[This week’s blog comes from Ashvini Sriharan, a project manager at Humber College’s Career & Placement portal!]
The job search process can be an unfair one, giving the more social and outspoken personalities the advantage of confidently reaching out to employers and effectively showcasing their skills. But what about the few of us known to be shy, quiet, or soft-spoken? With the current job searching strategies demanding that we mass network, broadcast our expertise through social media interactions, and out-shine other candidates during the interview process, it’s hard to avoid feelings of low self-worth. We all deserve equal opportunity to access these jobs but some of us may just need to re-strategize and re-focus our efforts. Here are some tips and resources to help you conquer the job market as an introvert:
Build your confidence through research
This journey starts with reminding yourself that the negative experiences of job searching and rejection only add to your personal and professional development. If you lose sight of this, it could break your confidence and self-esteem. If you feel your level of confidence is low to begin with, start off by building on how much you know.
Get to know yourself
Understand what your skills are and the values you bring to any organization hiring you. Self-assessment tools which may be available to you for free through your school, help you identify your key personality traits and skills. This also adds words to your vocabulary when answering the “Tell me about yourself” question so you can better describe yourself. When it comes to your professional background, remember that outside of your academic experience, there are other experiences that have contributed to building some of those soft skills necessary for any role, such as communication, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. Speak to your school’s Career Services team about its self-assessment tools and building the experience on your resume.
LINK: 10 Awesome Free Career Self-assessment Tools – https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/best-free-career-assessment-tools
Get to know the employer and job
Before going in for an interview or networking event, get to know the employers attending and the jobs being offered. Take notes and bring them with you. Use resources such as the company website, job posting, social media, and even the company page on LinkedIn which highlights recent updates, company life or culture, and company description. This added knowledge gives you the confidence to initiate conversation and ask questions. If you know the name of the hiring manager or employer attending, look for them on LinkedIn and get to know their professional background as well.
LINK: Searching on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/302/searching-on-linkedin
Approach with curiosity
Once you’ve researched the company and job information available to you, write down the questions that come to mind. Why did they recently rebrand? How did they come up with their mission statement? How many accounts would this role manage?
When dealing with face-to-face interactions such as networking events or interviews, approaching the situation with curiosity helps alleviate some of the nervousness. Try to get rid of the goal of making a great first impression – which weakens the authenticity of the interaction – and focus more on actually getting to know the company and job. Professional relationships should be treated similar to romantic relationships, in which compatibility, loyalty, and trust are expected from both parties and building long-term value is the main goal.
Create a safe space for yourself
If social and interview settings increase anxiety, find as many ways as you can to make yourself comfortable. Some examples: wearing your best outfit, introducing yourself on LinkedIn prior to the event, taking a printout of your portfolio to let your work do the talking, going to networking events with a trusted friend, having casual one-on-one informational interviews, or making detailed notes about the person or company to refer to.
When it comes to interviews or public speaking, a personal trick is to throw away the script and the pressure of sticking to it. This requires some confidence and knowledge in the topic you are discussing as mentioned above. Creating a laid back and casual space makes you and others comfortable. This will also bring out your true, authentic self which may be a competitive advantage, helping you stand out from other candidates.
When in doubt, choose online
When you leave a networking event or interview feeling like you didn’t articulate your skills enough, write up a thank-you email reiterating what was discussed along with your qualifications. Attach work samples, resumes, your LinkedIn URL, or testimonials from people you’ve worked with to give the employer the full picture. Thank-you emails are proper networking and interview etiquette and should be sent soon after the interaction.
Professional online portfolios and social networks are key tools to showcase your work and expertise. They also work while you sleep as recruiters and hiring managers skim through LinkedIn profiles to look at the candidate’s online presence. Make sure to sign up for the next online presence or LinkedIn workshop at your campus as they highlight important tips.
Most importantly, never doubt yourself. Today’s workspaces thrive with both introverted and extroverted personalities, benefitting from having a diverse team. Quiet personalities are not something to be fixed. There are workarounds to help you navigate a job market built for the more outgoing. Accept challenges, get to know yourself, and drop the goal of achieving perfectionism or an ideal self. As author Susan Cain puts it, “We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.” Refocus your networking goals to build long-term relationships and use tools such as LinkedIn to nurture and maintain those relationships. When you navigate the job search process and achieve success, remember to seek out and lend a hand to those who have not yet found their voice in a very loud job market.