Eventually, You HAVE To Talk To People

Typically you’ll find I go out of my way to help people cut their anxieties when it comes to the job search process. The title of today’s blog however, has likely raised the stress meter for a few people who struggle with holding conversations.

Yes, there are a lot of people who have difficulty interacting with others; which ramps up even higher than normal when the conversation is expected to be a lengthy one and about them personally. “I don’t like talking about myself”, is a common opening statement I hear often with people who find the interviews and conversations associated with looking for work to be so intimidating.

Now some are great at texting and email. Here at a keyboard, they are more at ease communicating. If they had their way, they’d apply for jobs and be hired based on the qualifications and skills highlighted in their resumes without having to go through the in-person interview.  While some of these types are looking for jobs where they have extremely little interaction with other employees and the public, there are others who will do well once they get hired, become familiar with their new settings and co-workers, and only then do they communicate easier.

Can you feel empathy for such people? I mean, it’s hard to fully grasp what it must be like to have such an acute anxiety about talking to others. Most people I know find job interviews stressful, but job interviews aren’t something we go through every single day of our lives. Face-to-face conversations on the other hand, well, most of us have these many time a day, each and every day. Constantly being in a state of anxiety and heightened stress has to be taxing on both the mind and the body.

Every now and then I’ll hear from someone who was so debilitated on a given day with the fear of being in a conversation that they skipped their job interview altogether. Even though they both want a job and need the income, the barrier of talking to someone they don’t know for 45 minutes to an hour where they are expected to do a lot of the talking just became greater than the desired outcome; a job offer.

It’s not unheard of for some of these people to become physically ill and throw up before job interviews. Their stomachs are churn, their skin becomes tingly and they sweat heavily. The palms get clammy and simple things like eye contact and saying, “Hello” become major challenges.

There is no quick fix I could pass on here in a blog. However, there are some ideas and strategies that tend to help which I can recommend. For starters it can help to look at a job and deconstruct the interaction you’ll have with others. For example, you might balk at the idea of being a Cashier. All those people lining up to interact with you all day long! However, when you break things down, much of your conversation with any one of them will likely be a brief greeting, asking if they want a bag for their purchases, and telling them the total due. Many customers aren’t going to expect or really want much more than that. So while you might be meeting people all day, you’ll only have short, scripted conversations with any one of them.

Looking at a factory job or on an assembly line, your interactions are likely to be restricted to those on your immediate team and perhaps the Security Guard who lets you in and says goodbye to you on your way out. Focus on your work and you might find you fit in rather well, even though there are people around you who are busy doing their jobs.

It can also help sometimes to clue others in to your anxiety. Telling an interviewer that you’ve come to realize that your best work is done independently, and that you like to keep to yourself doesn’t mean you’ll always get shown the door. There are many jobs where the most desirable employee is one who can focus on their work and go for extended periods without the distraction of conversing with others.

Thinking of the above, it raises the important point of making sure you’re going for the right kind of fit when looking for work. This isn’t true just for those with conversation anxieties, but for everybody. In this case, you may do well in a job where you control your surroundings. Take the Potter working with clay in a workshop, a farmer working in a vast field, a Conservationist working in a forest, a Fish and Wildlife Biologist working in a wetlands.

Just walk down any street these days and you see people with ear buds listening to music or podcasts who in so doing, shut out others around them and send the message that they don’t wish to be disturbed. Technology might be tolerated or even encouraged in some jobs if it helps you do your work better.

Of course, sooner of later you do have to talk to people; we all do. One thing to try is short conversations in small doses, where over time you increase your confidence and reduce your fears. Little things like saying, ”hello” to people you pass on the street instead of silently walking by. It might not sound like much, but it’s a small step.

Shy And Introverted? Not A People Person?

I meet with and listen to many unemployed people daily. Eventually they get around to sharing the jobs they are looking for, or the career which will require going back to school. It is noteworthy that many of those people who say they would be interested in working as a Librarian present as quiet, introverted or shy. Those who don’t enjoy being around people often say working with animals is their first choice.

These statements suggest to me that some broad generalizations are being made about the personalities and skills they associate with these two professions. It’s as if they are saying Librarians are introverted, shy and go about their business with little social interaction. Likewise the Veterinarian or Veterinarian Assistant prefers to deal with animals than people.

