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.

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.