“Embrace your introvert or ambivert qualities as assets. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be out there and run for the elections.”

Parul Yadav

Let’s be honest, the prospect of running and campaigning for an election can seen daunting, especially if you’re not a natural extrovert. When I first heard about the IGNITE Election to appoint its Board of Directors, I found myself wondering if it’s something I should consider running for. Being a part of a student union, learning the ropes of governance and advocacy and, most importantly, making an impact on campus life is incredible, and definitely something I’d have loved to do.

Nomination requirements included collecting between 50 and 75 signatures from students on campus attesting their support for you, working on campaign posters and hosting campaign events. Unfortunately, I let my thoughts go on overdrive: what if students didn’t like me, or worse, what if I got almost no votes? How would I face my classmates and friends if I lost by a brutal margin? These fears got the best of me and I let this incredible opportunity pass me by.

A screen displaying a QR code for a student council election.

It’s no secret that many students feel the same and face the pang of what-ifs. What would it be like if we face our fears and actually go through with it, particularly as an introvert or ambivert? Would it be worth it? To answer these questions, I spoke with Parul Yadav, a self-confessed ambivert who successfully campaigned and was elected to IGNITE’s Board of Directors in 2022-2023. Here’s what she had to say.

Adopt strategies that complement your personality

A women smiling.
Parul Yadav

“Having to secure 100 signatures of support back then made me feel nervous,” Yadav confesses. As an international student who had just arrived in Canada, everything was extra-fresh and the idea of approaching large groups of students particularly made her fret. However, she soon began adopting strategies that complemented her ambivert personality.

“Rather than approaching a large group of people at once, I would approach a person one-on-one and just talk to them. I used this as an opportunity to learn about them. This was helpful in making new friends and just understanding what they thought about IGNITE, their college experience and learn what we could work on to support them in the future,” she notes.

By using the interaction as an opportunity to just make friends and build connections, it seemed less like a signature target and became a more wholesome endeavor.

You don’t need to know EVERYTHING

A group of women clapping outdoors.
Yadav (centre) at a BoD collaboration event

So, you’re speaking to students on campus… does that suddenly mean you’re expected to have all the solutions? Yadav points out that while you may think students expect you to have answers to all campus problems or know about every resource when you campaign, that’s not how it really plays out.

“I was honest when I engaged with students: this is my first time living in Canada… I don’t know what’s gonna happen next; I don’t know about this or that, but I’m really excited and open to hearing your opinions and thoughts on how we can improve the student experience together. Listening actively to understand their concerns really helped. If you really listen, you can actually act on their concerns if you’re elected,” she says.

Start with small steps

Stickers that display the text "Vote"

It may seem like a lot when you first download the nomination guide and consider running for the elections. It’s important to tackle the process by breaking it up into smaller tasks and playing to your strengths, Yadav says.

“What do you think you’re best at? For example, if you think that you are best at connecting with people one-on-one rather than going in a large group and speaking about yourself, do that. Connect with people one-on-one or even start with your own friend and let them know that you’re running for elections. It doesn’t have to be that you do a dive deep into it, and then be like ‘Oh my God. What am I doing?'”

Being authentic goes a long way

Group of students at a student election event.

Something Yadav realized during the campaign and election process was that she didn’t need to fit herself into an ideal mold or project an image to find success. While our minds make us believe there’s an ‘ideal’ version we need to be or a perfect candidate we need to emulate, other people didn’t expect or demand the same.

“It’s about building onto your own personal experience and being authentic in what you convey out there. Authenticity really goes a long way and it helps in making those genuine connections out there. So just being open and honest about who am I and what I really want to do throughout the election helped,” Yadav says.

“Ultimately, it’s not about just getting the signatures, but it’s also about making friends. So, it’s okay to be awkward or not know what to say, because in the end, you both are students and you’re just making friends out there.”

It’s all worth it

At the end of the day, the manageable stress you’ll face during the election pays off in countless ways. “I think the experience really expanded my horizons and made me the person I am today. The skills I learned was life changing and I use the those in my workplace everyday” Yadav recalls.

The experience helps once you go out there to build your career too! “This experience was highlighted in my resume and cover letters and jobs that I applied for. It really helped when people saw I had held a leadership position. I was able to build on that and capitalize on it later through my career,” she says.

The key takeaway? “Embrace your introvert or ambivert qualities as assets. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be out there and run for the elections. Allow yourself that grace and space to assess what you are best at, and then use the those for the elections or for the campaign.”

To follow the nominees for IGNITE’s 2024 Elections, get a chance to meet and greet them and hear their ideas, and vote your favourite in, stay tuned with the latest news here! Be sure to follow our social media to snag election day goodies and giveaways (they’re too good to pass up, for real!).

Feature photo by IGNITE

Curious about the kind of decisions IGNITE’s Board of Directors get to make? Check out their recent decision to renew their partnership with the College Student Alliance.

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