Year in Review: 10 of Our Best Pieces of Business and Career Advice in 2019

Year in Review: 10 of Our Best Pieces of Business and Career Advice in 2019

Every serious-minded entrepreneur and professional knows what time it is. It’s the time of the year when you take stock of your work and knit together a time-capsule-like toolkit for the coming year.

You sit back and comb together your activities throughout the year. You weigh the constellation of your gains. And, evaluate your learnings for the best tactical wisdom that can serve you in the New Year.

If you do it well, you have better chances of starting the New Year on the right foot – and avoiding false starts that can stall your progress.

However, tieing a bow on the outgoing year can be an intimidating task. It is often easier to look forward than to look backward. Yet, if you don’t know how to excavate the lessons from the experiences you go through, chances are that you will keep repeating the same. A lesson is repeated until it is learned.

To help you build your war chest as we approach the coming year, I’ve taken the time to ferret out ten of the best pieces of business and career insights from the SFAN Blog in 2019. To me, this is not just a list, this is an arsenal of timeless wisdom that, if applied, can help you achieve success in any endeavor. The list covers topics ranging from bootstrapping your career to pitching your business to networking for progress and financial intelligence.

I hope you find it as useful as I do.

#1: Use these tips to enhance your networking skills

Networking can be quite challenging if you don’t go out very much. Yet, it is one of those things you cannot avoid if you want to move your career further. To help you turn strangers into cherished contacts, apply the following rules of networking at your next networking event:

i) Dress the part of the event: Find out if there’s a dress code, Research the venue to know what type of fabric to wear, Find out what the theme colors are.

ii) Don’t be boring, and have a beautiful story about yourself on hand: If you went alone, step aside and observe the people in the room, From your vantage point, find someone or a group that is easy to talk to – don’t go in and break their discussion as that would be a nosedive, When introducing yourself, give a gentle, firm handshake and make eye contact (a smile will also go a long way in making a connection), Ask the right questions and notice the body language.

iii) Don’t just take the cards, stay in touch afterward.

#2: Use these insights to bootstrap your career

Tucci Goka Ivowi, Deputy CEO and Founding Member of Ghana Commodity Exchange, shared many useful tips and strategies with us on how to manage and grow your career. Thumbing through the exclusive insights, below are some actionable tips on job search, skills development, leadership, finding your passion and so on.

On getting your foot in the door – volunteer and work as though you are one of the highest-paid staff.

On skills that early-career professionals should focus on developing – master cross-functional skills like the art of communication, networking, and project management.

On finding purpose at work – try your best to learn from your job, skills don’t go to waste.

On finding your passion – if you’re already in a job, you can ask to work in different functions if your organization is flexible. You’ll learn which you’re good at/passionate about.

On developing your leadership skills and gaining the trust of co-workers – keep working hard for your own sake, not your boss’s. Your efforts will pay off eventually.

“Once you show your value, you have a good chance of being hired. If you don’t get hired, you get work experience which helps you in the next job application.”

– Tucci Goka Ivowi, Deputy CEO and Founding Member of Ghana Commodity Exchange

#3: Pitch your startup to investors more effectively with these simple hacks

Pitching is one of the things that many (first time) founders dread – but unfortunately cannot avoid. You pitch your business every day and to everyone: investors, customers, collaborators, potential employees, and other prospects. As a matter of fact, your success or failure as a startup founder, in most instances, is underscored by this singular act, pitching.

From experience of helping many entrepreneurs prepare their pitches – as well as reviewing/judging hundreds of pitches through my work with organizations like Seedstars World, Adansonia, GIZ, etc here are simple hacks for pitching your startup to investors.

First, know who you’re pitching to.

Second, start with why you’re in the business – and not what you’re doing.

Third, communicate the problem you’re solving and how you solve it.

Fourth, talk about your financials.

Fifth, talk about your team. 

Remember, a prototype is better than several pitches. Also, don’t just pitch the product, pitch your business.

