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Extend Your Network Through Higher Learning

Networking is widely regarded as a key to success in business. Take advantage of the learning environment to get to know more people.

Monique Verduyn

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Signing up for an MBA or taking a course in project management, finance, leadership development or another business-related area of interest is one of the best ways to grow your business and personal networks.

In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says he learnt that real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful. It was about working hard to give more than you get. If you do something to make someone else more successful, he says, they’re more likely to value your relationship with them, and the more relationships you have with value in them, the more valuable you become, not only to yourself, but to employers, customers, partners and so on.

Become a Networking Whizz

Our society has become very good at asking: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Most networkers look for others to pass them referrals, but successful networkers are always looking to help others first.

Don’t keep score, Ferrazzi advises. If someone calls you up and asks for a favour that you can easily accomplish, do it and don’t look back. If you are going to take the time to connect with somebody, you should be willing to try to make that person successful. If they succeed, you succeed. He also makes the point that networking is largely useless unless you have goals.

Networking experts note that you should begin reaching out to others and building your network of contacts before you need anything from them. Don’t try to suddenly build a network when your business is about to close down — it simply won’t work.

Here are some simple ways to start building a network that’s meaningful:

  • Join community groups that interest you
  • Take leadership positions in hobby or business groups that interest you
  • Enrol in a class on a topic of interest
  • Become part of business groups in
    your field
  • Join an entrepreneurial network

Often business owners go to an event to network and end up making the mistake of selling. They walk in with the mindset of a hunter instead of a farmer. Networking is about cultivating business relationships, not gaining customers. If business owners walk into a networking event thinking ’look at all of these potential customers‘, they’ll never receive referrals. Ferrazzi calls that ‘being a networking jerk’.

Networking and Higher Learning

Higher learning institutions like the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) host business and social functions to create a climate for discussion and interaction. Attendees are brought together by the desire to build business relationships, gain further understanding of the fast-paced business environment and share best practices of innovation and leadership.

Community website MBAconnect.net is for MBA alumni, current students and faculty from all the business schools in South Africa. MBAconnect facilitates networking, events, job opportunities, knowledge-sharing and more. Members can interact with other MBA students and alumni, market their services, build their brand, find job opportunities, and share ideas and challenges.

Connecting Online

Sam Paddock, MD of GetSmarter, an online education company that works with universities and industry experts to present courses throughout South Africa, says people learn best in strong communities. GetSmarter strongly promotes communication between students. “By requiring our students to interact on our discussion forums, we encourage them to build relationships with their fellow students. As the community becomes stronger, so too does the students’ engagement with their learning materials. Paddock says this is particularly important in distance learning programmes. “Motivation and engagement in distance learning is inherently challenging. By creating a strong community, our students become more engaged in their learning activities.

“We have been able to achieve phenomenal engagement on our forums. Some of our courses have over 6 000 discussion forum postings from 120 students in a 10-week period.”

Paddock says networking online is simple. “Just start writing. It’s the only way people will discover your interests and begin to engage with you. Browse through your fellow students’ profiles and start conversations with people who have something in common with you. It could be that you live in the same area or that you share a common interest. People are most open to interacting with you when they are aware of some common ground.”

Keeping in Touch

Once you have a connection with someone, it’s important to get their contact information. As you talk to people, keep track of their names, titles, emails, phone numbers, organisations, meeting dates, and key points of information and advice. You’ll need this later when you are no longer studying with them but still want to maintain a good relationship. Remember, these are the people who may be able to pave the way for you in future when you need a recommendation or an introduction.

One of Ferrazzi’s central ideas — from which his book takes its title — is that a meal provides an excellent opportunity to connect with someone. If you’re eating alone, he says, you’re missing out. He suggests mixing and matching by inviting multiple people to eat with you from different parts of your social network, which can help build new connections and bring hidden ones to the forefront. This is a particularly attractive option for people who are studying further as campuses provide the perfect environment for socialising.

Because networking requires you to socialise, make yourself interesting. No one wants to spend time with a boring person. Beyond keeping up with current events and having a point of view on current issues, Ferrazzi suggests asking seemingly stupid questions, always being open to learning something new and trying new things, and taking time out for holidays and other activities that grow your mind.

Avoid being a networking jerk

Here are Keith Ferrazzi’s six rules for making sure you network well:

  1. Don’t schmooze. Have something to say, say it with meaning, and focus on establishing a few good connections than spending your time surfing the room.
  2. Don’t rely on gossip. It paints a picture of untrustworthiness.
  3. Be willing to give something away. Think of bloggers who give away content to their readers freely.
  4. Don’t treat those under you poorly. Ever.
  5. Be transparent. If you want to meet someone and are happy to meet them, say so.
  6. Don’t be too efficient. Make genuine, individual connections. If you’re going to take the time to touch base with a contact, write to that person individually, don’t just include them on a big ol’ email to hundreds of people at once that starts off with “Dear friend!”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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15 Great TED Talks For Sparking Creativity (Infographic)

From graphic designers to painters to writers, these TED Talks are bound to give your creativity a boost.

