JOB SEARCH TIPS FOR THE INTROVERTED MD
Job search is a daunting task for nearly everyone. But for introverts, launching a reach-out-and-talk-about-yourself campaign is akin to torture. Lucky for the introverted MD, there are quite a few workarounds to make the process less onerous—and maybe even fun.
DEFINITION PLEASE: ARE YOU AN INTROVERT?
There’s been a lot written on this, so you may already know that the words “introvert” and “extrovert” aren’t references to whether you’re shy or outgoing. Nor are they determinants of your ability to communicate, to address large groups, or to talk about yourself. Rather, these terms refer to how you get your energy, and what your natural setpoint is for working and being with others. The simplest definition tells us that an extrovert feels energized by being with others while an introvert more
likely feels drained. Likewise, the extrovert may find crowds, group sessions, and the opportunity to meet new people to be exciting. The introvert? Not so much.
If you’d like to learn more about your own introvert/extrovert tendencies, you can start by taking an online assessment. Two that might interest you are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (available in a number of locations online, including Cpp.com) and the Psychological Type Indicator, available at Hrdpress.com. Each of these sites charges a fee, although you may be able to find other sites whose assessments are free.
Regardless of what an assessment may say, you probably already know if you’re energized or drained by being with others, and whether you enjoy processing your ideas out loud or prefer to think things through before speaking. When it comes to job search, the real question is this: How will you survive and thrive in a process that seems almost tailor-made for extroverts? Well, you’re in luck on at least one point.
The sciences—including medicine—draw a high number of people who are introverts. Which means that you won’t be the only introvert in the room when it comes time to network or interview in your field. Now the only question is what to actually say to the people you meet.
LET YOUR WRITTEN MATERIALS DO SOME OF YOUR TALKING
One of the best job search tips for introverts is to craft the CV, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter with care, so the words will come more easily in face-to-face encounters with an interviewer or colleague. As a bonus, this process solves some of the primary challenges of job search, such as succinctly conveying past work experiences and describing job-relevant strengths. To make best use of this strategy, start with your CV as your core document—nail this, and everything else you write for your job search will come easily. You’ll find a CV review service on the AAN Career Center website as well as several articles describing written materials for job search. In the meantime, here are two
tips to get you started on building an introvert-friendly CV. First, lean away from a just-the-facts recitation of your training and work experience. While this approach will result in an adequate
document, it doesn’t help the introverted candidate bridge the communication gap. A better format would be a CV where each of the work and training experiences contains at least one or two sentences describing the work setting and the specific role you played in the position.
The second tip for the introvert’s CV is to present two additional categories—one at the beginning and one at the end of your document. The first new category is a Profile, comprised of three or four sentences will introduce you to the reader. Commonly, those sentences would note your current status, a synopsis of training or work experiences and something to indicate future goals. For example, “Neurology fellow with two years’ intensive experience with MS and Parkinson’s trials. Background also includes volunteer experience for Haitian medical relief and earlier training in pediatrics. Seeking roles utilizing dual skill set in research and patient care.”
The new category at the end of your CV is less formal but no less important: Personal Interests. You may have heard that this is a superfluous section but it’s important to remember that people hire people they like. And, since it’s difficult to like someone you know nothing about, the candidates who can bond with the interviewer tend to do better overall. For the introvert, it’s much easier to respond to a question prompted by the CV (“Oh, I see you like movies; what’s the last film you saw?”) than to randomly burst out with this kind of small talk.
WHAT ABOUT NETWORKING?
While crafting strong job search materials will help you lock down the phrasing for information you need to convey in job search, it won’t get you out of those in-person conversations many introverts dread. Here are some tips to help you with the networking portion of your job search.
- Ask your mentor or others for introductions to people you want to meet.
- Use email to introduce yourself to networking contacts before scheduling a call or meeting.
- When attending group sessions, choose smaller meetings, particularly at conferences where you won’t know very many people.
- Practice ice-breakers so you can feel more comfortable initiating conversations. Even a simple “This is my first time at this conference; how about you?” will start the ball rolling.
- Focus more on the other person than on yourself. The more you ask someone else, the more you learn about them and the more comfortable you’ll feel. As long as you capture the other person’s email, you’ll be able to follow up to provide specifics about yourself or to request assistance, so there’s no need to feel pressured to “perform” on the spot.
Surprisingly, interviews can be fairly easy for introverts. Someone asks you a question, you provide an answer, and so on. Unfortunately, those straightforward sessions are often scheduled one after the other in a long day, punctuated with a lunch meeting or tour of the town—a difficult process if you tend
to feel drained by being with people. These tips will help you
survive such intense situations.
- Review the schedule in advance for breaks between conversations. If you don’t see them, email the coordinator to ask for 10-minute breathers throughout the day. If possible, fly or drive in early, to get your bearings and feel more rested. Being tired tends to exacerbate anxiety and self-doubt for candidates.
- Read the position description closely, then dig into your own strengths and experience to prepare examples illustrating your ability to perform key tasks. Practice telling those stories until they’re short and descriptive. You’ll find that a few good stories will cover a lot of territory in an interview. Since feeling knowledgeable and prepared tends to relieve anxiety for candidates, research the organization and your interviewers’ backgrounds as deeply as you can. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to place your answers in a context. For example, “Yes, I do enjoy research, which is part of what draws me to this position. I was glad to see the number of NHS grants your team has been able to land, and the variety of studies you’ve launched. That fits well with the research experience you see on my CV.”
SETTING THE STAGE FOR FUTURE SUCCESS
Once you have your job, you’ll quickly find your comfort level in terms of colleague interactions, meetings you need to attend, and so on. That’s good, but also dangerous. Of course, you want to be comfortable—but you also want to grow past your comfort zone. For introverts, that means leading work groups, attending professional association meetings, and maybe even over-compensating for an inward-focused nature by giving presentations or joining a Toastmasters group. When it comes time to move ahead into a new role, start your search by looking at positions that fit your work style well. Then, push the envelope a bit by looking at roles that call for a little extra. Somewhere in the middle lies your next best position, as you constantly learn new ways to contribute your skills in a world that tilts ever so slightly in favor of extroverts.