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Case Study: “How I Nearly Doubled My Salary as an Introvert”

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Last year, an IWT 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.

  1. 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?
  2. There’s social risk: He’s going to introduce you to his team – what if you’re a douche bag?
  3. There’s professional risk: Your potential employer IS, to some extent, putting his/her job on the line to hire you. You do realize 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 minimizing 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.

So when Ramit recommended we take people out to coffee and do actual face-to-face networking, I balked. It took me a month before I had my first coffee-date. Here’s what I did in that time.

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 analyzed 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 don’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 personalize 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 ass for that. Glad someone recognized 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 2 replies after the 4th 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 $5000 if they were paying an agency to do it. It took me 2 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

This article was written by Andrianes Pinantoan, a freelance writer up for grabs. If you have a blog and would like free content, feel free to drop him a line. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched.

* * * * *

Note from Ramit: If you’re interested in how improving your social skills can boost your career — like how Andre nearly doubled his salary — sign up below to watch three videos I created for you, where I cover the biggest social blunders that kill most interviews.

Sign up FREE to get word-for-word video scripts on improving social skills.

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49 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the tips for introverts. This is going to be really helpful for me as I get back into the workforce!
    j

  2. A great post, most importantly comprising ***actionable*** insights. Being an introvert myself, I am already beginning to see multiple areas of improvement.

  3. Let me say great article. @Ramit, some more around this sort of area would be great. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who got scared at the thought of regular coffee meetings.

  4. This is a great point by Andre: “This is not the time to “talk about yourself” and “what you’re looking for” unless they explicitly ask you about it. ” The tips he provided are awesome. the key to a successful interview and getting an interview is preparation. And it looks like Andre put in his share of work. Great post!

    • Thanks Ornella! I did more work before the interview than most people do a months after they started. LOL. That’s just conjecture, of course.

  5. I am curious about more information about how to outsource work and what work is best to outsource, especially in the realm of writing copy. Ramit or Andre, can you help us out with some tips?

    • Hey Stephen, I plan to write a follow up post about it but I haven’t had the chance to discuss it with Ramit. No promises.

  6. I love the tip about being “in the know” in your industry and asking pertinent questions to the latest industry news.

    I would be interested to see another post that details the Case Studies you wrote about, how you set up a website for them, etc. Very interesting stuff!

  7. Best Case Study post yet. There is an actual “this is what I struggled with, and this is what I did about it” format. Things I can actually use (and plan on doing so).

  8. This was great!!

    I too would love more information about the case studies website. Specifically, I would like to know how many hours were put into creating it, whether the case studies were from a similar field or were more varied in topic, how much was spent on the website, and how tailored it was (or wasn’t) to a specific job/interview.

    • Hey Rachel, I am planning to write a follow up post so keep your eyes peeled. But to give you a short answer to your questions:

      1. The case studies took me 3 weeks of full time effort. Assuming 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that’s 120 hours.

      2. I spent about $600 odd in outsourced labour and a few graphical elements from themeforest.net

      3. The case studies are all from one field of digital marketing. They weren’t tailored to a specific interview, but all the jobs I applied for are in that field.

    • Thanks so much for responding!

  9. If networking intimidates you (like meeting new people does for many), you have social anxiety or shyness. It’s not introversion. What a huge myth.

    Here’s a post that clarifies this two and how you can make the most of each: http://www.towerofpower.com.au/introverts-are-loners

    Regardless, good case study. I too liked how challenges were overcame.

    • hey Adam, as an introvert, I did my fair share of research into the topic. So I am aware of the contrast you are referring to. Which is why I am careful not to say that I am shy.

      My job and my personality allowed me to avoid as much social interaction as possible since I entered college. It wasn’t because I was shy – it’s more like I preferred to be alone.

      And because I haven’t interacted socially for such a long time, my social skills are a bit rusty (especially when it doesn’t come naturally to me). Which is why it intimidated me – just as anyone would if they are asked to do something they are not comfortable doing.

    • Spot on, Adam!

    • Adam is still right. This is shyness, not introversion, if you’re uncomfortable socializing for even an hour or two and feel “rusty” at it.

      I’m both extremely introverted and extremely good at networking and have no problem introducing myself to strangers. I’m better at it than most extraverts I know. The introversion means is that I can’t do this for more than half a day (or maybe a day) without some kind of break.

