Simple Steps for Introverts to Win at Job Searches & Transitions
The Drive to Job Search
The Great Resignation has been grabbing big headlines for over a year. But job transitions are nothing new and introverts are neither exempt from the challenges nor the opportunities job changes present. Introverts who resist the pressure to network and fear the unknown may prefer to stay put. But, there are several reasons to stretch your comfort zone and grow through job transition.
You’ve been in a job for a while. Initially, you climbed a steep learning curve to become a significant contributor. Now, you have checked all your career planning boxes regarding what you want to get out of the assignment. Sure, you love the job, the people, and the comfort you have every day, so it’s easy to stay for a while longer and enjoy the fruits of your labor. However, as Michelle Lax, retired senior manager at the largest producer of construction aggregate in the US, asserts: “The longer you continue to stay in a role, you are not adding to your résumé.” You risk getting pigeonholed, and it will become hard to restart your career. If your personal target is contentment, you may choose to stay. However, if you aim to flourish, it is time to move on. There are plenty of opportunities out there that value and need your expertise. Time to dust off your résumé!
This job and company or team appeared to be a good match when you joined. Perhaps it was a fine fit for months or years, but things have changed for you. Your skills, values, or interests may have shifted and the job is now boring and your passion is fading. Possibly the company, management strategy, or job expectations have evolved and now you are charged to perform tasks you don’t enjoy. You may choose to be open-minded and consider how you may stretch and grow in an evolving definition of your job, but it may also be a sign it’s time to seek the next role. Sara Bonario reflects: “I think many people wake up… in their late 40s or early 50s and have their mid-life crisis, which may include realizing they can no longer accept working for a company [or job] that… doesn’t give them personal satisfaction.” Refit appears to be the largest impetus for The Great Resignation era.
3. Unmanageable Relationships
Suffice to say that disagreements with your manager may fester to the point where a change is necessary. Our values and interests evolve, and minor differences may become annoying over time. Acknowledging differences and agreeing on creative ways of working together can solve many disagreements and be a tangible personal growth experience. However, such efforts take two and are best tackled early on. If this isn’t possible, you both may agree a change is necessary.
4. Forced Downsizing
Sometimes a job change is not within your control. This happens to the best of people and workers. Companies downsize due to financial challenges or management changes. Teams shrink, groups combine, and businesses get sold off. It’s easy to bemoan your misfortunes or vilify those who put you on the chopping block, but it is wasted energy that you should be applying to regroup and find that next role. Embrace the change as the opportunity it can be—perhaps this is the best thing for you and your career.
REACHing for the Stars
Once you decide to change jobs, you may be tempted to expedite the process and rapidly secure a job to end the torment. Stop! Take the time to put yourself in the best position to reach for your next great job. What makes a job great? It’s rarely salary or title. Boston Consulting Group’s Decoding Global Talent report of 200,000 survey responses found salary was the eighth-ranked factor for employee happiness. The number one factor was “appreciation for your work,” with other top considerations including work-life balance, learning and career development, and relationships with colleagues and superiors.[i] Get prepared first through the REACH Model:
Review your roots (strengths, values, mindsets, and ambitions). Remind yourself of these items in advance so you are driven toward the right fit, not by the emotions of the search itself.
Evaluate the tasks you enjoy the most. What activities at work or at home light your passion? Once you think of jobs in this way, your job options expand considerably. You may like details and numbers. Those leanings fit well in your current accountancy role, but you don’t have to limit yourself to another accounting position. Don’t define yourself as “Mary the Accountant”, but perhaps as “Mary the curious, driven, analytic.” Many jobs use these same skills such as finance, comptroller, auditing, and business analysis—both in your current company and across other industries. Remain open-minded, creative, and persistent in broadening your search. Every job search benefits from a wide scope.
Assess your wish list. There is no perfect job, but putting together a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” early in the process avoids wasting time and provides a framework for your research before and during interviews and evaluating job offers later. Items you may consider for your lists could include key tasks, team chemistry, level of autonomy, work/life balance including travel and after-hours expectations, work environment including closed-door offices or cubicles, office location, commute, company and team culture, and pay and benefits. Definitely aim high, but also maintain a sense of flexibility.
