Smith Brain Trust / November 22, 2022

Getting Back Out There: Networking In-person Again

Getting Back Out There: Networking In-person Again

You’ve heard it before: networking is critical for building professional relationships and finding out about new job opportunities, says Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach in Maryland Smith’s Office of Career Services.

Building rapport is easier face-to-face, but with COVID and a hiatus on many in-person professional meetings and events, networking IRL is now finally coming back. It can feel all-new again, and frankly, a bit daunting, says Loock.

First off, give yourself – and everyone else – a break, she says, especially if networking never felt easy to begin with. Writing in USA Today, Loock offered these tips for giving yourself the nudge you need:

Know the goal. Networking is all about building mutually beneficial relationships. It’s not just about reaching out to people who can help you – think about what you can offer, like info on a job posting or an intro to a colleague. If you reach out, maybe they’ll return the favor.

Make a plan and hold yourself to it. Come up with a list of people you want to reconnect with and reach out. Set specific goals on who you’ll connect with by a certain date and map out how you’ll meet those goals. After you meet with someone or attend an event, give yourself action items, like sending email follow-ups or connecting with new contacts on LinkedIn.

Start with something easy. Connect with a contact you haven’t seen for a while for a quick coffee or lunch.

Grab a friend. Ask a friend or a professional colleague to go with you to a conference or professional event. That’s one way to reconnect with that person, and it also makes attending the event feel not quite so overwhelming.

Think small. Look for smaller conferences at venues that might be less crowded. National organizations often have regional chapters that host small gatherings. Or try a Smith School or University of Maryland alumni event.

Make the ask. Give anyone you approach for a meet-up an “out” while also letting them know that you’d like to see them face-to-face. Don’t assume that everyone is OK with meeting in-person again.

There’s always Zoom. If the person doesn’t feel comfortable in-person, see if they are open to a virtual meeting or a phone call. Some kind of check-in is better than none.

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