Networking at Conferences

Networking at Conferences

Have you ever attended a conference and you feel shy meeting new people? You are not alone.

A lot of people think I’m an extrovert, hmmmm, if only you know the efforts I usually make to break away from my silo.

During my growing up days, I always found solace being alone. When others are gisting, sharing laughter and giggling from ear to ear, I will withdraw to a corner, to ruminate over past events, read novels or write stories, I sometimes go overboard and start solving Maths problem, yeah, you heard me right, I love calculations and I’ll rather start solving maths problems than join any discussion. I equally love reading and writing and I’ll do just about anything to be alone.

Being alone is not so bad in itself as my ‘alone moments’ made me develop passion for writing poems and stories. This passion for writing later won me an award in 2004- I won the best Poet for one of of my poems titled ‘The Greedy Politicians‘. I also have some of my poems published in an Anthropology titled ‘The Silence of Our Campus’.

Networking comes easily to some people while others, like me, need to put in extra work to meet new people and keep a conversation going.

Fast forward to CIPM conference in Abuja sometimes in November this year. CIPM stands for Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, Nigeria- the apex body regulating the practices of Human Resources Profession in Nigeria. The 2018 Annual Conference had over 2500 delegates in attendance.

I made up my mind before leaving Lagos to Abuja that I will meet new people and network. My strategies were to initiate conversations starting from how lovely and informative the conference was to the sight and sound of Abuja and then to exchanging contact cards and ensuring effective follow up afterwards.

As fate or luck will have it, I didn’t remember to go with my call cards and since I don’t want anything to rain on my parade, I had to improvise.

So.. what did I do?

Here are the list of what I did in no particular order;

Initiated conversation or joined an on-going discussion

Introduced myself

Exchanged pleasantries with appropriate smile

Talked more about the topic at hand

Asked if my conversation partner(s) is on LinkedIn

Asked for call cards to be sure of the name to search for on LinkedIn

Promised to send LinkedIn invite.

True to my words, I did send them LinkedIn invite and messages afterwards. That was how I managed to increase my network lists. I also, got and saved some phone numbers right there and there.

BTW, I met great personalities such as Gbenga Totoyi- Head, Learning & Consulting at CIPM and Dr Olayiwola Oladapo- Head, SASR- Director Strategy Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations at CIPM and host of other HR managers.

The essence of my story is that, when you go for any events or conference, don’t just stay glued to the people you know, spread your tentacles, make conscious efforts to network and grow your contact lists.

Don’t wait around for the perfect time to network, you can initiate conversation with people while waiting in line for food or drink, It can be over lunch, it can be during breakfast at the hotel where you are staying, or at the conference venue.

I have seen people book expensive hotels just to meet certain caliber of high profile individuals that they may not necessarily have access to.

I am not saying that you should ‘break a bank’ because you want to meet new contacts, I am only saying that you should maximize every opportunity to network within the resources available to you.

Please, don’t forget that the efforts put into networking will be futile if you don’t follow up or keep in touch afterwards.

The twist to this is that 85% of jobs are gotten through networking. Be job smart!

Here is a Gallery of my Abuja pictures during the CIPM Annual Conference.



About 26years ago……after my third term exam in JSS 1 (7th grade) and it was time to collect our report…..

For those of us in JSS 1 (Junior Secondary School 1), this was the time to know our cumulative performance for the first year in Secondary School (high school).

As the usual practice, end of session report was always marked, graded, collated and given to students few days after the 3rd term examination.

Our results are always presented in form of a ‘dossier’- which was the only form of communicating student’s result back then (unlike now when you can comfortably download result from the comfort of your home). The implication of dossier was that you need to be physically present to collect it and if you were unavoidably absent, a known relative can receive the result on your behalf, but not before appending his/her signature on a white paper provided by the class teacher, and clearly stating ‘Original copy received by me’ in bold letters with appropriate date.

Report-collection time used to be the most dreaded period in every student’s life. Some even termed it ‘the judgement day’.

Why it’s called the judgement day.

End of session report is a make or mar period in every student journey.

Before the review of Academic grading System for Primary & Secondary schools in Nigeria, 3rd semester results used to have three possible outcomes.

