Is Your Introversion Holding Back Your Career?

Michael Paradise - CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems)
Michael Paradise is the CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems).

Even the most outgoing, extroverted professionals have a tough time managing their careers. But what if you’re an introvert? Do you have an even tougher time building the skills to get ahead, interact with colleagues who can help you progress, undertake a job search? And let’s drill down further — what if you’re an introvert in tech?

It sounds like a reality show — “Introverts in Tech!” — and research shows a preponderance of introverts in the field. IDG Connect, a technology marketing firm, surveyed 465 IT professionals, conducted in-depth interviews with industry experts, and collected first-person testimonials. Just over half (53%) of those surveyed said they were introverts, 20% said they were extroverts, and 24% claimed to be ambiverts (a hybrid). The remaining 3% didn’t know. IDG’s conclusion is that these results “correlate with a lot of the core work that IT professionals have to do.”

Indeed, the tech industry is included on Tony Lee’s list of “10 Best Jobs for Introverts.” Lee is publisher of CareerCast, a job listing and advice site.

So what, exactly, is introversion? Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” discussed this in a 2012 TED Talk. Introversion isn’t the same as being shy. “Shyness is about fear of social judgment,” Cain said. “Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched on and their most capable when they are in quieter, more low-key environments.”

The bottom line, then, according to Myers-Briggs, is the different ways introverts and extroverts get their energy.

IDG sums up the challenge of introverts in IT this way: “There is no typical IT personality, but there are different ways of working and engaging with others. And today, as the role of IT develops, IT leaders are increasingly required to move outside the narrow remit of IT in order to sell the benefits of their department into the wider business. This could prove a double-edge sword, but it is worth remembering that you don’t have to be extroverted to sell, although you may need to be introverted to spend 12 hours doggedly pursuing one single detail-oriented development task.”

That’s especially true at senior levels, where positions are no longer siloed and every executive is responsible for the bottom line.

It’s important to interject the obvious: before you can do the job you have to get the job. Introverts can remember a few simple tips for self-presentation for interviewing during the hiring process, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. Writing in Psychology Today, Whitbourne boils down to this simple advice: prepare, prepare, prepare. She recommends asking about the interview process, scoping out the physical location, researching your interviewers, reminding yourself that you know your stuff, rolling with the punches during the interview, and leaving on a high note.

Introverts might take comfort by utilizing methodologies like the FIRST method, a communications tool used by top sales professionals and executives. FIRST aims to build relationships by uncovering the needs of others in each important meeting and conversation so you can work together successfully:

F: Foundation — develop rapport and build trust by getting to know the other person

I: Issues — uncover needs and discuss current and future challenges

R: Results — identify results sought and understand the consequences if unsuccessful at meeting the results

S: Solutions — discover and discuss possible solutions

T: Teaming — identify who else is involved in the solution and how to get started

“The key to this ‘other centered’ methodology is to be interested, not trying to be interesting,” says Richard Hoag, Esq., CEO of FIRST Professional Resources, Inc. “This is certainly a more comfortable approach for those not prone to extroversion, and people are universally more open to those who ask and listen, than those who try to tell them what to do.”

If introversion vs. extroversion is about energy and comfort, then outreach, collaboration, and consultation are the skills introverts must develop while remaining true to their core personalities in the workplace and throughout the hiring process.

Simple Ways to Build Business Relationships and Trust

Michael Paradise - CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems)
Michael Paradise is the CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems).

No doubt you have a lot of assets built in to your business — YOU are your business, not just your company. One of your most important assets is the people you surround yourself with. Your business relationships are an asset that defines what your company is and what it stands for.

Those relationships — the ones you as a leader have with your people, and the ones you and your people have with your clients and customers — can make or break your business, your future and your financial success. Fostering those relationships and building trust is key.

The following attributes are important to maintaining solid business relationships.

Being honest.

Perhaps the most obvious measure of whether you’re able to build trust is whether or not you’re being honest. You don’t need to share proprietary information or expose secrets, but being open and acting in a straightforward manner will move you closer to your people. Those you’re close to on a regular basis will know if you’re on the up and up, and will respond accordingly.

Being a resource.

