What do Bill Gates, Larry Page, Marissa Mayer, Warren Buffett, and Steve Wozniak all have in common? They’re all industry trailblazers—and self-proclaimed introverts.
Introversion is a personality trait coined by psychologist Carl Jung and a cornerstone of the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator evaluation. Having an introverted disposition usually means that you’re introspective and keenly aware of your own thoughts and feelings and those of the people around you. Introverts feel the most energized when they have the space and quiet to focus; they thrive when they can work independently or in small groups.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, extroverts are energized by people and collaboration. They might like to think aloud, seek attention, and enjoy living at a faster pace. Extroverts can be charismatic leaders and usually connect with other people easily.
In general, introverts can face more challenges than extroverts when it comes to meeting new people. They often feel overwhelmed in a crowd, and networking events like conventions, job fairs, office parties, and alumni luncheons can feel draining or intimidating.
Being an introvert has a few drawbacks when it comes to job hunting, but it also has its advantages. Here are just a few benefits of being an introvert:
- Strong listening skills
- Judicious communication and tact
- Sharp observation skills
- Creativity and thoughtfulness
These qualities help introverts develop lasting and meaningful relationships. Although extroverts might cast a wider net, introverts typically have a selective group of committed friends and colleagues. These individuals build relationships based on conversations that go beyond office pleasantries; they usually skip small talk and move directly to the heart of an idea.
If you’re an introvert, it can seem like the busy professional world isn’t designed to suit your needs. But if you adapt the right strategy, you can make the connections that will positively affect your career.
How to Expand Your Professional Network as an Introvert
1. Focus on service, not ego.
Why do you deliberate for 20 minutes before picking up the phone and calling a recruiter? Why do you get in your own way during interviews, or feel like you’re falling short of what you’re “supposed” to be? Ego drives these behaviors, and if you let your ego get out of hand, it will become destructive.
The secret to escaping ego is to adopt a service-oriented mindset. Think about the people you work for—not just a boss or superior at work, but the people who rely on you. For me, it’s my wife and three sons.
Now reframe everything you do to find a new job and focus on the idea of trying to improve the lives of the people around you. The quality of the relationships you build, and the offers you receive, will directly impact how much freedom they have to operate in the world. You’re not searching for a job just for yourself—you’re advocating on behalf of your loved ones.
If you hold these people foremost in your mind, you’ll be in control instead of your ego. It’ll also help you activate abilities you didn’t know you had to stretch beyond the limit and get the work done.
Ego is a dead-end. Service is an open door.
Find out how to make yourself indispensable at work.
2. Address individuals, not groups.
Nothing drains an introvert’s energy quite like group networking. So toss it out! It’s not your job to convince everyone you’re great—your job is to find fellow members of the tribe. Look for people who share your values and give you the space to do your best work.
To drive connections one-on-one, talk about what you have in common with the other person. For example, if you’ve worked at the same organization, even if it happened years apart, this can be a good conversation starter (and it’s particularly effective for initiating a dialogue with senior executives). You can also talk about shared group affiliations and professional organizations. College alumni groups are incredibly lucrative. Even if you’ve had no other contact with an individual who went to the same college or university as you, they’ll probably be responsive if you just start the conversation.
If you’re searching for new people to connect with on LinkedIn, you can use the search bar to drill down by colleges and groups. Once you find individuals who seem like they’re in a position to help you, send them a message and explain what you have in common.
3. Center your brand around solving problems—not fitting in.
In the digital age, a lot of communication and social vetting takes place online. If you meet someone who wants to keep in touch, chances are good they’ll add you on a social network. That means your LinkedIn profile needs to communicate a unique value-add right away.
Don’t rattle off a list of skills and abilities without first providing context—how do you solve high-level challenges? What sets you apart from other candidates who might be applying to the same roles?
Let’s say I work within the Information Security and Privacy space and have noticed that most other professionals lack solid operational skills. They demonstrate strategy skills, but don’t see the blind spots that come up during implementation.
If I position myself as someone who primarily looks at the challenge from an operational standpoint and call out the issues that other people miss, then I’ve effectively created a competitive differentiator. This is how you get taken seriously at a higher level—and how you’re perceived as an individual right from the get-go, which is key to success for most introverts. It creates a unique and personal connection.
Watch Anish’s webinar, “The High-Contrast Candidate: How to Cancel Out “Perfect” to Land the Job”