10 ways on how to get your professional networks to open doors for you

Isaac Muthui

Isaac Muthui is the CEO of Churchblaze, a Kenyan-based interdenominational social network for Christians and churches from all over the world.

His organisation has a network of 5,000 investors. Muthui shares his tips with Jacqueline Mahugu on how to network successfully.

1. Be genuine

The most basic principle of networking is being genuinely interested in people. Do not ask for the hand before you touch the heart. If you meet someone in the street, a business party or at work and introduce yourself and they cannot remember your name after five minutes, they were not genuinely interested in you.

There are people who get interested in what you can offer and not in you as a person. To build long-lasting relationships that matter, be genuinely interested in people. Ask people their names and master them. Be genuinely interested about their welfare, about their family, about their job. Networking also involves learning to listen.

People appreciate it when they are being listened to. Don't listen only so that you can respond, listen genuinely.

2. Do not white wash your opinions

Do not give a false impression of yourself. "No" is a complete sentence. Learn to say no when you should. Say yes only when you mean it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. When you tell people a lie, they love you but only for a while.

When you tell people the truth, they may hate you for it but they soon realise that the truth is what builds them and helps them go to the next level. They will keep coming back to you even when the truth is bitter.

3. YOU ATTRACT WHAT YOU ARE

The networks that work are those where the other person does not think of you as a burden, but view you as a friend. The people that you are going to succeed in attracting to your network are those at your level.

Read many books. Get to that level where when you stand to speak, people listen. Add to your intelligence, so that you are knowledgeable on something about almost every subject.

Dress as you would like to be addressed. I started dressing like a CEO when I was in college, even if what was fashionable then was t-shirt and jeans. Some people dress so well that whenever you see them, they are attractive to you. Once you have added value to yourself such that the people that you want to attract are your peers, they will not feel like you are a burden to them.

As they add value to you, you will also be adding value to them. It happens almost automatically that once you have developed yourself, you attract people who will take you to the next level.

4. Who is in your web?

You are the sum total of the five people around you. You are better off with a few people around you than with a million people that you are unable to manage.

I would rather have a network of even as few as 10 people that are manageable. As you grow, you realise that you can develop and replicate yourself to other people who are able to manage some networks on your behalf.

5. Count the cost

Don't call people only when you have a problem. Friendship lasts by fuelling them. Friendship and networks are very costly. If you can sacrifice one hour to be with a friend, that hour might be more valuable to you than any money you would have made or spent elsewhere.

Have coffee dates to touch base, so that whenever you want to reach out, you will not have to wonder where to start.

6. Spread your wings

Networks can begin from your home. You might find that a neighbour you grew up with and despised is very powerful. There is potential for professional networks there among long-time friends and family. Attend them and create networks there. If you are called for a friend's baby shower or birthday party. Go.

 You never know who you might find there. Introduce yourself using your two or three names and give the other person a chance to introduce themselves. Smile always and be genuinely kind.

7. Be indiscriminately kind

When you are getting into a building, say hallo to the guard. The guy at the gate might be the brother to the CEO. For example, I employed my first cousin as our gate keeper and for eight months, nobody knew that he was closely related to me.

The reality was that at work I was the CEO, but at home it was different and he could come to me any time. He could tell me who comes to work late, early or not at all! Do not despise anybody. Even your house girl might be connected to a very senior person but she does not know what to do with that connection.

8. Stay clean

Networks in Africa have been messed up by corruption. Genuine networks that build global empires are built strategically. Networks built by way of bribes are not true networks. Such a network is referred to as a network of convenience.

Anything that is begun with money must be sustained with money. Even a marriage that is begun with money must be sustained with money. When the money disappears, the relationship goes with it. They will only be friends to you if you are bribing them.

9. Get a mentor

For you to manage your networks, you need a mentor who has walked the distance and has succeeded in your line of interest. Get a mentor who has related with people locally and internationally, who has learnt how to be with people.

Let him walk you through how to manage people's expectations. If you can get a mentor who you can talk to and say, "I am meeting this kind of person," he can advise that if you meet that kind of person, whether to accept his food, what not to accept because he is a shark, or he whether that person is genuine. Let him walk with you hand in hand.

10. Align your network with your vision

Creating a network without a dream is valueless. You have to have a crystal-clear picture of where you are going, so that your network can contribute in the march towards your destiny. How you network depends on who you are and where you want to go.

Economic networks, they are only important if they can amount to some economic value. The networks that you have must contribute to adding value to you. Turn your social networks into economically viable networks.

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