Jumia Kenya CEO Christine Sogomo says that all her life, she has never had to apply for a job. All the positions she has held in her nine-year career journey have been through referrals from her strong networks.
This may sound surprising in a country where thousands of qualified youth jostle for the few available jobs each year, but it is not unique.
Many have secured jobs and even a market for their products by getting referrals from their family members, colleagues or friends. However, even though technology has made it easier for individuals to interact and communicate, networking remains a daunting task especially among the youth.
According to a research done by LinkedIn and Adler Group in 2015, a whopping 80 per cent of job opportunities are never published in newspapers or broadcast on any public platform. The key recommendation from the study was that rather than visit online job sites, it is important for aspiring employees to go out and meet potential employers since most recruiters often end up hiring acquaintances who they already have a relationship with, and who they can trust.
But how can one build such strong networks?
Ask for referrals
Ask your neighbours, friends and family members to introduce you to people who can give you a hand up in your career.
“The friend-of-a-friend connection is often very strong and successful,” says Randall Hansen, CEO of Quintessential Careers.
When you finally meet the person you’ve been referred to, make a good first impression and ensure that you preserve your reputation and that of your mutual acquaintance.
Use your online presence to your advantage
“Social media sites, particularly LinkedIn, have changed the networking landscape. Many rely on their LinkedIn contacts for referrals, introductions, reviews and references, all which come in handy during the job search,” says Michael Brown, a career consultant and author of My Job Isn’t Working.
Once they hear about you, your workmates or potential employers might look you up online to learn more about your views, habits and interests. It’s therefore important to put your best foot forward.
Stick to professional platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, and update your profile regularly. Also, make a point of congratulating your contacts on their career achievements, or simply say hi.
Cultivate relationships over time
“Networking isn't merely about sharing information with others, and it is certainly not about begging for favours. It is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with those you meet, whether you're waiting to order your morning coffee, participating in a sports match, or attending a work conference,” says Andrew Hennigan, a public speaker and author of Payforward Networking.
Whenever you meet someone new, move fast and establish a good rapport. Additionally, try to be of help to your existing contacts and to add value to their lives so that you create a symbiotic relationship. You can do this by sending them content or information that is relevant to them, or by sharing contacts of your friends who could give them a head start in their careers. This way, you will build mutual trust within your networks.
Put yourself out there
“When you achieve something in your career, make sure the right people know about it. Display and talk about your successes and abilities to people who can help you get ahead,” says Daniel Mainye, a senior manager at Cytonn Investments. Daniel says that he got a seat at the high table by simply tooting his own horn.
Put your work out on social media where it can be seen by potential customers or employers, or foster a good relationship with senior managers at your company and make them aware of what you are doing, and your ambitions.
Reconnect with old acquaintances
Once your contact list starts growing, it can become really hard to keep in touch with everyone regularly. While reconnecting with those you’ve lost touch with, admit that there has been a lapse in communication, and let them know that you still care. If possible, organise a meet up and engage them either by asking for professional advice, or by sharing something that might be useful to them.