Networking 101: Real-Life Tips on How to Upgrade Your Circle’s Value

Make connections to build your brand.

Make connections to build your brand

The age-old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still rings true for many opportunities for your prospective career. Clear goals and strategy can both be smart ways to make your network work in your favor especially at a time when the world is so connected by social media and the Internet.

Frances Harris-Burke, Ph.D., is the regional director of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction which provides leadership and organizational support for school districts in the North Carolina’s Triad area. Dr. Harris-Burke partners with district superintendents to solve problems that face the faculty and students. And Nandi Shareef who is the founder of the Shareef Group, which is a boutique learning and development consultancy that provides talent and career development solutions in times of change. In addition, Shareef works with individuals to improve their performance in their chosen careers. caught up with Harris-Burke and Shareef, who share advice on vital face-to-face encounters, simple business etiquette and your online personas. A lot of people, especially young professionals, don’t want to be labeled as “thirsty” or “pressed,” both of which are negative terms engrained in the current millennial culture. How do they manage their networking relationships without being too pushy?

Harris-Burke: As a young, motivated career seeker, I think the best way to maintain a positive networking relationship is to …

Read more at Black Enterprise



Head Women in Charge: Black Women Climbing the Corporate Ladder

 I had the opportunity to read an amazing article on Maya World Peace entitled “Head Women in Charge: Black Women Climbing the Corporate the Ladder.” The article discusses the current pressingly low representation of black women in corporate America.  It is no secret that there are challenges and hurdles that make it hard for an inspiring businessperson to succeed in corporate America.  But these adversities seem to intensify with discrimination in the form of biases, sexism and racism making so that being a black businesswoman  becomes somewhat of a triple negative. Despite, this reality the article provided encouraging incite and inspiration for black businesswomen seeking to move up the corporate ladder and ways to counter these discrepancies through research, mentorship, and holding tight to ones dreams. 


Black women executives are the most underrepresented in corporate America today. Studies have shown out of 19 million people in the world, black women make up less than seven percent of the population. This small percentage is recognizable everywhere, yet most disturbingly in corporate America.

Black women around the nation have acted upon powerful initiatives to advance their entrance into the boardroom. These advancements have inflicted change, although the scarcity in representation, levels of discrimination, and the many hurdles set before black women attempting to climb the corporate ladder has left many apprehensive about the future.

Candace Hockett-Henley, Senior Marketing Major from Morristown, New Jersey is one of them. She has dreams of becoming the Chief Executive Officer of a large scale marketing firm one day. The low numbers of women who look like her holding such esteemed positions is something she’s definitely took note of.

“I’ve done my research and I am well aware of the male-dominated field I am about to enter. I’ve had great mentors and teachers here at Howard University’s School of Business who I feel have prepared me and equipped me with the necessary skills to excel in corporate America.”Hocket-Henley has been very involved in developmental organizations and internships geared towards her professional interests. She believes not only her college experience but also her “amazing” mentors and teachers have provided her with the knowledge to take bold steps towards achieving her dreams.

Read the full article: Maya World Peace

Photo Credit: Adirée African Fashion Week

The Importance of Branding YOURSELF! What’s Your Gimmick?

Nunu Ntshingila, CEO of Ogilvy South Africa

Nunu Ntshingila, CEO of Ogilvy South Africa

I stumbled upon the topic of branding after watching an episode of America’s Next Top Model in which Tyra Bank’s competing models were taught a lesson on the importance of redefining themselves as a brand as a marketing technique to their targeted audience. But whether a top model, celebrity, company, or businessperson branding is a key necessity that can help  you to achieve success on a much greater scale.

As a businessperson it is also critical to market oneself to an intended audience and sell a quality to an employer, investor, or consumer that sets you a part from your competition.   Branding, gives you the opportunity to market yourself, solidifying all of the listed skills on your resume and prove to your target audience that you are both a memorable  force and an asset to your field.

So,what exactly is branding and why should you care?

Women, Success & Money blog define branding as ” when you give yourself a unique spin that differentiates you from others in your field, so you are seen as the only one who can provide a specific solution”.  A brand embodies who you are, what your mission is, what you stand for and what sets you apart from other competitors. Think of any business for example, Nike. We as an audience know exactly what we are getting when we buy Nike’s products.  Branding creates a sense of clarity to your audience and guarantees trust and consistency.

Here are some tips to help you build your brand in the business world:

1. Define your brand. And be an expert in your field! This is the time to do major digging and soul searching. Figure out who you are, how you would like to be perceived and what exactly your mission is. Then, establish an expertise that correlates with what you stand for both as an individual and as a business.

2. Be Memorable! When you walk into any room have a presence that makes you unforgettable.  No one likes to see the same old thing on repeat. The same thing applies to the business world. Don’t be like every other candidate or competitor on the market. Be different. If you represent a company, have a name or slogan that is simple and compelling to its audience. Offer a different quality than any other business or individual they have ever seen before.  Market yourself as though you ready from Day 1 for your dream position.