Cultivate your network. Certainly, personal connections with the posting manager or any external sites will greatly improve your candidacy. Introverts may have a smaller network than others, but the quality of your connections and your determination makes the difference. Apply your personal strengths to create a strong network. Build your list of connections within these three groups:
Personal relationships: family, friends, college classmates, church members
Work colleagues: co-workers, internal or external customers, past managers, HR
Job search experts: college career placement officers, headhunters
Hunt for information on your prospects. Check out websites and social media of the industries you are interested in and the companies you are considering. These are great resources to understand the company's mission and the culture of the organization and team you are considering.
Your research won’t answer all your questions, but it should give you a sense of overall fit and help you decide if you want to pursue a job further. By working the steps in the REACH model, you should generate a list of prospects that you believe offers exciting potential matches.
The Introvert-Friendly Mantra
The job search process is often a rollercoaster of hopes, dreams, missed opportunities, crushed expectations, and glorious success. It can be incredibly exhausting for introverts, in part because we seemingly have little control over the outcome and because our communications and networking skills are put to the test. However, like most tasks, introverts benefit from a different approach.
Remind yourself of your roots. Focus on what you can control. Practice self-compassion and lean on your strengths. Preparation will help break down the process into manageable steps and curious learning will guide you to gather the necessary information to make the best decisions. Finally, resiliency will enable you to weather the inevitable emotional ride of anxiety and elation.
It doesn’t matter if you are changing companies, teams, or chairs in the same group, the excitement of a new job quickly gives way to the apprehension of the challenges and opportunities ahead. It’s an exciting time to assess your own approach and focus on your priorities.
Lean on Your Learning
Temper your hesitations in order to get off on the right foot. If you managed the job search process well, your skills and passions should be aligned with your new job. This is also a great time to reflect on your last job. What did you like about it and what did you not enjoy? What did you like about yourself in your role and what did you want to improve? Do you want to be more vulnerable and personable with co-workers? Develop a stronger rapport with your manager? Strike a better work/life balance? Did you feel disorganized? Were you true to yourself? This job change, no matter how subtle or dramatic, presents the chance for you to grow. These adjustments can make a big difference in your job satisfaction and overall happiness.
Build Relationships First
You may prefer to roll up your sleeves and dive into learning the details and tasks of any job. This calms natural fears, and you can do much of this studying in blissful silence and solitude. However, I urge you to turn the tables and begin with relationships first. Most introverts can struggle with casual acquaintances. Rather than avoiding them altogether, invest time toward building the deeper relations you may crave as an introvert. This process may generate plenty of discomforts, but you are establishing important rapport and removing others’ misperceptions of introverts in the workplace. This may seem like the soft stuff, but relationship work is the glue that holds you, the job, and the team together.
Finding the Fit
Ensuring you find, create, and nurture the right environment is critical to your health and vibrancy. You should be driven by goals you have a passion for and determined to achieve your objectives your way. If your strengths and passions align with the company culture and specific role, you will be stronger and be prepared to flourish.
[i] Rainer Strack, Carsten von der Linden, Mike Booker, and Andrea Strohmayr, “Decoding Global Talent,” Boston Consulting Group, 2014, https://www.bcg.com/publications/2014/people-organization-human-resources-decoding-global-talent
This article is adapted from Steve Friedman’s award-winning leadership book for introverts, The Corporate Introvert: How to Lead and Thrive with Confidence. Check out more about the book’s stories and models and how you can buy your own copy here.
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Introversion often feels so alone and many of us assume no one else could feel this way. Contained in this book are many of the questions that have been asked, often by introverts trying to understand this personality trait that can at times govern our lives.
Hi Steve! I just wanted to say I'm incredibly thankful that I came across your blog. I currently have your [Q&A] booklet up on my work computer and every single line resonates with me. I've struggled my entire life with introversion, but your guide is helping me realize that I need to embrace it instead of feeling embarrassed! Anyways, your content is awesome and I'm planning on sharing some info with my team. -GK 2/8/2022
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