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Need a creative booster? One of your best resources is just a click away. TED Talks provides a variety of inspirational and creative videos from some of today’s most successful people.

Whether you’re bursting with ideas or experiencing a creative block, these talks will help provide you with new approaches and perspectives on creativity. In author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” she pushes people to find their own “creative genius” and to avoid getting discouraged from reaching their maximum potential. Internationally recognised sculptor Janet Echelman’s “Taking Imagination Seriously” TED Talk is about finding your true voice and letting your imagination do the work.

Through TED Talks, artists, business people, entrepreneurs, scientists and more share their different perspectives and experiences on various subjects. While there’s no one way of doing something, each seek to inspire and help cultivate the traits you need to be successful.

Related: 8 TED Talks To Help You Overcome Your Fear Of Failure

To get your creative juices flowing, here are 15 of the best TED Talks for sparking creativity, according to online auction site Invaluable.

1504278153_ted-talk-infographic

Related: 4 TED Talks To Help You Deal With Stress And Anxiety

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Improve Your Study Skills For Maximum Results

There are many reasons why you might have a need to improve your qualifications upgrade your skills.

Wits Plus

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There are many reasons why you might have a need to improve your qualifications upgrade your skills: You may want to qualify for promotion, consider making a career change, or maybe you just want to be sure that you stay abreast of new developments in your industry.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to improve your qualifications, part-time study will always be challenging. Developing efficient study skills, or learning strategies, become very important. ‘Study skills’ are the strategies and methods to manage learning efficiently and also make up an important set of transferable life skills.

Related: Employers Are Paying Freelancers Big Bucks For These 25 In-Demand Skills

Retrieving what you know

One of the often overlooked strategies is retrieval practice. This is a strategy in which calling information to mind subsequently enhances and boosts our learning. Deliberately recalling information forces us to pull knowledge “out” and examine what we already know.

We often think we’ve learned a piece of information, only to realise that we struggle when we try to recall the answer.

It’s precisely this “struggle” or challenge that improves our memory and learning – by trying to recall information, we exercise and strengthen our memory, and we can also identify gaps in our learning.

Most of us are probably already using retrieval practice. For example, you might ask questions aloud or use flashcards and complete quizzes and exams as a way to “practice” what was learned – these are all examples of retrieval practice. The difference, however, is that retrieval should be used as an active learning strategy, not just as an assessment tool.

How does it work?

When we think about learning, we typically focus on getting information into our heads. And it does feel like these methods work: if I cram, and reread, and study my notes, I feel fairly confident that I know the information.

The problem is that these methods only lead to short-term learning. Have you ever thought about material covered earlier in the semester, only to find that you’ve forgotten most everything? We assume that when information comes to mind easily we’ve learned successfully!

Related: 11 Skills That Will Make You Super Successful

However, memory researchers have demonstrated that the opposite is true: when information comes to mind easily and feels fluent, it’s easy to forget. In other words, just because we learn something quickly and easily does not guarantee we’ll remember it.

Challenging learning, on the other hand, leads to long-term learning. Retrieval practice makes learning effortful and challenging. Because retrieving information requires mental effort, we often think we are doing poorly if we cannot remember something. It feels like progress is slow, but that’s when our best learning takes place. The more difficult the retrieval practice, the better it is for long-term learning!

Are you ready to take on the challenge of combining work and study in 2018, and practice new learning strategies?

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Finance For Non-Financial Managers

Are you looking to demystify financial jargon, participate in financial discussions and play an active role in the achievement of your organisation’s financial objectives?

Wits Business School

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Logistical details:

  • Venue: Wits Business School, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown
  • Course dates: 13 – 16 November 2017
  • To Apply click here.

Wits Business School Executive Education presents a four day course on: Finance For Non-Financial Managers.

Who is it for?

Professionals such as lawyers, architects and quantity surveyors; and executives or senior managers with non-financial portfolios who seek exposure to financial analysis and decision making.

How will you benefit?

You will be exposed to the intricacies of the balance sheet and income statement, and how to assess an organisation’s financial health, which will enable you to perform efficient financial planning.

Read: 15 Free Online Courses That Are Actually Worth Your Time

How will your organisation benefit?

By having managers, executives and professionals able to discuss financial matters effectively with financial specialists will ensure that the organisation improves its returns.

What will you learn?

Beyond the analysis of financial statements and the assessment of financial risk you will learn about:

  • The impact of different methods of costing
  • The meanings of the various financial ratios
  • Evaluating investments
  • Assessing cash flow
  • Among many other exciting topics.

Read next: An MBA for Free?

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