Networking at uni for introverted souls

February 16, 2016
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It seems the razzle dazzle of O-Week mostly caters to students who thrive on mingling with others. For those who prefer to be alone (but not lonely), networking by being a chatterbox is like turning air into gold. But introversion doesn’t mean exclusion. As author Susan Cain argues, “Introverts and extroverts really operate ideally in different levels of stimulation.” If you’re not the most outgoing of students, here are a few ways you can still form some much-needed networks.

Learn to write better by critiquing others’ work

If you’ve been loitering around campus for a year or two, you should have the science of academic writing down pat. It’s time to be a master by offering your editing services to others who may struggle with academic language. Advertise yourself by spamming the campus job boards and joining uni groups on social media. Make sure it’s text-based social media only, since writing is a platform that most introverts best thrive on.

For first-year students, potential clients may doubt your skills and credibility, so enrol in free academic writing courses, which are usually offered by libraries or the university’s academic-support team. By critiquing others’ work, you may also learn how to improve your own academic writing.

Tutor computer skills to those before the computer age and gain their life wisdom

You grew up in the digital era, so to you, technological choreography should be as easy as breathing. Sure, you’re competing with libraries’ offerings, but they’re usually not intimate like an introvert-led tutorial, which means the client will feel loved and more likely to absorb the lessons. Target mature-age students older than 45 years, since a QUT paper found that they “reported that limited computer skills had a strong impact on their studies”. And because they’re mature, you may get words of wisdom instead of superficial chit-chat as a token of thanks.

Join the chess club: less talking, more thinking

Taking up chess is perhaps the only way to satisfy your competitive streak while sitting and not talking (much) - besides maybe being a computer nerd at hackathons. Even as far back as 1984, the general consensus is that strong chess players and introversion are intertwined. And unless you’re fighting for a world title, you can probably play chess, daydream and argue with yourself while in the presence of another. If you bum around on the chessboard for 20–24 hours, you may even break the world record for the longest chess match.

Work in a library where introverts hook up

Applying to work in an on-campus library may just be your ticket to networking heaven. Most of the time you just need to scan and skim-read books. Because libraries are quiet places, you don’t need to raise your voice when helping lost students. If you’re lucky enough to get the library associated with your study area, then you’ll know your stuff and talk to other students with passion and fire. Think of it as a micro, one-on-one book club, which is known to serve introverts better than juvenile screamings at music festivals. Just don’t be so passionate that you cross over to the darkness that is extroversion.

Sign up to a club

Well, it’s probably inevitable that you can’t escape joining extroversion-leaning clubs (because of their career-serving benefits), but make sure you’re passionate about them. Examine the roles on offer and find one for quiet people, like secretary or IT guru. Otherwise, create your own. Take debating clubs, for example: since you may prefer to devise the topics instead of facilitating debates live, email the group and ask if you can be the Director of Ideas. The alternative is to be a pseudo-extrovert; practise extroversion enough and it’ll be stored in your procedural memory (in other words, doing something without conscious thought), like driving a car.

Toby Vue

Toby is a Master of Arts (journalism) student at Charles Sturt University. He tweets at @tobyvue.

Image: Danielle Moler, Flickr Creative Commons license