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Day 16: Your network is your net worth

"Everything you want in life, is a relationship away" Idowu Koyenikan


The phrase “your network is your net worth” may feel overused, but it is pure truth. A few days ago, I shared how I identified my first mentor by being part of the Association for the advancement of Black Accountants in Southern Africa (ABASA). I have been part of many other similar associations in the past ten years of my professional life. These associations provided me with the opportunity to serve my profession, industry, and community and the added value of giving me a broad personal and professional network beyond Lesotho and South African borders.


I have so many stories of how I got job opportunities, speaking opportunities, client engagements, and other doors opened for me because of my networks. I landed my first board appointment serving in a university council because of a referral by a professor of mine. I had met him a few weeks prior at the Bloemfontein airport on my way to a work engagement. When I recognized him, I immediately greeted him and told him who I was. I was sure he didn’t remember me, but we struck up a conversation and told him all about what I had been busy with since leaving university. On our way, we met again in Johannesburg and continued to talk. I could tell he was impressed by my progression as a professional. A few weeks later, he heard that the council was looking for a Chartered Accountant to join their audit committee, and he referred them to me. I got a call to find out whether I would be interested in a nomination to serve the council and provided my CV. The rest is history. That was over seven years ago, and that first appointment opened doors for me in many other areas.





One of the critical things that need to be an integral part of our goal setting process is identifying ways to increase our network. I have been part of associations and networks such as ABASA, Global Shapers, Mandela Washington Fellows (and the Young African Leaders Initiative), to name a few. All these organisations have played a role in shaping me as a professional and opened the world up for me. What formal associations do you need to join to increase your network?


Some associations require you to be a professional in a specific area. For example, being part of the South African Institute of Accountants or the Lesotho Institute of Accountant requires you to be an accounting professional. Some of them can only be joined by merit. Networks such as the Golden Key International Honour Society are only joined by invitation to the top students at universities with a Golden Key chapter. Other networks are centered around uniting for a common cause. For example, the Global Shapers Community is for well-established young people looking to make a difference in their communities. We all have so many options, regardless of our professional background and interests. Being part of these networks can give us access to resources, people, and opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to and get us that much closer to achieving the goals we have set for ourselves.


Being part of specific networks also provides you with an opportunity to showcase your skills to people that you may not have had access. Simply excelling at work in front of your bosses, customers, and other stakeholders may not be enough to open up opportunities for you beyond your immediate environment. However, suppose you engage with people from other institutions, industries, and even countries through the networks that you are a part of. In that case, you are increasing your footprint as a professional and auditioning in front of a larger audience, thereby creating a bigger pool of people who will think of your excellence when opportunities arise or who will vouch for you when you need a reference or referral. For example, when I served as the Treasurer of ABASA Free State, I was a trainee at PwC Bloemfontein, and the National Treasurer was a partner at PwC Johannesburg. Delivering financial reports to him and working with him at the annual convention resulted in an offer to interview as an assistant manager at the Johannesburg office. Even though I didn’t take that opportunity then, I used it as leverage to secure a promotion in the Bloemfontein office. Through this experience, I learned about the power of networking as an essential part of achieving success in a dimension of our lives.


During my time at ABASA, we often went on recruitment drives to encourage fellow trainees to join the Association. One of the questions that puzzled me a lot that came from many people we spoke to was, “what’s in it for me?” While I understood that it was important for an organization to develop a value proposition for its potential members and to articulate it very clearly, it also worried me that these young and aspiring professionals didn’t realize that the real question that they needed to be asking themselves was “what value will I bring to this organization.” This is an essential aspect of being part of any network. You cannot just be there to gain the benefits; you must add value so that the network can grow and become even more valuable to you and to everyone else who is a part of it. Therefore, the approach in building your network in any sphere should not be because you want to gain this or that benefit. It should be because you want to learn from others and because you also want to bring value – and you should be able to articulate what value you will get to that network. When you apply for opportunities such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship or to scholarships such as the Chevening Scholarships, one of the questions you get asked to determine whether you are an ideal candidate is, “in what ways will you contribute to the community?”.


The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity - Keith Ferrazzi

Finally, to gain value from any network or community you are part of, you must be someone who can see value in other people. While it may come naturally to a few people, I believe that this is a skill that most of us need to develop. It is much easier for many of us to see value in well-known or wealthy people but much harder to see value in people who are part of our everyday lives. But if you can unearth value in the people around you, you will benefit so much more than someone who overlooks the value that other people bring. In your immediate environment and broader network, you will find an investor for your business, a mentor or a coach, a partner for your next venture, a person with skills you may not have but may need to get to the next level, and many more. However, to identify what people around you have, you need to know how to have the right conversations that transcend idle talk, and you need to take an interest in the people around you.

 

Journal reflections:

  1. Which networks are you a part of? In what ways have you been intentional in building these networks?

  2. Which networks do you need to be a part of in the short-term, medium-term and long-term? If some of these require qualification, reflect on how you will ensure that you qualify to be part of these networks?

  3. What value do you bring to the networks that you are a part of? What value would you like to add?

  4. Consider the people around you, who would you like to be more intentional in reaching out to that you may be overlooking?

 

Resources:




2 Comments


Thejane Malakane
Thejane Malakane
Jan 27, 2022

Enlightening content.

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Thank you so much for reading

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate leader, accomplished professional and a mentor. I believe that nation-building depends on how well we build people. Therefore, my mission is to contribute to the personal, professional and leadership development of people to empower them to reach their highest potential.

I do this through a mentorship program that I founded and through this blog where I share principles I've applied and insights I've gained in the past twelve years of my career and leadership journey.

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