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Creating connections

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Vumi Msweli

“Hello this is your pilot speaking, welcome aboard Flight SA60 to…” Those may just be the sweetest words spoken in the English language.

Perhaps it’s my love of travelling, the exhilarating feeling of seeing an unknown city’s lights twinkle beneath you before landing.

Or it’s the random intense conversation with the passenger besides you as you feign calmness through a rather turbulent flight.

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I have found aeroplanes and airport lounges to be a treasure trove of opportunities for networking and establishing unorthodox business relations.

We often mistake networking to be solely at conferences or pre-ordained business breakfasts, where we hurriedly shake hands, intensely pitch our line of business, swiftly shake hands as we exchange business cards and we with expert thinking, ferociously calculate how this particular connection may be of use in our future or existing business endeavours.

This chaotic game of playing business card exchange is similar to playing musical chairs the person with the most cards having sashayed the room the most wins. But that is not networking with a purpose.

Networking for me is in essence the art of connection.

You commence the act of networking with the understanding of knowing the value you bring, the intention of how you can be of service and with the aim to add value to another.

People can sense when you are out to use them solely for your own benefit. Be authentic, kind and helpful. Engage others with the purpose of establishing a sincere relationship.

I always like to equate relationships to cookie jars. It’s difficult to take something out of the cookie jar without having put anything into the cookie jar.

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Invest in the relationship, make the effort to aid the other person in accomplishing their agenda, inaugurate rapport and do not selfishly seek the fulfilment of your own desires.

The people who have a vast array of individuals in their network and are able to confidently reach out to these genuine connections to create communally valuable opportunities are known as connectors.

Set your sights on being a connector not a selfish leech that drains relationships for your own advantage giving others nothing in return.

Networking is the ability to meet a perfect stranger, create a connection and develop a mutually beneficial relationship. It doesn’t only happen at formal networking events, it happens in everyday interactions.

My favourite and probably most rewarding relationships have been with the passenger sitting next to me on a flight or a complete stranger sitting across from me at the airport lounge that I just so happened to ask if they wanted something to drink.

It is in these random encounters of everyday life where perfect strangers share a laugh, create a connection, swap business cards, that the true magic of networking occurs as in the future they will help each other organically grow a relationship.

So the next time you hear ,“Hello this is your pilot speaking, welcome aboard Flight SA60 to…” smile at the passenger next to you, reach out your hand and intend to create a connection with a perfect stranger.


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