Life in Africa is beautiful, especially if you have financial resources and access to a profound social network which you can leverage as social capital, a.k.a connections. But what is social capital? Social capital is basically the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. So much is built on trust. For example, loaning someone money without a contract, the willingness of people to help each other and so on.
Is lack of social capital an excuse?
But living in a society where everything depends on who you know whereas there is a strong discrepancy between social classes, it might end up being a challenge to build this kind of social capital. Basically your network is your net worth. So yes, having great connections to people in power or people with greater access, is a capital you can capitalise on. But if you do not have this, should that then be the excuse for you not to succeed? No! Either you embark to develop your social network and therefore increase your social capital and net worth or you don’t.
How can you build social capital?
You network strategically. This is the only answer to this question. If you are lucky to be born in an environment where it is natural to have these links, for example, the school you went to, your place of worship, your relative, the family you are born into, then all you need to do is to build the relationships that you already have. But if you have no natural access to this kind of network, then finding time to strategically network is very important.
How do you network?
It depends on the areas you want to improve your access. It might sometimes be egoistic to just go out there to look for people who you can benefit from. Rather I advise you look for ways to give value to others that could be of value to you. So yes, I will say this. Go and intern or volunteer for free at organisations that can give you access. If you can get a paid job, great.
But with the unemployment rate in Nigeria, I bet that your best bet is to offer your time for free. Another way to network which you might already be doing is to use the religious community. If you go to church, then connect with the other members and build a relationship. No matter who you know, if your presence does not bring any significant positive value, that access you think you have becomes useless. So find ways to make yourself valuable. Look there are many global social issues and I talk about a few in this blog. You can find charities led by prominent people where you can volunteer.
Another great way to meet people who can open doors for you is to join unions and cooperatives. Corporate networks are a great platform to meet others with shared interest. Attending events that strategically connect with your vision is another smart way to connect. If you cannot be at these gatherings, you can leverage access through social media. We are living in the 21st century where the gatekeepers are gone. We have a diverse social media platform and you can use them to develop social capital. One platform I really recommend is Linkedin. Set up your profile to look very great and begin to put out content that gives value.
Develop your KPI
Like I said earlier, you have to give value. Which means that you should rather develop your KPI – which is being a Key Person of Interest. And expert in your field. So when I say social media, I do not mean that you start spamming people who you want to connect to. Never done! It is a forbidden rule. Rather post and publish intelligent content that would draw people’s attention to you. Also there are very large online communities you can join that would give you access to others within your space.
Yes, you can succeed without social capital.
Seriously speaking, social capital will come when you have something to offer. When I came to Austria, I had no connections, no contacts. It was just me, an African migrant who had a vision. So I began to do the things I wanted to do. When I wanted to shoot a film without having cash to do it. I researched the film schools available and just wrote them.
That was how I started and it landed me media attention, which later came along with a great social network. So you see that you can start, build, grow without social capital. If you wait on the excuse that you do not have connections that’s why you are not succeeding, iut is a lie. It is laziness and excuses. Start what you want to start and be good, sincere at it.
3 key takeaway from this blog
- Social capital can’t be your excuse. Start what you want to start.
- You can build social capital by being proactive and becoming a KPI.
- You can strategically network, using social media as well as a practical step to grow your social network.
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