By Hallie Crawford

U.S. News, May 15, 2018 —

If you are too focused on networking solely on social media, you’re missing out on opportunities.

Networking is important for all professionals. Whether you are currently searching for a job, in the middle of a career transition or just want to build your brand, your networking strategy is a key element to your success. And with the amount of networking possibilities available online through social media, should that be your main focus?

While online networking offers many advantages, don’t make the mistake of neglecting in-person networking. Connecting with real people face to face creates a stronger relationship than just connecting online. And where job search is concerned, you may be missing opportunities by focusing too much on what you find online instead of getting out and talking to recruiters and hiring managers.

Some professionals shy away from in-person networking because they are afraid of seeming desperate or they aren’t sure how to connect with complete strangers. Let’s discuss a few ways you can include face-to-face opportunities in your networking strategy without feeling forced and awkward.

In-person networking has a wide variety of additional benefits compared with just connecting online. (iStockphoto)

Attend company events.

Perhaps the organization you work for has organized a business event or a training session. Make plans to attend and be an active participant. This type of event is a great opportunity to connect with others with whom you already have things in common, so it doesn’t have to feel awkward.

Don’t make the mistake of having a negative attitude about the event. Be positive and go into the event with the goal of making two or three new connections. This can give you a fresh new spin on organization events. Even events that may seem boring at first glance can have a positive outcome.

Prepare a few talking points before attending. This can help you feel more at ease instead of struggling for things to say at the event. It’s important to feel natural and be positive. For example, you could try the following questions:

  • How long have you worked with the organization?
  • What do you like the most about your current position?
  • What did you think about the speech, training video, etc.?

Also, if the conversation isn’t going anywhere, don’t force it. Move on to someone else who looks friendly. Then, when you have hit it off with someone you think could be a solid networking connection, let them know you would love to keep in touch. Give them your business card, and then follow up, either by connecting on LinkedIn or sending an email.

Attend alumni events.

This is another easy way to make new connections. After all, you attended the same university, so this is another group of people you have something in common with. Generally, universities have a website with their upcoming events for alumni. Choose events you think are interesting and would provide you with the opportunity to meet new people.

Even though you are attending an alumni event, you will want to be prepared for business opportunities. Make sure you have several business cards on hand and set the goal of giving out two or three of them. Also, take the time to review your elevator pitch. This is basically a statement about who you are, what you’re looking for and what you bring to the table.

Be careful not to be too pushy with networking. Some alumni events are more casual, so start off with light conversation. You could ask someone why they are attending the event and share what you thought was interesting. Then, if the conversation keeps going, you could bring up the topic of work. Ask them what industry they work in and offer some details about what industry you work in or would like to work in.

Attend industry events.

Generally these are events that you have to pay for, so this means that you will be rubbing shoulders with others who feel as strongly as you about the topic or issue that will be discussed. This immediately provides common ground for discussion.

Again, you will want to be prepared with your business card for this event and set a goal. Perhaps you would like to meet the speaker or someone else you admire who will be attending the event. Decide in advance what you would like to say, whether it is congratulating them on a great presentation or thanking them for their contributions to the industry.

Make sure to keep your face-to-face connections alive by continuing the conversation online. Send articles you think they may find useful from time to time, or something else you think they would appreciate.

By taking advantage of both in-person and online networking opportunities, your network strategy is sure to be a success and help you reach your professional goals.

Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker, author and freelance blogger for U.S. News. As a certified coach for over 15 years, Hallie specializes in career direction, job search and work performance coaching.