Last year, a reader named Andre emailed me, asking to write a guest post about overcoming his barriers as an introvert. He was originally going to write about his quest to manage being an introvert — which a lot of my readers would benefit from — but the initial drafts were too focused on himself. I passed.
In January, Andre signed up for my Find Your Dream Job course — a big challenge knowing that words like “networking” intimidated him. Hearing stories about people negotiating $30,000 raises is fun to read, but not very realistic for someone who has enough trouble walking into a room and introducing himself to others.
The results: In the last 6 months, Andrew doubled his salary to nearly six figures, and he dramatically improved his social skills. He’s an introvert who’s learned how to accept his social skills — but systematically improve them. And he has ruthlessly torn down his invisible scripts that held him back for so long.
I’ll let Andre tell you exactly how he did it. Take it away, Andre…
There’s a reason why you weren’t hired for that gig.
And it’s probably not because of your skills or qualifications. In fact, what I find when I talk to my friends is that most people disqualify themselves from a job they love. (“I can’t apply for that. I don’t only have 4 years experience and it asks for 5!”)
Here’s the simple reason why you weren’t hired for a job you’re qualified for: RISK.
Hiring someone is risky for an employer. Forget about the hard financial cost.
- There’s the personal risk: The employer is going to spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with you for at least months to come and what if you turn out to be downright boring?
- There’s social risk: He’s going to introduce you to his team – what if you’re a douche bag?
- There’s professional risk: Your potential employer IS, to some extent, putting his/her job on the line to hire you. You do realise that, right?
To use Ramit’s favourite dating metaphor: Would you make a decision to move in with someone if the two of you went out on two 1-hour dates?
This insight of minimising risks changed how I approach a new job search. And together with Ramit’s course, I was able to achieve what I thought was impossible: I doubled my salary to nearly six-figures. And I just started working two years ago.
How did I do it?
Step 1: Prepare a Case Study
I am an introvert and I lack social skills.
Introverts prefer written communication. That’s because we like to think before we speak – a practice that’s awkward in face-to-face situations. So what I did is to give the interviewer as much information as possible before the interview.
The way to do that is not to write an essay. Instead, I created a simple website with nothing but 5 image links to 5 case studies and a short 50-word introduction about me. Quick note: case studies are *not* portfolios. Crafting a great case study is crucial for this to work, but that’s another story. To give you an idea, the case studies took me 3 weeks to build – and that’s after I outsourced a good part of it.
After I get the call for an interview (this is not the coffee meeting), I sent the interviewer an email that says, “I can’t wait to see you on Monday. If you’d like to find out more about me before the meeting, here is a link that you might be interested in.”
To test the effectiveness of the approach, I installed analytics on the website. And because there’s no way anyone can land on the website (I blocked search engines) without the link, I know exactly how interested they are before I go into the meeting.
Remember that the VIP is already pre-sold by your connector so it shouldn’t be hard for you to get him/her to click on that link. I managed to get an interview with 15 potential employers and 13 of them visited the website before the meeting, even though only 4 explicitly replied to my email saying they would.
Out of the 13 who visited the site, 12 opened at least one case study. 8 scrolled all the way down in at least one case study – based on the time they spent on site (4 minutes 13 seconds), I assume they read it.
I noticed the interviewers who read the case study no longer asks me general questions like “tell me about yourself” – even though you should still prepare yourself for it.
Instead, they begin like an interested customer, saying things like, “So, I saw your case studies. That’s some impressive work. Tell me more about this.” This is great for introverts like me because we thrive on conversations when it comes to “the meat”. And instead of an interview, it’s now more of a consultation (I will discuss this later).
Another benefit of case studies is that they show you know what you are talking about. You can make claims like “I’m good at analytics” but showing the numbers to support that is a whole other story.
To the interviewer, case studies reduce the risk of you lying about or exaggerating your claims. It makes them feel more comfortable putting their career on the line for yours.
Step 2: Memorize Instead of Winging It
When I felt like I was ready, I asked a friend for an introduction to her boss as a test. It was a disaster because 5 minutes into the meeting, I simply ran out of things to say. You know, like an awkward date. But what I did is take a mental note of what happened.
I then went back home and analysed the situation. What could I have said to make it NOT awkward?
Here are 4 things I learned:
1. If you think about it, there are only 6 questions you can ever ask: who, what, where, which, how and the more open-ended, “tell me more.” Use that to keep the conversation flowing.
2. Keep in mind that all conversations should be about them. This is not the time to “talk about yourself” and “what you’re looking for” unless they explicitly ask you about it. When they do ask you about something, don’t ramble – and always end your answer with a question. Remember, questions keep the conversations flowing.
3. Chose your words wisely. Words like “furthermore,” “however,” “nevertheless,” “last but not least” are all what linguists call transitional words. But not all transitional words and phrases are made equal. For example, the phrase “no way!” is better than “incidentally.” Both show the two of you have something in common, but one shows excitement and the other doesn’t. Other common phrases that show excitement include “Shut Up!” (use only within certain groups), “That’s interesting!”, “I know!” or “That is exactly why I…” or simply gasp.
Knowing which words to use comes down to two things: memorization and practice. For some people, this just “flows.” And because it flows, these things often appear like “common sense.”
For introverts, however, it’s anything but. I had to watch how people talk, record it and break down what was said.
I watched Ramit’s sample interview with Julie and memorized the answers Julie gave, word for word. If you just watch the video, the answers sounds so much like common sense, you’d probably shrug it away. But try to recite it and I guarantee you won’t be able to do it.