Now both these two professions actually required a significant amount of interaction with the public; readers or animal owners. Today, I’m looking at why the shy and introverted gravitate to these two professions, I’m not talking of the professions themselves. I hope if you comment at the end, your comments are more about choices rather than defending the two careers.

I think the answer to the question regarding why shy and introverted people often name these two careers is similar to what most of us experienced when we were young children. When at play with others, we may have been a Doctor, a mommy or a daddy. Sometimes we’d pretend to be a Fireman or a Teacher. The reason we played these roles had more to do with our limited exposure to other professions in our short lives than career aspirations we had. We couldn’t play at being an Engineer because we hadn’t met any, or if we had, we wouldn’t have observed what they did. Mommy and daddy, Doctors etc. we were exposed to, and we could ‘play’ at being these people with some accuracy.

As we grew, we came into contact with people who held jobs that were new to us, and we’d say, “You’re a Crossing Guard?”, and we’d observe what they did.  With every interaction, an observation or a series of questions, we learned. The more people we met or meet, the more we learned or learn and by association, the more possibilities we considered or consider for ourselves.

In 2015 we’ve got more jobs and careers to choose from than any other time in history. There are new job titles springing up all the time. It stands to reason that with all these occupations from which to choose, some are going to be excellent fits for some personality types and others not suited as well. To categorize any one job as exclusively reserved for the introvert or the extrovert, the outgoing or the shy would be a mistake. However, there are occupations and specific companies that attract people with similar personality traits and interests. Creative and innovative musicians may be drawn to jazz music or to employers like Google. Driving a long haul rig might be a job we find people doing who enjoy both the open road and solitude.

Those who are shy and/or introverted, may have a limited knowledge of possible careers or jobs other than Librarians and ‘jobs working with animals’, where their own traits would be a good fit. Perhaps their under-developed interpersonal skills or lack of self-confidence makes conducting research into other occupations highly stressful; because it would involve interacting with people to get that very information. So not knowing how to learn of other jobs that might be good fits, and not being willing or able to approach others for help to figure things out, they revert to what they know – the two careers they learned about when they were kids that seem like good fits.

Of course both jobs; Librarian and Veterinarian are about so much more than filing books and caring for animals. There is a lot of people contact; volunteering your assistance to find materials, explaining illnesses and treatment options. Both require some pretty intense schooling and education too, which is where many fail to move forward.

Being shy and/or introverted isn’t a bad thing by the way, although like the word, ‘stress’, the three tend to be thought of as undesirable and negative. Shy, introverted people hold down meaningful important jobs all over the world and those jobs exist beyond animal care and the libraries.

If you are one of the many, many people who see yourself as shy or introverted, I imagine it would be helpful to know what your options are. You could search online using, ‘jobs for shy introverted people’. You could also check out College websites and read about careers, talk with the people you do trust to go with you to an Employment office for help. It’s entirely okay to say to a Career Counsellor, “I’m shy, coming here is really hard for me, and I’d like to speak to someone who could help me look at career options.”

Shy folks or those who don’t have great people skills have many awesome qualities and strengths; there are good jobs out there which would be ideal fits for someone just like you! Oh and by the way, not knowing what you should ‘be’ or do is a common dilemma; a lot of outgoing confident people are trying to figure out their careers too.

Risk a little discomfort and you could learn of a job that really appeals.

Things Affecting Interview Answers

Sometimes I’m asked by people for a specific answer they could give to a particular question that they anticipate having in an upcoming interview. While I can quite well give an answer to many of those questions, I know it is impossible to give all people an answer that is infallible in all interview situations.

The reason has to do with a number of factors that the interviewee needs to size up preceding the question. It might be useful to look at some of these factors which should influence a person in shaping their replies to questions.

The first factor is a person’s verbal skills. While some people are talkative and effectively communicate their thoughts with words easily, others are less able to do so. Their answers are generally straight forward and short. Vocabulary is closely related to this factor; some have a large vocabulary, know industry buzz words and technical terminology while some do not.

Of course the atmosphere being created by the interviewer often sets the tone for the kind of answer you can safely assume will be received by them favourably. This ability to read the interviewer based on your observations is critically important. If they are jovial, laid back, casually dressed, you might correctly assume some occasional tasteful humour, a smile and a laugh will be okay. A sombre, non-nonsense or even gruff interviewer might be better approached with caution and conservative answers.

