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



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


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.

Folorunsho Alakija: 3 Career Lessons From The World’s Richest Black Woman


Folorunsho Alakija, has received a large amount of press this week when it was revealed that she is the richest black woman in the world. With a career spanning finance, fashion, and oil, she has built an illustrious career of hard work and determination.

Keep your passions close to you.

Mrs. Alakija became a company secretary because of her fathers wishes but she always knew she wanted a career in business. She excelled as an executive secretary and eventually rose to become the first director of corporate affairs for Nigeria’s International Merchant Bank. While this was not her original career choice, she utilized her formative career experience to propel her into other career fields. If you are currently in a position or a company that is not your dream job, do not let that keep you from learning as much as you can from that role. You never know who you may meet or what kind of skills you can develop from that position.

Pay attention to trends and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

Alakija entered the Nigerian fashion industry at a time when things were beginning to grow and expand. “It was a time when Nigerians were starting to look inwards and fashion was beginning to pick up in Nigeria and people were being very proud of wearing African fashion, Nigerian clothing,” says Alakija. If you’re interested in starting your own business someday you should read industry journals, attend events, and talk to people who are doing what you are currently interested in. If you find a niche that is not currently being addressed, you should jump right into it before the opportunity passes you by.

You can make a positive impact on your community regardless of your career position.

In 2008 Mrs. Alakija founded the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a non-governmental organization that supports widows and orphan children through programs and educational grants. She aims to grow the foundation to eventually open schools in rural villages to enable mothers to work and send their children to local schools. Even before she became a philanthropist, Alakija was involved in community programs and shared her expertise with others through speaking engagements and attending volunteer events. She wrote a book in which she “told as much of [her] life as [she] could to encourage people, to encourage others to get to where they should be, where they want to be.” Even if you are just starting your career, there is wisdom and guidance you can share with those looking for a mentor.

Folorunsho Alakija, is a great example of a woman taking the opportunities presented to her and building upon those to reach greater heights. Hopefully her story can inspire and encourage other young women looking to build successful careers and give back to their countries.

4 business lessons we can learn from Kamille Padayache.

Kamille Padayachee is a finalist for the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year award in the emerging business category. She recently spoke with How We Made It In Africa on how she got the start for her business, thoughtFIRE Events, a South African events and media management company that offers its clients a wide range of public relations services. Here are four key lessons we can learn from her journey to entrepreneurship. 

Anybody can be successful, no matter when you start: Although the young CEO wished she spent her school years doing part-time jobs so she could be more equipped for her business, she also appreciates those seemingly irrelevant moments because they defined her business success over the years. Perhaps you’ve got this great idea rotting away in your brain pocket because you feel it’s too late to make it a success, you should go dust off the dirt on the idea and get to work. Timing is crucial in everything but tough goals stand the test of time. No matter when you start, your great idea can become the success you desire it to be.

Focus less on emotions and more on results when running your own business: For Kamille, her business was first her special project that she was deeply invested in. As the business grew she had to let go of that emotional attachment and analyze it as a business and listen to others feedback. As a young business woman, don’t lose your passion but when managing a team think from a strategic point as well

Business requires flexibility to achieve long term success: Too often, people have their eyes, minds and processes fixed on the blueprint for business and mistake negligence for focus. This may work for a while but as trends change, such businesses become unyielding with a lack of innovation. Undoubtedly, innovation comes with flexibility; the more rigid you are, the more likely you are to fail.

Just go for it: Many times we overanalyse, are too careful to avoid risk and end up remaining entrepreneurs or business savvy people only in our minds.  It isn’t an easy decision to start your own business but you’ve got to have the guts to go for it.

Have any of you made the leap to start your business? What gave you the push to get started?

Photo Credit: How We Made It In Africa

What Do I Want To Do With My Life? 3 Simple Steps To Help You Figure It Out

Many of my friends have recently finished school and they were terrified in the months leading to graduation day. They realized that after all of these years of schooling, all the homework, late night study sessions and problem sets they still had no clue what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” Yes they completed their requirements for their degree but that didn’t mean they were passionate about the work or could see themselves in that field for the next 30-40 years.

