After a sleepless night and a very long day at work, I’m not too keen on going to a business networking event tonight. Normally I’d go, but I see the following scenario unfolding: The night will start off fine, but soon I will become tired and want to leave, most likely at 7:00 p.m.
So I’ll to do what is best for all: I won’t go to the event.
I’m an introvert, so this is really the best decision. The chance of me “getting a second wind” is highly unlikely. My counterpart, the extravert, is that person who will suddenly come to life. But not me. In the case of this networking event, I stay home.
Introverts and extraverts both have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the job search. Here are six introvert strengths – as well as some of the ways that these strengths can pose challenges:
1. Knowing When to Say ‘No’
This is one of the introvert’s strengths. They tend not to overextend themselves. In other words, they know their limits.
Some people think introverts may not attend “after hours” events because of an inability to communicate. This couldn’t be further from the truth. One’s preference for introversion or extraversion is about energy, not one’s ability to communicate with others. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, whereas extraverts recharge theirs by being with others.
Challenge: There are times when introverts need to “suck it up” and attend important events, such as the networking event described above. Although they may be tired, they have to look at the endgame and the rewards it may bring.
2. Talking About the Big Picture Instead of Engaging in Small Talk
The way introverts communicate begins with the way they think. They are drawn to topics of interest and enjoy exploring them at great length. I have to admit that making chitchat is not of the utmost importance to me. This is because introverts like myself prefer to think deeper, rather than wider.
Challenge: Small talk is a skill that has its place, particularly during job interviews, when speaking with superiors and colleagues, and at social events. Introverts must rise to the occasion and draw upon resources like current affairs and topics that are relevant to the audience.
3. Thinking Before Speaking
The introvert’s ability to speak with intelligence is about timing. They choose to share their thoughts when they have their ideas well formulated, not a minute sooner. This is not always true of extraverts, who tend to dominate meetings or social gatherings.
Challenge: Unfortunately, introverts might wait a bit too long to contribute their ideas during a meeting. It’s important to concentrate on the conversation, particularly when extraverts are conversing at a fast rate.
4. Listening When Others Speak
Introverts have a knack for listening to others when they’re speaking. The same cannot always be said of their counterparts, because extraverts have the gift of gab – something introverts often envy.
Because introverts enjoy in-depth conversations, they’re cognizant of giving and taking. This is one of the introvert’s strengths during networking events.
Challenge: Some believe that introverts don’t mind when others doing all the talking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This is part of why introverts prefer smaller groups where they don’t have to battle for talking rights.
5. Respect for Others
Introverts hate to be interrupted. Because of that, they don’t interrupt others. I recall being at a retirement party for one of my former colleagues when another colleague interrupted a conversation I was having. To say I was annoyed would be an understatement.
Another thing introverts tend not to do is confront others. Whether this is a good trait is up for discussion. The introvert’s style is to address issues in private, rather than out in the open. In their mind, having an argument draws attention to them.
Challenge: All’s fair in love and war, as the saying goes. Introverts must understand the pattern of the conversation in which they’re engaged, and if they don’t assert themselves, they may be left out of the conversation and look like a fool.
In terms of confrontation, introverts should not hold in any ill feelings or anger. This will lead to an outburst, which does more harm than good. Or they may avoid conflict entirely and regret not confronting an individual who hurt them.
Introverts prefer to write to communicate their messages. Writing gives introverts the time to formulate their thoughts and present them in the proper forum. For this reason, writing resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles can be their greatest strengths.
Challenge: Introverts can’t rely solely on the luxury of writing to express their thoughts, especially when the time calls for speaking at an interview or presentation. Introverts must practice their ability to speak, even if they’re out of their comfort zone.
Online networking via LinkedIn may be a valid way for introverts to reach out and make connections. However, they can not rely on making connections online as their only source of networking; they must eventually reach out to people in personal ways.
It turns out that my decision to forgo that networking event I mentioned earlier was a smart one. A fellow networker tells me that the event was long and tedious, even for an extravert like himself. Introverts generally decide against large organized events, but they’ll attend them with the right amount of preparation.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.