29th February 2020
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Networking and friendships

Who are your friends? What does a relationship mean to you? There was a time when networking was the in thing for getting great career or business opportunities. There is even a saying that your network is your net worth which is very true. The important question is, how do you build your network? I am not an expert on these things but I can tell you what has worked for me.

I remember when I was searching for Masters scholarships, given that I didn’t know where to start from, I spoke to friends who connected me to their own friends until I was connected with someone who knew about scholarships and how to go about it. In addition, I have worked in five great organisations and out of these, the opportunities for four of them were sent to me by friends.

Networking does not mean going for conferences and distributing your complimentary cards to everybody you speak with. Neither does it mean connecting with only those people you think have something to offer. Humans are very perceptive and can see through you when you only want them for material things. These are my tried and trusted tips for turning your friendships into viable networks

Connect with people based on value systems

My first tip is always start from where you are. You don’t need to start chasing that elusive big shot or wealthy person. Who are your friends? Who do you speak with regularly. When you are in a fix and need someone to bail you out, who do you call? I am amazed when someone I am not really close friends with calls me to ask for opportunities. I sometimes ask, what about this or that person who I see you with regularly, who I think is better placed to offer you what you need. Sometimes they say, yes we talk and all that but you know, I can’t really open up to them in this manner. I don’t want them to know about my business and all that. I usually marvel at such response. How could you have friends that you can’t approach to assist you in your time of need. What is then the purpose of that friendship? A friend in need is a friend indeed! What this says about your relationships is that you either need to change your friends or learn how to cultivate good relationships. One tip for doing this is to choose only those who share the same values with. This is very important because you want to be sure to a very large extent that this person understands you. When you connect with people based on value systems, you won’t be be ashamed to open up both in good and bad times.

Be Authentic with your friends

Apart from connecting with people who have the same values as you do, build the relationship by being authentic. Be yourself and don’t try to impress them by faking or acting like you are someone you are not. Relate with them on the same level that you are. Be the real you. When you have not attained a certain level, don’t act like you have. People can differentiate acting from original. Even if you don’t regularly check up on them, the few times you do, you would have established a real connection. It’s that natural connection that you both have that will then transform into sharing opportunities with one another. When you have authentic friends based on values, even when they don’t have what you need at that time, they may point you in the right direction or connect you with people who can. Then, you can be sure of getting authentic links too.

Reciprocate Gestures

Don’t approach total strangers and jump straight in by asking for opportunities. In this age of social media where connecting with important personalities or celebrities is just a click away, or where you regularly see their updates, it’s easy to assume that you know them. The truth is that you don’t. It’s until you build the relationship before you can reach out for opportunities. When cultivating the relationship, you want to ensure that it’s not one sided, that you give as much as you take from them. Even if you don’t have anything financial to give, you could give away your time, your conversation, or share your values. Ensure that when that person is in need and you are able to offer it, that actually do and not shy away. That way, your relationship becomes reciprocal and not one sided.

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Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com

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