Some interviewers read questions to applicants, thus ensuring each applicant gets the exact same question and there are few other words added. They ask, you answer, thanks for coming. This kind of interview restricts the applicant from picking up on information shared from the conversation because the interviewer is adding little to nothing in the process. While they may be friendly and smiling, your answer can’t appeal to anything you are picking up from their words as they are few and far between outside the formal questions.

Of course the number of people representing the employer affects how one answers a question too. A panel interview where you are facing several interviewers can result in an applicant connecting with one or more interviewers over others. Therefore your answers in this case might vary in tone and your words depending on the person you are addressing in answering the question posed. You might answer the Human Resources person differently than the person who will ultimately be your supervisor.

One of the most significant factors to consider affecting your answer to a question has to do with how you perceive things are going in an interview up to the current point in time when you get asked a particular question. If things are pleasant, your confidence high, you might answer a question differently than if you’re feeling the interview is going poorly and the job slipping away with every answer you give.

I hope you will agree that these factors influence how and what you might say in an interview. It’s not enough to have a pre-determined answer ready to a certain question and then just regurgitate it when the time comes. If this is all interviewers were looking for, they’d mail you the questions and read your answers.

Good interviewers and good job applicants read each other internally and constantly checking throughout the interview to confirm or change their opinion of each other. So what started off tense might soon change to a more comfortable experience, and therefore how you deliver an answer will vary depending upon the point during the interview when the question is asked. The opposite is true as well; you might have sensed things were laid back at the start only to find the interviewer has changed the tone of the interview to being more serious, more matter-of-fact.

Therefore it becomes impossible for one person to coach all people to answer all questions the same way and expect the same positive outcome. What one says and how one delivers it will vary from person to person and from situation to situation.

One thing you should reasonably be expected to receive if you are ever working with someone coaching you in advance of an interview, is some personal time. So, if you were working with me for example, I’d be most able to help you if I got to know you first. Knowing your vocabulary, confidence level, experience, assertiveness, communication and people skills are just some of the things that would go into my assessment of your ability to answer questions in the way which will work best for you.

Now if you take a group experience – say you attend a workshop on preparing for interviews, you’ll likely get standard good advice. Things to do before, during and after an interview which are common sense. You might or might not even get a chance to pose some of your own tough questions you’ve been asked. Giving you a personal answer that will work for you is hard though because of all the factors I’ve mentioned earlier. At some point you will need to assess things on the go in the interview and determine for yourself at that moment on how to best proceed.

Some interview better than others as we know. Like anything else, interviewing is a skill and it can be learned if you have the interest and see the value.

All the best out there.



Afraid Of Job Interviews? Please Share

A common fear is the dreaded job interview. While there’s a lot of help out there on how to overcome this fear, fear still paralyzes some people from even applying for better jobs than they have. As you’ve found this post, maybe I can help you put this fear in its place a little, and increase your self-confidence in the process. Reading certainly won’t hurt.

Whether you are shy, introverted, nervous, unsure of yourself or any combination of these, you’re still deserving of a job that brings you satisfaction from the work you perform. Whether it’s a desire for a happier workplace, more income and benefits, a new challenge or just a desire for a fresh start, I suspect something has you wanting more.

Here’s a question for you: If you could send a company your resume, have them call your references, and then offer you a job bypassing the interview, would you be applying for jobs in the next day or two? If the answer is yes, than it’s important for you to realize that it is primarily or only your fear of the job interview that’s holding you back. By overcoming this fear, you’re on your way to the job you want.

First of all, it’s okay to be anxious even thinking about it. Take a few deep breaths. You’ll overcome your extreme anxiety in time, not immediately so give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Let’s look at getting a new job this way. You see an ad for a job so the employer has a need for someone. You want to explore the possibility of working there, so you start by finding out what you can about the company and the job. There’s a job description on their website maybe, and information about the organization. Good start.

If you look at the job posting, you’ll likely see the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for in the person they would like to hire. Do you have most or all of those skills and qualifications? If you do, feel good about that. Recognize right away that you’ve got what they say they want, because that’s important for your self-confidence as you think about speaking with them.

