Being introverted doesn't have to slow your progress when it comes time to ramp up your career. In fact, introverts have many characteristics that help them succeed in the IT world. However, it's important you understand your characteristics and can control -- and even take advantage of -- them.
Even for the most outgoing, extroverted types, a job search can be a stressful time riddled with anxiety, For an introvert, the process can be downright paralyzing.
Even though introverts are often creative, thoughtful and work well with others, it often seems that extroverts have the edge in the job search process. But introverts can make the job search easier and more successful by focusing on their best traits and emphasizing their strengths to prospective employers.
Here are 10 tips to overcome — and even take advantage of — your shy, reserved nature.
1. Be honest about yourself and your strengths
This doesn’t just apply to introverts. Every job seeker should candidly assess his or strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures when job hunting.
The most important tip? Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, says Rona Borre, CEO and Founder of IT hiring, staffing, and consulting firm Instant Technology.
In interviews, be up front and honest about how intimidating the process is, and how it’s difficult to break the ice with new people, Borre says. It can actually help you forge a connection with whomever you’re speaking to.
2. Emphasize your strengths as an introvert
While you don’t have to label yourself as an introvert, make sure you understand and can emphasize the strengths that introverts often share creativity, focus, dedication, and an ability to work well with others are all common traits of introverts, and all of these traits can make you a great employee. Another tip: let your passion for your work shine through, Borre says.
“One way to ease the pressure and anxiety of a job interview is to shift the focus from the personal to the professional,” says Borre.
“Try and steer the interview toward talking about your work, what you’ve created, and your accomplishments rather than talking about yourself, and your passion and your love for the work you do will shine through,” she says. Having a professional portfolio also can help give you some concrete examples to point to, and some instant talking points if you’re feeling nervous, Borre says.
3. Focus on finding work that will energize, not drain you
There are plenty of examples of introverts working in sales and other customer-facing positions, but for most introverts, these kinds of jobs are mentally and physically draining, Borre says. Focus on searching for work that will let you use your intrinsic strengths and that’s more introvert-friendly.
Especially in the IT field, many introverts find they’ve had to hone their business communication and collaboration skills to foster close working relationships across departments, says Borre, and that’s a great area to highlight to potential employees, she says.
4. Use the Web to research companies and people
Do your homework. Online research can go a long way toward easing the anxiety of applying and interviewing for a job, says Borre. You’ll show up for the interview prepared with talking points, questions, and with a better sense of whether the job would be a good fit for you.
“This is a great way to discover if there’s a shared interest or common technology,” says Borre. “Then, you can go into the interview with common ground and something to talk about, which can help break the ice and put you at ease,” she says.
5. Strengthen Your Web presence and use it to network
Make a website, an online portfolio, or a blog to highlight your professional achievements and capitalize on your existing connections. Let friends and colleagues on social media sites know that you’re job hunting, and search out potential connections and jobs; the Web offers a much less stressful networking opportunity than in-person career fairs or live networking events.
6. Plan and rehearse questions, conversations
For most introverts, the fear of not being prepared for these kinds of interactions is the most overwhelming part of interviewing. So, plan out and rehearse small talk, conversation starters, even interview questions and your responses, says Borre.
By practicing in advance, you remove some of the stress of coming up with a response on the spot, she says.
“Practice makes perfect. Everyone needs an interview to get a job, right? By practicing small talk, questions that might be asked, and your responses, you can figure out how to steer the conversation. You can even get a friend to help you go through possible scenarios and questions ahead of time,” Borre says.
7. Consider working with a mentor, a recruiter, or both
Borre suggests that working with a recruiter and/or mentor can help overcome both the stress of the overall job search, the initial contact with potential employers and to set up interviews.
While it’s not an option for every type of job, it could help give you more confidence, and get your foot in the door without cold-calling or networking. “And once you have a mentor or recruiter, they also can help coach you in interviews and follow up contacts,” Borre says.
8. Give yourself time to recharge between meetings or interviews
Multiple, back-to-back interviews can be torture for introverts, who tend to need a fair amount of alone time to recharge, says Borre. If you can, try to leave some time between meetings to rejuvenate — you can do this in your car, in the restroom, by taking a short walk outside, or even on public transportation, she says.
9. Use your thank-you note to clarify points
If, despite your best efforts, you feel you’ve flubbed a question or part of an interview, don’t worry. You can use your thank-you note to address the issue, and give yourself a second chance to make that great impression.
10. Work on new skills
There’s no set-in-stone rule that introverts can’t be great conversationalists, salespeople or public speakers, says Borre. Even if you don’t love doing these kinds of things, you could excel at them. And if you feel you’re lacking in certain relevant job skills, take a class, read a book, or research and learn tips and tricks online. And make sure you highlight your continued learning in your resume, so potential employers can see that you’re trying to improve.