So you’re an introvert, and now you need to take on the monumental task of propelling yourself into the job-search market. You have to face the nerve-racking reality of the interview process: a barrage of questions that might as well be posed under the spotlight of an interrogation lamp for all the fear it strikes in the very marrow of your bones—the scrutiny of an omniscient possible future colleague or supervisor or, worse, the dreaded (gulp) group interview.
Last spring, that was me. I had one abysmal interview followed by two and a half months of submitting résumés for what felt like a thousand positions that may or may not have actually been available. That experience brought me into the new school year feeling like an animal caught in one of those jaws-of-life hunter traps in the woods. I knew the next time out, if I were to make a successful leap, I would have to do some… (wait for it) … networking—the least favorite word of the introvert but a very necessary life skill.
Never fear, though, as I learned a few tips and tricks that have helped me, and now I’m here to help you through the process too.
Make a list of your personal pros and cons in regard to your current job. Things like micromanaging supervisors, supportive coworkers, and extensive travel can make a huge difference. The pros will come in handy as you look for desired qualities in a new organization. The cons will motivate you to continue searching when you experience frustration or rejection.
Consider your existing resources and professional network. Asking for help doesn’t always come easy. But let’s face it, when employers are seeking to add to their organizations, they turn to their trusted advisors before the general public. It’s actually quite logical if you think about it, but it means you need to be on the inside track.
In my case, I started thinking of people with whom I’d worked and maintained a friendly rapport. I then took a deep breath and held it while I composed an email offering a heartfelt sentiment regarding our work together. I then simply asked, if they heard of a suitable for me position opening up, to please keep me in mind. I hit “Send” a couple of seconds before turning blue and finally released the breath I’d been holding. Lo and behold, before I could start second-guessing myself, I started getting positive responses: “Of course!”, “Send me your résumé”, “Any school would be lucky to have you!” The tension in my shoulders eased immediately, and for the first time in almost a year, I felt like everything would be okay.
Develop a portfolio, documenting your skills and accomplishments. We introverts generally aren’t the best at speaking about ourselves—probably because we’d rather observe than converse. When it comes to the interview process, however, we need to create ways to let our masterful skills speak for us.
What I did that served me well was to create a binder (which I’d forgotten to even open at the abysmal interview) that served as a visual representation of the many roles I’ve played throughout my educational career. It showcased the systems I’d created, the teams I managed, the processes I facilitated—all clearly laid out in color ink, armored by sheet protectors.
Do your research. This almost goes without saying, but it can only help you to find out as much as possible about an organization before you interview there, including areas where they struggle and the ways you can swoop in with your cape of skills and experience to remedy as many of their problems as possible. It’s also helpful to search for common interview questions in your field. Even if an interviewer only asks one or two of them, answering them yourself will help you to focus your responses and remind you of all the tasks you perform automatically.
My approach is “Veni, vidi, vici!” (I came, I saw, I conquered). Leave every interview with the interviewer(s) feeling as if there is no other candidate who could possibly fill the position you are seeking because you represent the skills they didn’t even know they needed.
Be mindful of your body language—most of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth. Smile, and let your true personality shine through. Check out podcasts and magazine articles to find tips for building up and demonstrating your self-confidence. Interviewers need to know with whom they will be working as well as all the amazing things you bring to the table.
As I went through the process of eight interviews with three different schools, I received more and more positive feedback and was finally able to loosen up my bun, wear some of my normal jewelry (rather than the conservative interview set), relax, and just be me.
Follow up by sending an email within 24 hours after the interview, thanking the interviewer(s) for taking the time to interview you. If it’s the job you really want, follow that up with a handwritten thank-you note, and drop it in the mail. It may seem kind of old school, but it really gets the message across when you take the time to write something by hand in this world of instant messaging. In either case, make sure to refer back to something discussed during the interview that highlights a skill you can bring to the table.
Check in with your references. Remind them that you’ve been interviewing and that they may get a call from such-and-such person at such-and-such organization so they keep their knowledge of you and your work at the forefront of their minds.
At this point, you’ve done everything you can do, so relax, exhale, and let the offers roll in. Your hard work is bound to pay off.