You’re looking for work, but you’re an introvert? In a culture which is obsessed with the idea that every team must be “young and dynamic”, it can be difficult to build your personal brand on the basis that you prefer to do your own thing and be on your own. So you have to pretend to not be introverted, at least at job interviews. But does it have to be like that? People who are introverted actually have more going for them than one might think.
It’s important to understand what it means to be introverted
Contrary to popular opinion, being introverted doesn’t mean “not liking other people”. Although it’s true that introverts like to “get their energy” far from the madding crowd, this doesn’t mean that they are loners. An introvert who doesn’t have any contact with other people over a long period of time will get depressed in the same way as other people. On the other hand, a shy person feels uncomfortable in situations which require some form of interaction with others. So what really is the difference between an introvert and other personality types? In her book Quiet, Susan Cain describes introversion as being more sensitive to external stimuli. That’s why introverts are regarded as being quiet people; whereas extraverts need a lot of stimuli, for example, music which is turned up loud, in order to have something to react to, the same stimulus in a much smaller quantity is enough for an introvert. The interesting thing is that we are born with a certain level of tolerance; it is already possible to test whether a child will be an extrovert or an introvert when the child is only four months old. And, contrary to appearances, children who are introverted are the ones who make… more noise. When they experience any kind of unpleasant stimulus (for example, loud music or being touched with an ice-cube), they start crying much sooner than other children because they are less tolerant of external stimuli.
What’s good about being introverted
Following on from Jung, psychology defines introverts as people who “focus more on what’s happening inside themselves”. But that’s not the whole truth. Introverts are excellent at observing what’s going on around them. They are more aware of subtle signs than their extrovert counterparts. And they value quality over quantity in terms of interpersonal relationships (whereas extroverts function best in a crowd), so introverts are excellent listeners.
All of that means that introverts are… excellent at selling. In today’s world, where we are allergic to aggressive selling, someone who actually listens to you is a real treasure. And this is confirmed by the available research. When it comes to complex sales (those in which the keys to success are the relationship between buyer and seller as well as matching the product to the client’s needs), introverts get much better results than extroverts who focus on what is superficial and spinning a yarn.
What should introverts put in their CV?
I agree that being good at listening and selling is a bit general, so what should you write in your CV if you want to be the “introvert” on the team? Actually there a few things which could convince your potential boss of your value. Just tell the right real-life story.
- Introverts come better prepared. On the way to every meeting, extroverts just take a quick look at their notes (because they were busy with other things), and say to themselves: “I’ll just wing it”. Introverts know that that strategy doesn’t work for them, so they’re always prepared.
- Introverts look at the bigger picture. In today’s “multi-screen” world, it can be difficult to hold the attention of the person you’re talking to when he or she is constantly distracted by incoming text messages or tweets. An introvert will not only listen to you but will give you his or her complete attention.
- Introverts learn to be someone they are not. When a child spends his or her recess reading a book, his or her teacher will write that the child “has problems functioning with his or her contemporaries”. That means that quite a lot of introverts have learned to be pseudo-extroverts. And that is something which one has to work really hard at, constantly pushing oneself. Introverts know the value of practicing before any event and will always make appropriate preparations.
- Introverts communicate slowly and precisely. Just think of any politician who said something on the spur of the moment without thinking it through (often in public or on the Internet), and was later made to look silly. None of those politicians were introverts. In today’s world, well thought out communication has a great deal of value.
- Introverts are better at working in groups. It’s true that they don’t like the noise emanating from the “open space” at the company where they work, but, as Corinne Bendersky and Neha Shah discovered, introverts are much better at finding the right balance in terms of the time they spend working on their own compared to communicating with others. If you give the right tools to a team made up of introverts, they will achieve more than a team of extroverts.
Where is a good place for introverts to work?
It would be better to ask where is not a good place. It’s easy to imagine an introvert writing (being a copywriter, editor or blogger), programming (being a programmer or tester) and counting (being an accountant). They are also outstanding managers and… leaders. As they are very precise in their thinking, it’s difficult to beat them. Mahatma Gandhi was an introvert and Bill Gates is an introvert. But an introvert as a public speaker or actor? Those are also good career options because introverts are skilled at pretending and passionate about being prepared. And let’s not forget about being sales-people. Especially when it comes to selling an idea. Given that they are capable of listening carefully and picking up on the tiny signals sent out by the person they are talking to, they can be better salespeople than merely superficial extroverts.
What can introverts do to build their personal brand?
Introverts are patient by nature and more inclined to focus on one task than extroverts. What’s more, they are often good at writing and can be highly observant. So what’s my advice to them?
- Help other people by answering questions on a variety of internet forums, for example, LinkedIn or Quora. It will demonstrate your experience and expertise in the area of work that you’re interested in. What you write will say more about you than anything you could say at an interview.
- Think about setting up a blog. A blog is a long-term investment, but this will give your readers the chance to see how good you are at understanding your expert area and writing about it. And, again, what you write will say more about you than any other actions.
- Try to arrange for good references, preferably from several extroverts. They will do your talking for you, so arrange for it to be possible for you to give your referees’ telephone numbers to any potential employer.
- At the interview itself, be better than the rest of the candidates put together thanks to being well prepared and knowing your subject. But I didn’t need to tell you to do that, did I?
Good luck! 🙂