4 Keys for Improving Your Networking, Presentation, and Job Interview Skills
The percentage of introverts in the US population you see quoted most often is based on an old and erroneous number. It is based on an estimate from the early 1960’s by Isabel Myers of the Myers-Briggs organization. It was just a personal guess with no real statistical validation. She estimated that 25% of the US population were introverts and 75% extroverts.
The real number based on the first stratified random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization showed 50.7% of the people sampled were introverts and 49.3% were extroverts.
In the workforce, having a successful career is often about forging connections with others in the industry and being a top performer in an interview situation. These things come easily for extraverts but can be tough for introverts, who are naturally prone to desire time alone, prefer personal reflection and thought, and are often very shy.
While introversion may be a natural trait, social skills and appropriate networking and interviewing technique can be learned by anyone. Here are four tips to help the painfully shy and introverted jump start their career:
1. Networking—Preparedness is key
Introverts are not that comfortable with the small talk at social or business events. Prepare for networking events by having a plan laid out in advance. Dress well, research the event, practice eye contact, and act with confidence—even if you have to “fake it.” Also, it helps to have a 20-second introduction ready to go.
Look for anyone on their own perhaps standing in a corner or loitering uncomfortably on the outskirts of a group. They probably feel just as shy as you do, and they’ll almost certainly be grateful if you go and engage them in conversation. Reach out first and ask open-ended questions, like “Have you been to an event like this before?” Many introverts have strong passions and can talk about them when with like-minded people. Make it an experiment when you meet someone to see what you have in common. Have some conversation starters ready to go. Media is always a good start. Starting a conversation around TV, movies, music, or sports all work well.
2. The Interview—Know your key skills, show instead of tell, and rehearse
Think about what you have done well. What are the top 4 strengths you want an employer to know about you? How can you craft those strengths into a story that an interviewer might want to hear? Tie them to the key responsibilities the employer is looking to address. You won’t sound boastful if you present information in a straightforward manner, especially if you use the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) format to tell a brief success story.
You can also show as opposed to tell. Construct a professional portfolio (usually a 3-ring binder with page protectors) that highlights relevant, tangible career accomplishments and achievements. Bringing a portfolio to the interview also helps introverts get over the fear of “bragging,” as it confirms their accomplishments. It is concrete. You can also assemble a job business plan; a 2-3 page mini business plan addressing the company’s key requirements. This tool will convey your thoughts and ideas for getting the job done. Both of these are seldom used, but very high-impact interview tools that can really shoot you to the head of the class!
If you have an interview or presentation coming up, practice a few times in front of the mirror or in front of a friend. The more you do something, the less foreign it becomes. Most introverts do well in a one-on-one relationship setting, which is what most interviews are.
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3. Play to Your Strengths—Forge online relationships and meet people with similar interests
If you’re better online than in person, take advantage of online networking opportunities like Twitter, LinkedIn (especially LinkedIn Groups), Facebook, and any internet-based gatherings of professionals in your field. You can also start a blog to establish yourself as a subject matter expert and build your eBrand.
MeetUp.com is a great place to find groups of people with whom you share similar interests, both personal and professional. Many valuable relationships have been formed, and many jobs have been acquired, through online networking.
4. Don’t Over Analyze—Treat each instance as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth
Introverts can be particularly hard on themselves, analyzing every moment, being too sensitive to “mistakes” they might have made, etc., all due to being self-conscious when on public display. They have a tendency to over-think and over-analyze things. Even if you say something a bit foolish or make some mistakes, chances are, no-one even noticed. Don’t beat yourself up about it. The important thing is that you went to the event, had a go at networking or a group job interview, and took the lion head-on. Next time, it’ll be easier.
- Find a coach to help you with networking and interview skills.
- Pursue occupations that will minimize the amount of group activity and “public” display.
- It feels less boastful, and sounds more credible, when you can refer to the testimonials of others.