Op-ed – Graduates should be open to networking

By Walusansa Badru

Makerere University, Uganda’s largest institution of higher learning, is set to hold its 67th graduation ceremony. More than 10,000 students will graduate with different qualifications from 21st  to 24th February 2017.

While the graduates from Makerere and the rest of other public universities will celebrate their latest academic feat, we all should take a moment to ponder whether these new additions to the job market are well equipped to face life after university education.

The search for job placements or money to start up personal business ventures is a task most fresh graduates will embark on after acquiring their papers. However, one huge part of the job hunt equation is the ability and willingness of the job seekers to network.

It’s apparent that finding a graduate with knowledge in ICT, accounting or record keeping is easier than finding one with an extra skill of networking. Networking – the act of interacting with others to acquire contacts and obtain information – offers opportunities for job placements or employee head-hunts, breaks social barriers and determines one’s net worth as they embark on their career path.

Today’s labour market is highly competitive and the nightmare of getting a job from the few available options, gets tougher by the day. As such, qualifications alone cannot guarantee one employment or clientele even if one starts their own business enterprise.

Meeting new people and being open to interactions during family dinners, corporate and business events, workshops, parties and other social gatherings; are useful platforms for networking and improving chances for opportunities.

I know of three university graduates who started an IT consultancy firm last year. Their business has steadily grown and when I asked one of them the magic behind the sporadic growth, he revealed that it’s through networking that the firm has managed to acquire and keep its clientele.

Networking also provides opportunities for identifying like-minded persons who can be key in developing ones’ career.

My university professor once joked that our class alone could form the next government in power with each one of us holding a portfolio. He, however added that usually after university, people tend to lose contact with one another thus limiting their opportunities, which is true.

Our education system puts much emphasis on teaching students to pass exams while leaving out other useful skills such as networking, communication and resource mobilization which are important for facing the real world.

That’s why it’s high time students realised that putting efforts in obtaining a first class or second upper degree is not enough, but also taking advantage of relationships one has with classmates, lecturers, hostel-mates or friends of friends. In fact, a student with a lower grade and better networking skills, can end up getting a better paying job than one with a good degree but with poor or no networking skills.

The increasing use of social media by young people also presents profound opportunities for graduates and continuing students to break barriers and make new connections. I’m aware of several Facebook and Whatsapp groups where members share opportunities and give each other advice about work and life.

For every graduate or student still pursuing their education, ask yourself one question: If you met Bill Gates in an elevator and you had only five minutes with him, what business idea would you sell to him?

While there could be several answers to the above question, a person with skills in networking will find it easy to sell an idea, even to a stranger.

Mr Walusansa is a Commonwealth Correspondent

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