Beating Shyness
   In The Business World

The business world is the one place where shy people can just as easily shake or shine.

Many shy people thrive in the business world because it provides us with a "role" to play that legitimizes the things we do. As long as we're acting "on behalf" of the company or in the best interests of someone else, we find the strength to do great things. But ask us to step outside that role---let's say, at the holiday office party, on the company softball team or in the boss' office to negotiate something for ourselves and it's over. We melt, if not dissolve, as our self-confidence crumbles. Then again, for some of us, there is no such thing as a safe place in the business world, because few if any social interactions are tolerable. For us, our only hope is to find a position that requires little or no interaction with other people---as a bookkeeper, a computer programmer or maybe a night janitor.

But the saddest part about shyness in the business world is not the discomfort it causes us, but the opportunities we miss as we sit back in staff meetings, training sessions and business negotiations silently watching as our colleagues speak up and reap their rewards while we're still formulating our thoughts.

Overcoming shyness in the business world is hard. It requires all of the skills necessary to overcome shyness in other areas of our life and more. Not only must we be able to carry on a conversation with others at a moment's notice, but we must be able to do it under pressure on a job interview, during a sales pitch or on a cold call. From networking to resume writing to public speaking, shyness stunts our growth because it keeps us from learning the things we need to know to do our jobs well---things that many of our colleagues learn by taking classes or simply by comparing notes with other people on the job.

The article "Are You Too Shy To Try? sums our struggle up nicely, reminding us that courage and confidence "evolve over time through learning and practice and . . . by making mistakes . . . Sales people, the group of people known for their charisma and confidence, spend more time and money developing these skills than any other group."

In an effort to give you a head start, I've listed some of the more common skills you're likely to need to thrive in the workplace along with links to sites that can help you learn more about these skills. I hope they can be of some help.

General Interest . . .

BEA Systems' Bashful Best Hope You may find this story about Alfred Chuang, chief executive of BEA Systems, inspirational independent of how well BEA Systems is doing. Once painfully shy, Mr. Chuang took standup comedy classes to help him deal more effectively with people

Social Anxiety Disorder at Work I wasn't sure where to put this article as it touches on nearly all of the topics listed below. While the article suggests that people who have been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder may find its tips helpful, the truth is that sooner or later nearly all of us need to learn the skills described here. It's just that when we're shy, we just assume that we're the only people who struggle to get do things. But more often than not, we'd be wrong. The biggest difference is that some of us let our fear stop us, where others persevere despite their discomfort. Now is your chance to persevere by breaking some of these tips into small managing parts that are doable for you and taking the risk for doing them. Okay, not all of this is in the article I've linked you to. But please keep it in mind while reading this and some of the other articles on this page.

Is Technology Making You Shy? Stanford researchers suggest that technology is contributing to a decline in our social skills. In her article Is Technology Making You Shy? Mary-Ellen Drummond offers ten simple tips to us to help us keep our social skills sharp.

Networking . . .

Academy.Com I included this article entitled Business Networking Strategies for the Shy by David Clarke for the broad picture it paints of the networking process, including myths about what networking is or isn't about, and my favorite piece of advise for fledgling networkers who are on the shyer side . . ."Take things slowly."

CIO.com    I've linked you to an article by Meridith Levinson called How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People, but be sure to check on the links to the left of the article on the first page, particularly the link to an article called Learning How to Network. Don't be put off by the suggestion that you take a short MBA class. It's really good advise for people who need to network in business settings. If you're too shy or can't afford the money or the time to take a course, consider an online program or do what I regularly do, subscribe to a business related journal.

Don't be shy: Networking tips for the timid    Nice article by Joan Lloyd providing a number of practical tips to ease the pain of networking. The truly shy among you may find some of these tips overwhelming. But if you do your homework first (check out the Tips page of this website), odds are that sooner or later you'll be up to the job, if you are not already.

Entrepreneur.com    Entrepreneur.com is a great resource for people wanting to beef up their business skills, in general. I've linked you to an article entitled "Networking," but the there are a lot more articles where this one came from (hint - just enter networking and shy in the search box the upper right hand corner). Don't be intimidated if you feel too shy to follow their recommendation to the letter. Just know, that you're not a lone. Most people would have difficulty doing everything they recommend from the get go. The reason I linked you to this particular article is that it encourages us to develop a five year plan. And while their plan may not be the right plan for you, it does acknowledge that networks (and networking skills) are things that don't just happen. We have to build them overtime.

