You’ve no doubt heard the terms extrovert and introvert, and you probably identify more closely with one personality type over another. If you're not sure, think of what scenarios inspire you and when you have the most energy. Extroverts require a high level of stimulation and draw energy from interacting with others. Drop them into a room full of people, and watch their batteries spring back to fully-charged in no time. They enjoy having some alone time (who doesn’t?) but the stronger the extrovert, the less alone time he needs.
Introverts don’t derive stimulation from mingling with large groups; in fact, their batteries are recharged when they take a break from people. They enjoy their fellow humans but prefer to interact one-on-one or in a small group. Lots of interaction with new people can be draining. The stronger the introvert, the more he will value his solo time or intimate conversation with one other person.
Ambivert is a term that’s growing in popularity. As the name suggests, these folks fall smack in the middle of the continuum, stimulated both by their social interaction and their “me” time.
So what in the world does all this have to do with your job hunt? Well, the way that you connect with others—and how well you understand the impact of those interactions—is a key element in building your career. This awareness is particularly key when you consider that many jobs exist in the hidden marketplace, suggesting that a person’s ability to network is a significant factor in landing these coveted positions. Therefore, it's in your best interest to know how to use your type to your advantage no matter where you are in the job-search process.
1. When You’re Looking for Leads
Your ability to easily connect with others is your greatest strength. You already have a wide network; activate it to get your job search into high gear. Tell everyone you can (depending on your situation, of course) what you’re looking for. The more people who know what you want, the more likely someone will have a lead for you or be able to make an introduction. You can start by sending this mass email template to tell people you're on the hunt.
Although your network is likely smaller than your extroverted counterparts, your relationships with people in this circle are deep and genuine. You know the inner workings of your contacts’ lives, and they know yours. Your connections may be able to do far more for you than simply share leads or make surface-level introductions. Often, your closeness will enable them to provide insightful and thorough references for you, which most hiring managers value. So, go ahead and email your three to five closest contacts individually and fill them in on how they can each best help you.
You can and should use strategies from both sides. Tell everyone that comes to mind what it is you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to ask for leads. Approach members of your network you feel you know well, and pick their brains about organizations and openings that you’re intrigued by. Between your casual contacts who can generate leads and your close comrades who can promote you, take whatever comes your way, and build on it.
2. When You’re Expanding Your Network
Don’t wait for your resume to land you face-time with a potential employer. Go ahead and ask your connections for introductions that’ll advance your job search. Actively participate in a professional organization. Attend industry events, both formal and casual. Get creative. Do you happen to know that some key people at a company of interest frequent a particular gym? Maybe it’s time to invest in your physical health—at that facility.
If you simply can’t make face-to-face contact—maybe you have your sights set on an organization in another state—consider creating a video resume or application. A well-done video allows you to show some personality early in the hiring process. Include the link on your LinkedIn profile, in email communications, and at the top of your resume. Heed these steps on creating a killer video, however, or don’t bother.
You know you aren’t typically comfortable working a room or striking up conversation with complete strangers, so you’ll need to find another way to connect. Consider my friend Kristin, who was hired–on two separate occasions, no less—after volunteering at a large career fair. As Devora Zack explains in her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected, working an event, “provides you with a specific reason to engage with others, rather than poking around for small talk.”
This obviously doesn’t have to happen at a career fair, but you are going to have to put yourself out there. Think about volunteering to work behind-the-scenes at a conference, serving on a nonprofit board, or helping a civic group with a fundraising event. Any role that gives you a reason to connect with others will allow you to promote your worth on your terms. From those introductions, schedule time to chat one-on-one over coffee or lunch so you can continue building a connection in the way that feels most natural to you.
Your super power is your adaptability. Even if your enthusiasm isn’t a match for the average extrovert or your listening skills aren’t quite as keen as the typical introvert, you have the advantage of being able to both bring it and rein it in. So, for example, if you go to the same gym as a key person at a company where you would like to work, that’s the time to invoke your extrovert and strike up a conversation on any topic that works in the moment, just to get the conversation going.
If someone in your network arranges a lunch with a potential employer, you may want to consider tamping down the gregariousness. Like a good introvert, you’ll want to listen authentically to find out what the company needs, but your extrovert tendencies will enable you to speak up and make a case for how your experience and skills are a match for the role.
You’re ready for an interview in any form it may take, but your natural ability to draw energy from your interactions can be your downfall if you aren’t careful. You want to be careful not to allow your enthusiasm to lead to you dominating the conversation. Practice answering interview questions in a succinct way to avoid rambling, and remember to pause after you complete an answer to give the interviewer time to respond. It’s ideal for you to practice with another person, so you can get real-time feedback and start to recognize over-talking in the moment.
Your natural listening skills—and your inclination to ask probing, thoughtful questions—will serve you well. On the other hand, your hesitation to articulate your thoughts verbally could be problematic. Practice stating your abilities and experience aloud in the privacy of your own home, so that when it comes time to interview, you don’t sell yourself short. Your best bet is carve out some quiet, reflective time before the meeting so you begin twith your batteries fully-charged. Arrive early and, if possible, find a calming place nearby where you can relax and focus on what’s to come.
Where you sometimes struggle is in stepping into the right role at the right time. It can be a bit of a challenge to shift between convivial chatting and attentive listening in the moment, but pay attention to your own behavior and the nonverbal cues of your interviewer. If you notice you’ve been talking for a while, wrap it up and allow for a pause. If you notice the person asking a lot of follow-up questions, that’s your cue to forge ahead and elaborate on what you’ve just said. Like introverts and extroverts, practicing with a friend or colleague will help you figure out this delicate balance.
These job-search strategies based on personality aren’t intended to pigeon-hole you. Just because you lean toward the extrovert side of the spectrum doesn’t mean you can’t utilize some introvert characteristics along the way. At their core, these are merely suggestions to get you thinking about how you can connect with others most effectively based on the personality you identify with the most.