3. Network, Network, Network! Whether it is through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or face to face interactions, it is important to represent your brand everywhere. This is an opportunity to spread awareness about your brand and convey your value to your audience.

4. Incorporate the “Holy Trinity of branding.” You want to have consistency, clarity and authenticity, says Roffer. “Translated correctly, how I present myself and how I speak about myself should be a true reflection of who I am at the core.”  Start with what you know. Build on passions, strengths, talents and past success. As Roffer says, “redefine you in a fresh new way,”consistency is key. 

5. Share Your Story. Women Success & Money point out that it is important to be relatable to your audience. A good way  to show this is by sharing your experiences that have helped to shape you and your brand.  No one has stood where you have.

Photo: Flickr; by Ogilvy Joburg


Gayle King On Success: Grow Up And Figure It Out

With aspirations of becoming a child psychologist, Gayle King, a self-described “nosy kid,” found her true passion thanks to a local TV newsroom job during college. “I was hooked from day one,” she recalls. Since then, King has established herself as a power player in the notoriously fickle world of media. Today, she co-anchors the “CBS This Morning” show along with Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell, while also serving as editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine.

When I recently sat down with King to discuss her personal and professional journey, it became clear that a no-nonsense approach to life’s challenges has been instrumental to her success. Here are a few of the powerful life lessons she’s learned along the way which we can all take note from.

Grow Up and Figure It Out

After landing her first on-air job in Kansas City, King immediately encountered some logistical snags, including lost luggage and an unavailable apartment.  She recalls being stunned when her mentor at the time, Bruce Johnson, abruptly hung up the phone on her when she called to complain.  It was clearly an “Aha” moment for King, “You’re given this opportunity and it’s up to you to make the most of it,” she says.  From that moment on, King’s motto has been figure it out,” an approach she admits still applies to “every single problem I have.”

Read the rest at Forbes


Five Best Tips For Women Starting Their Careers



Every year as graduation time rolls around, so do the emails and tweets from young graduates wanting advice to make it in the real world. This year, I turned to the ladies behind Ask Ajna*, a career guide in your pocket which helps you find your voice and negotiate for what you really want for their advice. Here are their five best tips for women starting their careers.

1. Don’t accept the first offer you get — negotiate your pay package.

Some women are afraid to negotiate pay and many more simply don’t think to ask for more. Consider this: by simply accepting an offer as presented, and not negotiating for a better compensation package, you stand to lose up to $1 million or more over the course of your career.

You can help ward off the anxiety of negotiating pay, by arming yourself with information. Research the current market value for the job you want. Third-party compensation information will give you a good indication of a job’s value. Some great sources include and Use this information as a baseline. Then assess your skills versus the requirements to determine your value in the job.

Very few professional-level jobs are compensated via salary alone. So, think in terms of a total compensation package. If you can’t get the salary you want, ask for a signing bonus, more vacation or some other work benefit. Many women are surprised at how easy it is to get more by simply asking.

Read the rest at Forbes.

Dominate At Your Next Conference.

photo-4Today I had the chance to attend The Economist Africa Summit featuring influential speakers who discussed the next generation of African innovation and leadership. Conferences such as these offer a great opportunity to meet key people in your field and gain insight on emerging trends.

Over the years I’ve attended dozens of conferences and for the most part I didn’t really enjoy them. I never left feeling energized or got any great contacts but this time was different. I finally understood what people had been saying all those years about the usefulness of conferences. For the first time I felt like I was in the zone and making meaningful connections. With Social Media Week coming to Lagos in just a couple of weeks and Blogging Ghana hosting their second annual Blog Camp for bloggers and social media users, there are two great opportunities to learn more about digital marketing and social media regardless of career field and develop relationships.

Conferences can be exciting, rewarding, and lead to your next business opportunity so follow these four tips to help you dominate at your next conference:

Decide In Advance What You Want To Get Out Of the Conference.

Do you want to meet a particular speaker? Are you looking to get on the radar of a sponsoring organization? Fully taking the time to review the schedule and bios of the speakers will help you understand what you can do to best take advantage of the conference. Once you’ve set a goal of whom you’d like to meet and when, feel free to reach out to them in advance by sending an email or tweet on Twitter. Introducing yourself in advance gives you the chance to start to build a relationship before you meet or to even set up a one-on-one meeting during the conference.

Use Social Media To Get Noticed.

Most conferences are now actively encouraging participants to take the conversation out of the meeting rooms and share it with the online community. This is a great opportunity for you to interact and speak with other conference participants before and after the conference. If you’re on Twitter use the official conference hashtag and share your experiences on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Smile and Mingle 🙂

If you attend a conference by yourself you may be tempted to sit in the corner by yourself but that is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. Go find a group of people you don’t know and sit by them. During breaks, smile and say hello to everyone that passes you. Sometimes we make networking harder than it has to be but at its core its all about getting to know people and making friends. The first step to doing that is often just a smile and a hello.

