Socially awkward but happy to be here.

Networking is a great way to meet new people and learn about an industry. But sometimes we find that being socially awkward can make networking really tough—or even hold us back from starting.

So, how can introverted students reach their full networking potential? Here’s the socially awkward student’s guide to networking!

Make friendly conversation

Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec asking Leslie Knope "Did you forget how to have a conversation?"

It can be nerve wracking to approach someone with the intent to network. But some of the best ways to network is to treat the interaction as a friendly professional conversation.

Step back from thinking about it as networking. What you’re really doing is asking other professionals about their job and lives. We do this all the time with our friends!

Approaching networking as a friendly conversation will help you be more relaxed and get to know the other person better!

Be engaged

Man dancing with a sign that says "Good Energy, Good Vibes."

So, you’re an introvert and not typically described as the “outgoing” type. Firstly, rework your mindset to replace outgoing with engaging.

Think about a great conversation you’ve had with a friend. There’s a lot of back and forth, mutual listening and commenting.

You don’t need to be the one to start the conversation—but you can make sure you’re engaged. Listen to what they have to say, make comments and tell them about yourself. A great line to remember is “Tell me more” to help learn about your new network.

Allow yourself to ask questions when you’re genuinely curious or relate to their interests. Being enthusiastic about listening can make the other person more enthusiastic to tell you more, and likewise contribute that same energy when it’s your turn to talk.

Other people can tell when you’re sending good vibes!

Everyone has something interesting to say, ask them to tell you more about their new job, the office or that upcoming project they’re looking forward to.

Utilize online networking

Man smiling and saying "Let's talk."

LinkedIn can help you build confidence and connect with people virtually. It’s a great way to practice introducing yourself and conversing, without having to provide an answer on the spot. Just make sure to provide a timely response!

Get used to asking and answering questions. You can even try out different elevator pitches and write down a list of the best ones. Most of all, you can use LinkedIn to get to know some of your connections before you meet them at networking events.

And of course, remember to connect with them afterwards! Check in with your network occasionally, each time networking will get easier.

Work through the awkwardness

Simon Cowell in America's Got Talent clapping and giving two thumbs up.
IGNITE congratulating you for persevering as you network.

How can you work through the awkwardness that’s bound to happen?

If there’s an awkward pause, ask them to tell you more about the previous topic.

Sometimes we stumble and have the urge to apologize for being awkward. But everyone gets awkward, so instead consider saying:

“I’m excited to be here today” or, “It’s great to have this conversation. I’m really interested in this career.”

This moves the conversation back on track and shows that you’re making an effort despite the fumble.

Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn. Plus, many of the attendants are probably also other students just like you!

Practice your skills

Cartoon dog swinging a baseball bat and accidentally twisting around.
You honing your networking skills.

The first time you go to a professional networking event, try to observe how people interact. Ultimately, the best way to learn to network is to practice breaking the ice and starting a conversation.

As an introvert, you tend to open up more around friends so you’ve definitely got what it takes to start a conversation!

Building the skills to network takes time, whether you’re socially awkward or not. As students, networking gives us a chance to gain professional interaction outside the classroom.

Along the way you’ll figure out what works for you. And remember that you’re probably not the only person in the room that feels socially awkward. As an introvert, you can still work on taking initiative, engaging and active listening.

Stay positive and don’t give up!

Keep attending events, networking virtually and even practice with your friends and fellow students.

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