#4: Use these proven strategies to nail your next job without connections

In a September 29 Business Insider article, “Why You Need a Sponsor—Not a Mentor—to Fast-Track Your Career,” author Jenna Goudreau highlighted that “Four recent studies clearly show that sponsorship—not mentorship—is how power is transferred in the workplace.”

The reason is clear. The marketplace is incredibly competitive and well-paying opportunities seem far between nowadays. For many talented job seekers, the question is, how do you land lucrative job opportunities today?

Is there a possibility of getting people with big bucks to notice you when you don’t have a sponsor?

What is the secret to distinguishing yourself and getting your foot in the door of opportunities?

Here’s how:

i) Locate a problem and provide commensurate solutions

ii) Find leverage to get your foot in the door

iii) Be so good they can’t ignore you

iv) Create leverage by building on success

v) Work with the right time – it’s easier to swim with the current than against it

#5: Get your money right with these 6 powerful financial advice

The concept of money is one of the most misunderstood subjects among millennials. The thing we call money is simply fugazi, nothing. It’s a piece of paper or digits someone created. If you’re reading this statement for the first time, I’m sure you’d be shocked.

At the core, money is meant to serve three main goals: 1) a medium of exchange, 2) a store of value, and 3) a unit of account.

Today, our medium of exchange is fiat money. Per definition, fiat money is the currency that derives its value from government regulation or law. The term is culled from the Latin fiat (“let it be done”; “it shall be”).

With that understanding of the concept of money, here’s how to take charge of your financial future, and essentially, your life.

i) Take control of your cash flow. If you want to be financially successful, you must craft the roadmap for that journey by ensuring that you have constant cash flow.

ii) Protect your wealth. To be sustainable, you must convert your fiat money into knowledge, properties, processes, networks that can help you 10X your worth in the shortest possible time.

iii) Be motivated to win the game of money. You cannot reach for heights unknown if you don’t feel worthy.

iv) Keep track of your expenses. If you’re blinging when you should be building, you may have to build when you should be blinging.

v) Look the part of the life you want to build. Appearance matters a lot.  Your dressing is a self-signal.

vi) Be intentional with your network. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

“When riches begin to come they come so quickly, in such great abundance, that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years.”

— Napoleon Hill

#6: These three simple steps will help you conquer failure

It hurts to throw yourself into something, and it doesn’t work out. It hurts when denied an opportunity you know you’re qualified for, and other less-qualified people got selected. It hurts to see everyone else progressing, but you’re still stagnant. 

Many people, when they experience failure, start thinking that is their destiny. They buy into what Les Brown calls “the never lies”: I’m never going to amount to anything; I’ll never be happy.

If you’re going through a failure situation, I have good news for you: There’s a science-based formula for reinventing yourself! I know it works because it worked on me. While I cannot promise you fame or fortune, I can guarantee, however, that if you apply these principles, you will not only reinvent yourself, but you will be rightly positioned to do remarkable things in life!

Step 1: Detox your mind – Whatever damage negative, limiting thoughts have done in your life can be undone by you detoxifying your mind.

Step 2: Define priorities and cut the clutters – Pinpoint where your time and efforts are going, set your focus on a specific target, seek mentor support in guiding your path, and, commit to a course of action.

Step 3: Create “A-Game” partnerships – Believe it or not, accountability works – every, single, time.

#7: Live your life on your own terms with these key mindset shifts

Have you ever wondered what your life could be like if you could live on your own terms?

Have you ever wondered how far you could go if impossible is nothing?

Think about it, who would you be now if you cannot fail?

Some people are held prisoners by their own imagination. They’ve resigned to living day-to-day. Their experiences of life are replete with difficulties, disappointments, hardships, and pain. This is not all to life. Life can be absolutely wonderful – and it should be – when you begin to live on your own terms!

Here’s how:

First, define your purpose and set 10x goals – Your passion is for you but your purpose is for others.

Second, develop a discontent for mediocrity and mundanity – When you understand who you really are, you’d never settle for anything that’s not excellent!