If you’re finishing youth service soon or you’re in your first real job and still haven’t found your passion yet I have good news for you. You are completely normal. Some people know from the time that they are 5 years old what they are going to do and others figure it out when they are 25, neither is better than the other. Unfortunately you can’t just spend all of your time relaxing on the beach thinking about what you want to do, so here are some ways you can move towards that career passion even if you aren’t sure exactly what is.

Read the rest at Bella Naija

A Savvy Madam from Wharton: Uzo

The President of the Wharton African Students Association shares with The Savvy Madam what you should be looking for in a business school and how to prepare for the GMAT.
Name: Uzo Idigo

Current City, Country: Philadelphia, USA

Nationality: Nigerian

Undergraduate: University of Delaware

Graduate School: MBA, Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania

For Uzo Idigo, business school was the perfect opportunity to move her career to the next level. After graduating from the University of Delaware, she started her career in sales and marketing in the consumer products and later healthcare industries. After a couple of years she wanted to focus on the strategic high-level work and putting together the plans to drive the company’s initiatives. In order to make that transition into more senior management roles she knew that an MBA was necessary to make that happen.

When it came to deciding which masters program to pursue, business school was a simple choice for Uzo. “I always had an inkling for business and I finished undergraduate with a major in marketing,” Uzo tells us. “My mom ran a few small businesses when I was growing up and I was always drawn to the work.” So when it came time to choosing a business school she looked carefully, at which school would provide her the most access, opportunities, and career choices down the line. She also knew that with strengths in soft skills such as communications and marketing, she wanted a school that would provide a very rigorous quantitative curriculum so she could balance out her areas of expertise.

She found all of that at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. When evaluating schools Uzo looked carefully at the brand, prestige, and reputation of the program especially in Africa. She wants to get more involved in business in Africa and Wharton has one of the largest African student populations at a US business school. Access to programs and extracurricular activities were also very important, as she wanted to gain real life experience while in school.

For other young African women interested in attending a school like Wharton, Uzo had some advice for us. “I am a firm believer in having a plan, mapping it out, and focusing on the main things that you need to do,” she says. The basic information for schools is on the website so use that as a tool to gather initial information. Uzo suggests you tackle the GMAT or any other entrance exam first. Everyone has a different studying style so it’s important that you figure out what works best for you. Uzo then recommended focusing on the essays and understanding that is an opportunity to sell yourself and make yourself unique. “Don’t write the story you think the admissions committee wants to hear, tell your authentic story,” she advises. She recommends that you have a few trusted people read your essays and provide honest feedback to your essays but don’t have too many people edit it or you will lose your voice. A point that many people seem to forget: manage the recommendations process and make sure that you are presenting a coherent story through your essays and the message that your recommenders send. Finally Uzo recommends that you be realistic and set reasonable expectations by looking closely at your exam scores, grades, work experience, and what you want to get out of graduate school to find the best schools to apply to.

Back at Wharton, Uzo is active on campus as president of the Wharton African Students Association. When asked what surprised her most about starting school she told us that the quantitative reputation for Wharton isn’t just reserved for the economics or finance classes, it is in almost every single course you take. While that initially surprised her it has taught her to look for facts, be very analytical when approaching problems, and improved her critical thinking skills. She was also excited to find the diversity of her classmates and the interesting and exciting students she was able to get to know. From a former Olympian to a performer in Cirque de Soleil, you can find people from every corner of the world.

For young women not yet ready for graduate school or focusing on your career, Uzo had some great advice for you too. She believes it is important to get mentorship right away. She tells us to “surround yourself with positive people who will be invested in you and your success.” Sometimes being smart isn’t enough. Uzo shares that “when you’re first starting out you just don’t have the lens to figure out exactly what you want to do so even if you’re really smart it will take you longer.” Her advice is to gain learning from mentors who can show you opportunities and will be your champion in the workplace.

So what will this young African leader be doing when she finishes her degree next year? During her first year at Wharton her career path evolved from brand management into consulting and she spent her summer working on an international development consulting assignment with Accenture in South Africa. She loved her experience and will be pursuing a career in strategy consulting immediately after school. In the long term she plans to eventually work in private equity and venture capital and some day even politics.

We can’t wait to see all of the great things Uzo will do! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. We aim to provide our readers with behind the scenes news on the top graduate schools around the world. If you would like to be featured or would like to nominate someone, email info @