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Overcoming shyness in your job search

Are you shy?  Do you feel awkward in social settings that involve people you don’t know, or perhaps even people you do?

If so, then a job search and overcoming shyness is probably not your favorite project, requiring as it does networking, cold-calling, follow up with strangers and telephone or in-person interviews where you’re required to talk about – TA DA! – you!

A job search can be stressful for just about anyone.  For someone shy or uncomfortable when engaging in social interaction, a job search can be a daunting experience.  It doesn’t need to be, however.  Overcoming shyness can be accomplished. While it’s unlikely that you’ll ever become the “life of the party”, there are certainly some things you can do to minimize the effects of your shyness while attempting to change your employment status.

“Wait,” you say, “this shouldn’t be an issue.  I’ll be interviewing with one person, maybe a few at most, and it’ll be quiet and I’ll have the opportunity to just chill and let them know what I’m all about.”  Um, yeah, no, not so much.  Not as a general rule, anyway.

Remember that the ‘he/she/them’ interviewing you are doing so because they have a problem (maybe a BIG problem) that they need to solve as quickly as possible, which means finding the right person for the job ASAP so they can return to their daily mission-critical tasks.

Given this scenario, you’ll have a very small window in which you can demonstrate how outstanding you are.  You want to stand out based on merit, not “stand apart” by being so shy that you’re perceived to lack confidence, competence or worse (e.g., being completely socially inept, which is doom).

Overcome Shyness in Your Job SearchSo, what to do?  How do you, with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, overcome the “sound of shyness?”  Here are some things to consider as you conduct your job search:

What are your boundaries?

People are constantly referring to the notion of stretching the envelope or getting out of a comfort zone.  In general, we know what that means.  But do you know what it means in relation to you specifically?  Do you know what your boundaries are, the line that divides your comfort level from discomfort?  Identify it and focus on what needs to be done for you to cross it.  And then do those things.

Work your network.

Reconnect to those with whom you’ve fallen out of touch.  Strengthen ties with those in your existing circle of contacts.  Link in to LinkedIn and look at each of your contacts with a new perspective, one by which you attempt to identify what value you can add to their relationship with you rather than the other way around.  And then provide that value.

What are you sorry for?

Don’t apologize when you ask for help or information during your job search.  You’re building a relationship by demonstrating that you consider the other person important.  Because it’s important to you.  You’re not imposing.

Be biographer, not autobiographer. 

Of course, we always recommend that you have your resume professionally written. The professional resume writers on the Distinctive Career Services team bring not just expertise, but an objective perspective to the development of your resume.

This is important since people who are shy will often have trouble recognizing and writing about their career achievements and strengths.

But, there are times when you will have to write about yourself during your job search, and when you do, write your story but do it as if you’re writing about your best friend and he/she is relying on you to get a job.  Detail accomplishments, prepare a pitch for the job, anticipate interview questions, outline strengths and identify not only weaknesses but how you manage/overcome them. Writing about someone else is usually easier than writing about oneself.

Pick me, pick me!

One job search tool often overlooked is volunteerism.  Most volunteer activities provide ample opportunity to engage with others (especially strangers) in a comfortable, productive setting.  You’ll expand your network, hone your communication skills and gain confidence while working with others towards a common goal.  Communication is much more comfortable when it’s about making a contribution.

Tips to Silence Shyness in Your Job Search