Here’s a very important thing to realize. Questions interviewers are likely to ask you are going to be centered on those very same skills and qualifications. So if you are going for a job as an Accountant, you’ll likely be asked questions related to your experience using specific accounting software the company uses. Going for a job as a Receptionist, you’d get questions asking about your experience providing good customer service and greeting people on the phone or in person.

One good thing to do is to think about your current and past jobs, and come up with a specific time when you provided great customer service or in the case of the Accountant, perhaps your track record of being audited at year-end and passing with flying colours. In other words, you can anticipate and make good guesses about the questions you’ll likely be asked, long before you sit down with someone from the company at an interview.

Let’s say the interviewer asks you to share a weakness. Have you considered saying that while you are a really good Accountant or Receptionist, you find job interviews are very stressful? While you might be worried that you are showing them a flaw and your chances are zero now, most of the time, that’s not what happens. The interviewer wants to picture you as an employee. So if you don’t tell them this isn’t your usual self, they are left wondering exactly that.

Everyone has one or a few areas that they are not strong in. If job interviews is one of yours, this isn’t going to be an issue once you are hired now is it? No. You’ll have first day nervousness which is normal, you’ll want to fit in and stress a little about that too maybe, but it passes.

Although you get all stressed out about interviews, the very thing you need to do is the very thing you are probably dreading having me suggest; do some practice interviews. Do yourself a favour though and please don’t ask your spouse, family or friend to help you. They may want to help, but they aren’t trained to do this. Get the help of an Employment Counsellor, Career Coach or Job Coach. You can start by calling an employment help centre in your community.

This column isn’t going to transform you or eliminate your fear of the job interview. It is a start though. The biggest hurdle you must overcome to doing well in a future job interview is wanting to improve and making the decision to do something about it. Without doing something, your anxiety will remain, results will likely be the same and your fears will be confirmed. Sadly, then you’ll believe as you do now, that you can’t change – but you can!

A job interview is really just a conversation. Employers are under pressure too. They need someone with your skills and qualifications. You can do that job. What you really want help with is marketing yourself, feeling good about your potential answers to their questions and seeing value in what you’ve accomplished. This is what professionals can help you believe.

You can do this.





My Superpower? Seeing Inside People

If you asked me what one of my strengths is, perhaps I’d choose to tell you that I see things in other people that they themselves either don’t see at all, or they are surprised because so few people see it. Many others have this skill and ability, and it’s probably why we gravitate to the helping professions; jobs and careers where much of our time is spent helping other people.

If you think I’m boasting, I’m not. What I’m doing is stating an ability that I have, which is one of my strengths. If put to the test or asked for an example, I could do it in a relatively short period of time, even when meeting someone just once and within a few moments. It’s my superpower. You yourself undoubtedly have skills and abilities that have become well-developed in your job over time, so it stands to reason that I’ve developed job-specific skills too, and this is just one of them.

I’ll give you two examples that just happened yesterday. In one situation I was speaking with a group of seven people about a number of options they might want to pursue in order to become financially independent. It was when addressing the topic of self-employment that I looked right at one man and said, “You for example may have not only one idea, but three or four businesses in mind, and your problem is you can’t focus on one and so you’ve never got started. At that point I could have stuck an Italian sausage in his mouth as it opened in wonder that I’d identified his key stumbling block to even getting going. “Wow! How did you know that? It’s been my problem for years but nobody knows that!”

In the second case, a woman in the same group was sitting with her legs entwined like a pretzel, her shoulders hunched, way too much foundation on her 18-year-old face, and her wide eyes and downcast head screamed that she was shy, introverted and probably hiding acne and as a result feeling insecure. In talking with her 1:1 a short time later, I ventured that as a teenager myself, I had once had an acne problem which had affected my self-confidence but over time it disappeared and I gained the confidence to look in the mirror and like what I see. “You and I both know that there’s a beautiful face emerging and that acne is only temporary.” I said. She shifted in an instant to a talkative young woman who had great eye contact and she said, “Really? Do you really believe that? I mean some people say that but then I think they have to. Do you really believe that?” And I do.”

