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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




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 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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Tips To Becoming Fluent

The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, as accuracy can be improved and developed over time.

Wits Language School




Learning a foreign language can be challenging and difficult, and requires great commitment and motivation. It is, however, one of the most enriching and rewarding skills that can be acquired over a lifetime. There are proven benefits to learning a second language, for example, improved intelligence, memory and concentration, as well as lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Fluency is the ability to express oneself easily and coherently in real time. Accuracy is the ability to be correct and precise, and it means that one is communicating without any grammatical, vocabulary, tonal or any other errors. The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, as accuracy can be improved and developed over time.

Related: “Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses

How you can improve your language fluency

There are a number of ways to improve fluency. Firstly, immerse yourself with native speakers as much as possible. Listen to them in their natural contexts and if you are unable to do this, watch movies and television shows in the language you are learning, or listen to audio books and music in that language. Another option for immersing yourself in a foreign language is to stream radio from a country that speaks it, or tune into a television station from that country on DSTV.

Find avenues to practice wherever and whenever you can.Having a friend to practice with can help you to stay motivated and focused. Practice speaking every day and try to learn new words and phrases every day. Encourage native speakers to correct you wherever possible.

Be prepared to invest a lot of time and dedication into learning a foreign language. Students are likely to stay motivated over the long-run if they have a good reason to learn the language.

The problem that many beginners encounter is that they become too focused on reaching a perfect end-stage that they get discouraged and never get past the early stages.

Become comfortable with making mistakes and try not to be perfect. Think in the language as much as possible, instead of thinking in your native language and then translating. Try to improve and remember specific grammar rules so as to avoid incomprehensibility or vagueness when communicating with native speakers.

Choose an comprehensive language course

When choosing a language course, remember to look for a course that focuses on all the language skills like reading, writing, listening, grammar and speaking. Read books, magazines, and other material in the target language whenever possible. Write something in the language every day, for example, a short sentence summing up your day, a diary entry, or an article.

Memorising lists of vocabulary can be quite challenging and very boring. A great way to build vocabulary is to learn vocabulary that is relevant to your life and things around you. You could start off by writing your “to do” lists and shopping lists in the language that you are studying. Practice by giving commands to your dog, labeling household items, and playing memory games.

Related: How English Language Skills Play An Essential Role In Building Trust With Your Customers

Social media platforms are another excellent way of interacting with native speakers, as users are able to interact with each other over the internet.

Web blogs are one of the many forms of social media, and provide a platform in which people can express issues related to their lives and different viewpoints that they may have. Blogs address a wide range of topics and are used in many different ways, which makes this platform an excellent means to practice your language of choice.

Practice, practice, practice

Try not to leave long gaps between courses or take a semester off, as you will forget your language at an alarming rate. If you are planning to go on holiday, take some exercises with you so that you can do these throughout your trip.Consider booking your next trip to the country where the language you are learning is spoken.

If you are serious about learning the language and getting direct pleasure from what you have learnt, you need to go where that language is spoken. Above all, you need to enjoy learning the foreign language and never stop having fun while learning.

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“Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses

The Internet is currently abuzz with advertisements for “free” online language courses and online education.

Wits Language School




While developments in technology have undoubtedly created opportunities for more people to access education, the question still remains as to whether it is actually possible to learn a language solely with the use of an online platform. Whilst there are numerous advantages to using online platforms, there are equally as many disadvantages.

Benefits of face-to-face language learning

Online platforms are limited in their capacity to support group discussions, as well as the engagement with language facilitators and tutors. Many platforms are also unable to cope with the thousands of students that try to join online discussions. Language learners benefit greatly from human interaction within a classroom. Mark Edmundson (2012), an English professor at the University of Virginia, argued that online education creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue” in the learning environment.

Classroom environments allow learners to express their opinions, participate in debates, and engage in face-to-face interaction with classmates and their instructor.

Related: Ongoing Learning For Leaders

Language facilitators are responsible for explaining material, answering questions and guiding learning based on students’ needs and language levels in real time. From an online perspective, this resource becomes diluted, as often there exists back and forth communication between the student and the facilitator over an extended period of time. Within a classroom environment, learners are immersed in the language and encouraged to speak. Learning takes place in a pro-active way with a balance of learner-facilitator interaction and group work. Language learners receive undivided attention from the facilitator, and the pace and content of the tuition is thus tailored to the learner accordingly.

