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How do I job hunt when I’m socially awkward?

Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk

Dear Mentors,

I’m somewhat socially awkward—in fact, I’d go so far as to call myself an introvert. How am I going to be able to look for a new job?

I can’t bear the thought of having to network, or go in front of an interview panel to talk about myself. Actually, I’m not sure I’d ever make it through a phone interview to a panel! Am I destined to stay at my current job forever?

Yours, Shy + Retiring

Dear Shy + Retiring,

I know you are asking about tactics, but I’d like to address a shift in perspective. In my experience, it’s important to remember that people love to talk about themselves, and you can still make a great impression without being flashy or being the life of a party. I was also painfully anxious when I entered a room and didn’t know anyone, and was the same way at job interviews, until I started acting like a journalist.

Having studied journalism, I’ve learned that you just need to take a deep breath, put your anxieties aside and remember to come into any situation prepared to ask thoughtful questions. Rather than dazzle people with stories, remember to be a good listener and observe the room. Keep up with the news and do your homework on the people you meet, (or even learn a few jokes, like my husband does!) that way the next time you come into a situation that makes you nervous, you’ll be able to make small talk and ask good questions.


Clarisa Ramirez

Dear Shy + Retiring,

Try seeking out someone with whom you can go to networking events so that you know someone in the room and don’t have to put yourself out there. You might also look for a coach who can work with you to find an approach that works for you, in particular getting your messaging right, including an elevator pitch.


Jane Baxter Lynn

Dear Shy + Retiring,

There is nothing wrong with being an introvert or with being uncomfortable in social settings. Many great employees share these traits. But, in order to progress in your career, you must be able to talk to others about your goals, strengths and skills.

Start by writing a list of what you want potential employers to know about you. Now, practice talking about what you have listed — the bathroom mirror is a good audience!

Keep practicing. You don’t have to brag or embellish. Simply stick to the facts. After practicing in front of the mirror, ask a trusted friend or mentor to help you role play an interview conversation. I promise, it will get easier!

Finally, consider every interview and interaction a learning opportunity. Don’t beat yourself up if you stumble, instead congratulate yourself for taking steps on your own behalf.

Good luck!

Sandra Kleinsasser

Dear Shy + Retiring,

You must understand that you are not the only person in the world who is an introvert. There are many of you out there and you are valuable.

How are you going to look for a new job? How did you find the one you have or had? If you haven’t been doing it already, it’s time to start building your relationships. Are you using LinkedIn? Establish connections with current and former co-workers, people you went to school with, people you meet that are interesting. Most jobs are acquired through contacts, not applying for jobs blindly.

If there are groups that are interesting to you, by all means attend them. I guarantee that there are plenty of other introverts, usually standing around the fringes. Introduce yourself and prepare yourself with questions to ask the other person. You do not push your business card to everyone – you are building relationships and it is not done overnight.

If you find a job that is interesting, use your connections to find someone who works at that organization. Often they can help cut through the large number of applications.

When you get to the interview process, practice and do your homework. Practice answering questions with your friendlies that can help you prepare. Do your homework about the place you are applying to. Be prepared to ask questions of the interviewers. Remember that interviews work both ways. You want to determine if you want to work somewhere, not just take any position.

When you are interviewing with a panel, just take deep breaths, and take your time answering questions, especially if they are tricky or involved. Buy a little extra time by rephrasing the question to make sure you understand it.

Lastly, you are just talking to other human beings. What is the worst thing that can happen? They can’t kill you or eat you. And the more you prepare, the less frightening it should get.

Pull up your big girl pants, and get started.


Barbara Springer

Women Communicators of Austin
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