Networking is the most important element of a successful career and job search. You have to meet people to get ahead in this world. The more people who know and like you, the better.
You don’t just network at so-called “networking events.” Your whole life is actually a networking event. You never know who you might meet at the grocery store or in line at the coffee shop who might help you advance your career.
That said, you’re also going to attend bona-fide networking events — and you should think of every gathering you attend as one.
There are several items you should have on hand at these to maximize your chances of making valuable connections. Here are 11 of them.
Business cards. I find it weird that people still ask for these but they do so quite often. If you don’t have any get some made, and carry them.
Hand sanitizer. The other day I accidentally put my hand under a table and touched someone’s gum! And what if someone sneezes into their hand and then reaches out to shake yours? Hand sanitizer will save you in these situations from having to pretend you’ve suddenly lost the use of your arms.
Charger. It’s good to have a portable backup charger in case your phone dies. We rely so heavily on these technologies for making contacts. A dead phone can mean a lost connection. Don’t let it happen to you.
Pen. The above is also why you should carry a pen. Just in case. Also, what if you have spontaneously draw something on a cocktail napkin? Then where would you be? It’s always good to carry one.
Floss or toothpicks. You know when you get that piece of chicken satay stuck in our teeth and it’s so distracting you can barely focus on anything else? This can be a real problem. Toothpicks are the answer. Please don’t use these items in public. Take them to the bathroom and pick our teeth discretely.
Gum/mints. Bad breath is a common problem out there, and most people don’t realize they have it. Be careful. When in doubt – and after you eat anything – chew some gum (with your mouth closed) or have a mint.
Tissues. Don’t get caught wiping your nose on your sleeve or your hand or sneezing everywhere. You never know when a sneeze might strike. Or some other situation I haven’t thought if here in which you might need a tissue. Tissues are a must have.
Cash. People carry less cash these days but you might get faced with a broken machine or some weird situation in which you are forced to use cash. And if you don’t have any someone might get stuck paying for you, and that can create awkwardness. Have a bit of cash on hand at all times.
ID. Leave the passport at home, but carry your driver’s license or PR card in case you’re called upon to prove who you are.
Your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short speech – about 30 seconds long – that says who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for/how you can bring value. Craft one and have it ready for when you need it.
Conversation starters. You’re going to need to start conversations. If this is not something that comes naturally to you, have about 10 of these at the ready.