“Hello! My Name is…”—A Survival Guide to In-Person Networking

Did you know 85 percent of people feel they build stronger, more meaningful relationships during in-person meetings and conferences? Or that 95 percent of professionals say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships? In today’s technology-driven world, these statistics may seem a bit outdated, but they are based on recent studies that illustrate the importance of in-person networking to one’s professional development.

UMUC Career Services recently offered a webinar entitled “Hello! My Name is…  A Survival Guide to In-Person Networking” where attendees learned from Ian Hubbard, a recruiter with UMUC’s HR team, about some of the do’s and don’ts when networking face-to-face. Fortunately, with in-person networking, you never know when you will meet that next person who will be influential to your career. Perhaps it will happen at a formal networking event such as a career fair or conference. Or maybe a more unpredictable setting like your daughter’s soccer game or at the gym.

Professional associations are a particularly good way to connect with professionals in your target field.  Last month, UMUC Career Services hosted a webinar featuring a panel of three professional association representatives. Read about that session and watch the recorded webinar here. Don’t know how to find a professional association in your field? Check out this page from the U.S. Department of Labor where you can search for associations based on your target occupation or industry.

Here are a few other things to know about in-person networking:

  • Dress to impress. This is your first impression so make sure the person you are meeting will be focused on you and your accomplishments. You do not want them to be distracted by unprofessional attire.
  • Bring business cards. Make sure they contain your name, email, phone number, and URL to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Prepare your introduction. Be sure to state your name and your current or target career field, but also be prepared to ask the person you are meeting a question to keep the conversation going.
  • Attend with a friend. Going to an event with a friend is a great way to have access to meeting twice as many peoplebut only if you interact with different people.
  • Track your conversations. At the event, be sure to get a business card from every person you meet. Record what you discussed on the back of each card.
  • Follow up. After the event is over, keep the conversation going by thanking your contacts for the conversation, connecting with them on LinkedIn, and sending an email to request a one-on-one meeting. Try to stay in touch as much as you can.

The last piece of advice shared during the webinar was the importance of informational interviews, which are short, 30-minute (or less) meetings where you learn about an individual’s career journey. This is a great way to get answers to questions like:

  • What is a typical day like in your job?
  • What was the best professional decision you ever made?
  • What do you wish you had known when you were in my position (e.g. leaving school, changing careers, etc.)?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges you think your industry is facing in the next five years?
  • How important are (industry certifications, security clearances, graduate degrees, etc.) for this career field?

All types of networking, both in-person and online, are important in today’s competitive and well-connected job market. While it can be nerve-wracking to meet someone new or to be at a large networking event, remember that when you network, all you are doing is simply talking to peoplesomething you have done your entire life. From career fairs and recruiter sessions to alumni mixers, UMUC has a lot of in-person networking opportunities. With all of these events, you never know: the person you are meeting might be the key to helping you launch the next phase of your career.

For information about upcoming career and networking events, visit CareerQuest and the UMUC Alumni website.

Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS at University of Maryland University College. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning U.S. servicemembers about the civilian job search. She is very passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.