Networking: A Lifelong Skill

By: Ashlee

I recently read an article in USA Today where Kate White, the recent former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, offered her best career advice. The most important skill anyone can learn is how to network. “Networking is absolutely key,” said White. A couple weeks ago, I helped organize and host a networking night between Duluth community professionals and UMD’s juniors and seniors. It was a great event of mingling and many connections were made for potential future career opportunities. It was a night for practicing networking skills for both the students emerging to the working world and also for the professionals who attended. Networking is a career-long skill that will never cease to hold benefits.

One thing stuck out to me during this networking event, and it sort of caught me off guard. Every single professional I spoke to during the night either offered me their personal business card or asked me for mine. It seems a bit backwards, doesn’t it? Everywhere you look, someone is sending a message via smart phone or talking about the newest app they just downloaded. There’s even a ‘Bump It’ app where two people ‘bump’ their phones together and that’s how they exchange their contact information, or how they share videos, pictures, or whatever you want to share with the other person. It blows my mind that business cards are still something being used in today’s working world.

I actually felt a little silly and unprepared when they asked for my business card, and I had to politely tell them I didn’t have one. Not because I had run out due to handing out so many, but because I honestly didn’t have one. Not even a mock-up waiting on my laptop to be printed. Simply put, I thought business cards were a thing of the past.

I wasn’t bothered too much during the networking event as a contact list was available for professionals and students to take home, so we did have a way of contacting each other beyond the event. It got me thinking later on in the week when I was in a meeting with an individual whose job was to pick and arrange travel programs (a business I was highly interested in and completely clueless as how to even begin searching for a job like that.) As he passed me his business card at the end of our meeting, he asked me for mine. Again, I had to tell him I didn’t have one, and this was a contact I really wanted to follow up with!

On two separate occasions in a single week, I was asked for my business card, and each time, I failed to have one on me. This tells me one thing: While many corporate and business worlds run efficiently with technology by their side, there’s still a want and need for a quick contact information exchange. The preferred method? Through business cards. You can bet I got on my computer after that meeting and roughed up a business card for myself. Three strikes and you’re out!

A business card isn’t hard to make, either. Microsoft Office offers templates for making business cards or even Google “business card template.” You’ll have plenty of options to choose from. They don’t have to be anything fancy. Include your name, professional email, either a work number or your personal cell phone number (a number people know they can reach you at without fear of waiting for weeks), your business title, and your company’s name.

When it comes to your career, you never know when a brief connection might become the gateway to a potential career opportunity, Keep yourself prepared. Stash a couple business cards in your purse, your pocket, the inside cover pocket of your iPad case…whatever you’re constantly carrying around with you. Don’t be caught unprepared, and see a door close before it even opens.

Read Ashlee’s other posts

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