One of the most effective ways to learn is to watch an expert perform a task and then try it yourself. Building a network of experts in fields that interest you will allow you to do that and can help you take charge of your career. You can use a network to explore careers, connect to the job markets, promote yourself and find career support.
Starting a network requires you to:
- Clarify the interests and commitments in which you are significantly involved. This may be professional fields, areas of knowledge, or issues you have been involved with and want to share.
- Plan a communication strategy and know what to say when you meet someone new. Practice talking with people you have never talked to before. When you are at conferences or other meetings, make it a habit to introduce yourself to others and find common interests with the people you meet. If this is difficult for you, watch people you know who are better at meeting others, listen to what they say and then try it yourself.
Building your network happens in many ways. Some ideas include:
- Develop your online professional profile through the networking site LinkedIn and join the YALI Network group to meet other young professionals in Africa who share your areas of interest.
- Organize a YALI Network face2face gathering of people you know and ask them to invite their contacts whom you would like to know in your community.
- Make contact with people you would like to include in your network by introducing yourself to them in person, by phone or by letter or email. You can also request an informational interview to learn about what they do.
- Keep up-to-date with people in your professional community. Include in your network people whom you have identified as individuals it might be useful to know. These can be people inside or outside of your organization. Others may refer people to you whom they consider as likely to fit into your network.
- Remember to follow up on your interactions with people in your network with notes thanking them for their time and keeping them informed of your status. Demonstrate that you are genuinely grateful for the conversation and explain how the conversation topic relates to your work. Genuineness and transparency are essential to success in any network relationship.