A Networking tale : A Philosophy by kayode.ayoola@gmail.

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A young lady, who I will call Jane (real name withheld), hired my services as her Career Management Coach a while back. After our preliminary sessions on self-awareness, in which I administered several tests and psychometric tools; I proceeded to ask her to design the next 10 years of her life. One particular goal caught my attention, “…to meet a Nobel prize winner from a third world country.” I then asked her, “Who she had to “become” to meet this person? Her blank stare told me all I needed to know – she had no idea. My next session with her proved pretty interesting – she informed me that she now had the man’s telephone number (I recall she had a smirk on her face as she waved the slip of paper containing his number right in my face). On hearing this, I said to Jane, “since you now have his number, why don’t you place a call through to him right now? On hearing this, Jane replied, “I can’t!”, I then asked her, “why not?”, she said, “oh I don’t know”, I then said to her, let me tell you why you cannot call him, “you have not become the kind of person that can call him – you need to do your homework to unearth his hobbies, goals and even some of his challenges; you also need to find out what is he is like as a human being, what is he passionate about, and some of his proudest achievements; when you are done with getting all this information, you then have to identify where you have common interests with him etc. (Shared interests are often the building blocks of any relationship not common chitchat). What even stands out as more important than the above, is who you are (the fact that we measure everything and everyone by our own beliefs and impressions – the reason why we don’t see things as they are but as we are), relative to the kind of person you are trying to build a relationship with. What I am trying to say in essence is that you will only attract sustainable networking relationships in alignment with the kind of person you are – all pointing to the importance of personal development in networking. It’s hard to estimate these days how many working professionals in Nigeria have the telephone numbers of influential persons in the society; obviously gleaned from diverse sources, and in most cases these people do not know who you are. This happens because many people believe that networking is about reaching out to people for help when you need something – such as a job. The truth however is that no one likes someone who comes around when they need something and disappears when they don’t. You must build it before you need it – you must reach out long before you need anything at all (and this applies to everyone). What real networking is? Real networking, according to Keith Ferrazzi, is about finding ways to make other people more successful , it entails sharing knowledge and information without expecting anything in return, you must give and give and give freely first without keeping score – you pay it forward! Herminia Ibarra defined networking as, creating a fabric of personal contacts that provide support, feedback, insight, resources and information. It entails the building of alliances; these contacts provide important referrals, information, and often developmental support such as coaching and mentoring. David Jensen also defines Networking as the process of establishing links between people with the intent to promote communication for mutual benefit.

All these definitions put together show that Networking is not just a job seeking tool but a philosophy, a lifelong career development tool; a tool that demands that you must give first before expecting to receive, you must give to your social network support, feedback, insight, resources and information without any hidden intention to get anything in return – building your social capital for a time in the future when you will need it. Let me give you a personal example, I started the Career Unit, well over 10 years ago, at Daystar Christian Centre (a church of over 20,000 members), with one objective, to provide graduate job seekers and career changers with information (through career education workshops, seminars etc.), and networking opportunities. I have literally coached thousands of people(entry level and career changers), and held hundreds of group sessions, made scores of telephone calls and spent thousands of hours on behalf of people seeking one advisory help or the other. In fact there was a time one of my church’s associate pastors told a lady seeking career education, “if you need career advice, go to our church facility and see kayode.” The lady then asked for my telephone number, the pastor replied, “you do not need his number, just go to the facility on Saturday; by the time you walk round the whole place, you will find him somewhere – he’s always there!” All of these career education services were administered freely without any charge. When the workload became huge I began asking seasoned professionals (md/ceo’s; human resources directors, trainers etc. to assist us in impacting lives – and they all offered their services for free. In return – I have been blessed with an unusual rolodex/network of key relevant professionals in many organizations – because of my passion for the employable state of the average Nigerian graduate. I have gained the trust of many senior executives by asking not what they could do for me, but what they could do to help others – my story taught me that the currency of building networks is generosity. I have a dream to grow my network until it gets to the “network zone” – a place where my network gets so broad and deep that almost anything can be accomplished through it. My objective is to give without remembering and receive without forgetting. Dale Carnegie said, and I love this “You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your success.” To your success! Kayode Olufemi-ayoola, Certified Career Management Coach “We can be depended on to tell you what you don't want to hear, to help you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be”

Executive Toolkit

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