Networking for the Shy

If you’re a shy or introverted type of person, or you become that way in some situations, you probably feel in the minority in our extrovert-dominated culture. And you’re being advised to “network, network, network” in your job search, but your image of this is that you’re going to have to completely change your personality to do so.


Not so! Sure, it does help if you are sociable and initiate contact, but even extroverts get the butterflies. So what can you, the shy or introverted person, do?


First: Your mindset

Remember that networking DOES help you get around hurdles in your job search, so doing some outreach will only help you. Remember what it was like to learn how to drive, and how awkward it was at first? Yet you badly wanted the independence and status it would give you, so you went through the pain of learning and practicing, and got good at it. It’s the same with networking: a bit awkward at first but after a few tries, you’ll feel much more comfortable.


Some things to do

  1. Start small, building one success on top of another. Don’t start by thinking, “I’m going to walk right up to Jack Welch and introduce myself”, but instead, choose another lone person in the room and approach him/her. He/she will be grateful and will probably greet you warmly! Approach groups only if you are expected to or if you know someone in the group.
  2. Focus on the other person. Ask them questions and really listento the answers. If the other person isn’t working right now, what are some of their target companies? If they areworking, what do they like most about their job? How did they get to this point in their career? What’s new and exciting in their field? If it’s horrible weather out, take advantage of it and comment on that, as an icebreaker. If you’ve read something recently that they’d be interested in, mention it and follow up with them with a link to the article.
  3. Volunteer to work at the sign-in table at events. This way you’ll get to meet everyone as they come in, one-on-one.
  4. Join small groups or committees, whether they’re job search-related or not. You never know who you’ll get talking with and who might say “Get me a copy of your resume”.
  5. If you find that someone wants to meet another person in the room and you know them, introduce the two of them. They will be forever in your debt.
  6. Follow up and stay in touch. Catching up with a contact at your next professional organization meeting is an effective (and efficient) way of staying in touch.
  7. Publish an article or make a speech. Sometimes people feel all right about speaking if their notes are prepared, so if that’s the case for you, do it. Afterward, people will approach you to talk. Publishing articles will also generate speaking engagements.

So give those a try, and let me know how you do!

The Latest About ATSs (Applicant Tracking Systems) and Your Resume

Most ATSs (Applicant Tracking System) work by analyzing the HTML behind the content in your Word resume. (That’s one reason I strongly urge people to NOT use any kind of "resume template", but that’s another topic for another time.)

It used to be that any aberration in the code, such as a page break or image or table, would not only make the employer’s ATS system freak out, it would reject your resume altogether. And you’d never know.

Over time, however, ATSs no longer freak out. They still will not read those parts of the resume, but now they don’t dump the whole resume like they used to, in most cases. So it will ignore an image, like a bar chart, in your resume instead of ignoring the whole resume. (Tip: be sure to include narrative of that bar chart, telling us what’s in it, in American English.)

For those who obsess over keywords they "must" use in their resume, and obsess over having an ultimate ATS-friendly resume, I say "Good to try to be 'matchy-matchy' but instead, NETWORK with others at companies that interest you so you can be nominated by them to 'get inside'."

Over the years, THAT’S the approach I’ve seen work, Internet or no internet, ATSs or no ATSs. 

For much more from Joanne on Applicant Tracking Systems, see her videos on YouTube. And see her other career guidance in her newsletter here on this site, and in,, and LinkedIn 

Who made up these silly rules about resumes?

I talk to tons of people about their resumes. And something I often hear goes like this:

"I didn’t know I could put that on my resume!"


"I thought you weren’t supposed to put that on your resume."


"I heard that you should address only skills on your resume."


"Really? I can include that information about myself?"

In other words, it’s envisioned that there is some unknown, unnamed authority out there who dictates -- or is imagined to dictate -- "rules" about resumes. The result is resumes that are too "safe": they read like everyone else’s, use legalese or similar hard-to-digest language, ignore other parts of your life, and don’t present the real person. They are not alive with YOU.

It needs to be YOU on paper (or on the screen).

When I read someone’s resume, here’s what I look for, because this is what hiring managers look for:

1. Can I tell what they do and what their impact is? If I have to read down to the bottom of page 1 before I can answer this, the resume needs fixing.

2. Do I see evidence of success? Accomplishments, achievements? Or is it just a list of "Responsible fors"? Each story of success tells your story. Don’t hide these. It’s not bragging to talk/write about these because it helps the hiring manager learn about you and thus helps them do their job

3. Can I see some pattern of growth: taking on new levels of challenges and succeeding with them?

4. Does it read well? Or does it have typos, repeat the same phrasing, or use legalese like "including but not limited to", all of which bog down the energy of the resume and cause the reader to tune out? Does the language show knowledge of the field in the form of keywords and vocabulary?

So I believe that if you do skydiving, pop that into your Summary of Competencies after you’ve filled it with more serious stuff. (You won’t believe the response you’ll get to that one! I had a young engineer who put that avocation on his resume and that word alone generated phone calls to him.)

If you love to fix process problems, say so. If selling to a customer who refused to buy from your company before, and you relish that kind of win, say so. You don’t have to hide your enthusiasm: you are a real human being! And as a professional, you DO love aspects of your work. Talk about that.

If you are told you are firm yet fair, or are approachable by new team members, or if you are an avid reader, or have listened to 30 business podcasts a month for 2 years straight, or have taken up marathon runs at age 50, say so. These are skills, too. Yes, those are all phrases my clients have used, once we talked about how to avoid silly rules of sterility for colorless resumes.

It makes a difference. And if the company doesn’t like it, they won’t contact you -- which is a good thing because you’ll avoid going with a mismatch that way.

In short, throw off silly rules and show how good you are. All of you.


What silly rules have you heard about? Comment below to add to the discussion -- thanks!

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