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04: Victoria Caldwell on ‘Networking’ As a Tool for Change – {Career Series}

Entrepreneurship Guest Contributions

04: Victoria Caldwell on ‘Networking’ As a Tool for Change – {Career Series}

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I have a confession to make here.

Ssshh, promise you won’t tell anyone.

Networking was never really my thing and I would rather hide away with a good book, teach a class or enjoy a nice hot cup of tea while writing/mind mapping away. The thought of networking was just simply uncomfortable.

So there you go, it’s all out now!

Well, over time I have come to realise the power and learning potential of great networking. As an introvert, I enjoy my hibernation moments. Yet, I understand that greater things can happen when two or more creative minds get the opportunity to interact and share ideas in a suitable atmosphere.

Victoria Caldwell, Founder & CEO of Barakah Biz Network (BBN) shares great tips & gems on the many benefits of networking. She gives us a peek into a typical BBN networking event, which integrates best practices, fun and opportunities for building connections. Sr. Victoria talks about the 2 key factors that make networking successful and shares the vision of BBN. Read the interview to the end and decide if you are ready to take action – through your contributions and collaborations – as a means of spreading the beautiful message of Islam.

Are you up for the challenge? Are you ready for change?

If you are just like me, you will have no more excuses left after you get to the end of this post. You will feel inspired and ready to face up to your inner fears and start networking – so you can take your projects, ideas & connections to the next level In Sha Allah.

Did I forget to mention? It’s Halaal networking all the way!

Read On…

Q. You are an entrepreneur and deal with entrepreneurs, what does a typical networking event involve?

A. If you mean a typical BBN networking event, our events are unique starting with our Signature PowerNetworking™ Rounds. These allow every attendee to meet each other in a very short time frame. We follow-up these rounds with ‘Open sessions’ allowing attendees to meet and discuss opportunities in more detail having had their interest sparked during the PowerNetworking™ Rounds. We provide MeetMe cards to all attendees to receive their referrals and contact information.

Finally, our events also include our popular Investor Showcase where entrepreneurs pitch their projects to potential investors. This provides great Halaal investment opportunities for the community and Halaal funding sources for entrepreneurs.

Q. How important is networking in the work you do?

A. It is vital to what I do. Networking is so important because it builds relationships and connections and these combined build businesses and partnerships. It is the fastest way to reach your goals when you can collaborate with other entrepreneurs who possess a needed skill set or connections that you need to promote and grow a business. We are losing that personal aspect with so much technology and the demand for the 1:1 connection is higher than ever.

Q. How is BBN networking different from other networking events?

A. Our events focus on quality attendees and highly effective networking practices. We focus on attracting the best of the best at what they do while maintaining a high level of integrity and professionalism. Then we focus on networking practices that are most effective to generating new business opportunities.

As a result, our attendees are always pleasantly surprised at how well organized the event is. And also how effectively they are able to promote themselves and meet key partners. Additionally, our investor showcase provides opportunities to entrepreneurs and community members with money to establish mutually beneficial relationships. We provide training and best practices on how to get the most out of our events.

Q. What happens when you put together a room full of entrepreneurs & other creative people?

A. In a word, it’s electrifying!

The adrenaline rush is amazing when like-minded entrepreneurs get together and share ideas, skills, resources and connections. Not only is it incredibly productive, but it’s fun and since most attendees are Muslim, the standard of conduct is understood. But most of all long term relationships and friendships are built, with business on-going during and after the event.

Even the non-Muslims who attend have commented that our events has been the best networking experience that they have (and this is from those who attend a lot of networking events).

Q. What does it take to make any networking event successful?

A. First of all, the mindset is of utmost importance. Going with the mindset that you are there to be of service to the attendees always wins and you will do more business period if you are there to serve. Everyone can tell who is only there to serve their own interest and it only backfires.

Secondly, you must clearly identify what it is that you do and how and who it will help. Many attendees fall short in clearly defining their business and if other attendees can’t understand in simple terms what you do, you will lose the opportunity to connect.

Q. What challenges should one look out for?

A. The biggest challenge is coming prepared with a pitch that really engages the listeners and makes them want to learn more about what you do. We provide training beforehand to help with this.

Besides this, there really are no challenges as BBN events are well thought out & organized to prevent many of the challenges that occur with typical networking events.

Q. Looking back, what mistake[s] should a first timer avoid when planning a networking event?

A. Not marketing the event long enough. 3-4 months is bare minimum and 6 months is ideal.

Q. For those who are introverts and would rather keep away from a room full of people, how can they get the best out of any networking event?

A. Excellent question!

I’m an introvert myself (although no one would ever guess that). For introverts it’s perfect because while introverts do like to connect, they prefer organization and that the event is a meaningful use of their time.

Many introverts are not anti-people and can actually be pretty social. However, putting an introvert in a room full of people with no organization or structure can be a daunting and energy draining experience. BBN events are ideal for both introverts and extroverts. So much so that even the introverts stay long after the event is over connecting with those they find interesting.

Q. Beyond live events, in what other ways can networking be done effectively? And any emerging trends to watch out for?

A. Social networking is also very effective, the key is consistency and to be of service first and foremost. The key is not to be annoying and overbearing.

Q. Can you share any tips, hacks or advice for those who need just a little push to host their first networking event?

A. Have a clear understanding of who you are trying to attract and cater to that audience. You must do this because each audience is different. And what they respond to will be different, but you will only know that once you get started. Then plan to market the event for at least 4 months.

The best advice is just to get out there and do it, you will learn a lot in the process. Some of those things you will only learn by doing. And finally and most importantly, make sincere Du’a to Allah (swt) to help and guide you.

Q. How can the Muslim youth utilise networking in their careers, educational pursuits and personal life?

A. Muslim youth can utilize it just like entrepreneurs and business owners. The key to networking is building relationships.

Most successes come from who you know, not necessarily what you know.

It’s always about the relationships you build and the one who spends the most time will go further. This applies to job searches, educational pursuits and personal life as well. Sometimes people are willing to bend over and make exceptions just because of your presence and your service to the community.

Q. In what ways can networking benefit the entire Ummah?

A. BBN was established for the ummah and for the world. The vision behind it is to establish a bond of unity in our community and collaboratively serve humanity at large with our collective contributions.

It’s no secret that we have talent and wealth, what is lacking is collaboration and organization. Islam was sent as a message to all of mankind and it will only spread if we spread it. And we can most effectively spread it by showing it in action.

We can do the best job of showing Islam in action when we are committed to helping each other and building each other up as opposed to cutting each other down which unfortunately has become the norm.

It’s time for a change and BBN was established specifically for this change. Imagine how much we can accomplish if we stay committed to building each other up. Imagine the progress and the Dawah opportunities when the world sees our Ummah as One. The one community that is connected, committed and serving not only themselves but the entire world.

JazaakumAllah Khayran Sr. Victoria.

Are you ready to take action? How will you utilise networking as a tool for change in your life? Please share below.

photo credit: StockMonkeys.com via photopin cc

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