One of the more challenging aspects of life for those of us who are quieter and more introverted, is often our career. When we’re in job search mode, it can feel like our introversion seems to disqualify us for many jobs, or at least makes it hard to get past the interview stage. Job adverts talk about excellent communication skills and we think about how reflective and slow to process information we are. They require a team player and you wonder how your quietness in conversation will be interpreted. The employer is looking for an enthusiastic individual and you wonder if your low-key enthusiasm is going to cut it. We can feel like we have to pretend to be something that we’re not (and how exhausting and soul destroying is it to keep up a pretence and try to put on that extraverted mask every day?).
Then, once we’re in a job, we can find it stressful because of the social interaction required. We can feel overwhelmed and drained in highly stimulating environments. Or we might be feeling like we’re not good enough and don’t fit in because we’re not chatty or capable of ‘finding our answers’ quickly.
But if this is what you’re experiencing right now, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, when we carried out research with over 120 people, we found that:
- 3 in 5 people felt that their quietness had prevented career progression
- while 2 in 5 said they had difficulty gaining and staying in employment
Is this what it’s like for you, too? I know I struggled through so many interviews when I was younger. It always seemed like there was that one candidate who was better than me, and I was never good enough to get through the job interview stage. Rejection after rejection… one after the other, it can build up and impact your confidence and your willingness to put yourself out there and apply for a job. It can even create a self-fulfilling prophesy for yourself, as you imagine that every interview is going to be like the last one, so you attend it with heightened anxiety and self-doubt and a sense of impending doom.
But I had a breakthrough when I went for one particular job interview, honouring my curious and reflective nature, and taking my time to respond to questions (it always feels that we’re thinking for longer than we really are!). Then, on the way out I was explaining to my interviewer that I’m naturally quite introverted and I can take a bit longer to process my thoughts. He told me that he get it – he’s very introverted too and he actually gets really nervous doing the interviewing (How often do we consider how the interviewer feels? But wow, what a difference it makes when we got into a job interview with compassion for them too!) – and so I got the job!
I didn’t keep the job though… 9 months down the road, my lovely introverted manager had gone on long-term sick and his boss was running the show, pulling us back to the main open-plan office, away from the project work I was enjoying and into desk-work and telephone calls. The adaptations I had put into place to ease the anxiety and over-stimulation from the big office were taken away, and I could no longer visit head office just once a week, make calls privately from a mobile, and work from home, on location or a smaller office the rest of the time. The stress built up and I found myself anxious and tearful on Sundays… it was time to find something that better suited my nature. This wasn’t what I had signed up for, and it was okay that I hadn’t been there a year yet before I handed in my notice.
Workplace and job interview struggles are so common amongst us Quieteers. The problem is that we often view our quietness and our introversion as something negative. If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can someone else? An interviewer will pick up on your self-doubt. We also have to feel that we have something to contribute before we get that sense of belonging in the workplace, otherwise we feel out of place, like we’re just waiting to be found out for being a fraud that doesn’t fit in.
Not only that, we have to be able to effectively talk about our quiet qualities in the job interview. It’s true that not all employers will appreciate our quieter strengths initially. They may even think that they want someone extraverted for the role before they meet you, not realising that teams need more introverted natures too. In fact, introverts can be some of the best leaders as well as employees – we just have to find work that suits our natures. And that’s why it’s so important to be able to share your more introverted qualities with confidence in a job interview.
To help you with this, we’re offering you a specially crafted workshop with Lara Hayward, Career Coach from Oxford University, to help you Reframe Quiet in Your Career.
Lara knows what it’s like to feel the need to put on an extrovert mask every day and pretend to be something you’re not. To feel like you’re not good enough because of your naturally quieter nature and to worry you’ll be rejected if people see the real you. So she crafted this workshop especially to help quieter people, like herself, you and I, navigate the world of work.
If you feel like your quietness or introversion is a weakness in the workplace right now, or you don’t know how to talk about your quieter qualities to a potential employer in a job interview, then this session will help to reveal the value your quiet strengths bring to a role so that you can shine more brightly in your next job interview or career move.
Join us for free on Thursday 20th May 2021, 6pm BST. Click here to sign up now.