One of the values my school promotes is networking, and all through my time in the African Leadership University, I have constantly been reminded to embody this value. However, my first knowledge of networking was acquired when I joined the Open Dreams Foundation. One of the things that define and distinguish Open Dream members is their extensive web of networks. I vividly remember how one of the program facilitators, Frankline Metoh would always use the phrase “Your network is your net worth” to remind us of the importance of networking during the summer academy. And this phrase has stuck with me right up to this point.
Some days ago, I was privileged to discuss over coffee with one of the thriving female Agric Entrepreneurs in Rwanda, Miss Sakina. Miss Sakina, the founder of Afrifoods Ltd Rwanda, was our guest speaker during one of my class sessions, and I was thrilled by her work and resonated with her mission. Also, I am ardently committed to pursuing an agricultural and agro-processing venture. Hence, I saw this as an excellent opportunity to learn and engage in the sector where my interest lies. I decided to reach out after our class session, and even though she did not respond immediately, I persisted. I adamantly kept by knocks on until she finally responded and invited me over for coffee, much to my surprise. The lack of an immediate response from Miss Sakina did not stop me from reaching out again because I saw a potential value in our relationship. In my opinion, my persistence demonstrated my sincere desire to build a relationship with this woman. I desired to know her better and form a long-lasting relationship that would benefit us in the future. This opportunity to sit and have a conversation with such a powerful woman stemmed from my initial interest and persistence.
Out of excitement, I adorned myself in the blue Open Dreams T-Shirt, which I absolutely love, to our meeting. We had a very insightful conversation about a wide range of topics. Our discussion touched on topics ranging from business to women empowerment, and I was amazed at how ambitious, hardworking, and knowledgeable she is. I keenly listened to her speak passionately about her work, and I was blown away. This encounter instilled in me the need to make more effort to be as successful as she was, as I aspire to establish my own enterprise someday.
In a nutshell, it was a superb encounter, and I will continue to enjoy the fruit of our meeting as I gained the opportunity to join her team as an intern, as she sorts to expand into the agro-processing sector. Aside from boosting my zest for working harder, our encounter also pushed me to introspect much about my initial and incomplete understanding of what networking entails. I realized that I had learned about networking some time ago but still went about it wrongly. All through my experience till this point, I have understood that networking is much more than collecting or exchanging contacts with well-known successful individuals. But there is a notion of common interest that we often neglect. I realized that networking is about creating long-lasting relationships with people with a common interest. It’s about being open-minded and ready to offer as much as you’re prepared to receive from that individual.
Often, we collect contacts of people we intend to network with but end up not even using them. Sometimes we only manage to reach out once in a while. We must groom and nurture these relationships, expected to be beneficial and to last. Relationships have to be truthful and without greed. There has to be trust, and trust isn’t achieved by simply getting contacts and reaching out when in urgent need of something. Trust is earned through demonstrating genuine interest to know the person and what they do and to see how to be valuable in the relationship.
On this note, I hope we can learn more about networking and relationships to go about it the right way. This new approach will help us groom healthy and long-lasting relations with other people.
Open Dreams Scholar.
ALU - Rwanda