Don’t just reach out when you need something, share! We all have vendors, or even friends and family members, who we only hear from when they need something. Break that habit. Connect with your customers and employees just to see how they’re doing, or if they need something. Forward an interesting article or pass on a tip. Learn to be a resource so you’re always top of mind.

Not springing surprises.

Nobody likes surprises in business. There are enough challenges that crop up no matter how well you plan, so don’t make it worse. If something bad is a possibility, deliver the news early so everyone can prepare. And if possible, bring a solution along with the problem to minimize the shock and fear that might be baked into the surprise.

Meeting or beating deadlines.

This one’s simple: be on time with your deliverables. Be on time, period. No more explanation is necessary! (If you can’t hit your target, refer to the point above!)

Rewarding loyalty and expressing appreciation.

Let your people know where they stand if they’ve been standing by you. Be it your customers or your employees, express your appreciation for their work or their loyalty. You don’t need to throw an elaborate party — a simple handwritten note outlining your pleasure for their efforts goes a long way, in a personal manner, to strengthening a relationship.

All talk + no action = bad feelings.

Follow through on what you’ve committed to. You will lose the confidence of your clients and your employees if you offer them a constant stream of promises that aren’t kept. If you deliver a plan to a client, carry it out. If you tell your employees to expect some action on an internal agenda item, deliver it. The boy who cried wolf is a lasting parable because we’ve all experienced it in some way.

There is no magic bullet to fostering relationships and trust — much of it is common sense that is easy to get lost in the bustle of your daily schedule. But if you adopt these simple rules as part of your business routine you’ll definitely be on the path to stronger relationships that will benefit your business.

Is Your Job Search Challenging? Then You Need A Coach!

Michael Paradise - CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems)
Michael Paradise is the CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems).

Job hunting is tough today, and different than you may remember if you’ve been out of the market for awhile. No longer do you find an opening in the newspaper, apply, and wait for a phone call. A job search today requires strategy, focus, and commitment to the process — a sales and marketing process. Yes, I said it, a sales and marketing process and…

In short, looking for a job, your next career move or something to fill in the gap between your last job and your next career move — is a full-time job.

When you need help at home, with your car or for your health, you turn to a professional, right? So shouldn’t you put your career path in the hands of a professional too?

The right coach will provide the guidance you need to get to the next level. Working with you one-on-one, a good coach will help you to identify and clarify your career goals and develop a personalized plan for you to implement.

He or she should be with you every step of the way to keep you on track, which often includes day-to-day if not hour-to-hour contact when things heat up.

The 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study, sponsored by the International Coach Federation, found that there were 47,500 professional coaches worldwide, compared to 2,100 professional coaches in 1999. In addition to career coaching, ICF represents executive coaches, life coaches, leadership coaches, relationship coaches, and other skilled coaching fields. According to the study, “most clients reported improved work performance, better business management, more efficient time management, increased team effectiveness, and more growth and opportunities… Nearly 70 percent of individuals indicated they had at least made back their initial investment. The median suggests that a client who achieved financial benefit from coaching can typically expect a ROI of more than three times the amount spent.”

For our career coaching clients, Sysazzle reviews and revises your resume to make sure it tells your story to a prospective employer; develops a winning cover letter you can adapt for multiple positions; assesses your online presence on social media to ensure consistency and professionalism; develops a portfolio that showcases your skills, talents and accomplishments; reviews your wardrobe so that you present yourself in the best light; and teaches you research, outreach, follow up and interview techniques and tactics so you’ll be successful in the job search process.

A Real Life Example: April 2014 – September 2014

One of Sysazzle’s coaching clients, Robert, is a mid-career IT professional who spent a year looking for the right position without any success. He was employed but wanted a new opportunity and a step up the career ladder, and thought a coach would help him to focus his efforts. Sysazzle began working with him and together they developed a personalized plan to market Robert in his search.

“At first, my coach spent time explaining the sales and marketing process and level of quantity and quality required to get hired; find that next career move. We created a baseline of activity and a high level plan. I then created a more granular plan and then I checked in with my coach for a few minutes every day to ask questions or get some guidance,” Robert said. “But once I had a better feel for the approach we spoke every few days or once a week. I have a 25-year career behind me but looking for a job is different now than it used to be, and there’s a whole new process I had to learn which included being vulnerable and getting out of my chair.