And for some reason, we have this assumption that we’ll be able to give an equally good answer when it comes to a real interview. In writing, many world-class copywriters advise their students to write and rewrite the best sales copy out there as practice.
It’s a lesson that contrasts with Western values. We reward originality and innovation and we call any sort of copying as plagiarism. In China, I still remember my Mandarin teacher asking us to copy the textbook and use the sentences in there in our composition.
The reason, they said, is because rewriting what the pros wrote helps you better internalize how it’s done. And once you’ve mastered that, you can then go out and do your own work.
I bring that philosophy to interviews. Memorize (copy) before you personalise and innovate.
4. Show your enthusiasm. Most people tone themselves down because they assume appearing enthusiastic is a bad thing. Everyone wants to appear “cool.” But here’s the truth: most people out there are plain boring. They could use a little more enthusiasm in life.
For example, in the past when an interviewer said, “That was impressive.” I nodded, smiled and thanked him. I was cool. Today, I would respond with something like this: “I know! *laugh* I busted my arse for that. Glad someone recognised it.”
This shift in behaviour takes a bit of mindset change. The reason most people want to appear “cool” is because they want to portray a perception that they are used to these kind of recognition. But what they don’t know is that they appear distant.
My mindset about enthusiasm today involves two things: 1.That if you appear stupid, you won’t meet the interviewer ever again anyway. So why not just do it? 2. Enthusiasm is just more fun.
So what does step 2 achieve? Step 2 lowers the personal and social risks for the potential employer. The last thing they want is to work with someone boring!
Step 3: Follow Up
This is the simplest step, yet crucial. Ramit recommends following up with the person you met, hours or certainly within a day, after a meeting. I agree. The last thing you want is get a reply that says, “John who?”
Ramit also talked about sending a pre-written email for your connector to forward to the VIP – again, that reduces the risk of the connector making a fool out of him/herself while making the introduction.
The key to follow ups is don’t give up. You need to be persistent, but not annoying. What’s the difference?
If the connector didn’t reply to your first email, send one every week for a month and say, “Hi John, I just want to do a quick follow up regarding my last email (should be included in the current email). Can you help me out?” I got two replies after the fourth follow-up: one of them was out-of-town and the other was just really busy.
Remember, a rejection is always better than no response at all. When you do get rejected, follow up and ask for the reason why, like this, “That’s too bad. I was looking forward to the introduction. Can you give me a bit more information as to why? Just so I won’t bother you again in the future.” Most connectors are more than happy to say why – and sometimes it’s not even your problem.
For example, I had one connector who tried to ignore me despite having a great meeting. After a few persistent follow-ups, he finally replied and said that he was probably going to need something from this VIP, and he didn’t want to use his “relationship equity” introducing me to this guy.
And if you think that rarely happens, think again. That experience is very similar to the story Keith Ferrazzi told in his bestselling book, “Never Eat Alone“. Keith had what he thought was a great meeting but was rejected because the connector saw relationships as a limited pie. These things happen. Embrace it. And thank your lucky stars you didn’t end up working with these people.
Step 4: Interview
Before I started Ramit’s course, I was already a student of sales and marketing. So while I was socially-awkward, I have always been able to write good copy (again, introverts, use your preference for the written word to your advantage). That skill got me about 80% response rate from the resumes I send out.
The problem was that I failed at most interviews.
Ramit’s tips changed that. One powerful tip he shared publicly is the Briefcase Technique. Using this strategy, I wrote a full-fledged report – one that would have had cost the VIP at least $5,000 if they were paying an agency to do it. It took me two weeks to generate that report – with help from my outsourced team.
During the interview, the VIP gave the report only 3 minutes of his time. Now some people may despair at that, but here’s the thing: when he put it down, he said – and this is his exact words, “This is great. I have no doubt about your technical skills now.”
The case studies did a lot of convincing for me. But it’s that report, in other words, that completely took away the professional risk of hiring me. Now I just have to appear friendly.
So here was how the interview that doubled my salary went: It started with a discussion about my case studies. Then it proceeded to a discussion about the report. Only the last 10 minutes of a 1.5 hour interview were spent talking about things like what I want to achieve in the future and my personality.
It’s not that these things aren’t important. They are. But most of them are covered when we were talking about the problems I faced in the case study, how I handled the problem, why I thought that solution was best, who I approached to help me, how I got that person to help me, etc. I showed, instead of told. It’s the perfect way to boast, without boasting.
Before I end this part, I want to share three more tips. These I learned when I attended Tony Robbins’ $10,000 Business Mastery Program and met Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine, face-to-face. He said:
- First he told me to watch my tonality (probably because I was nervous when I spoke to him). Tonality, he said, is responsible for more of my communication than the actual words I say. The best way to understand this is by watching this video – the first part of the video is how most interviewees sound like. (And if you want to improve how your voice sounds like, this video should help. Bottom line: talk to interviewers like you would with a friend.)
- Some people are fast talkers while others are slow talkers. Pacing yourself and mirroring their style will help you score points in the subconscious mind of the interviewer.
- Ask intelligent questions that only people “in the know” would know to ask. For example, asking what is expected of you in 3 to 6 months is quite standard. But if you ask what the interviewer thinks of a controversial issue in the industry, that shows you’re plugged in. For example: what do you think about the use of overly thin models in marketing campaigns?
So there, 4 simple steps I took to double my salary. Remember, however, that simple is not easy. Have you tried any of these tips? Did I miss any awesome tips you have? I’d love to hear about your experiments in the comments below.
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