A few days ago I introduced the Chevening Scholarship by the United Kingdom government. As explained, it involves writing four essays. I also covered the leadership one with snippets from my essay as a guideline. ( https://agriculturefirstblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/09/my-chevening-journey-part-1-leadership/) This article will in the same format explain what is required in the networking essay.
In this essay, the question you will be answering is;
Chevening is looking for individuals with strong professional relationship-building skills, who will engage with the Chevening community and influence and lead others in their chosen profession. Please explain how you build and maintain relationships in a professional capacity, using clear examples of how you currently do this, and outline how you hope to use these skills in the future. (minimum word count: 100 words; maximum word count: 500 words
The reader will be looking at your ability to initiate, build and maintain relationships that have led to your growth professionally. If possible you can mention how the other party benefited but the main focus should be how you benefited.
I would advise you get at least three diverse examples as there’s a danger of revolving around one example. Remember these might be the same examples you will give in your physical interview if shortlisted. Be specific in indicating the timeline, places and the names and titles of the people involved.
In your introduction, do not use many words to define networking or describing how you network. Use a sentence or two to introduce and then give your first example in the same paragraph. Avoid stating you are a good networker and maintain relationships, instead, use a real life example how you have done it. This was my first paragraph of my networking essay that also captured my first example.
My networking experience has been diverse, with the most significant moment being when I organized a financial literacy training for a group of women from (location) in July 2017. The training was conducted by the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (Name of the Organization) – a Microfinance institution based in (location). I had interacted with her while working at (Name withheld) Bank since I was her account relationship officer. When I later resigned from formal employment to actively campaign for the election, at my request, she agreed to personally conduct the training. Among other things, she shared success stories of other women groups to inspire them.(Location ) was one of the six wards where I received the highest number of votes in the General Election which was attributed to this initiative. As of September 2018, over one hundred women who benefited from the training are now clients with the micro-finance institution which is now planning a new office in the area due to increased number of clients.
NB: Please note that this example also shows that I maintain contact by giving update on the initiative as of September 2018. This essay was submitted in early November the same year.
My personal opinion is that you should give at least one example in line with your career plan essay (to be discussed in the next article). This will show the reader that you have already building relationships/ networks in preparation of your future career. For instance, my future career plan involved contesting in a political seat and so in my networking essay, I described how I have networked with the political class (political parties’ leaders and being involved in political activities).
My networking skills led to my appointment to the Jubilee Party Secretariat in Murang’a County where I led a team in coordinating constituency activities in the repeat presidential campaign of October 2017. Our task was to ensure a huge voter turnout of which we led in the country at 87%. I would make weekly presentations to a team composed of (titles of senior government officers). My negotiation skills were sharpened by the then Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade who was later promoted to the Cabinet Secretary in the same docket. My immediate supervisor was Irungu Nyakera, the then Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in charge of the State Department of Planning and Statistics. He was impressed by my skills and in August 2018, he joined a group of professionals to revive one of the oldest political parties in multi-party Kenya-the Democratic Party, he selected me to join its youth caucus known as ‘Young Democrats’ where I have continued to network.
My third example was a continuation of networking within the ‘Young Democrats’ which I won’t expound here.
The last paragraph should answer part two of the networking question on how you hope to use these skills in the future. At this stage, stating how you plan to engage the Chevening community (Foreign & Commonwealth Office, fellow scholars, local and global Chevening alumni) and mentioning some Chevening events (in the Chevening website) organized by the secretariat makes you stand out. My conclusion was as follows;
As a prospective Chevening Scholar, I plan to engage the Kenya Chevening Alumni Network to develop initiatives that will address poverty and unemployment in the country. I will combine my business banking experience to transform viable small-scale farms into thriving businesses to achieve food security and create jobs. I also plan to develop global linkages and networks through active participation in Chevening events necessary for my contribution to Kenya’s development in the future.
Finally be authentic, give your story and do not copy essays of previously selected scholars. The readers can detect (through softwares) plagiarism (an academic offence ) and it makes your interviews in later stages easier when you own your story. In addition, use simple grammatically correct English sentences. Your essays are the opportune moment to create a first impression and writing skills are paramount in this. Have people to proofread your essays for guidance and where you use abbreviations, make sure you give their meaning initially.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are purely mine and do not reflect the position of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and or its partner organizations.