5 Ways African Entrepreneurs Can Build a Solid Lifelong Network

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Imagine heading to the office on a Monday morning and you were told that you had been laid off for seemingly no reason. The experience could leave you in shock for many days. Yet, as a young professional, you must have planned your future around your career or investments.

READ ALSO: Top 10 Most Ethnically Diverse Countries in Africa

If you have a setup in this plan, it could leave you bitter, angry, and lonely in your thoughts. You do not want to watch half of your world disappear because you have no solid lifelong network. But unfortunately, many of us fall victim to a common mistake in creating a relationship that would not survive the test of challenges and life changes.

We do not build a relationship because of sentiments or emotions, especially if we want a network that would stand by us in life. We have lots of young professionals and recent graduates who want to know how to find opportunities.

However, we can move past this level by using these innovative, actionable plans:

1. Make a Connection

Contrary to most people’s belief that building a network requires coming from a wealthy background, it is far easier than you can imagine.

a.      Connect with Alumni.

You can begin by joining your alumni network. Most strong alumni networks have a LinkedIn group page and other social media accounts. You can quickly search with your school name and join such a group.

b.       Connect with Colleagues.

Most of us don’t know the type of network our colleagues relate with after work or school. You can connect more with colleagues to discover more networks. For example, colleagues can help you with a recommendation or refer you to someone of influence that can help you in the future.   However, not everyone should be in your network, especially your competitors.

c.      Follow companies & organizations.

You can follow organizations and companies you are interested in to learn about them. Then, when they share insights and work-related matters, you can read them. In addition, interact in their posts regularly to gain their attention.

d.      Join Young Professional Groups.

We have hundreds of young professional groups online and offline that can offer you a reliable lifelong network. A popular place to join these groups is social media like LinkedIn.

How do I Join a Professional Group on LinkedIn?

  • Click on the “Work” tab in the navigation bar.
  • Click “Groups.”
  • Search using “Young Professionals,” “Young Professionals (add your desired location).

How to Identify Your Network Cluster

Happy sales agent welcoming customer in outdoor cafe. Business man and women standing and sitting at table outdoors, shaking hands and smiling. Business meeting outside concept

You should figure out what you want from the network. Thus, it would help if you asked yourself these questions:

  1. Do I want to work for a startup, a medium-sized company, or a large corporation?
  2. What am I interested in doing as a professional?
  3. What are my geography limitations?

You can highlight a list of contacts with your answers when you have answered these questions. If you don’t have reliable connections, you should refocus and find the right people.

2. Ask for advice and ideas.

You can ask for advice and ideas from people on your list. How can you achieve this, knowing that one of them might be distant or inaccessible?

You can use this line: “I was recommended to you by [name the person(s)]. I’m hoping to get your advice and ideas for my (write what you want from them) and would appreciate some minutes of your time.”

When you have an interview with them, give these contacts your brief elevator pitch that highlights your skills and background. Kindly ask them for advice and ideas. At the end of your casual interview, request for other people they can recommend you to for such an exercise. Imagine the number of dependable contacts you can amass over a short period.

3. Follow up

After your interview, you should follow up with a personal thank-you note, including those you met during the meeting.

Actionable Tips

  • A simple secret is thanking the assistant to the person you met and the front desk personnel you met first. With this simple action, you can build trusted and loyal contacts in your different networks.
  • You need a tickler file to help you send brief emails to each person you met during this process. The aim is to let the person know how productive your quest has been after your initial meeting.

4. Keep your network alive.

Whether you succeed or not, you should keep the network cluster alive. In addition, you should always check in to reciprocate the generosity of those that helped you.

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