Shy jobseekers: overcoming the barriers

Mon, 13/08/2012 - 11:46 -- nick

Richmond Solutions have written this excellent blog on how to deal with being a shy jobseeker. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like networking or meeting people face to face, the advice below could be useful. It may seem like the jobseeker's world is made for people who like going out and shouting about their fantastic qualities, but there are ways in to work for those with a more reserved character too.

'There are a dozen or so groups on LinkedIn which promote themselves as being for introverts. They are aimed at helping people with their job hunting or networking and none of them are hugely subscribed. Introverts are not known for their love of networking, so there may be some irony in this. However, the fact that they are there at all points to a rising interest in the issues that introverts face leading their life and working in a militantly extroverted world.

Many of these issues were pinpointed by Susan Cain in her book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking". The main threads of her argument describe how introverts can make a virtue of the attributes that they possess (which are different to those possessed by extroverted colleagues) in their working environment; and the strategies for survival they can adopt in an extroverted world. Since it is estimated that about two-thirds of the world is somewhere on the extroverted scale, it's unlikely that the world (or more to the point, the western world) is going to change its spots.

Given I am not seeking to write a full analysis of how introversion may affect your life and chances, let's focus on job hunting and how to face the practicalities of that.

First of all, I need to come clean myself. I am an introvert and have had to learn to sell, pitch and market myself effectively. I'd grown up through school being told that the key to the best jobs was getting the best results. Wrong – as I found out as a graduate job hunter in the recession of the early 1990s. In addition, because even at a young age, I was a good conversationalist, lots of people told me I'd be fine in interview, not to worry and just be myself. Wrong also.

The main point of learning that I took from all of this was to package my message and learn how to put it across. This meant taking a long, hard, look at what prospective employers were looking for and working out how my skills, achievements and experiences matched. Then I needed to put this across to them in a way that would generate interest in what I had to offer – not leave them cold. It was not enough to simply tell them I was a bright spark who learnt quickly. Lots of people could say that – so what?

Then those messages needed rehearsing. You need to be able to get them over under the pressure of an interview or presentation. This does not mean learning them parrot fashion but being able to put them over clearly and succinctly, adapting them to the situation as need be, when the chance arises. In my case, I had to learn not to offer too many examples by way of illustration. Do that and you'll lose the listener.

If there's a scenario you find especially difficult, try to practise it. To give you an example, in retrospect, I wish I'd sought out opportunities to practise group exercises. As you can imagine, an artificial situation where you are being asked to show your team working abilities together with a bunch of people you've only met in the past hour or so is unlikely to be the forte of someone whose natural preference is to work alone. I rarely struck the right balance and, when I did, I think it was more through luck than good judgement.

Finally, learn to sell yourself – if you don't, no-one else will. This does not mean telling a bunch of lies but promoting what is great about hiring you as opposed to the down sides. Remember the recruitment process is as much about giving the employer faith that you can do the job as it is about anything else. You need to persuade them to put their faith in you.

This many feel uncomfortable to start with, you may also feel it's not your style. That's up to you, of course. But remember, you will always be competing with those who are polishing their patter and performance in pursuit of the goal of their dream job.'

Heidi Nicholson

Richmond Solutions