So many people dispensing advice – and I’m among them – suggest that job seekers develop their interpersonal skills, network more, talk with everybody they know; all in an attempt to increase the probability of increasing our likelihood of getting a job. But what about those people who are quiet by nature and also out of work or perhaps looking to change jobs?
Being a person who speaks softly, speaks seldom, or works for long periods without saying a great deal is not only okay, but in some workplaces highly desirable. Ever heard a boss say something like, “Hey Mack, I’m not paying you to talk all day; get to work!”? I imagine you’ve heard that line in movies from the past, and if not, I bet you know a boss who’d love to say this to someone at your workplace.
Quiet people generally focus on their jobs without having a personal need to chit-chat during the day. They have brains that like the rest of us work just fine, and they ponder many of the same thoughts, have the same aspirations and hopes, but in their observable behaviour they are essentially quieter than most others around them. Is that a bad thing? It’s no more a bad thing than it is a good thing really. It all depends on the job or career a person is either in or seeking in order for this question to be answered.
Picture in your own mind jobs that would be a poor or good fit for a quieter person. How about an announcer at a sporting event? A politician? A researcher? Maybe a horse breeder? Some jobs like a politician may on the surface be a poor choice for someone who tends to minimize their words. Ah, but then again, some party leaders are often trying to keep their own political party members quiet aren’t they? Especially when a few go around shooting off their mouths and embarrass the party leaders? So there are times when saying little is preferred.
My point is that quiet people are no different from loud people; outgoing, bold, friendly, ambitious, inquisitive or reserved people. Everybody is better suited to some jobs vs. others, and the key to being ultimately successful and happy is to find a job that is a good fit for one’s personality. So of course skills, experience and education have a lot to do with being qualified to perform work, but it’s a big mistake to overlook personal attributes, personality, disposition and demeanor.
What is unfortunate however is that some quiet or shy people will sometimes get quite mad at themselves because they often want a certain job quite badly, but lack the ability to stand up and compete for it because the actual process of applying and interviewing is intimidating and outside their comfort level. “Why can’t I just be a little more confident?” you might hear them ask themselves, but you likely won’t because those words are usually spoken internally, and may never leave their lips.
So why not then take some kind of public speaking class? Well for starters, this kind of suggestion comes out of a belief that being quiet or shy is somehow a defect; and it isn’t. Being quiet is just, well, quiet. Neither good nor inherently bad, just a personality trait on its own. Would it make any more sense to suggest someone who is a frequent talker go and take a class designed to get them to talk less? Not likely.
The beautiful thing about being human is our diversity. In workplaces we have people who share skills and qualifications, but every one of us is uniquely different as a person. Where we’ve come from, how we were raised, out past education, jobs, friends, environment, learning styles, personal interests – all different. And I believe we are richer as a whole for this diversity.
So it’s interesting to me how much we spend time trying to convert others to be more like ourselves and our image of how others should be, instead of accepting them for what they are. You’ve seen those shows where a woman says to a guy, “You’re perfect, don’t ever change.” But not long into a relationship, the small things that went unnoticed start to come out and she tries to change him by either telling him directly, or being more subtle about it. And it works the other way round too. You’re quiet? Okay. That’s fine. Really.
And there is a myth that quiet people are somehow more intelligent than others, and while it could be true in some situations, it often is no more true than any other belief. However, a quiet person who seldom adds to a discussion will often command immediate silence from others when they DO have something to contribute. This actually is a powerful ability and one frequent talkers admire; silencing an entire gathering simply by saying, “Can I say something?”
Quiet by nature? There are jobs better suited for you than others. Do your homework. What would make you happiest and be a good fit for your skills, education and disposition? Like any other job seeker, it is advisable to talk to people and let them know what you are after so you get leads and information. Do your research.
Job searching is really no different; find your good fit and GO FOR IT!