If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen this photo one time too many. That’s for a good reason, though. Meet (L-R) Gloria Haguma, a celebrated fashion blogger with a weekly column in the Daily Monitor, and Baker Masheta, CEO at Travel Maniacs, a domestic tourism agency tailoring packages to make tourism & travel affordable for the millennial Ugandan. Third is me, a humble honored nobody. Next is Patience “Pesh” Ahumuza, a digital marketer and talented feminist writer, and Joshua Daaki, who runs the Hangout Foundation, offering web development and business consultancy services to startups and SMEs.
I met these guys on a trip to Ssese Islands in May last year. Asides being talented writers, they’re all running brilliant initiatives from the ground up. Turns out, a trip I took for pleasure became an opportunity to earn social capital.
What’s social capital and why is it so important?
Simply put, social capital refers to the relationships & networks you build individually and as a business, creating potential returns (long-term or short-term) for the business. Mostly, social capital is built within the industry one is operating. However, there’s always chance to go more diverse; every connection matters in a way or another.
Uganda ranks high among the most entrepreneurial countries in the world; we’re all trying to defy the economy status quo. Naturally, the average millennial Ugandan cannot afford to independently sustain an enterprise- even off the initial revenue. This is where social capital comes in.
Networks and partnerships empower young startups with resources and services they’d otherwise need to pay for, helping them thrive against the capital-intensive nature of their businesses. Networks also empower employed youth with resourceful connections in their particular field of operation; connections that open windows for learning, job opportunities and sharing experiences.
How do we grow our social capital?
Invest in yourself. This goes beyond dressing and learning to speak right. Before going out to milk people’s knowledge and skills, make yourself equally resourceful. Upgrade your reading culture, get really practical with your work and note key lessons. Equip yourself with knowledge/experience that others in your field will find you resourceful for; a one-end connection won’t live to see the next Christmas.
Attend networking events. These don’t even have to be within your field of interest. You’ll be surprised by how many bloggers and media practitioners I’ve met on road trips, in Silent Disco events and at outdoor games like Kwepena. These events also get you connections in unrelated fields that will be great service providers at point X. Platforms like Facebook events and event websites help you a lot with this.
Niche down your social media relations. Now, I’m not asking you to unfriend anyone, hehehe. I’m simply saying, for a generation with a lot more screen time than ever before, there’s a lot of untapped opportunity to grown your social capital online! Amidst all the guys you follow and groups you join for memes, add some key industry thought leaders and influencers. Their content will give you social capital, and an opportunity to interact with them and learn, as you also share your ideas- with the right people.
Pay Attention. Listen. Take actual interest in the conversations. Events and social media have a lot of distractions that could sidetrack you. You want to listen attentively, share and take key lessons. Swap contacts; call them occasionally. Engage with their online content. You can’t go wrong. (Hack: You can always lay what you learn onto the next person you meet, and sound really smart while at it! Genius, eh?)
Work on your personal brand. We’ve discussed before why every African millennial should invest in personal branding. As you network, a strong/growing personal brand in your field of interest precedes you; it speaks for you. You have their attention and time from the get-go. Your opinions are accorded respect, and partnerships are more likely.
Have an elevator pitch ready. Always. Have a quick speech you can easily roll off your tongue in seconds, if asked about what you do. Nothing sophisticated, just concise and captivating. It should outline who you are, what you do, how you do it, and throw in an example or two of when and where you did it and what it achieved. Be confident; the confidence of an elevator pitch speaks volumes.
All the soft skills and rules of etiquette stand, ceteris paribus (yep, I just did): be polite, stay relevant, keep time. And keep an open mind, will you? Your social capital could be anywhere, and anyone!
Image Credit: Derrick Kabuye