Be Brave And Ask Questions.

When speakers and panels leave time for questions they are sincere in their interest to dialogue with attendees and hear new perspectives. If you had a question or concern with something you heard here is your chance to get that question answered and to distinguish yourself in the eyes of the speakers. It may be nervous or scary to stand up in front of an audience but this is great practice in public speaking and leadership. Speak clearly, announce your name, and keep it simple and short.

Follow Up and Keep The Conversation Going.

When making connections at events, exchanging business cards or emails is a great way to remember the people you’ve met and begin developing relationships. But don’t just throw those cards in the corner and forget everyone you’ve met. Use this opportunity to follow up with the person within 2-3 days after the event. Don’t just send a quick email but take the time to mention and share something you discussed and also even connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Be careful to not include those emails in your general friend list because you don’t want to tarnish your professional image by forwarding messages only meant for your closest mates.

Four Startup Tips from our Young, Fabulous, & Savvy Entrepreneurs

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Claudia Kwarteng-Lumor (Glitz Africa Magazine), Safoa Amoako-Gyimah (Sa4a Designs), Linda Abena Annan (Obaasema Media Limited) and Kuorkor Dzani (Twists & Locks) brought their startup highs and lows to our first Young, Fabulous, & Savvy event. They shared their experiences and wisdom accumulated over their years of being in business and discussed some common challenges facing women entrepreneurs. Here are some of the lessons we took home:

You Can Start Your Business Right Where You Are:

Indeed you can! When starting your business, it is vital to start small. Don’t get ahead of yourself by investing in a long list of infrastructure such as office space, furniture, equipment or even a warehouse, before you start. In spite of the common misconceptions of getting these things in place in order to appear professional in business, our panelists recommended starting your business from right where you are. That it is essential to work with whatever is available to you from the very onset since you cannot wait for perfectly favorable conditions under which to start your business.

They stated that the dot com era has made the process of getting your business off the ground so easy that sometimes, all you really require are your business idea, your computer and internet access, period! It is therefore rather unnecessary as a start-up to concentrate your efforts on acquiring infrastructure first before your business operation actually begins. It was a unanimous fact that all the panelists began their businesses at home, and worked on them until they were able to rent their own offices in various parts of the city. Abena, for instance, shared how she started her business from her mother’s dining room table, and then found a small space which she turned into a temporary office later. Kuorkor also mentioned how she borrowed supplies from her home until she was able to invest in purchasing her own equipment.


Think Smart Financially:

The unfortunate lack of financial capital was identified as a major factor in preventing most potential entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses. For the many audience members who were concerned about their ability to make that financial leap, the panel encouraged that entrepreneurs not resort to acquiring huge amounts of debt before starting out. Different businesses require different capital. Some businesses do not require any money at all to start. Some, on the other hand, do. It is essential to think of smart ways to lease equipment or partner with other people who are capable of providing what you’re looking for in exchange for a small stake in your business, instead of diving headlong into debt before your business even takes off.

They emphasized that debt was not the right way to start a business and very often, businesses that start on such note fail miserably shortly after acquiring that debt.  They encouraged the option of rather seeking financial help from family, close friends and angel investors to back your own savings to use as business capital.

However, should you decide to take loans from banks or financial institutions, it is prudent to have a short-term repayment plan that allows you to pay back your debts quickly to avoid accumulating high interests that may eventually kill your business.


Test The Waters First Before You Take The Plunge:

This was a highly recommended exercise by the panel. From their personal experiences, they learned that getting to know and understand the industry or market that you’re entering beforehand is vital to the success of your business. They suggested talking to as many industry people as possible, i.e. business owners, suppliers, investors, employees, customers, etc. to learn from their experiences and find out the loopholes within the industry in order create a niche for yourself with your own product or service offering. This, they said, will save you a lot of headache once you start your own business.


Learn Everything You Need To Know About Your Business Very Well:

To survive in business, you must learn to not be dependent on others for the things you need. Safoa reiterated that, “Your business is your baby and nobody can take care of it better than you!” You also cannot hope for the excellence you want in your business by totally entrusting it to another person. To be able to succeed, you have to really know your business from start to finish, how it operates and how it relates to your consumers. For example, if you are a designer, in addition to simply designing your stuff, you have to learn the skill of creating your products, marketing and distributing them, including all the details in between. This will ensure your survival against many of the numerous uncertainties that surrounds start-ups such as fickle employee attitudes and occasionally unreliable suppliers. Knowledge and skill about your own business will also help increase your credibility in the marketplace.


The night ended with an interactive session where audience members were given the opportunity to mingle with these industry professionals over refreshments. It was a fun, insightful and educational event that left attendees eager to sign up for membership to take advantage of more of such opportunities. Watch out and sign up for The Savvy Madam’s next exclusive event, you do not want to miss it!

Photo Credit: ITake Photos Est 1985

About the Author: Francesca Andoh is a style and career writer for The Savvy Madam. You can read more from her at