By Adu Nasir Ahmad (YES 2008-2009, Ghana, placed with AYA in Fort Wayne, IN)
The YES Ghana Alumni Association partnered with The Institute of International Affairs Ghana to implement a webinar on “Building and Widening Social Capital.” The webinar brought together a distinguished panel of industry experts from reinsurance, marketing, financial analysis, and law who led over seventy participants through various stages of building or widening their social networks. The panel was moderated by alumni Feruzah Wuniche Salisu (YES ’10) and Ameyaw Abdul-Kadir (YES ’11).
The webinar was initiated to help address a needed skill among Ghanaian university students and graduates as well as support SDG 17: building partnerships. In Ghana, the number of young people with degrees from institutions of higher education has significantly improved over the years. High school education, once a feasible ticket into the job market, has lost its luster compared to university degrees. Today, many parents expend valuable resources to have their children in the best institutions of higher learning in Ghana.
While the numbers must be a source of pride for literacy and education policymakers in Ghana, the same cannot be said about the job and employment prospects for the increasing number of students entering the job market from our tertiary institutions. For the graduates whose parents occupy lucrative positions in Ghanaian society, their job prospects are a breeze. They can often expect to lean on the social network of their parents to land them good jobs. But for most recent graduates, especially first-generation university students, the luxury of a lucrative social network is out of their reach. For them, academic excellence is often the only plausible way to a promising career. But can your grades alone land you that job? The answer is a resounding no.
Panelist Mrs. Amelia Croffie, the acting legal head of the Agricultural Development Bank, one of the biggest banks in Ghana, highlighted the importance of maintaining close contacts with schoolmates. She said alumni groups are a source of great social capital as colleagues tend to find themselves in bigger capacities as the years go by.
An analyst at Bank of America, Scotland, Miss Aurelia Attipoe, also advised participants to always make their strengths known. While that may look boastful, she says that people in positions we may network with always look out for people with specific abilities. She also stated that participants need to be intentional about their bid to build a social network.
Mr. Kofi Akyea, the Anglophone Africa Regional Marketing Manager, remarked that a person’s ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments are key to building and widening networks. He further stressed the importance of adaptability as an element of social intelligence.
Larry Rowland, a retired president of Swiss Re North America (and host father to alumnus Adu Nasir Ahmad) made mention of the importance of volunteering—sounds familiar to YES alumni! Volunteering allows you to demonstrate your skills and strengths to potential social capitals.
The importance of these crucial life hacks was laid bare by our experienced panelists. As the YES Ghana Alumni association, we believe that the building and widening of social networks are very important skills in today’s ultra-competitive world.