People who are shy or introverted often tell me they feel at a disadvantage during the job search process, with its emphasis on social interaction and self-promotion. After all, if you're shy, you're uncomfortable in the spotlight, and having to promote yourself puts the spotlight squarely on you.
And if you're an introvert - you may or may not also be shy - you derive your energy from reflection and ideas, and the social demands of networking and interviewing can feel daunting.
Nevertheless, there are advantages to being shy or introverted that you can capitalize on as you approach your search.
Here are five of those advantages.
The single most important skill in any social encounter is listening, and people who are shy or introverted tend to listen well.
Listening is essential to the networking process because it enables you to understand the needs and circumstances of the other person. By tuning in to that person, you refocus the spotlight and, more importantly, you gather information that enables you to offer helpful information or resources to that person, the sometimes-neglected part of the "information exchange" that defines the networking process.
Good listening skills are key in the interview process, as well. Your strong listening skills can help you gather information during the interview to determine if the job is a good fit for you.
In addition, your listening skills will enable you to fully understand what the interviewer is asking so that your answer is focused and you are less likely to go off on a tangent.
Overlapping with good listening skills if you're an introvert is your tendency to think before you speak.
Some introverts view this as a flaw because they see more extroverted people jumping right in and answering questions with apparent ease, never at a loss for words. However, quite often, those same extroverts are giving long-winded, unfocused answers that don't even address the question.
By taking extra time to organize your thoughts, you are less likely to ramble or speak off-point.
Your well thought out answers will be refreshing to the hiring manager or HR professional in contrast to the more common stream-of-consciousness candidates.
If you're an introvert, you typically enjoy understanding things deeply.
This is an advantage in motivating you to prepare for interviews and networking encounters by doing some background research. Preparation will help you develop questions to ask in an interview and will provide you with information that other candidates haven't taken the time to find out about the employer.
Employers are impressed with job seekers who take the initiative to do this kind of research.
In addition, preparation will help you anticipate questions and formulate answers, to help you provide clear and concise answers. Oftentimes, extroverts, in particular, don't take the time to prepare - they mistakenly believe that, because social encounters come easily to them, they don't need to do any special preparation.
Extroverts have told me that sometimes they think their energy overwhelms or overpowers other people.
People who are shy or introverted don't typically have that problem. Not only is their manner not overwhelming, oftentimes their message isn't, either.
Rather than sounding boastful or full of hype, it comes across as straightforward and matter-of-fact, sincere and genuine. Definitely an advantage.
Did you know that nearly 50% of the population describe themselves as shy? And anywhere between 25% and 50% are thought to be introverts. You stand a pretty good chance of being interviewed and hired by someone much like yourself.
Recognize and embrace the strengths you bring to the table, and use your introverted or shy qualities to their fullest advantage.
Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.