There was always a corresponding recommendation accompanying every result based on student’s performance. Every student will have 1 of these unsolicited advice… Promote to the next class or Repeat the class or Advise to withdraw.

1. Promote to the next class– My interpretations. You have performed beyond average and you are therefore qualified for the next class. OR

2. Repeat the class– My interpretations… your performance is poor and it falls below the average requirement for the next class. You are therefore given a second-chance to repeat the class and try again for a whole year. OR

3. Advise to withdraw- My interpretations…your performance is ‘beyond’ poor that we cannot savage the situation. You are therefore urged to drop out of school or give up. (This was usually a recommendation given to students who have spent more than 2 years in the same grade/class).

Thankfully, points 2 & 3 are no more in practice in Nigeria! Before this, a lot of promising minds have been damaged by the same system that swore to provide the enabling environment to help each child discover his/her uniqueness and potentials in life.

Back to my story…

The ‘judgement day’ was not only feared by students, it was also a ‘reality check’ day for parents- who take pride in seeing the academic performance of their wards/children for the year. Let’s just say, every parent or guardian secretly want to evaluate their ROI- (Return-on-Investment), and as a child, you dare not come home with a ‘less than average’ result.

Moreover, the education system has been structured in such a way that students’ performances will not only be graded based on percentages, but each student will be assigned a position or rank in comparison with his peer group or class mates.

In those days, parents pay little or no attention to your percentage score, they are only interested in knowing your position or ‘rank’ among your peers.

So, on this crucial ‘judgement’ day, I wasn’t physically present for my report card. However, one of my sisters (who happened to be a Senior in the same school) was appointed by my parents to collect it on my behalf.

I remembered that I was quite nervous (as expected) and I stayed glued to the door awaiting her arrival. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was not the time of mobile phones or social media- there was no way I could communicate with my sister until she gets back home.

After what seemed like an eternity, my sister came back with my report card (the dossier). Luckily, my parents were not at home and that was a great relief.

As soon as she entered, I looked into her eyes and tried so hard to read her countenance, looking for a clue. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t place her mood.

She sat down with me and started saying…

‘I know this wasn’t what you were expecting, you have worked so hard and you won’t be happy to receive this type of result’

She told me how she felt so bad that I had this result, how she was expecting a better performance, how she thought there must be an explanation for this disappointing output and she went on and on and on…

I was scared. I couldn’t summon up the courage to ask. I was just muttering under my breath,

Please, just tell me the result already.

She handed the result to me, I flipped through the pages and my heart sank when I saw 1 or 2 red inks (red ink on report sheet was an indication that you didn’t score up to the required mark in a particular subject).

I looked further down and saw my position clearly written…



Lo and behold I came ‘3rd’ out of over 50 students!

3rd Position?!!!!!

I checked the result again and I still couldn’t believe my eyes. I was surprised, I was shocked and got teary-eyed. It was just a lot of emotions at the same time.

I looked at my sister and couldn’t understand her initial consolation speech.

Was she joking? Was she trying to pull my legs?

She now went further to say that she was so sure that I was expecting a ‘1st’ position and this result would have been devastating.

I looked at her and chuckled.

Which 1st position? who? Me that I’m so happy that I got the 3rd position?. This result was the best thing that could ever happen to me. This was a huge surprise.

At this point, my other siblings joined in on the conversation and they all shared the same opinion about me. I wondered what they all saw that I didn’t see.

My Background

This was my first year in Secondary school, not just that, I was coming from a Government Primary School and being in the same class with people from private ‘rich kids’ school was not only intimidating but scary.

I felt unworthy to compete with their level of exposure, their good command of grammar, their composure, eloquence, finesse and more. There was just no way to keep up!

How could I contend with girls that could speak the Queen’s English better than I am. Students that in my opinion ‘came better prepared than I am for Secondary School’. I felt unworthy to compete. I had a low self-esteem. I struggled and almost gave up at some point.

This position was, therefore, such a big deal to me. A position I totally wasn’t expecting. How would I have been ranked 3rd among girls from the best primary schools in the country?

I kept on staring at the dossier as if it was an Olympic Gold Medal. I was that happy….

However, my sister didn’t really understand my excitement. Though she was happy that I was happy but she was shocked that I would be that happy.

