Saturday, February 4, 2012

How To Get a Good Job Even If You're Painfully Shy

Shy PeopleShy People (Image via The world, especially the world of work, seems to be stacked against introverts.  Shy people who work better alone, and often try to avoid team activities, are last in line for promotions, pay raises, and consideration for better jobs, while the loquacious back slappers always seem to be favored by management.

If you encounter this in your workplace, and you happen to be one of the shy ones, there’s no need to lie down and take it.  Under effective leadership, organizations can get the most out of everyone.  If this is not happening, chances are leadership of the organization is messing up in other areas as well.

What can be done about this terrible situation?  Well, for starters, if you’re shy, and you’re in a job that requires working closely with others, you just might have picked the wrong occupation.  If you’re just starting out in the business world, take a look at the kinds of jobs that are a better match for your personality.  Secondly, research the organization before committing to work for it.   Is there a lot of absenteeism or employee turnover?  Do workers complain about working conditions?  While not absolute indicators of poor leadership, they should certainly be taken as warning signals.

What Strengths Do Shy People Bring to the Job?

While the outgoing types bring a lot of benefit to an organization; assuming they have the requisite technical skills; shy people also have traits that make them potentially valuable employees.  Shy people tend to be cautious thinkers, and there are times when hesitation before plunging into a project can avoid wasted time and resources.  Shy people are often thought of as push overs, but the meek are also considered more approachable, a good trait in customer service employees, for instance.  When the tension level in an organization is high, aggressive personalities can exacerbate the situation, whereas the shy person’s calmness and serenity can be what’s needed to cool everyone down.  The vulnerable-seeming shy person is often the best employee for dealing with certain clients, such as the emotionally or physically disabled, and shy, unassuming people appear more trustworthy than the overly aggressive types.

What Careers are Best for Shy People?

During the job search, the shy personality should look for an organization that provides an enabling, welcoming environment where his or her skills can be put to best use, and where every employee is valued for what they bring to the organization. 

Following are some of the best career fields for shy people:

Free lance journalism:   Many publications, print and on-line, use a lot of material provided by writers not on staff.  Writers seldom have to make face-to-face contact with editors.  In the old days, everything was done by phone, fax, and mail.  Nowadays, much of it is done on-line.  Free lance writers have to interview subjects occasionally, but even this can often be done on-line or via email.

Researcher:  All types of organizations have need of research, and a researcher spends his time compiling data to be used by others in reports, speeches, and other activities.  There is seldom need for direct contact with others, other than delivering the occasional report.  By focusing on an area in which you are interested and have skills, this is a career field that is perfect for the introvert.

Bookkeeper or Accountant:  If you’re more comfortable with columns of figures than rooms full of people, this is a great career field.   Most of your time will be spent at your desk or computer terminal crunching numbers, and the amount of interaction you have with fellow workers or clients is minimal.

On-line Store Owner:  For the technically savvy individual, this is a great way to have your cake and eat it too.  Operating an on-line store to sell your goods or services to customers allows you to interact at a distance with large numbers of people without ever having to deal with them directly.  You can do live chats or handle issues through email without having to talk on the phone or in person to anyone.

Landing That First Gig

Except for starting your own business, the biggest hurdle for shy people is often the job interview.  How does a shy person compete with the aggressive outgoing personality?  It’s actually not as hard as you might think.  Here are a few hints for doing well on a job interview, even if you’re painfully shy:

Do lots of research:  Learn as much as you can about the organization to which you’re applying.  Taking the effort to get to know the company is a sure way to impress most interviewers.

Watch your body language:  During the interview, make eye contact without staring, and avoid postures like folding your arms or leaning away from the interviewer, or looking down at the floor when speaking.  And, when speaking, speak clearly and in a voice that the interviewer can hear without leaning forward herself or asking you to repeat what you said.  Don’t rush to answer a question.  Take a breath and think before you speak.  Listen carefully; in fact, try to let the interviewer do most of the talking.

Rehearse:  That’s right; get a friend to play the part of the interviewer, and practice until you feel comfortable with whatever questions might be thrown at you.

Be better than the competition:  This was advice given to minorities during the era before the Civil Rights movement and legislation opened doors; be better than the other guy if you want the job.  The same is true of shy people.  Let your resume and your responses to questions leave no doubt in the interviewer’s mind that, shy or not, you’re the absolutely best person for the job.

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