Quintessential Careers - Networking Another great site with links to a wide range of articles on networking. As of this posting, most of the articles I scanned had useful information of one kind or another--particularly things you'll want to remind yourself of before leaving for networking events, so they're fresh in your mind. For returning Veteran's seeking employment, they even had links to resources for military personnel transitioning out of the service.

Networking for Introverts I really like this article because it was written by Meghan Wier, a fellow shy person, who like me, used to avoid social situations until she developed the skills to be more successful. If you're shy, please check this one out. It may take time, but if I did it and Meghan did it, the odds a pretty good that if you start slowly enough and stick with some of the things you can learn from links on this page, in time, you can do it too!

The Riley Report   Maintained by Margaret Dikel, a librarian by training and an internet consultant and career counselor by profession, this site offers a wealth of job related links to resources on the internet. I've linked you to the Networking Advice page, but be sure to check out links to everything from resumés, cover letters and salary guides to job listings and search tips.  

SmallBusiness2U   If you want to check out a host of different articles on networking, check out this site. I found the site after looking at an article entitled Tips for Shy People Who Want to Meet Clients at Networking Events whose message reminds us of the kinds of things we need to learn to do. But remember, it takes time and it's hard to even think about doing some of these things when you're shy. Observe others at first and then try out some of the things this and other articles suggest.  

Susan RoAnne Author and public speaker, it is probably safe to say Susan RoAnne has helped thousands of people improve their networking skills. This link takes you to the business networking page of her site, but look around some of the other pages as you may find some helpful information.

Presentations & Public Speaking . . .

Five Ways to Control Your Public-Speaking Anxiety A thoughtful piece written by Milton Wood, Ph.D. offering strategies for both thinking about and dealing with the fear of public speaking. The article is part the Public Speaking Anxiety/Phobia Group site which includes links to resources dealing with social anxiety, a message board addressing a variety of topics and a recommended readings section.

LJL Seminars   A professional speaker, Lenny Laskowski shares tips on a wide variety of topics ranging from chow to use flip charts effectively to how to analyze your audience and how to make transitions in your speech. While much of the material is fairly basic, that's a good thing because it reminds of simple things we tend to forget---things that can make or break a presentation.

Public Speaking Pro   If it takes a while for you to sort through the wealth of information on how to design your presentations, manage your fears, handle questions, and put together a Power Point presentation, that's as it should be. As George Torok (the site's author) says, "Public speaking is a skill not a talent," and last I heard, it takes time to learn skills. Consider reading through an article or two before you have to make a presentation, or even times when you expect to have a difficult conversation. Pick a skill or two, practice it over and over and over again, and then give it a shot. If you're really serious about become a better speaker, the tips on this site should keep you busy for years to come.

Speaking-Tips.com If you need to give a speech, this site has a number of articles on almost everything you'll want to consider when starting out; from writing your speech and and leraning how to tell stories to visual aides and voice control. It even provides tips for speaking at funerals after loosing a loved one. For obvious reasons, I've linked you to the page that deals with stage fright, but while you'e there, make sure to check out tips on how to prepare for and deliver your speech. After all, if you're so prepared that your speech goes well, you may be able to skills some of the fearful and anxious part or at least feel a whole lot better about what you're doing.

School for Champions This site will link to all sorts of resources about speaking. Don't be intimidated if some of the sites they link to look like they're directed at professional speakers. That just means the information they include is good and you may need to break it into bite size chunks that feel comfortable to you.

Toastmaster's International An incredible resource for anyone wanting to refine their skills and increase their comfort level speaking in front of others. Shy people may find the experience threatening at first, but for those of you who can stick it out, the pain is well worth the gain. You can find Toastmaster groups in all around the world, with several to choose from in most metropolitan cities in the United States. I encourage people to try more than one group before settling into to a "home" group. You may want to let people in the group know you're shy from the get go. Odds are you will be met with a chorus of "I am too!"

Career Search and Planning . . .

CIO.com This is a career tips page for CIO Magazine (for the uninitiated, CIO stands for Chief Information Officer) filled with links to great articles designed to help you navigate the job search process. While the site is geared toward upper level technical jobs, much of the content applies to job searches was a whole. What's more, you'll find tips on this site that aren't covered by most other sites; like how to figure out if managers are hiring, searching for jobs after 50, dealing with gaps in your work history, and how to use Twitter in a job search. IT or not, check it out. Be sure to scroll through the entire page to take advantage of the full range of resource links presented here.

