they want employees to be familiar with a particular software program or have a specific certification, this may be a good time to brush up on some skills or gain additional training.
Step 4: Create Networking Lists
Create lists of everyone you know – make a spreadsheet or use plain old paper. Use different categories for your contacts:
Family/Friends – people you are closest to.
Professional Contacts – people you worked with (or went to school with), who work in your industry, or who belong to a professional organization.
Club/Sport/Church/Kids – create additional categories of people you know from your hobbies, community activities, through your kids, etc.
Next, create lists of companies or organizations. Search company websites and use websites such as Indeed.com, Vault.com, and Glassdoor.com to research companies and organizations and identify those where you might like to work. Create different categories of organizations based on your job search needs, such as:
Companies I would love to work for
Companies near me (or where you want to live)
Organizations whose mission fits my values
Organizations who are hiring people with my skills
Do not censor your lists at this point and put down everyone and everything you find. While you will not be contacting everyone on your list, these lists provide the building blocks for future networking efforts.
Step 5: Establish a Schedule
Psychologists use the word “process” to refer to job searching, because it is not something you do once, but a plethora of different activities that you keep doing over and over, until you are hired. For introverts (and extroverts), this process can be overwhelming and anxiety producing. One way to prevent procrastination is to set a specific schedule for your job searching. Decide now how much time you will devote to job searching activities each day. One hour a day, six days a week? Four hours a day, three days a week? More time is always better, but you do not want to get burned out quickly if your job search continues for many months.
Step 6: Identify Your Support Network
Job searching can be exciting, but also stressful. For introverts, job searching may feel more stressful than exciting. It is important to have people in your life with whom you can share the daily joys and frustrations of the process. Pick at least one person who will be your main support person. Pick someone who you trust, who will listen more than give advice, who will not judge you, but who will hold you accountable and help you stay on track. If you do not have someone in your life, seek out a career counselor or a job search support group.
Once you have completed the prep work, you are ready to move into the Action Phase. The Action Phase is not a series of steps, but more like different activities that you will keep doing on a daily basis.
Some of these activities, such as searching for job ads online, have a lower social risk because there is less contact with people. Other activities, such as reaching out to contacts, are higher social risk and may take more energy for introverts.
To prevent yourself from procrastinating on the more challenging tasks, set specific goals for each job searching session and mix higher social risk and lower social risk activities each day.
For example, do a more socially risky task first, such as sending an email to a professional contact asking if they would talk to you for 10 minutes. Then do a few lower risk activities, such as searching job boards, that will require less energy.
For those who love using technology, try the jobsearchpowermeter.com app to help you keep track of your job searching activities.
Introverts tend to feel confident only AFTER they engage in an activity. So, it is normal to not feel confident at first about some of the socially risker job search activities listed below.
It is important to remember that even though you may not feel confident, you can still do these activities. The feeling of confidence will follow.
Okay, now on to the activities of the Action Phase.
ACTIVITY 1: Share your Job Searching with Family and Friends
Pull out the contact lists you created and begin with the easiest group to talk to: the people who already know you well. Tell your family and friends about your job search plans. Reach out in whatever way makes sense: in person, email, phone, or social media. Broadcast the fact that you are job searching, share with them your top two or three skills (i.e., why you are amazing and someone should hire you), and the kinds of jobs or companies you would love to work for. It may feel awkward at first, especially talking about how great you are. But the more you practice talking about yourself, the more confident you will feel later talking to people you do not know, such as in an interview.
ACTIVITY 2: Search for Job Ads
All the job searching books (such as What Color is your Parachute and Switchers) give the excellent advice that the BEST way to search for jobs is through networking, and not looking for job ads. This is true – and, it is still helpful to check out the job ads online. On those days when you are feeling especially introverted, scrolling job ads is a less socially risky activity. While you want to make sure that you are also using networking methods (see Activities 5 and 6 below), it is still helpful to spend a few hours each week searching for online job ads.