    • Bottom line: Introversion can lead to shyness, but it doesn’t have to. Everything you describe here is about shyness or social anxiety that stemmed from introverted tendencies.

      I worry that it’s more taboo to admit shyness than introversion.

    • Hey Sarah, Thanks for the comment!

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that I’m shy, and not an introvert. Can you point out a few specifics? From what you wrote, it looks like you don’t believe there’s an introvert that’s ever rusty with his social skills. If that’s the case, I won’t argue with a belief. I find that a waste of time.

      It sounds like you’re implying networking as an innate ability and a learned skill.

      If so, that’s a whole other conversation.

      By the way, Susan Cain shared this post with her Facebook following – that’s gotta mean something to this whole introvert vs shyness debate. :D

    • It sounds like you’re implying networking as an innate ability and *not* a learned skill.

  10. As a recruiter, there is a fine line between recruiting someone for their technical ability, only to get them on board and realise they were just talking a good game.

    By demonstrating the technical ability you have, you’ve taken the one major question a recruiter has off the table – can this candidate do the job?

    Which leaves space for you to have a human conversation and actually build rapport.

    Way to go, Andre!

    - Razwana

  11. This is absolutely the most useful article I’ve read about career strategies for introverts. Bravo.

    I registered a personal domain last year, and have since been at a loss about how to use it effectively. Your case study concept (with analytics!) is fantastic.

  12. Hey Andre,

    Fantastic post, I was learning about this at the moment and your case study breakdown and simple website gives a great format to model.

    I’m actually going through the interview process now, phase 2 in progress, so this was especially insightful. I’m going to try to arrange a coffee meet with a few folks in other departments/companies prior to the interview.

  13. Andre – Great article and you highlighted an area that I’ve been struggling wtih for a long, long time. When I’m talking about things I care about, I tend to not to use passion. The way you tackled this issue; I can copy and the example you gave was great – “I know! *laugh* I busted my ass for that. Glad someone recognized it.”

    I have been going to Toastmasters for the past year – I know that in ‘prepared speeches’ I can deliver high energy, exciting and passionate speeches. I can do that because I’ve rehearsed. I’ll start doing the same for ‘everyday’ speaking.

    Thanks very much Andre!

    • Hey Chris – that’s exactly how I am. I’ve always performed well in presentations because I get to think what I was going to say and practice. The experience was *clean*.

      But when it comes to actual conversations, the experience is *messy*.

      The best answer I’ve found is to simply memorize for now. You’ll soon internalize what you’ve memorized.

      Good luck!

  14. As I was reading, even before I got to the video link, I thought to myself, hmm..this sounds an awful lot like there’s some PUA influence. So, how much of your overall success do you attribute to working on “inner game”?

    • Hey Sam, I’m married and my first child is coming in 6 months. So no PUA influence for me. :D

      Then again, I attribute 80% of success to working on inner game. As Tony Robbins always say, business is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics.

    • I think the major difference between Andre’s method and PUA method is this:

      You give a hoot about what you’re doing and who you’re going to do it with.

      I mean, PUA focuses on playing games with women and using largely crude methods in order to do so. It’s all about making women feel inferior enough to date you. You’re making them work at whether or not they are being played, rather than making them feel like they can be around you.

      Andre’s method? It’s about rising yourself up to THEIR level, eliminating a lot of work for the people you want to work with, and showing that you can work with them. He shows that you can admit your own hard work at what you did while showing respect at the same time.

      Huge difference, IMO. :)

  15. Hi Andre,

    That was a great post and I feel like I learned a lot from it. Showing is better than bragging. Give them something that shows them your abilities and how it will help them understand that you are the right person to hire.

    I really liked all the work you did. Fantastic ideas that should get anyone one step closer to a higher paying job.

  16. I thought this article was a good example of an implementation of a lot of the tactics that Ramit wrote about during his Dream Job run-up.

    One criticism: Why not provide a link to the case study website you created? I think a lot of people unfamiliar with doing something like this struggle to conceptualize what something like this “looks like” in their head to get it off the ground.

    Another Criticism: I’d also advise that many industries or specific firms don’t lend themselves well to creating case studies and/or using the briefcase technique due to the small market size or exclusivity of information.