Monster.com Probably the most popular career site on the internet, Monster.com is packed with practical information to help you with every stage of the job search process. From resume tips, salary information, networking strategies and job search capabilities, this site is a must see.

Occupational Outlook Handbook     A great resource for people to wanting to know more about what it means to work in a particular field, the Occupational Outlook Handbook describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed, earnings, and expected job prospects for a broad range of occupations. It is presented by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics and is revised every two years.

What Can I Do With A Major In . . .?    Want to know what you can do with your degree? Check out this site hosted by the Montana State University. It lists job titles associated with different fields of study, skills associated with those fields (something that can be helpful when thinking about your resume or job application) and links to a career planning, professional associations and job search resources associated with different degrees.

WannaLearn.com    A great resource in general, I've linked you to the "Business & Careers: Finding a Job" page of WannaLearn.com.

Resume Writing & Cover Letters. . .

A note about resumes - As shy people, we often undersell ourselves---leaving out valuable information about our skills, talents and abilities, thinking they are either unimportant or inadequate. As you read through the tips on the resume sites listed below, keep in mind that prospective employers are not mind readers and that if you don't tell them about your strengths, other people will tell them about theirs and you are the one who is likely to lose out.

careerbuilders.com This page contains articles on everything from tips on resumé writing (online and off) to strategies for writing cover letters and getting your resumé noticed.

CareerJounal.com    This site includes tips and examples of resume and cover letter writing. It explains different kinds of resumes (chronological, functional, electronic & curriculum vitae), as well as links to a number of other tips pages and useful articles on the topic.

Recruiters' Top 10 Resume Pet Peeves Want to know what not to do when you're writing your resume. Check out these ten tips.

Tips on Resume Writing As far as I can tell, this site is sponsored Montana State University (or at least it's linked to it) and has a number of wonder resume writing and job hunting links to choose from, including sites that explain scannable resumes and tips for ruing a resume.

Interview & Job Negotiation Skills . . .

Career City     A great site with tips to walk you through the interview process from getting your references together and preparing your resume to how to dress, manage your interviews and negotiate benefits.

Job Interview Resources from the Indiana University Career Development Center. This is an outstanding site filled with wonderful print and web resources to help you through the interview process. Be sure to click the links in the "Related Documents" box in the upper right corner of the page for PDF files with detailed tips for each topic area listed. A great place to start!

Staff & Executive Resources (go to "Candidate Services" and click "Interview Tips) A nice two page summary of things you'll want to remember when interviewing for a job. Be sure to click on the link to page two at the bottom of page one.

StaffingLinks.com    Another good site comprised largely of links to some of the better interview tip sites on the web. Check out the site map for links to a wide range of other career related information, including lists of professional associations organized by industry.

WorkTree.com This site includes a wealth of tips on everything from job interviews, resume writing and salary negotiation to how to write cover letters, conduct job searches and even resign from your job.

Assertiveness Training . . .

Iowa University Counseling Service    Along with a nice piece on "Fighting the Fair Way"" describing fair-fighting strategies for intimate relationships which generalize nicely to almost any relationship you can think of, this site provides a nice introduction to assertiveness training basics.

Mental Health Sanctuary   Another good site describing responsible ways to be assertive without being aggressive.

Department of Veteran Affairs   I don't know about you, but I found this an unlikely place to find information about assertiveness. However, the DESC model they present makes a lot of sense---D=describe, E=Express, S=Specify, C=Consequences. Check it out.

Santa Ana College & Santiago Canyon College    I like the Assertiveness page of this site serving "Students at Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College," because it provides sound practical advice in a condensed format, along with an added bonus "Career Planning Life Home Page" that provides useful information for people thinking through their next career move, as well.

Cold Calls . . .

5 Cold Calling Tips for Overcoming Shyness\ with your spouse, if you, like many shy people, don't have a spouse, practice with your personal voice mail. Obviously, you can't carry on a conversation with yourself on your voice mail, but there's something about having to think clearly when someone picks up the line that throws many of us off--something you can practice with your own voice mail.

Craig Harrison This is another short, practical tips page. This one is presented by Craig Harrison, who is a motivational speaker.

Inc Magazine In Magazine is an online business magazine packed with information from how to start a home business to finance and human resources. I've linked you to series of articles on cold calls. Be sure to search the site for more articles on "cold calls" and other topics that may be of interest to you.

Washington Business Journal In his article "Heat up cold calls with these fixes for phone faux pas," Jeffrey Gitomer walks us through some of the cold hard facts about cold calls.

Sales & Marketing . . .