She kept on saying that she knew I have the capacity to do more, even at that young age…

That fateful day marked the beginning of my journey to self-discovery. I realized, I have been functioning below my capacity and that I have a potential that can be fully maximized.

Though all have not been smooth sailing ever since, there have been times of little failure here and a major win there, yet I have built my self-confidence over the years. Every experience has shaped me into who I am today.

The Moral

My story is not about the 1st or 3rd position. It’s about the fact that someone could look through me and see potentials I greatly downplayed.

Here people rooting for me, someone that knew I could compete with everyone and anyone. My entire family clearly saw what I didn’t see in myself. They believed in me!

The worst thing you can do to yourself is to stop believing in your potential or ability to be all you can be!

Don’t feel threatened or scared to express your skills and potentials. Don’t ever lose your self-esteem.

Don’t allow the feeling of unworthiness to hold you back from being who you are. You are made for more.

Discover your uniqueness and live up to it.

Even if you have failed or felt disappointed at one time or the other, you can still get back up and be all you can be!

Believe in your ability!

Don’t be a coward!

Build your courage and confidence!

You have what it takes.

Look critically and you will be amazed at the potentials that lie within.

Don’t Feel Stuck in an Unfulfilling Career

Don’t Feel Stuck in an Unfulfilling Career

When your job becomes less fulfilling or you have simply lost interest in your career for reasons best known to you … It could be an indication that you should try something different.

As much as it is not advisable to be changing careers or jobs on a whim, it is also imperative that you look out for the red flags and know when to plan your exit.

Rather than continuing in a job or career that is in conflict with your personal values, career goal or future aspirations. It is okay to make a career transition or career switch.

We all know that it isn’t always easy to make this change but you will also agree with me that is not impossible, either.

Don’t feel trapped in a job/career that is destroying your drive, motivations and future aspirations.

Don’t allow guilt, fear or sentiments to prevent you from making that much needed career-defining decision.

Making a career switch or transition requires determination, planning and focus.

Here are few points to consider before taking that giant leap…

#1- Conduct a Self/Career Assessment: Be sure you are not making a rash decision. Identify the actual cause/source of dissatisfaction. Critically assess your current state and determine if what you really need is a change of boss, job or industry and not a complete change of career.

#2- Explore your options: Do a thorough research to identify available options that you can tap into. Do you have transferable skills that help you navigate a new career path?

#3- Have a Plan: Once you identified possible options, you need to plan, prioritize and focus on a specific career. Make sure your plan is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

#4- Identify areas of improvement: Do you have the competence, skills and expertise needed for the identified job/ career? If not, how do you intend to bridge the gap and get the required skills?

#5- Position yourself: Pursue your career fulfillment without fear or favour. Increase your knowledge, acquire new skills, work on your personal brand/profile, network..

It is not always an easy decision to make a career transition, but it is a worthy cause!

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

We are humans so it’s not uncommon to want to give up once in awhile.
It doesn’t mean you are weak, it doesn’t mean you are lazy, it doesn’t mean you don’t desire progress.

It simply means you are done trying.

Before you throw in the towel, please, Hang on! Because life gives you the option to give up on your goals, doesn’t mean you should!

Try harder, encourage yourself. .

I understand that we are at the second half of the year and none of your new year goals have been achieved.

I know you have a long list of  dreams you want to achieve but you have no strength to fight for such dreams anymore.

I know you have tried searching for new/better jobs with no headway, you have tried entrepreneurship but got stuck because of unhealthy business environment, you have been on a grade since God  knows when, you want a raise/promotion at work but this seems far-fetched, you have been laid off work with no just cause, you have been writing  the same certification exams without success and list goes on and on and on..

I understand the frustrations, the disappointments, the uncertainties, the failures, the challenges, the struggles, the dashed hopes, the broken promises, the lost opportunities, the closed doors, the ‘No vacancy’, the ‘try-again-next-year’, the ‘we-got-a-better-candidate’, the ‘sorry-you-failed-the-exam’, and the list is endless..

Whatever your case is, try to evaluate your way of doing things and see if it can be done better. Try changing your approach and see if it will yield desired results.

Having done all these..

Ask God for strength, reach out for help, don’t give up, keep trying, it will be worth it.