So you want to increase your network but don’t know how? Maybe the idea of networking has always incited a sense of fear in you small small. Unless you went to a school that was intentional on teaching you how to network, or had someone around you showing you how it’s done, it makes sense that the thought of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Maybe you fear rejection. Or simply thinking of going to an event exhausts you. Or maybe you just don’t want to appear “fake.” We have all been there. Networking horror stories abound, but the benefits outweigh the struggles. A good network provides you access, resources, shared knowledge, and so much more.
The importance of having a strong network cannot be stressed enough, so we’ve created a space for young African women to engage with other female leaders and mentors in their respective fields. We’re inviting all to register to join the Cohort in order to shape and grow their network. Before you jump in headfirst, here are some things to keep in mind as you work on growing your network (and your networking skills).
1. If you want to grow your network, you have to be found working AND put yourself out there. This is especially beneficial for artists of any medium…the more you share your work, and yourself as an extension, the more you increase your chance of someone resonating and wanting to support you on your journey. Listen, closed mouths don’t get fed.
2. We’re saying goodbye to stuffy, traditional networking styles. Issa Rae said it best…network horizontally. You can be determined and put your best efforts into speaking to the founder, or CEO, or the high profile person…but everyone is trying to speak to this person. Their capacity to speak to everyone is low. Yes, you could learn a lot from them if ever given the opportunity. But don’t overlook the people working in the trenches with you. They are the future managers, directors, executives, etc. Supporting each other as you grow will deeply enrichen your network.
3. You are in control of your network. It’s important to diversify but be selective. Approach your network as having a personal “board of directors.” When you think of a company’s board, they have different people playing different roles. As you work to build your network, look to build within your industry as well as in adjacent industries. This will make your network more well rounded. Be selective in the events you intend; you don’t have to be everything, everywhere all at once.
4. As you build, set meaningful goals. Remember that this is YOUR network. You are in control of the process. So recognize what you want from it and then go and get it. For you, it may be going to three events a month, or cold emailing two people you really admire, or even applying for Sayaspora’s Making Your Way Up Cohort. You can determine how many people you want to speak with at an event, or what your follow up will look like, or who you would love to secure as a mentor. You must determine whatever is meaningful for YOU, and then shoot for the stars.
5. Anything worth doing is worth doing well so take your time. Building anything takes time so as you start on this journey, give yourself grace. You may not find your people tomorrow and that’s ok. Pace yourself, you’ll have some hits and you’ll have some misses. Change is guaranteed when you keep showing up.
In Canada, women are 26% less likely than men to have a strong network on Linkedin. Initiatives like Sayaspora’s Making Your Way Up Cohort are just what we need in our efforts to close the gap. Through your network, you are one person away from being in a space you could have never imagined. Hopefully, this idea of networking has been demystified for you now. Remember, the best time to start building your network was yesterday; the next best time is now.
Josie Fomé is a multimedia Journalist with a keen interest on issues related to the African Continent and the African diaspora. She has international experience in community facilitation, radio show production and documentary film making. She has a passion for reshaping and creating new narratives surrounding the African continent and the African diaspora through story telling in all its forms.