“The first thing we did was to fine tune my resume to highlight key aspects, skills and accomplishments that meshed with what my targeted companies were looking for. Then we drafted a cover letter that complemented my resume. We also developed a portfolio package that showcased my work that I could take to interviews and leave behind.

“At the same time as were putting the paperwork together, I was coached on the interview process itself — how to answer questions, how to ask the right questions, and how to be conversational instead of technical. We also covered how to follow up to stay on the screen instead of being forgotten: Things like what to say in handwritten notes, how long to wait to call back, and even how to drop in on someone I interviewed with while not seeming pushy. I learned that there’s a specific way to handle these situations, and knowing how to thread the needle is key.

“I found the position I was looking for — the right level of responsibility, in the location I wanted, with people I like and respect. Coaching taught me how to market and sell myself, and helped me get this job.”

Robert’s success is due to many factors, but especially the focus he placed on the search. The time he spent — about 40 hours over the course of four months – sharpening his interview skills and materials so that he could reach the next step in his career was an investment in his future.

The bottom line is that today you need to use every tool and resource at your disposal to make your job search a success. Other candidates are — and they’re getting hired! If you’re looking for a job, looking for a better job, or looking for a career instead of just a job, then you need a coach!

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Tips to Get Ready for Your Next Phone Interview

By Michael Paradise, CEO, Sysazzle

When was the last time you had a phone interview and didn’t cover all that you wanted to and then realized it after you hung up on the phone?
Today, a phone interview is as important as an in-person interview. Businesses use technology like videoconferencing and Skype to make final hiring decisions. The best way to prepare yourself is to use a “War Room” strategy.
Clear your room of pets, children, and anything else that can create background noise or distract you from the call. If it is a Skype interview, make sure that the location looks professional—your backyard, bathroom, kitchen, or a messy room will draw negative attention and take the focus off of where you want it…YOU.
Plaster your “War Room” walls with large butcher paper and fill them with key points. Make cheat sheets of commonly asked questions and answers, such as strengths and weaknesses, how you would describe yourself, and what interests you about the job you are applying for. This will allow you to instantaneously respond to the interviewer’s questions.

However, do not get caught in the trap of simply reading your background and skills from a piece of paper. The person at the other end will easily sense what you are doing, and most likely already has that information on your resume.

Below are some more tactics for your “War Room” strategy:

  • Make sure that the tone of your voice is positive, cheerful and confident.
  • Stand up and smile while talking over the phone. Science has proven that the simple of act of smiling can improve your mood and lower stress, which will convey in your voice.
  • Follow the thread of conversation and ask questions based on the information provided. Take notes of important points to refer back to later.
  • Have a glass of water near you.
  • If there are multiple individuals interviewing you, try to address them by their names to create a personal connection.
  • Keep your answers short and to the point. Do not blabber, exaggerate, or veer away from the point.
  • Pause briefly before answering a question to give yourself a chance to compose an intelligent and thoughtful response. Use fillers like “That’s a great question”, “Let me consider that for a moment”, or simply re-state the question to buy yourself extra time.
  • Be curious. Research the company prior to the interview. This shows both initiative and an eagerness to join their team. Do not oversell yourself. Your interviewer will determine if you are the right fit, not you.
  • Look for ways to connect your experience and interests with those of the company and/or its employees. For instance, if you read on the company’s website that it wants to expand into making shark cages in the next five years, and you happen to dive with sharks as a hobby, find a way to share that with your interviewer.
  • Ask questions clearly and try not to interrupt. The key to a successful phone interview is listening, asking great questions and not droning on and on. Ask your interviewer if they would like you to speak further to the topic. “Check in” with your interviewer throughout the call. Your interviewer is searching for a co-worker as much as a competent employee.
  • Once the interview is over, be sure to say thank-you and follow up promptly with a handwritten note. Never email a thank-you note.
    Finally, with your “War Room” prepped and research completed, ask a friend to call you for a practice interview—you may even want to provide her with a few questions to ask. This will reveal any weaknesses in your strategy.
    Remember, the more you prepare and practice, the more confident you will become, and that is the one quality found in every good warrior.