Your network is your net worth, your network is your net worth, your network is your net worth. Apologies for the repetition but the point is very important.
By the time summer rolled around in 2016 I felt like a failure. I had been unsuccessful in securing a summer research internship at my university, I had been rejected by two companies at the assessment centre stage and for the first time I didn’t get a first for the academic year (maybe not the biggest issue for everyone but what can I say I’m an overachiever).
Perspective can enable you to understand and appreciate why things happen. I imagine had all those stars aligned for me I would have perhaps missed out on the opportunity that has honestly changed my life.
I had almost forgotten that I had been selected to attend the 2016 Powerlist Foundation Leadership Programme. The programme is a two and half day series of workshops, seminars, mentoring and networking that aims to develop young people by providing them with lessons and experience on successful leadership. I had been excited about attending and assumed I would take some time off work as I thought I would get an internship. I remember that I mused to myself, after one particular assessment centre I thought I had aced, that I would at least take one day off to go. That would have been a MISTAKE. You see when you look on the website or talk to past alumni they tend to give a similar answer – that the experience is life changing. This phrase is often overused to describe everything from the latest movie to the kebab shop round the corner, so I took such anecdotes with no more than a grain of salt. However, it truly was life changing and I will try and explain why.
The programme provided many opportunities for me to evaluate myself right from the start. Arriving (late) that first day I was excited both for the programme and the opportunity to meet others with similar ambition and was instantly struck by the calibre of people I was interacting with.
Just talking to other delegates I learnt the first of many lessons I would learn on the programme, the importance of humility. As important as it is to acknowledge and take pride in your accomplishments it is easy to rest on your laurels and think you are the only shining star in the room. Being on the programme I have met others that shine equally or even brighter than myself and this not only continuously encourages me to be better (as I am blessed to still be in touch with my Powerlist Foundation family) it also has exposed me to people who think like me but at the same time don’t. Allow me to explain this enigmatic statement. The programme is tailored for and aims to empower and train leaders of the future (similar thinking) but sources its yearly cohort from young people across a wide spectrum (hence not like me). This has opened my mind to a multitude of opportunities and new ways of thinking.
Beyond this I was able to evaluate myself in more easily quantifiable ways such as the Business Chemistry exercise which helped me identify the role I tend to occupy in a team and how that affects others. This was eye opening as it was strange how accurate the prediction was for me but equally how similar I was to others in my group. This knowledge has proven useful as it has enabled me to work more effectively in teams since then as I am able to identify team dynamics and adapt to best fit in.
The programme offered me more than just theoretical opportunities to expand my thinking; it also offered practical methods such as mentoring.
“Every Opportunity is an opportunity; how many times did I say Opportunity?” – Ben Ackim
A great mentor was known to say this and it bears repeating as it is profound. I interpret it as meaning that you should always pay attention as opportunity is abundant. The ambiguity of the wisdom really emphasised the importance of mentoring to me as it is an opportunity to gain advice from someone in the know. This is a key tenet of the programme which was particularly invaluable for me personally due to the power of positive representation.
My mentor, Charles Sekwalor, has been great for me as it has always been useful for me to see the finish line. Studying mathematics, I would sometimes look up the answers to difficult questions and use that to understand how to solve that problem and others like it. Talking with Charles was like sitting in math again as I was able to listen to his story, see where it had taken him and use that to map out how I could achieve a similar feat.
Moreover, the programme gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with many amazing individuals who continue to offer me council and opportunities I could never have imagined.
Networking is something that we are often told is beneficial and especially as students or young adults you are advised to network especially with potential employers. The programme subverted the norm and instead impressed upon us that the most important networking was in building relationships among ourselves as delegates. This was truly profound and is something that distinguishes the Powerlist Foundation. It was the first time I had been told to do so and it really made me think. Bill Gates has friends, there are people that went to school with Barack Obama and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Oprah definitely spoke to people before she was famous. My point is that you don’t know who the people you meet will become or where life will take them but it doesn’t hurt you at all to be friendly, especially in this case where we were all uniquely selected because we had similar levels of ambition and skill. This was fruitful for me as simply talking with another delegate led to me attending an event in Parliament.
Furthermore, by listening to the various speakers I learnt how easy networking is and this was backed up by a session that gave practical tips and methods to facilitate networking that were simple enough for even the most introverted individuals to apply.
This programme changed my thinking which allowed me to change the way I see the world and this has had a cascading effect. It has led to employment, new friends and most importantly clearer purpose and joy. If any of that sounds good, I implore you to apply for the 2017 Powerlist Foundation Leadership Programme and experience for yourself something that could be one of the best decisions you make all year.
Peace and Love,
Aharoun the Author.