Before Susan Cain published her best-selling book, Quiet, in 2012 and made a persuasive case for introverts, the world generally had an inclination with extroversion. People habitually associated an outgoing nature with success and various other positive traits while introverts were seen to be less driven and confined to the background.
And Susan has a name for this. She calls it the Extrovert Ideal – the belief that “the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”
The Ideal is still pretty prevalent in the employment landscape, where many employers feel that extroverts typically give a better first impression during interviews because they’re more comfortable with promoting themselves. Introverts, by contrast, are often seen as uninterested or unmotivated – even when they’re genuinely excited about the job.
But self-promotion doesn’t have to be painful. There are many ways for introverts to promote themselves without coming across as bragging.
Realise your own strengths
The first step to being assertive is to recognise that you’ve skills and strengths worth talking about. Start by looking at the different day-to-day activities that you engage in, and relate them to the skills employers look for in potential candidates.
Have you written essays and given presentations in school? Those are written and verbal communication skills. Did you play football or hockey in your spare time? That shows teamwork. Extra points if you’re team captain, because that shows your organising, leading, and motivational skills.
Say you're good without actually saying it
If you really aren’t comfortable making statements like “I am good at managing my time”, try giving examples instead, such as: “There’ve been times when I have had to manage my time carefully to get things done. In my second year, I volunteered two mornings a week at the local SPCA, but I also had to hand in two essays a week, all while working at a supermarket eight hours a week. It was tough, but I made it through, although I did swap shifts with colleagues on a couple of occasions.”
See what just happened there? You aren’t explicitly saying you are good at time management, but it’s clear that you are.
Even successfully juggling coursework, activities in a society, a part-time job and spending time with family and friends can be translated into time management and an ability to prioritise – employable skills.
Also, don’t forget about other qualifications or courses you may have attended outside of school! Mine those for examples of marketable strengths.
Use your portfolio
Alternatively, you can make use of visual aids to help you promote yourself. Consider keeping a portfolio of work samples, photos, graphs or charts, news articles, recommendation and appreciation letters, and any other relevant documents which you can display when asked about your accomplishments. Get the interviewer’s permission to show an example of your work, and you can base your answers on the things you have in your portfolio.
Having a portfolio not only makes things easier for you because there is visual proof of your accomplishments, it can also act as a prompt to jostle your memory. More importantly, it takes the limelight away from you and give you some breathing space every now and then.
However, be selective about what you want to include in your portfolio. It may be tempting to include every single certificate or work sample, but remember that a portfolio should complement your answers, not substitute them.
Switch your thinking
If you’re worried about over-selling yourself or coming across as arrogant – do not be. What you are doing in your interview is not boasting; you are simply providing recruiters with evidence that you are the right person for the job!
Recruiters need to be told about your skills or they’ll probably hire someone else who has done a better job of showing them. So approach an interview knowing that you will help them make the best hiring decision when you are able to clearly showcase your skills and relevance for the position on offer.
Make use of testimonies
Another good method to promote yourself without coming across as boastful is by making references to the testimonials of others, such as performance evaluations from your supervisors, lecturers, or managers. You can also obtain testimonials from clients, co-workers, and suppliers you’ve worked with.
For instance, when asked about a skill or achievement, you can answer with: “My supervisor has commended me on my ability to troubleshoot problems calmly whenever emergencies arise. He has made specific mentions about how I had contributed to the company during my performance evaluation.”
Aside from sounding less boastful, it also sounds more credible. To add to this, do your best to bring in testimonials from the referees listed in your resume. This way, employers will be able to verify your claims, which will improve your credibility even more.