Two of the benefits of online courses are that they offer flexibility and convenient accessibility; however, they also require a greater amount of self-discipline, reading and time-management skills. Online courses tend to make it easier to procrastinate and they create a sense of isolation. These elements are not conducive to successful language learning. Motivation levels are likely to decrease when using online platforms, as learners have no real external influences to help keep them motivated and inspired.

The quality and accreditation of online language courses is also a concern to most learners, as many online courses lack valid accreditation and certification. It is crucial to enrol in a course that provides legitimate information and that is accredited with a relevant board or organisation. A course that does not provide valid accreditation will serve no purpose or advantage to the learner.

Wits Language School was established in 1997 and forms part of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the last 19 years, the school has built a reputation for providing high-quality language services and short learning programmes in a dynamic and international learning environment. Wits Language School endorses interactive teaching styles, uses up-to-date teaching methods, and employs experienced and highly qualified teachers who are mother-tongue speakers to assist all participants in their quest to learn a second language.

Related: Why You Should Keep Learning

Online learning should be considered a supplement and extension, rather than a replacement, to traditional classroom learning.

Moreover,  Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-Time Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, offers selected undergraduate degrees, as well as a wide range of short certificate courses. Evening classes make all qualifications accessible to working people and busy entrepreneurs. Wits Plus also offers a range of online short courses that enable you to study wherever you are. Certificates of Competence are awarded to successful participants for both certificate and online short courses


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Successful Adulting: Why Studying Isn’t So Scary

How to cope with studying as an adult.

Monash South Africa




Balancing the various priorities that fill your day is one of the greatest differences between studying as an adult and studying when you have just finished school. Students who have just finished school often only have their studies to focus on, whereas adults with full-time work commitments and/or a family to take care of have more on their plates.

While this is not to say that all new students having finished school do not have these priorities — more and more do these days — they also seem to have more support from the family unit. Adult students need to start their degrees with clear strategies to succeed.

Here are a few tips.

1. Make a time and a place that you can dedicate to your studies

This should allow you to work without interruption. Having your family understand and respect these boundaries is very important and critical to you doing well. If you have defined time to work, you can spend time freely with them once you are done.

Related: Struggle To Stay On Task At The Office? A New Study Says You’re Not The Only One

2. Find balance between the various aspects of your life

The best way to do this is to not fill too many hours with unnecessary work. Work or studying can easily expand to fill any amount of time you allow, and so you have to manage this so that you have enough time to work, study, relax, and do all the other things that are important to you, all the while remembering that time on task is important to your successful future.

3. If you do not understand, you should ask questions

Don’t be shy! As lecturers, we appreciate questions and enquiring minds. Understanding something now may mean the difference between passing or failing in future, so ask questions sooner rather than later.

4. Form a small study group with others

There is nothing more motivating than being on the same path as others. Everyone has different skill sets and abilities, and members of your study group will help you gain a new perspective on your work.

5. Find a mentor that you can learn good habits from and whose input you value

It takes a lot of courage to find a good mentor, but this relationship will benefit you in years to come. The key is to find someone who is in a place in life that you admire, either from a personal or professional perspective.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

6. Don’t fall behind with your studies and make sure you keep up to date

Take time to check that your notes are updated, in order and make sense. The best way to do this is to use some time after lessons each day to go over that day’s work to be sure you have the work well summarised and in a form that you can use for revision. Another impactful way to check your understanding of a topic is to find a friend in the class who needs help, and help them. You cannot explain the work if you don’t understand it. If you are not brave enough to do this, then draw a face on an orange or an apple and explain the work to the fruit!

Pulling it all together

Starting and completing a degree as an adult student is not as overwhelming as it may appear at first. The key is to break it down into small, manageable steps. By putting positive, constructive habits in place and surrounding yourself with a support system, you will not only obtain your degree, but enjoy the process of learning and growing.

If you’re ready to take the next step and fast forward your career, learn more about Monash South Africa’s MSA Executive education programme at

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