NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 17 – Networking. How many times have you heard that term being used in today’s business-growth blogs and columns? I bet it’s more than a couple of times.
Do you know the impact that effective networking has on your career development?
Alice Niyonkuru, a upcoming Burundian entrepreneur and Christopher Vuba, a South African Urban Planner and entrepreneur swear by it. “If it wasn’t for effective networking, I probably wouldn’t have started my business venture; neither would I have prospered,” Vuba, a Mandela Washington Fellow (2015) says during the ongoing Fellowship in Nairobi.
In essence, networking is interacting with people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
“The world is not an island, you cannot have a thriving career or business without the help of others, which is where networking comes into place,” says Niyonkuru.
The two fellows, who are part of US President’s Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative to invest in young African Leaders, have these five thoughts to share on how to network effectively.
1. Always be ready to network
Networking sessions shouldn’t be confined to arranged business meetings only, it can even be by the roadside as you wait for a cab, or as you catch a bus home, says Vuba.
He explains that by being mentally ready of the unseen opportunities surrounding all of us, one can meet their next big help. “Never assume the cab driver or the watch guard, he could know someone who needs the type of service or the kind of qualifications that you have.”
2. Invest in your looks
Whoever you are and whatever you do, ensure you look the part, says Niyonkuru. Ensure that whenever you go into a business meeting or a place you expect to meet people you make a good impression by dressing the part. Therefore, wear a good suit if the meeting is formal.
3. Always have your business cards
A business card says who you are, what you do and how you can be contacted. You may make a very good impression on people you meet during networking sessions, but if you’ve got no business cards, then you might become easily forgettable.
“A business card is especially essential when it comes to making the first communication after the initial meeting. This is because it mostly contains an email address which is the right way of contacting someone for the first time. On that note, do not call or WhatsApp a person you intend to pursue a professional relationship with at first, preferably, email them, unless they request you to call them,” Niyonkuru says.
4. Don’t wait too long to contact them
How long should you take to contact a person you met through a networking session? “During the first 48 hours, after that, it communicates the message that, that person was not all that important. On the other hand, the person might have even forgotten you. To ensure you create a lasting impression, make the initial contact as soon as possible.”
5. Polish up your social media accounts
The easiest way of networking these days is through social media, explains Vuba. He explains that social media has made people who are in real life inaccessible, accessible. Therefore, if you are eyeing to establish a professional relationship with someone online, ensure your various profiles speak for you.
“The best way of doing this is ensuring you separate you accounts. For instance, if you choose Twitter and LinkedIn as platforms where your promote your brand – as an account, a journalist or a techie- ensure someone can see your passion in your field by scrolling through your profile. You can use other platforms, preferably using a different name, to show a different side of you.”