November 23, 2022 | In Articles

Networking: Whys and How-tos

Networking: Whys and How-tos

Ghanian language (Twi) meaning 'This is our land'

A couple of years ago, while I was in University, I went to an event and on the program was a networking session.

Not to be dramatic, but my heart skipped a beat when I saw it, "what will I say? How will I start? What if it gets awkward?" were some thoughts that ran through my mind.

My anxiety preceding that session in the program made the actual session as daunting as I expected.

At the end of the day, the male washroom was my strongest connection.

Why is it important to network, and what are some practical ways to network? These are some questions we will be dissecting in this week's article.

It is helpful to see networking as a genuine relationship building exercise - not the usually selfish 'I am only being friendly because I need your services' approach. It is easier to start your networking journey by reaching out to people you actually want to be friends with and people to who you can show genuine interest and care. Reach out for friendship sake, genuinely.

It is helpful to see networking as a genuine relationship building exercise.

An African Proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

The goal of networking is to build mutually beneficial relationships.

The connections you make via networking go both ways because there are moments when you'll need help and other instances when you'll be at the giving end of assistance.

When networks have been created, it fosters a trade of ideas to sustain long-term relationships and mutual trust


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Why should you network?

Networking is critical because it provides insights, skills, and connections that will propel you forward in ways you could not achieve on your own.

I saw a post on giving statistics on why networking is essential; I will list a few that stood out to me :

"Networking is responsible for filling in 85% of job vacancies." [Source: HubSpot]

"Whom you know" is not a myth. I stand by the argument that having protocol is not a bad thing as long as round pegs are not being forced into square holes. Imagine you meet an excellent graphic designer who has shown you his work and passionately speaks about his job. When a project requires a graphic designer, the chances of you recommending them are high.

"Networking typically provides job seekers with higher-quality job offers, including higher wages. [Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

My analogy for the previous point applies to this point as well. Suppose I come across a project requiring a graphic designer but the pay is not good. In that case, the chances of me recommending it to that amazing guy I met who put so much into his work are low.

"7 out of 10 job openings aren't publicly advertised." [Source: CNBC]

Kwame- "I have been looking for a graphic designer for months, and I can't find one that understands my vision or is passionate enough to carry it out".

Kwesi-"Oh, I know a guy; let me give you his number."

By word of mouth, that excellent graphic designer got a job that Kwame possibly hasn't bothered to advertise. The best he has done is probably put up "Experienced Graphic designer needed" on his WhatsApp status

Luckily, you don't have to wait for a formal dinner at the president's office to make a good connection. An opportunity to network could present itself while you are in line at Accra Mall waiting to check out your groceries at the counter.

Consider networking an opportunity for exploration and learning rather than a task.

How can we go about it effectively when the opportunity to network presents itself?


Meet the person you are networking with: Treat a networking session as a "getting to know the other person session". Focus on them and their interests. First, definitely introduce yourself and then ask questions like:


What do you do for work?


What do you find most interesting about what the first speaker said?


What has been your highlight of this program so far?


What is your favourite meal on the menu? (For those you meet in the queue at burger king).

Asking open-ended questions can provide a starting point for discussion and a direction to follow.

The person on the other end of the conversation will most likely reciprocate and ask questions about you.


Be an active listener:


Your Body Language is key: Face the person you are talking to, and don't be afraid to make eye contact. Don't hold eye contact throughout the conversation; look to the side or up occasionally.

Don't be a robot. Show interest; nod your head, and say something that shows you are following. e.g., "yes",. "ok" etc.


Be attentive to the other person's body language: You can learn just as much from their gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions as you can from their words.


Don't interrupt mid-speech and ask questions: "If I correctly understood you.......", " what did you do next after you got the award?".


Know when and how to end the conversation: There are times when the conversation can become monotonous as you eventually run out of things to say to one another. Knowing how to end the conversation is a lifesaver at these moments.

A simple "This was a good conversation; let's do this again soon" is enough to politely pull out of a slowly dying conversation.


Practice Networking: Use low-pressure situations to build your skill and confidence.

For example, make it a point to make a new friend at least once a week. If you are in school, sit next to someone you dont know the next time you go for lunch. If you are working, go to someone's desk and ask what they do on a typical day with relation to their work.

Networking does not end once you are done talking to the other person or people; following up after the first session is vital if you want to convert the person into a connection.

24 hours after the first conversation, follow up with a Linkedin message, e-mail, or WhatsApp message, depending on what communication the person shared with you.

By doing this, you build a rapport with them and create a channel of communication via which you may later communicate with them. After that, attempt to follow up with acquaintances once every while.

When you come across opportunities they might be interested in, don't hesitate to forward them to them.

People are busy, and you'll get lost in their busy schedules if you don't connect with them frequently.

" It was lovely meeting you at [Event]. I enjoyed hearing what you thought of [something discussed]. I agree with [ point made]; I have attached a link to an article on the concept I was telling you about. I hope this helps you understand it better. Thank you for the new insights in the field of [ industry]. We should continue this discussion over some fufu one Sunday (the person probably mentioned how much they love fufu)".

Sample follow up message

Networking can be nerve-wracking, but your connections can be highly beneficial beyond a professional context.

The ability to connect with people is a valuable skill to have.

by Papa Kwesi Asare Dokyi

Lead Writer & Co-Editor, Looksharp Global

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