Career Exploration

Wanted: Job Options For The Shy, (But Not Yet) Retiring Type

I just got finished reading this week’s Time magazine cover story which, contrary to the front headline–The Power of (Shyness)–actually explores the oft-misunderstood introvert in our culture. (And, there is a difference: Shyness is an anxiety disorder stemming from fear of judgement and social exposure. Introversion, by contrast, is a normal personality type encompassing as much as 30 percent of the population. Introverts, compared to their extroverted, more socially-engaged peers, tend to draw energy from being alone, and from focusing intently on ideas and independent activities.)

The article particularly caught my attention since I’ve long recognized I’m an introvert. Hence, I was very interested in how the author highlighted the advantages of introversion—even how, in business and other circles, introverts might wield advantages over more gregarious types.

Of course, for a job seeker (and introvert) like me, such concerns become more than “academic.” I’ve already noted my strong aptitude for applying skills that tend toward the “introverted” end of the career scale. I’m a “data and things” guy, who relishes opportunities to focus closely on detail, weigh lots of information and work independently on projects. So it’s nice to be validated—even indirectly—and hear that my work style might prevail under the right circumstance (such as when risks must be carefully weighed or when the quality of the final result carries a premium).

I was particularly gratified to learn how introverts’ ability to focus and concentrate over sustained periods of time may foster their attaining “transcendent skill” levels. I’m very drawn to accounts of creative or innovative types who through extraordinary effort and vision transcend the typical bounds of their field. Accomplished introverts such as J.K. Rowling, Woody Allen, and Stephen Spielberg demonstrate that when introspective types dedicate themselves to creatively pursuing ideas, their devotion can pay off spectacularly. (And introverts such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have attained stellar heights in areas quite distinct from purely “creative” fields.)

It’s probably little surprise then that, along with writing and photography, I’ve considered other “quiet” and “cerebrally engaged” fields: paralegal/legal assistance, information science (i.e. librarianship), geographic information systems and, even, website design. In fact, keying searches into Google combining “introvert” with other descriptive terms produces not only lists of possible careers (e.g. 200 Best Jobs for Introverts by Dr. Laurence Shatkin, et al), but myriad related discussions. Introversion, it seems, might be the topic du jour.

Which reminds me: I’d rather not become bogged down in endlessly researching and weighing my job options (though, to an introvert, that does sound appealing!). However, after some time outside of the job market, I could certainly benefit from more up-to-date career intelligence. Therefore, if any of my kind readers/Facebook friends happens to have gotten wind of absolutely the best job title for me to consider, please do share: I’m a sucker for that kind of information.


Seeking: An “Ahah!” Moment To Match These Job Skills

I’ve committed myself this year to get a job.  As I said in my initial posting, I’m going to write “frankly-but-realistically” about my goal. I’ll discuss what kind of work I enjoy doing and what motivates me—while remaining as objective as I can about the job prospects I actually turn up. Ultimately, however, I’m intent on finding a more satisfying fit, professionally, for my personal set of skills, interests and work style(s).

Previously, I described my “top five skills”—those I both enjoy using and do well. These include: writing informatively and expressively; being good at visualizing and thinking in pictures (which comes out in my photography); and being very good at working with precision and accuracy.

My remaining “favorite skills” point up my strong preference for working with “data and information.” (Just give me the facts, ma’am could be my unofficial motto.) These include:

  • Laying out a step-by-step process for achieving a goal (e.g., discerning the sequence of events that comprises a process, and drafting a clear written procedure)
  • Researching information through various media, both electronic and in print
  • Having a superior memory and keeping track of details
  • Organizing information, identifying a central “theme” or trend within it, and synthesizing/combining it into a new “whole” (e.g., writing a report or “article” relating what I found)
  • Gathering information by studying or observing things

Throughout my professional life, I’ve held a series of jobs that allowed me to practice one or more of these skills. I’m sure they led, at least in part, to my extended “first career” in quality assurance and control (a field in which precision and accuracy reign supreme). And, I did get to write, albeit in the form of detailed test reports and standard operating procedures.

Just as my career in quality was winding down (due to a job elimination), I was excited to have two travel-themed articles published in the Los Angeles Times. Thanks in part to that early success, I landed a job working in corporate communications, which drew on my writing, researching and photography skills. But I grew discouraged under the role’s very demanding pace, volume of work demanded, and by my boss’s increasing dissatisfaction with my performance—except for my photography work. Those imaging skills have since brought me sporadic work as a wedding, portrait and special event photographer. But, while I have enjoyed opportunities to ply my talents none has blossomed into a lasting, reasonably well-paying career.

Now, more than ever, that’s an objective both my family and I need me to achieve. I continue regularly scanning the various job boards; and I constantly revise and tinker with my resume in hopes it will, like cream, rise to the top of some recruiter’s applicant pile. Throughout this process, I’ve tried to narrow my focus down to jobs requiring some combination of my technical background and/or communications ability. But, in a market awash in job-hunters, that’s a truly humbling numbers game—and very unreliable when my professional life and livelihood are at stake.

I’m still holding on to that dream of a more “creative” profession in which to apply my visual, writing and information-focused skills. But I need to see my target much clearer than that hazy description reveals. And, frankly, I need a Plan B that’s more than a numbers game.

My (New) Job Search Begins Now

As I said recently on Facebook, my New Year’s Resolution is to finally land a job. During my job search, I’ll be posting short updates regularly on Facebook. And, to provide a more complete account, I’ll also be blogging about my efforts and experiences. What I most hope is that you—my Facebook friends and readers of my blog—might weigh in occasionally: Offer a bit of advice; a word of encouragement; or a friendly caution if I’m veering off course.

As I relate my experiences, I intend to be as open and “transparent” about my abilities, motivations, and interests as it seems reasonable (without—as my wife occasionally describes my interview approach—being “a little too honest” in sharing). That seems like the best way to ensure the feedback I get is meaningful and “actionable.”  The best outcome I hope for is either: To have a wise soul offer a practical suggestion or insight that’s yet to occur to me; or to have someone confirm that the job options I’ve considered already—and which I’ll soon share—are as good as they’re gonna get. In either case, I’d get a clearer sense of definite path.

So, I’m out to find a job. That is a pretty wide-open topic that clearly needs narrowing down. You might ask, for instance, what are you “good at”? Or, what have you done previously—what “profession” have you held? And, what are you looking for now? Actually, clearly answering that last question is what I’m after first. So much of what I’ve learned from past jobs is what I DON’T want. On the other hand, I am realistic about this goal. I know there’s no “perfect” job out there; every occupation comes with “unpleasant” requirements. I’m confident, however, that being reasonably well matched to my work—both skill-wise and temperamentally—is the surest factor behind achieving success.

Thus, I’m looking for a match for my particular set of skills. My “top five” include:

  1. Writing expressively and informatively (an example of which can be found here)
  2. Visualizing, “thinking in pictures” (e.g. making photographs; or conceiving of an attractive way to mat and frame them )
  3. Precisely using my eyes and hands in coordination (e.g., drawing accurately from life or printed images; or writing in a calligraphy “hand”)
  4. Precisely working with my hands on a “micro-scale” (e.g. painting the fine details of scale models, and carefully assembling them)
  5. Precisely working with tools or instruments (e.g., measuring and cutting picture mats)

As you can see, I’m pretty attracted to precision, accuracy and craftsmanship. And while I enjoy (and excel at) working precisely in the “material world,” I’m also an attracted to visual and factual information—which I express by taking pictures and writing in a non-fiction vein.

I appreciate any ideas about what profession(s) that mix of skills might suggest. I’ll share what I’ve thought of in my next blog posting.