As a college student, you have four years before you must usher yourself into the labor force and sign away your time and mental bandwidth to a job. Being a young adult can be overwhelming, especially as you’re trying to enjoy yourself during a time you start becoming privy to an imminent future of paying your own expenses: utilities, food, insurance and the like. Still, with jobs being the imperative of a future that is now well in sight, it’s important to develop networking skills to make the transition from your school life to your independent work life more promising.
Unfortunately, much like in the other ways that being an introvert affects one’s life, networking poses a challenge to people who are more kept to themselves. Being an introvert myself, I understand how daunting it seems to have to forcefully open ourselves up to other people - especially if you want something from them but don’t want the interaction to seem wholly based on that. There’s a lot of dread, anxiety, and overthinking that goes into each and every interaction I have with other people, even if it’s just to ask how their day was. I’ve become vicariously hyper aware of myself in the time that I spend noticing things about other people instead of taking the initiative to interact with them myself.
Generally speaking, many introverts may have parallels to these experiences, and tend to do their best work when they’re alone. Still, it’s inevitable that a baseline of standard of interaction is necessary to gain headway into a career, so here are some things that you can try to develop a network of opportunities:
Learn to smile
This might not be advice that some people will be fond of because we’re the most comfortable when we’re being ourselves. People-pleasing might not be a tactic that many people would think is necessary as well, but sometimes, it’s important to yield and just acknowledge that a marginal concession in comfort can go a long way in changing the way others perceive you. Smiling establishes an inviting presence for you, and getting others to be willing to approach you is the first thing you need to be able to do in building new connections.
Learn how to start and sustain conversations
Getting used to starting or carrying on small things like passing pleasantries or even typical small talk builds a character that people will be more comfortable associating themselves with. Having the capacity to express interest, genuine or not, in the things that others have to share demonstrates acknowledgement and respect for their presence, and invites them to do the same for yours. It’s also generally a great skill to have offhand for occasions and purposes beyond trying to network.
Put yourself out there
Needless to say, if you want to be noticed, oftentimes you must try to be. Talk to your professor one-one-one and ask if s/he can recommend you to anybody who could use some help, or peruse the resources at your career center for contact information and internship opportunities that you’re interested in. It’s also a great idea to create an account on employment-related search engines like Indeed or Cheg, and upload information like a resume and your contact information to establish more visibility for yourself. It’s a great way to passively expose yourself to potential employers and opportunities to do what you want without having to set aside the time to actively pursue them. Alternatively of course, you could also try directly applying for the same opportunities online.
Get into the right mindset
Psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant mentions in his book, Originals, that people’s public speaking performances have demonstrated a strong correlation to their attitudes prior to the event. When people held positive and optimistic outlooks on speaking, they often performed better than when they were anxious and fearful. By simply associating the right emotions to your interactions with other people, it’s likely that you’ll be able to break out of the tendency to withdraw and shy away from opportunities.
Networking can be hard for introverts, and it might take time for you to familiarize yourself with more interactive habits. However, it’s a great way to engage with the world and be doing yourself a great service at the same time. If you prepare yourself in these ways, your chances of coming across the right opportunities ineffably increase, and you’ll soon be opening a lot of doors that will invariably lead you to places in life you’ve never been before.
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