    Marketing is one thing that is very universal and can be “briefcased” quite easily for marketing and sales positions. However, other times the information is not there for you to briefcase, or even if it is, the interviewer will have no idea what you’re talking about, because they don’t possess the technical/functional knowledge you have.

    To use myself as an example…I used a lot of Ramit’s tactics and systematic way of thinking to land a job with a 50% pay raise. Among the tactics I used was the briefcase technique. I think that the firm very much appreciated the effort behind the deliverable I created for them via the briefcase technique. Appreciated is the key word, however, as once I got hired and really understood the structure and profit drivers of the firm, I realized the plan I made for the company made little sense.

    I don’t believe it hurt me in this instance as they were willing to negotiate a higher salary after the initial offer, but I’d caution readers who have yet to try it that it is not a universal magic bullet for every job target.

    • Thanks for the comments Eric! To answer your questions:

      1. The case studies contain confidential information that I cannot share publicly. I can’t even share the brands I worked with. Having said that, I hope to better illustrate it with a follow up post.

      2. It’s true that not all jobs can be “briefcased”. But most of those jobs are entry level ones – and you don’t need case studies to land most entry level jobs (at least I hope not).

      But once you reach managerial or executive positions, a lot of your experience can be turned into case studies, even if you’re a recruiter, doctor, nurse, engineer, electrician, lawyer, call centre manager, teacher, hotel manager, IT expert, store manager or scientific researcher…

      I am actually having a hard time coming up with roles that cannot benefit from this.

      If you could tell me what you do, perhaps I can help you out with building a case study for your next progression.

  17. Andre-

    Thank you for getting back to me! Unfortunately I’m kind of in the same position as you where I have to keep everything anonymous.

    Suffice it to say I’m a technical/functional consultant in a very niche industry. The recruiter and all the people I interviewed with did not have the knowledge that I’d be applying at the job.

    To get around this, I created a briefcase deliverable that was a sort of business plan that used my skills (described simply to the audience) to hypothetically increase revenue/return business to the firm.

    The principle of the technique certainly worked- the management was a little taken aback, but impressed with the effort and thought put into creating something for them before I had the job. I think that it helped the impression I made on them.

    However, the skills/knowledge that I possess are so specific and hard to find that I don’t know if it would have mattered if I had briefcased them or not, they would have hired me. But I guess I’ll never know.

    Once I got into the firm and saw everything from the inside, I realized the business aspect of the plan wasn’t in sync with the firm’s cash sources. I’d like to note that I did use Ramit’s advice to talk to somebody already in the firm to get some insider info before the interviews, but their perspective didn’t assist me with the deliverable.

    Overall though, great post, and to anybody looking for a job right now- take Ramit’s material seriously, it really does work!

    • Now I get where you are coming from, and I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding. :D

      Perhaps I should have clarified that the briefcase technique and case studies are not the same. The briefcase technique is based on the future: what you can and will do once you’re hired.

      Case studies are based on the past. They are kind of like proof documents – why you really can do what you claim you can.

      The briefcase technique might not work for you, but I’m sure there are experiences of your past you can transform into case studies.

  18. This was a great post, Andre. You had to show your vulnerability/weaknesses to write it, but it was worth it. Well-written, interesting, specific and practical. Also inspiring – I am now going to use a case study approach for a job I am about to interview for.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. This was an amazing post, and even just the videos at the bottom were very helpful. I’ll definitely be able to use some of the lessons you taught me in my business.

  20. Awesome post… as an introvert, I found myself constantly nodding while reading the post. Thank you for the tips!

  21. I think this guest post could have been better executed, especially since it’s in the context of Ramit’s usual high quality posts. And I’m kinda bummed that instead of a quick (or even long) explanation of how he did his case study website, there’s just the vague hope that it’ll be a future blog post.

    Some good advice mixed with some poorly-explained/confusing advice.

  22. Dear Andre,

    One of the most valuable pieces of career advice I have ever read. I would like to categorise myself as an introvert, going through exactly the same struggle as you have. In the last 10 minutes of reading your post, I have learnt more than what I learnt from all other career guidance so far. Thanks for showing the way. Really happy for your success and happiness. Looking forward to future posts.

  23. [...] “How I Nearly Doubled My Salary as an Introvert” [...]