Thompson Rivers University

Sparkes Notes: An introvert’s survival guide to networking

  Posted on: February 21, 2019

Co-op student Amy Sparkes shares a how to guide on everything you need to know about the Writing Centre.

Amy Sparkes is in her third year of her BBA program with a focus in Marketing and Communications, and is currently working as a Communications Coordinator Co-op for the Faculty of Student Development. She is using her experience at TRU to help other students take advantage of everything student life has to offer.

Picture this: a sea of unfamiliar faces, a crowded room abuzz with polite conversations and awkward interactions. As an introverted person, I’ve discovered that trying to mingle is like jumping into a shallow pool at the bottom of a 30-foot cliff. Dangerous, deadly and best avoided at all costs.

I know that these networking events, job fairs and social nights help us succeed at student life, but the thought of participation makes my heart race and my headache. Whenever I attempt the dreadful small talk – ugh, why do they call it small? Every sentence comes out in fragments, like a poorly worded telegram crushed by a sledgehammer.

I try to prepare myself with talking points, but when I try to form the words, my throat closes, my voice cracks and the thought evaporates. My cool and calm demeanor dries up; my mouth hangs open as people stare in anticipation for what I almost said.

I’ve now ruined my chances at successfully networking, spoiled any hopes of a future career, and am now confident that I will die jobless and alone. Therefore, it might be time to retreat to my quiet, cozy bedroom where I can wallow away with all my dreams.

“Get me out of here NOW,” my inner monologue screams.

A prison break would be just the ticket. I could hide under a table. Or pry open and crawl out of the bathroom window out into that oh so sweet fresh, breezy air outside. On the other hand, I could blend in, head for the corner, stand with my back to the wall; mold my body into its surface, where I could hide from all this chaos.

Though my imagination runs wild, I don’t. Why do you ask? Because running away or blending in never helped anybody become CEO of their own billion-dollar marketing company.

The question is, as an introvert, how can you impress potential employers as your authentic self?

I sat down with Supplemental Learning Coordinator Elizabeth Templeman to discuss the best ways to make connections. Elizabeth helped me to understand that my introversion is a strength and explained how to survive and thrive in networking events and beyond. Standing out in a crowd doesn’t always mean being the center of attention. Follow these tips, and you will stand out from the crowd and make an impression on your own terms.

Know Yourself.

Introverts excel in one-on-one conversations, especially when the discussion gets past the weather and onto something a little deeper. Know that introversion isn’t an inhibiting trait, but one that gives you a unique advantage. Try to break away from the crowd, have some talking points prepared, ask questions, and let the others take it away. Everyone loves talking about themselves, so let them. Listen carefully to what they are saying and take this time to craft a response that will help you to stand out.

Take time to recharge. An introvert is quickly exhausted by socialization and requires a little alone time to reenergize.  Recognizing your need for solitude can make a significant impact on how you present yourself at these events. Keeping up with conversations can be exhausting. When you start to feel overwhelmed or feel your energy diminish, feel free to step away from the crowd, find a quiet place to sit, breathe and reflect.

Pair up with an extrovert. An introvert-extrovert pair is a powerful combination and could be the solution to surviving a long social event. Bring along a social butterfly and stay close by as the extrovert moves through the crowd. Let them run the conversations and handle the introductions. Listen carefully, and add insights when you are able. Having a partner reduces pressure and allows you to be yourself without any of that small talk stress. Compare notes after the event. Even though you were together all night, your perspectives will be very different.

Core Personal Projects. Share stories about your hobbies, interests and passion projects. These narratives will help you to stand out to a potential employer. Discussing subjects that are most interesting and exciting to you will help you feel comfortable, confident and authentic.

Know your limits. It’s better to socialize for a limited time than to push it too far and become an empty shell of the person, wishing you were home with a book. Politely excuse yourself, thank the host, and get out while you still have the energy to make the best possible impression.