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.

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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