Do you dread the thought of talking to strangers? Hate going to industry parties? Have a fear of rejection? Let's face it, you need to network in this economy in order to get (or keep) the perfect job; but sometimes it looks as though the social individuals (extraverts) are the only ones moving ahead.
According to the Myers-Briggs test I am classified as an introvert, so I understand how you feel:
- You want to speak up in meetings, but you're afraid you'll say the wrong thing
- You dread the idea of someone rejecting your ideas, so you keep them to yourself
- You panic when you have to introduce yourself to a group of new people
- You would rather observe others, rather than be in the limelight
- You feel your intentions are often misunderstood
- You feel your quiet demeanor is taken for weakness, or a lack of intellect
I can't tell you how many times bosses and co workers would ask why I never attended the summer parties and why I didn't socialize with others (mind you their idea of socializing was frequent trips to a friend's desk and chatting up a storm before any work was done). It's not that I didn't like them, but I would rather work hard during the day so I could get home, and be at peace with myself.
Over the years I've matured, and realized that socializing is going to be a normal part of my day-to-day job function, and learned how to deal with it. Here are a few ideas for introverts to succeed in a business world filled with extraverts:
Don't avoid social gatherings: instead try going to functions that are more intimate, rather than a large party. Introverts like dealing with people in small doses, so try small events first and once you feel comfortable, you can try attending larger events
Preparation: instead of feeling pressured to come up with something smart to say on the spot, try thinking about your ideas and how you will contribute before the meeting begins. As others are speaking, think about how you can build on the idea, and try not to focus on rejection. If you do not have enough time to process your thoughts during impromptu meetings, try writing down your ideas and following up with your contribution afterwards
Body Language: sometimes we give off the impression that we are distracted or uninterested when communicating with others, even if we're not! Be mindful of your body language, eye interactions, and facial expression. You don't need a big grin to look pleasant and attentive
Seek Advice: Get to know yourself as an introvert -- often career or personal success coaches offer personality assessments. Using the results, you and your coach can develop a plan of action, and coping tips for your work environment
Make use of social networking sites, like LinkedIn, to network with those in your industry. Once you have discussions with people online, it's much easier to meet with them in person
Melissa is the principal advisor and founder of The Career Advisors.