Do you struggle as an introvert to promote yourself in today’s competitive and networked work environment? If so, this post offers five ways to help you build your confidence and be more at ease with the demands of an extroverted world.
The idea of self-promotion tends to be anathema to an introvert. Often, it frightens the hell out of someone because they perceive that it’s about pretending to be an extrovert. Some also see it as unattractive to put yourself forward (especially at the expense of others) because it smacks of bragging. They prefer to put others first or for the collective to shine.
I should know because that was me when I started out solo in business nine years ago. However, I have learned through experience and reflection on what works to promote myself without compromising integrity or changing personality. Here are five approaches that you might find helpful to adapt to your situation.
Introverts prefer more intimate one-to-one relationships than having superficial acquaintances within groups. I like to get to know people before opening up too soon about myself. When I know that we have mutual trust – integrity and capability are clear – then I’m comfortable enough to share in more depth. That’s a process that can take time, although occasionally you do meet someone where you hit it off straight away. Even if it’s love at first sight, don’t expect to get married on the first date!
Test the degree of trust so as to play to your natural desire for a small number of quality relationships. You will find it so much easier to articulate your worth with someone you have got to know, like and respect. Because they won’t be judgemental. Instead, they will encourage you and be a critical friend who you can depend on in your best interests. For example, signposting you to helpful resources, making introductions in support of your job and career, or giving without expecting something back.
Why do we like working with some people more than others? Sometimes, it’s about the complementary nature of two personalities. Like jigsaw pieces that fit together seamlessly. In my case, I warm to people with similar personal values to mine.
Be aware of your values set and uncover those of the other person through observing behaviours, probing with questions, and listening as much to what is not being said as to what is shared on the surface.
Play to your introversion by ensuring your actions speak louder than your words. Be consistent with your values, insistent through focus, and persistent to achieve your goal.
Influencing, not selling
Introverts dislike selling themselves overtly. Partly, because they perceive ‘selling’ as pushing yourself as a ‘product’ on to an unwilling ‘customer’. Today, cold-calling and unsolicited sales approaches are unwelcome. Instead, people expect genuine engagement to establish a positive relationship and to have an enjoyable ‘experience’. This plays into your hands as an introvert and desire for intimacy and authenticity.
You can do the same through influencing people about how they see and value you. Ask yourself what you want to be valued for. It might be for your expertise, your contribution or to show your potential. How? Focus on pulling people towards you rather than pushing yourself on them. For example, by sharing useful information, knowledge or insights with whom you want to build a relationship, by taking an interest in their world, by showing empathy, and through curiosity about their challenges. Over time, invest in creating healthy social capital so your relationship becomes based on mutual benefit and goodwill.
Also, who are your raving fans, the people you know well who won’t think twice about advocating you? Earlier in my career, I was at my best as a dependable, organised and supportive Number Two to senior managers. I got things done quietly and effectively. However, outsiders couldn’t immediately see that. Fortunately, my managers recognised my strengths, trusted me, and qualified me to others. In the digital age, a great way to be recognised and feel less self-conscious is to get and give recommendations on LinkedIn with people who can vouch for your talents and achievements.
Integrating your online and offline presence
As an introvert, I find the shift to the network era liberating, enabled by technology and leading to quality, more than skin-deep, relationships beyond the screen. Changes in technology mean we can connect with vast numbers of people in an instant. From one-to-one to one-to-many, we all have the potential to establish our credibility and influence in our own inimitable way in an array of formats.
Take a strategic as well as a tactical approach to strengthening your presence. What digital media and formats suit your message, skills, and personality at their best? Online builds relationships and credibility from one to many, offline cement the relationship from one to a few. That’s how you integrate the two while remaining consistent and true to your identity.
Being an introvert with skill
None of this is about changing your personality to try and become something that you are not. Don’t apologise for being an introvert or hide it. Respect your natural preferences and use them to your advantage. Flip other people’s perceptions and demands of you. Focus on what you do bring and share how they can get the best from you. Develop yourself by taking small steps to hone your skills and to adjust your mindset and behaviours. Finally, check out this helpful post by Sacha Chua on the shy connector.
How do you feel about promoting yourself for job and career?
If you want coaching support to help overcome any of the barriers above, get in touch for a friendly chat to see how we get on and how I can help you overcome what holds you back.