Overcome Shyness During Your Job Hunt
Social skills can be taught, according to Brooks
Katharine Brooks | Career Transitions
When I teach or present workshops about networking, interviewing, and other aspects of the job search, I can almost always count on at least one person approaching me privately at the end saying, “But I’m shy and these things make me uncomfortable. Isn’t there something else I could do to find a job?”
Whether you label it social anxiety, introversion, shyness, or whatever, the bottom line is usually the same: you’re uncomfortable in certain social settings, particularly those involving a feeling of being on stage or performing in some way. For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to make a distinction between being “introverted” and “shy” since both traits face challenges in the job market. But if you’d like to read more about the distinction between introversion and shyness, this Atlantic article explains introversion quite well.
Introverts are a minority. Statistics vary, but about 25% of the population are considered introverts. There is no one introvert “type”— introverts vary in style and intensity. Introverts often feel alone in their desire to be alone— that’s an unfortunate consequence of social dominance of extroversion in the American culture. (Here’s a great article about introverted travelers.) For some reason, introversion is often accompanied by shame.
I teach career coaching seminars across the country for NACE, and I love doing them. I always have a great audience of interesting people and we feed off each other’s energy. But I am an introvert, and at the end of the day, I’m exhausted, and I want nothing more than to go to my hotel room, get room service, and watch TV. I mentioned this to the group one time— that I didn’t want them to think I was being rude if I turned down a dinner invitation— I just needed to re-charge my brain for the next day. When I showed up the next morning, two participants approached me and asked to shake my hand. They wanted to thank me for giving them “permission” to go back to their rooms and not feel guilty about it. They noticed that I didn’t apologize or put a label on my behavior— it was just me. And they both described the “luxury” of an evening alone in their hotel room with just the TV and a good dinner. Isn’t it interesting that people feel they need permission to be themselves?
The job search process can be stacked in the favor of the extroverted, natural hand-shaker— the eager “Hi, how are you!” kind of person. Their natural friendliness, comfort with social interactions, and ease of making connections seem to virtually guarantee them the best jobs. There’s no doubt that extroverted traits can be invaluable.