Women empowerment has always been a subject close to my heart, I am grateful to be part of “NEW” – the Network for Entrepreneurial Women in Malawi, who also organize Startup Huddle in Blantyre and Lilongwe. This has really opened my eyes and heart, and I have learned to share my experiences with women-led startups and experienced women entrepreneurs. I am so delighted that the little advice offered can actually be of value to many.
My name is Dineo Katane-Mkwezalamba, and I am the founder of Dzuka Africa Organization. I dedicate most of my time transferring skills to the graduated youth in marketing, mass communication, journalism and public relations; empowering them with skills to equip them to be employable for entry level jobs through internship programs.
In the month of November, we had such an interesting Startup Huddle topic that many take for granted and misinterpret – Networking. It’s so interesting how we all attend events all in the name of networking, how we all go to these functions with intentions to meet a lead or sell our services or products indirectly. I had an honour to be part of the three-pronged meeting where we shared the art of networking.
I would like to elaborate more and simplify networking and the importance of it based on my personal experience. Most of us when we attend , meetings, family/ business functions, conferences, we tend to mistake “networking” as meeting new people with the intention to “GET” something to advance ourselves. I have a privilege to open the meeting with the quote “it is not your family or friends, but the people that you hardly know that will likely advance your career or life.”
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how networking has worked wonders in my life and how easy it can be. For me, networking starts with good intentions – how can I help? If you are invited to any event of any kind, take an opportunity to network. Always scout for the people that you can help based on your connections. Look at networking as the start of building long-lasting relationships.
In preparing for these kinds of opportunities, it’s vital for you to practice an elevator speech as this will entice the next person to engage or walk away. This elevator speech communicates who you are, what you’re looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization. It’s typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator. (The idea behind having an elevator speech is that you are prepared to share this information with anyone, at any time, even in an elevator.) At a career fair, you can use your speech to introduce yourself to employers. It is important to have your speech memorized and practiced. Rehearse your 30 second elevator speech with a friend or in front of a mirror. The important thing is to practice it OUT LOUD. You want it to sound natural. Get comfortable with what you have to say so you can breeze through it when the time comes.
That is a make it or break it moment, never miss that opportunity, from my experience, I learned how important it is to have your elevator speech ready when I was invited to a royal function in South Africa. I happened to sit next to the Queen Mother and I went mute. In that moment, I missed my opportunity to sell myself and my organization to the most important person in the room and the opportunity never presented itself again. I told myself that I would never let that happen again!
Being a South African who has relocated to Malawi, I give thanks to the art of networking, the people I have given practical advice, the partners I have found through knowing my elevator speech, the friends I have made personally and business-wise due to these kind of connections, and the free advice and growth I have received from networking sessions.
This is priceless. Without networking opportunities I would not be where I am. I would like to thank Startup Huddle for creating a platform for women in Malawi to network and share their experiences on better ways to handle challenges in a male dominated world. This has been a great achievement for us women in Malawi and I truly hope that it will continue to grow and prosper.