Dear Introvert in College,
Being an introvert in college is tough, but understanding what truly brings you anxiety is key. For example, transitioning from being known in high school social circles to being nameless in college is reality. There’s pressure to join clubs, groups and even fraternities/sororities, yet those feel more like an obligation than actual fun. But when it comes to socializing introverts do value relationships, yet they prefer building them on their own terms.
Dealing With Social Anxiety
How to make friends in college as an introvert is based on quality over quantity. For instance, large gatherings and events are intimidating, while grabbing coffee one-on-one can be more palatable. When attending a party don’t aim to meet a bunch of new faces, instead have brief conversations with a few and plan to continue those chats at a later time in a quieter setting. Finding common interests are a good icebreaker and help spark a dialogue, but more importantly focus on removing loud distractions that can inhibit listening, observing and pausing between communication.
When it comes to making friends in college as an introvert it’s more of an art form than a race. More has to do with chemistry than elevator pitches. It’s less about numbers and more about finding compatibility. A few good friends goes further than a lot of acquaintances.
Myth vs. Reality
Dealing with the negative perception by others of being shy and anti-social isn’t always true. Introverts crave social interaction as much as extroverts, but how they utilize and recharge their energy after the exchange is what differs. Introverts shine in smaller settings where the person is on display versus the activity. As an introvert in college spend more time strategizing on the surroundings to set yourself up for social success.
In addition to being with others, make sure to schedule alone time in your calendar. Just like a class you attend, set aside time to think, analyze and reflect by yourself during the week. A simple solo date will recharge your social battery and give you the energy to meet and interact freshly with peers along the way.
Tips For Professional Development
While in college don’t forget to invest time in your professional development. Being an introvert in college can be viewed as a disadvantage, but this is where having a strong game plan will play to your advantage. College students should focus on the three following activities to prepare them for the real world: internships, networking and sales. If introverts can master these, the post-college transition will be that much easier after graduation.
Book knowledge will only get you so far that’s why experience holds more weight on your resume than education. Seek out and apply for internships in areas you feel might be a good fit and others you’re skeptical of. You will never truly know what is or isn’t a good fit career wise unless you try it. As an introvert in college start practicing your interview skills before you need full-time employment.
Time in your 20’s is usually spent job-hopping because most college students lack hands-on experience in different industries so trial and error becomes the only way to decipher what’s right for you professionally. Completing multiple internships in various fields while in college speeds up the process of identifying roles that are an extension of who you are.
Start Building Your Network
As an introvert in college your network will eventually determine your net worth. That means making friends in college helps you personally and professionally down the road. In this case, as an introvert knowing the purpose of an activity may lessen the stress towards accomplishing the goal. The easiest way to start growing your network is: making friends.
From there friends of friends become part of your extended network. The mistake most young professionals make is trying to grow their network only when they need a new job. Similar to dating, you can’t expect to get what you want right off the bat. It takes time. If there is one goal you should set for yourself in college it should be to build and grow your network.
Lastly if there’s one job that is recession-proof it’s sales. I’d highly recommend early on in your career taking a sales position. It doesn’t matter if it’s a product or service, you’re still exhibiting the same skills (although selling a tangible product may be a tad bit easier). Learn how to influence, persuade and motivate people to buy. Observe their body language, opposition and desires. Sales may never be your speciality, but that doesn’t matter. It has practical applications like a job interview as an example. In an interview instead of selling a product or service, you’re selling yourself.
At one point in your career the ability to sell will advance you…without it you might get stuck. Being an introvert in college may be an excuse not to give sales a try because of the pressure of social transactions, but remember employers only care about results, not how you get there. Translation: in sales there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but the only way to sharpen your style is with practice.
Don’t Lose Hope As An Introvert In College!
Being an introvert in college is challenging, yet can be viewed positively as a training ground for the real world. When it comes to soft skills there are different forms of communication to be mastered such as: verbal, interpersonal, written, formal and visual. As an introvert don’t shy away from any forms because of anxiety. In fact challenge yourself to practice them to help find your voice and style as a communicator.
Surviving in college is about having a game plan and sticking to it. There are plenty of successful leaders who attended college as introverts such as: J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan and Warren Buffet. They may not have checked off the suggested skills in this article, but they were able to find their identity, focus on their strengths and surround themselves with people who compliment their weaknesses.
Being an introvert in college is an exciting journey, not a scary one. Treat it as the preparation for great things to come. Don’t just survive in college, thrive during it!
This is the same advice I wish someone gave to me as an introvert in college over 15 plus years ago.
Your fellow introvert,