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Networking advice for the socially awkward

Anthea Batsakis

Mon Sep 08 2014


HOW do socially awkward people network? Find out what self-professed introvert Anthea Batsakis learnt when she posed this question to successful graduates.


“It’s not what you know, but who you know,” said Everyone Ever.

It’s a piece of advice that seems to keep coming up in conversations about careers, and sometimes you wonder if those long and stressful years of studying count for anything.

Not all students and graduates are capable of approaching a potential career recruiter with charisma and charm, let alone with confidence. So, this dauntingly definitive statement can imply that extroverts have the upper-hand over the equally qualified yet (sometimes) awkward introverts. In a society that places so much value on appearance, this is an unfortunate truth.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we introverts are doomed to fail. We just need to learn to network in a way that will cater to both our needs and personalities.

How then do the socially awkward network? I posed this question to a few successful earth science graduates from the University of Melbourne and received some pretty interesting advice.

Put your face out there

Sonya Fiddes, a Master of Science graduate doing an internship at the Bureau of Meteorology,  stressed that relationships can be built with career representatives simply by showing up to events and conferences. She explained that you’ll usually be meshed in with the same people at these events, so the more you “put yourself out there”, the more you’ll be recognised and associated with a particular field, without even having to say much.

When I asked if emails were an effective way to network, she was quick to recount how she once had to wait three months for a reply. I think it’s safe to say that networking is better in person.

Don’t go it alone

Whoever said you had to network alone? Now that’s a thought. Caitlin Gionfriddo, a PhD Student with an internship at an environmental consultancy in London, had a very useful piece of advice: Get an “extroverted wingman”.

She also went on to say that your mentors at university (lecturers, tutors and lab assistants) could be your first port of call as you would be striking up conversations with them anyway. Many of them would have gone through similar situations and would be more than happy to help you gain contacts.

Research and prepare your questions

To impress, Melinda Keys who is a Master’s Student and 2015 Graduate Geologist, suggests doing thorough research before attending a career fair. she also recommends writing down specific questions for more interactive conversations with company representatives.

Writing down your questions can also act as a guide when the nerves kick in and you find yourself tongue-tied!

Honesty is the best policy

Simone de Morton, a PhD Student sponsored by Teck Ireland Ltd, said to “be honest”. She said to ensure that you explain to career representatives why you’re interested in what you love – showing passion for the industry will translate into a great work ethic. She also said that it was important to ask the representatives many questions and simultaneously “weave in your story” during the conversation.

A little liquid courage goes a long way 

And finally, more than one graduate I spoke to said having a glass in hand has helped them relax in a stressful environment. For Angus Keillar, a Masters student investigating microbial life in extreme environments, his advice to me was to “drink enough beer”.

However, if you’re not one to drink, then this might not be the best option for you. Remember, the aim is to calm the nerves and lose a little inhibition, not all inhibition. You do not want to make a fool of yourself in front of a potential employer.

Are you a successful networking introvert? Share your story with us in the comments below.