Activity 3: Tailor your Cover Letter Template
Write a template of a cover letter. Having an existing structure for a cover letter means you can more quickly revise that template when you find a job you want to apply for. Check out advice on writing stellar cover letters on websites like Career One Stop, Vault.com, Indeed.com, and Monster.com. It is important to tailor each cover letter specifically for each job. Employers want to know if you have the skills to do the job, so do not repeat your resume, but show how you have the skills, training, and experience to do the job and bring value to their organization.
Activity 4: Apply for Job Ads
The goal of searching for online job ads is to identify jobs to which you want to apply. If you feel overwhelmed while searching for job ads online, break up the process by spending one day searching and the next day applying for the jobs you found the previous day. Tailor your cover letter and resume, as needed, to each job. Each company’s application process is different, and some may ask you to answer specific questions, in addition to submitting a resume and cover letter. Completing just one application can take many hours, so set realistic expectations for yourself.
Activity 5: Reach out to Contacts
Pull out your list of contacts and identify people who may useful in your job search. The goal of reaching out is to develop relationships that could lead to job possibilities. What you say when you reach out will be different depending on how you know the person and how close they are to the kinds of jobs you want. While asking for help from others may feel uncomfortable to introverts, remember that most people like to help others and want to be useful.
- If you know someone very well but have not talked to them in a while, first reach out and ask how they are doing. Reestablish the relationship before launching into talking about your job search.
- If you know someone on a purely professional basis, you can be clear that you are contacting them because you are job hunting. Some of the things you might ask are: Do they enjoy their work? Is their company hiring and would they recommend the company? Have they heard of other job opportunities for someone with your skill set? Would they have time to speak with you for 10 minutes on the phone (or meet for coffee once the pandemic is over)?
- People working in your field or industry are the most important to contact. Reach out and let them know that you are job searching, mention the specific skills you have or major professional accomplishments, and ask if they know of any openings in your field or if they know of anyone working at a specific company or organization that you are interested in.
- Use your contacts to identify people who work in a company or organization you are interested in. Reach out, introduce yourself, mention how you got their name, and ask if they have time to talk to you on the phone for no more than 10 minutes about their experience working at that company.
Reaching out to contacts is the MOST important job searching activity because it helps you develop relationships and gain access to inside information about job openings. It can also be the most socially risky activity for introverts.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed or procrastinating, break down the reaching out process and set small, specific goals for networking, such as: “I will reach out to a former coworker that I knew fairly well and ask them how they are doing at the company,” or “I will find the name of someone who works at X company and email or message them to see if they will talk to me about their experience at that company,“ or “I will ask my friend/relative to meet for coffee and talk about my job searching.”
While it may take a lot of energy for introverts to reach out to others, keep in mind that many people will not return your message. Even close friends or coworkers may take weeks or months to reply to you. This is normal and is not a sign that you are doing anything wrong with your networking efforts. Keep up your reaching out efforts and make sure you stay connected to your support people so you do not get discouraged.
Activity 6: identify a Contact at a Company or Organization
Take a look at the list of companies you created. Do the research to find out everything you can about them. What is their mission? What is their corporate or organizational structure? Is this organization a good fit with your goals and values? Is there anyone on your list of personal and professional contacts who works there? The goal is to identify the name of someone who works at this organization and reach out to them. LinkedIn can be especially helpful in this process. Message them, introduce yourself, mention how you got their name, and ask if they have time to talk to you on the phone for no more than 10 minutes about their experience working at that company.
Activity 7: Practice Interviewing
Begin preparing for interviews now, even if you have not yet been offered an interview. Check out some common interview questions (Career One Stop, Indeed.com, Monster.com, or Vault.com) and write out answers. Practice interviewing by rehearsing in front of a mirror, or record yourself and play it back. In an interview, you need to appear more extraverted and be able to sing your own praises, which can require enormous energy for introverts. If interviewing makes you especially terrified, schedule a few sessions with a career counseling to get specific strategies that will work for you. While you will still feel nervous for an interview, the more you practice talking about yourself, the more confident you will appear.
The job searching process can be stressful for everyone, but it can feel especially daunting to introverts.
While talking about yourself with people you don’t know well may not come naturally, with preparation and practice, you will feel in control of your job searching process and more confident selling yourself.