Now sometimes this ‘super power’ is one I keep to myself or reveal gently rather than with fanfare. There are times I’ll look at a person and tell them that I suspect they’ve been told over a number of years by someone who should have treated them the best that in fact they are worthless and will never amount to anything. And in those moments, sometimes tears start, heads drop, or heads raise and they’ll say, “Is it that obvious?” or, “How did you know that? My dad always told me I’m a loser.” They generally don’t believe me when I then go on to name several characteristics and personality traits they have that I admire and in which they might like to acknowledge.

Now on the sad side, I’ve sat listening to people tell me how successful they plan to be and drone on about their long-term employment goal or entrepreneur idea, and I’ve seen enough in a few moments to tell me that it is never going to happen. And I mean ever. While I’m not one to intentionally put an end to someone’s life-long dreams, there is often a gulf between what a person is really capable of and what they think they are capable of, even with support and advice. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing, and sometimes it’s best to tell it like I see it and then help to reconstruct a realistic plan in which someone can move forward.

And please don’t think I believe I’ve got all the answers. I’m not playing God here and telling people what they should be when they grow up or do to live their lives as I think they should. It’s only about helping them, and sometimes helping people means being honest and direct. Having an ability to anticipate how someone will likely react and delivering things they probably need to hear but don’t want to hear can actually be what they’ll thank you for later. It’s how the message is relayed more than the message itself at times; with compassion and sensitivity.

So if you are in the helping profession, do you have this super power too? I bet the more you deal with people, the better you have become at reading them; seeing the good and the potential when they can’t see it in themselves. I’m guessing you have provided a word or two of encouragement when they were so low they didn’t think anyone could like them, believe in them and see them as valuable.

Well done Superhero’s.

The Quiet Person Looking For Work

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!

Starting To Like Yourself

A long time ago you found yourself being picked last when the kids chose teams in the schoolyard. While was it that some girls were popular (who weren’t very nice at all) seemed to attract the cute boys, you wanted so much to be liked and couldn’t figure out why the boys couldn’t see it. And those insecurities that caused you to examine yourself at such an early age have stuck with you all these years right into adulthood.

And along the way, there were the good marks in school, but never quite good enough to get the praise from the people you needed it from most. If you did well in school, it seemed like they only were interested in asking you why you didn’t get out more, have more friends, date somebody. Then you graduated from high school and hoped that once you were free of the bullies and those that just intimidated the life out of you that things would be different. You’d meet new people, start fresh and make new friends, and no one would ever know you were a wallflower. But not much changed; you found yourself intimidated by co-workers, envied those that were confident and prettier than you.

If this is your story it’s a story you share with a whole bunch of other people too; more than you believe. Everyone is trying to find their way in this world, and some are having more luck at it than other people. But those popular people in school? Those that were voted most likely to live the life you all dreamed of? They haven’t had it easy either. Oh sure it looks that way from the outside, but they’ve got a lot of pressure to live up to lofty expectations.

But you; let’s talk about you. Don’t you deserve some confidence and some success? Of course you do. What is it you really want; I mean REALLY want? Most of the people I talk to like yourself, don’t want much more than a, ‘normal’ life. I mean they want a house, a job they do well at, they want to be liked by other people, take pride in the work they do and to be cared about and loved by someone and maybe have a successful marriage (or not) with someone they can spend their lives with. That nice guy that couldn’t even see them in school might be the guy they are hoping to find now as an adult. Someone to treat them with respect and love them like they know they could love in return.

So what does this have to do with work, jobs, keeping employment and finding rewarding work? Plenty. Employers generally like having workers on the payroll who are engaged with the work they do and can work productively with other people. Getting along with other people in the workplace means that you can communicate when you need to, share ideas or concerns, respect each other, and contribute as an individual to a group process so that the end result is better because so many people worked cooperatively.

In order to do all of this, a certain amount of confidence is needed. Please don’t mistake confidence for aggressiveness. Confidence is that feeling of self-worth, and it is expressed when you walk with your head up looking at people instead of down at the floor. Self-worth is the voice that speaks up at a meeting and says, “I have something to contribute”.

There are a lot of people who feel invisible to others of influence. All they are really hoping for is to be noticed and valued; in small ways not in the spotlight, but just appreciated and taken notice of. But it is a lifetime of being ignored or rejected that causes them to hang out next to the walls at gatherings, wait to be invited into groups instead of proactively introducing themselves to others and not applying for jobs they would do well at because they are scared to death of the people interaction that might be involved.

