Friday, 13 June 2014

Meet me: an Introvert.

Part of my job is to conduct mock employment interviews with our students.  In advance of these meetings, I ask the student to send me the job description of the job that they are preparing into interview for.  I also take the time to research the company where they will be interviewing as well.  Often I will come across real interview questions that the company has asked others in employments interviews. 

Recently, one such question really irked me.  To paraphrase it asked; “Are you inherently introverted or do you prefer to work in a group?”  Talk about a misleading question!  I am a proud introvert and I like to work in groups.  How should I respond to that?  My husband is also an introvert.  He was involved in several school clubs, and played competitive team sports as a child.  As an adult, he works in Sales Development and is constantly working around people.  

This leads me to the bigger issue; the misinterpretation of who/what is an introvert.
Society thinks that we are: shy, withdrawn, work best alone, can’t speak in public, and that we don’t like people.

In reality we are: quiet (sometimes), reflective, prefer to observe before speaking out, are comfortable being alone, and we enjoy people.

I have worked my entire career (since the age of 15) in customer service, client facing positions.  In fact the 18 months where I worked as a Human Resources Manager (and rarely left the office) were the worst for me.  I worked successfully in retail sales, direct sales, recruiting, outside sales, and now as a career expert.  Most people are shocked to learn that I am in fact an introvert.

Whereas an extrovert gets energy from being around a lot of people and who may feel anxious when alone, the introvert is the exact opposite.

After working with people all day, I need my “alone time” to unwind and relax.  When I don’t get it, I get cranky and irritable.  It’s not unheard of for me to cancel plans because I would rather spend that time alone than out with others.  This is not to say that as an introvert I don’t have many friends.  I do.  Typically the introvert has fewer “close” friends and many “acquaintances”.

Going back to the interview question; how should an introvert answer it?  I say honestly: “By definition I am an introvert.  I do however enjoy working in teams, and as you can see by my work history have done so very successfully.”

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