BizMove.com   The article I've pointed you to "Selling Tips" is one of many business tips articles available on this site (for additional sales and marketing articles click here). As a "recovering" shy person, my initial reaction to some of the material in this article was to cringe. Largely, because it reminded me of manipulative sales people I've disliked in the past. At the same time, I recognize that many of these sales people appear, at least on the surface, to have been very successful.   At the very least, this article provides food for thought about where and how to manage your sales initiatives and opens your eyes to possible sales strategies that may be in use by your competitors. The appropriateness of these techniques will clearly depend on a combination of your personality and your business model.

EGOPOWER This site provides a wealth of tips well known to effective sales people. Many of you will find some of these tips offensive and down right manipulative, but if nothing else, it's important to know what the competition is doing. From presentation and motivation techniques to telephone and persuasion tips, we can all learn from the site. The key is to recognize those strategies that are consistent with who you are and what you believe in and forget the rest.

iVillage  Nice article with tips for marketing for shy people.

Meetings & Conferences . . .

Make the Most of Networking Technically this article is on networking, but the tips provided are particularly helpful for conferences and business meetings. Don't despair if the tips seem a little outside your current comfort zone. The advise is good and provides something to shoot for later.

Surviving a Business Conference While this article offers tips for shy conference goers, by far the most important message it delivers is that you're not alone if you feel shy and uncomfortable at conferences. Odds are a significant percentage of the attendees feel just like you do.

Business Planning Resources . . .

Entrepreneur.com Need help figuring out your business plan?& Are you lost when it comes to thinking about payroll taxes? Could you use a business mentor, but don't have much money or know where to find one? This page includes links to organizations like Score and the Small Business Association (SBA), which generally provide a wealth of information and guidance for little or no cost. I also found some useful ideas browsing around the site--however, many of them involve buying a product of some sort.

Managing Shy Employees . . .

Note . . . When it comes to us shy people, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all management strategies as there are so many sizes, shapes, flavors or shyness and social anxiety. On the other hand, a little knowledge can go a long way toward bringing out the best out in us--and if you've glanced at the Shy Celebrities page of this site, you know there's a lot of good to bring out us. The shyer we are, the harder it is to coax us out of our shells and help us feel safe. Don't be surprised if you have an employee who's perfecting comfortable selling up a storm, but is scared to death to go to the company party, or someone who is a bully on the outside to cover up his/her fear on the inside, or a strong producer who shivers at the mere sound of your voice, even when you're saying something good. The key is to "listen" for signs of discomfort in your employees (shy and not shy alike), build as many management tools as you can to bring out the best in your employees, and match them to their needs as best you can. The resources listed below are admittedly very limited, but if you're serious about bringing out the best in your shy or socially anxious employees check out the site as a whole for insight into things you can do to make things better for your employees. And, for non-shy managers who are reading this page . . . thank you for caring enough to try to make a difference. We are so-o-o-o- worth it!

Best Way to Deal With A Shy Emoloyee   This article emphasizes the importance of attending to the softer side of working with shy employees along with recognition of a problem often faced by shy employees, the tendency for management to overlook them when considering promotions.

6 Ways to Get Shy People to Open Up   Like most recommendations for dealing with shyness, one size rarely fits all. It should come as no surprise then, that the six tips presented in this article are unlikely to be welcomed equally by your shy employees. In fact, some of the ideas presented here may very well scare, if not terrify, some of your shyer or more socially anxious employees. Nonetheless, the emphasis these strategies place on holding shy employees accountable for makng a contribution to your bottom line is refreshing and likely to pay off for enterprising managers willing to invest the time and energy needed to mentor these untapped resources.

Silent Partners   Another wonderful article from Entrepreneur.com. In a few short paragraphs it cautions employers to distinguish between employees who lack the motivation to actively participate in the workplace and the untapped resource of eager, but shy, employees who need your encouragement to to blossom

How to Get Shy Employees to Open Up   Simple ways to approach shy or socially anxious employees to bring out the best in us.

Miscellaneous . . .

Rhonda Abrams A syndicated columnist, author, and public speaker, Rhonda Abrams provides tips for marketing, managing and promoting your business. I've linked you to a series of articles she's written on everything from getting publicity for your company to time management and taxes. Many of the articles are pretty general, but if you have the patience to sort through them, you are bound to find a useful tip or two.

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Disclaimer . . .

This site is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in on this site, the author assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. This site is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and/or counseling.

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© ccopyright 2011, All rights reserved by Renée Gilbert, Ph.D.
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