Networking Survival Kit

Does anyone else feel like the fall is already flying by? For those of you in Chicago, one contributing factor could be the weather going from summer to winter in a blink of an eye. For me personally, my schedule has picked up tremendously and my work days have been getting longer as a result of networking events.

It seems like every week I have either a coffee meeting scheduled or a happy hour after work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be busy and I love the opportunity to connect with amazing and driven women passionate about growing their networks but sometimes I have major FOMO not being home with my husband and adorable puppy.

We are just on the cusp of holiday season which means that my social calendar, along with yours, will be filling up quickly. Before things get too hectic, I wanted to share with you what I have found to be necessary for survival when networking.

Discernment

Okay fine, so this isn’t an item you need to remember to pack in your clutch (more on that to come) but I do think this is truly the first thing you should pack in your survival kit. Be discerning and deliberate about which networking opportunities you commit to. Take the time to determine if the event is in alignment with your professional and/or personal goals. Remember that your time is valuable and that it’s okay to say no.

Elevator Pitch

If you aren’t already familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch, its a short 30 second to one minute speech that includes introducing yourself, explaining what you do for a living and hopefully spark interest that will lead into a larger conversation. If you are at a professional networking event, this will be the first question someone will ask. Be sure you are prepared with a strong, confident and engaging response.

If you are new to networking, I strongly encourage you to take some time prior to your events and write out and practice your elevator pitch. Before bigger events or when preparing for presentations, I will practice in front of my mirror.

Business Cards

-This one is a no-brainer. Some might say that this is outdated advice and no longer relevant in this age of technology but I will politely disagree. Business cards are still the best way to share your contact information with new acquaintances. I will take this pieces of advice a step forward and suggest having a separate stack of business cards if you have a side hustle in addition to a traditional 9-5 job. I promise you that people will want to know how they connect with you and support your side hustle/passion projects.

If you plan on collecting business cards from people at the event, I would recommend also having a pen in your clutch so that you can jot down some notes on your new acquaintance afterwards. I’ve found it to be helpful when following-up if I can reference something that came up in our conversation.

Identification, Credit Cards and Cash

I may be stating the obvious here but its best to be prepared for all circumstances. With networking events in the city, you often need your ID to get through the front lobby into the event so don’t forget it! I’ve definitely made this mistake in the past.

While most people usually have a debit or credit card on them, cash is rare these days. I think its best to always show up to event with a few dollars in cash in the event of a tip jar or to help settle up the tab at the end of a meal.

Personal Items

Depending on the size of your bag, this list category can be as big or small as you need it to be. Some fail safe personal items to have on hand include:

  • Gum or mints
  • Lipstick/Lip Gloss
  • Concealer
  • Mascara
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Hand Sanitizer

I think we can all understand and appreciate how the items above could come in handy when nerves are high and self doubt and negative talk could creep in.

How to Find Events

For those of you reading this post and wishing you had more networking opportunities to participate in, for personal or professional reasons, I wanted to share with you all some resources that I have found invaluable this past year.

  • Eventbrite – If you live in Chicago or another city, Eventbrite has hundreds, if not thousands, of events that can be filtered by geographic location. You can also filter by interests to help with the search.
  • Instagram – this past year the majority of the events that I have attended I learned about through Instagram. I have been intentional on following users that are entrepreneurial, inspiring and community driven. Its incredible the network you can tap into leveraging Instagram.
  • Facebook – similar to Instagram, I’ve found it easy to find and join groups and events that share similar values through their platform. You just have to look!
  • Professional Organizations – Last year I joined a professional organization here in Chicago, Professional Women’s Club of Chicago (PWCC), which has been wonderful. PWCC is just one of hundreds in the city, one that I found with a simple Google search. With a professional organization there is a set cadence of events and the opportunity to connect with familiar or new faces each time.

Wishing you the best at your next networking event. Remember to be authentic and ask engaging questions!