Everyone has desirable skills and attributes. What are your attributes and skills that you are proud of? Don’t say, “I haven’t got any.” That’s not true. However, you may have been told this by other people, even people you trusted and who should have been building you up in the past. If so, please realize they were wrong. If you are a kind person who’s shy and quiet, but very good at finding information, you might do well in a job where you perform research. If you love to read and escape into books where you walk freely around and engage in dialogue with the characters, fall in love and win battles you couldn’t bring yourself to do in the real world, maybe you’ve got a career as a proofreader, a publicist, an editor, working in a bookstore, a library, or for an online publishing house.

Don’t be afraid to voice out loud what you really want and to put on a piece of paper your good qualities. No one you now meet for the first time knows any of your past history. You CAN start fresh! It takes time, courage and the willingness to try.

“Why not me?” is what I’d suggest you ask yourself. “I deserve some happiness. I’m a good person.” And employers love to hire good people.

Anxiety Talking And Working With People

The job posting says you’ll be working independently and you need to be self-disciplined because you won’t have regular contact with others. Your lack of interest in or anxiety when working with other people may therefore may attract you to positions with these kinds of statements. However, at some point, you’ll be needing to sit down and chat with an interviewer.

And this is the problem in a nutshell for those people who don’t have good interpersonal skills and prefer to avoid social situations: they don’t have good people skills, and don’t feel comfortable in situations where they have to interact with other people, so they avoid specific training sessions where they could work on those skills. Therefore, the skills don’t get better, the anxiety grows, and when the interview is finally obtained, they are under significant stress and don’t perform well and act extremely nervous and uptight. And the cycle continues.

The answer as difficult as it is to hear is to put yourself in more situations where you do interact with others, but on your own terms to start. Instead of picturing an interview where you feel you can’t control the situation and as a result fare poorly, start with situations of your own making that are short in duration and with less to risk if things don’t go well.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you typically go grocery shopping and don’t talk to anyone until you get to the cashier. Even there, you may not say much and then you’re out of the store and on your way home. Think back to the store, and picture the person behind the meat counter for instance. When they eye you standing there, it’s likely they will offer their help. Instead of saying, “No thanks” and moving away, you could ask him or her how to cook a cut of meat, or how long should the shish-kabobs you’re buying be grilled and at what temperature. Even if you already know that information, it gets a conversation going. And you can scoot away at any point. The butcher is going to remain behind the counter anyhow. If this sounds incredibly stressful, remember you can always hold up in the next aisle and compose yourself.

In the above example, if you are worried ahead of time of having to run into the butcher every time you go back in the future, you could always try this kind of experiment in a grocery store you don’t often go to.

Some readers might be seriously wondering if there really are people out there who have difficulty interacting with other people in simple every day situations. Yes there are, and many of them. You can just imagine therefore how utterly terrifying the job interview process must be for these people who have skills and capabilities but find the job interview such an agonizing terror. And just because you might not find talking to people on a daily basis a stressful situation, you can’t expect others to just, “suck it up and get over it”; advice I often hear one person giving another.

A Psychologist or professional Counsellor might look at past events and identify root causes of such a condition and label it a phobia or a disorder of some kind. But with or without that label attached, the more one isolates themselves from people, the more challenging it becomes to initiate or respond favourably to interaction with others. In its extreme I’ve known agoraphobic people who live quite comfortably in their own residences but who cannot walk beyond their door without extreme anxiety and outright fear.

Recently I heard a fellow talking on the radio but unfortunately missed the introduction and didn’t get the full interview. He was making an observation about the current young generation who because so much of their time is spent on electronic devices, are losing interpersonal communication skills. His point was that at an early age, toddlers and pre-schoolers socialize freely. Then in school they get introduced at an early age to tablets, computers, cell phones, etc. He referenced groups of friends sitting at the same table but none of them talking to each other, but all of them texting to other people or the people at the table. Their communication skills are exceptionally good behind a screen, but poor face-to-face because they lack the practice older generations have typically had.

And it’s true most of the time that sooner or later, no matter how wonderful computers are, you have to get out and meet people if one of your goals is work. If you put off talking to everyone until you absolutely have to, then the stakes are incredibly high for that one interaction to go well: the job interview. If however, you take the approach that you will start with a series of brief conversations with people where less is on the line, you may find that you have some success, and can build on that success.

