New year, new networking opportunities

When it comes to making a good impression, a new year brings plenty of new networking opportunities - and planning now can ensure that you make the most out of encounters with potential contacts.

Whether you're looking to expand your base of contacts for professional reasons or you are networking with a view to changing jobs in the not-so-distant future, it is important to remember that opportunities are everywhere.

Being prepared can help you make the most of any networking situation, whether it is planned or spontaneous.

But preparedness is more than simply having a stack of business cards at the ready - you'll also want to ensure that you look the part.

A crisp shirt and tie combo can go a long way towards making a positive first impression - and if your unique tie has a tasteful, eye-catching design, you may find that it provides an excellent conversation starter.

You might also want to consider an emergency networking kit - on days when you're out and about, you'll want to have a small stack of business cards and work on perfecting your elevator pitch so you are ready for any potential contacts that may unexpectedly come your way.