Unemployment is isolating. You could without intending to do it, cut yourself off from friends, and develop anxiety about being around other people, brought on by feelings of low self-esteem associated with your lack of work. Good advice is to stay connected, meet and speak with others, starting with those you trust most to be sympathetic and well-meaning.

And remember that all those people who seem to find socializing so effortless, have other issues; we all do.

Invisibility Can Be Isolating

Ever been away ill for a day or two, and upon your return one person remarks that it’s good to have you back, but those around you turn and say, “Oh were you away? I didn’t notice.” Worse yet, you’re gone for a couple of weeks vacation and you get the same comment upon your return? That’s not a good sign.

Or how about a situation where you put in a great deal of effort on a project which turns out to be a success, but when the boss is handing out his or her thanks to the team, everyone seems to get thanked except for you? Again, it’s a good indication that you’re being overlooked.

Now this is quite different from the person who comes in daily, performs their work well but doesn’t need the accolades and constant positive stroking that others do. In my own workplace I’ve got a fantastic colleague who performs her job consistently well, and she shuns the spotlight, but her contributions never go unnoticed and she gets thanked often, but with less fanfare than others. So this isn’t what I’m referring to in this post.

No, this is the kind of person who gets overlooked, thought of as an afterthought, often forgotten. Another example would be when you share a birthday with a co-worker and there’s an email that goes out encouraging everyone to wish them a happy birthday, but you are omitted. Then some time later a second email comes out apologizing for having forgotten you, and it’s like you’ve become an afterthought. How do you feel?

Well like any other situation, you’ll react differently depending on who you are and what your needs are. Some people really don’t want any attention or fuss at all. However, I’ve found those same people do get emotionally affected if they are passed over for promotions. And little things can sting such as being left out unintentionally when everyone else is carpooling to go to some training event.

And this is the real danger; even though you are surrounded by people all day, you can still feel incredibly isolated and alone. Some people want to fit in, be included in some circles, but they just never seem to connect. Oh others can be very polite to them, but they just never seem to be, ‘one of the boys’ at work, and they just feel on the outside of all the ‘in’ gatherings.

Okay so suppose this was you I’m describing. The first thing that you’d have to decide is whether you want to bring about a change. How important or desirable is it for you to become more noticed, acknowledged and remembered at work? If your decision is that it’s really not an issue, ask yourself is that just you retreating to your usual safety zone of invisibility or is it you really being entirely satisfied with the way things are? If you are entirely happy that way, that is perfectly well and don’t change a thing. However, if it’s a change you seek – however small or great, here’s some thoughts…..

First of all, any change has to start with you. Change doesn’t mean you have to go from invisible to the extreme other end of the scale and become the company spokesperson, employee of the year, or Miss Popularity. I’m guessing you don’t want that anyhow. So recognizing it starts with you, make it a point of starting a conversation with someone one on one; with someone you feel closest to. It need not be a major production, and could be just a conversation starter such as talking about a politician in the news, an upcoming big movie release, or a local sports team’s plight.

If you listen well, and I suspect you do, you can pick up what is of interest to other people. Engaging others in conversation is easier when you are discussing things they are interested in. And don’t do an entire research project on their interest area before you work up the nerve to engage in conversation! Sometimes it is sufficient just to say, “I don’t know much about (whatever the subject is), tell me a little about it.” The degree of success you obtain in your first attempts isn’t really that important, but the effort is.

All that chit-chatting and social interaction that goes on that you may wish you could engage in but feel awkward trying really does have a point. Those seemingly time-wasting conversations about past weekend activities, kids sports teams, medical issues or home renovations are really examples of relationship building activities. By building trust, and nurturing these relationships, people are always more at ease working together on projects, and seek out co-workers for inclusion rather than exclusion.

Yes of all the super powers to have, you don’t want to really be Invisibility Woman, or Captain Invisible.

I understand that the quieter person, who seeks the sidelines as their place of comfort is more than entitled to continue to lead that life if that’s the life they sincerely desire. Again I want to make that point crystal clear. There’s nothing wrong at all with that person or their choices if they thrive and are happiest there. But if you desire change, a little more recognition and inclusion, know that it really does have to start with you. And the only one who truly knows how difficult it can be is you. Why not start today to bring about the change you want to see?