Third, create massive value and give more than you take – If you want to live your life on your own terms, you must consistently create massive value and give more than you take.

#8: Here’s how to set yourself up for success in this age of Skynet

If you’re a student in Africa today, you should be worried – very worried.


The robots are coming and they seem to be taking over the workplace!

Presently, factory, retail and repetitive manufacturing jobs are increasingly being automated to enhance efficiency. According to McKinsey, mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing are categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines. Further, automation will displace nearly 13 percent of South Africa’s current work activities by 2020. Ethiopia, one of Africa’s manufacturing hubs, is facing automation in several key employment sectors like agriculture and textiles. In Botswana, robot workers are increasingly diminishing the bargaining power of labor unions. 

Accenture Nigeria predicts that within five years, more than half of consumers and enterprise clients will select products and services based on a company’s AI capacity, instead of its brand. On a global scale, the World Economic Forum predicts a net loss of five million jobs to AI by 2020.

With that backdrop, this article seeks to help students and early career professionals prepare for the days ahead.

i) Create your own future with self-education. Today, our challenge is not the scarcity of information – we live in a world of super-abundant information – the real challenge is in excavating the right knowledge to help you remain relevant.

ii) Learn how to learn new knowledge and skills quickly. We used to learn to do the work, now learning IS the work.

iii) Transcend your environment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from; it doesn’t matter whether you’re 24 or 42, if you have the skills for the future of work and understand how to market it, you’ll win!

“Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others. The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity.”

– McKinsey & Company

#9: Develop skills for the data science roles with these tips

If you’re running an online business, you likely handle tons of information — average order value, conversion rates, email, social media interaction, prospects, and the list goes on.

You probably know that you should process these data to get the most out of them.

The question is, how do you manage all of the data when there are boatloads of them?

The answer: by applying data science.

Data science is the method of acquiring value out of your data and information.

With data science, you can improve your marketing strategies and customer engagement and loyalty, leading to better conversions and higher sales.

Hence, as a business owner, you must learn and develop data science skills. Here’s how:

General Technical Skills

Machine Learning: Machine learning is at the core of data science roles.

Statistics: Because data science involves a huge amount of data and information, you must have statistical skills.

Others: Along with your statistical skills, you will also need to know how to use computer frameworks to unearth, process, and extract value out of raw and unorganized data.

Technological Skills

Python: Python is one of the best-known and fastest-growing programming languages for years now.

SQL: Structured Query Language, or SQL, is also highly sought after. It is how you can primarily engage with relational databases.

Soft Skills

Communication: As you take on data science roles in your business, you begin to understand your data more clearly than anyone else.

#10: Launch a career in cybersecurity with these expert insights

Cyber-attacks, phishing scams, security breaches, and alleged hacking of payment cards make headlines every day in new reports. As the world becomes heavily reliant on technology, homes and businesses contain interlinked devices making it more important than ever to safeguard these devices against cyber-attacks.  Cybersecurity refers to how computers, hardware, and software are protected from a potential threat. This could be through technology, processes, and measures that can be instituted in homes and businesses to reduce the impact of a cyber-attack.

Official estimates put the cybersecurity job growth at 37% per year at least through to 2022. Experts have also estimated the global Middle East and Africa Cyber Security Market to reach USD 66.5 billion by 2025 — a healthy growth rate of more than 15.62% over the forecast period 2018-2025.

If you want to pursue a career in cybersecurity, you can consider the opportunities in the following jobs.

i) Application Security Engineer: An Application Security Engineer tops the list of the most lucrative opportunities available in the cybersecurity career choice.

ii) IS Security Engineer: Information System Security Engineer is among the highest paid professionals in cybersecurity.

iii) Penetration Tester: Penetration testing or ethical hacking is the practice of testing a computer system network to look for possible vulnerabilities in the system that an attacker can exploit.

iv) Network Security Analyst: A Network Security Analyst lists as one of the highest-paying jobs in the industry, attracting a net annual salary of $90,000 and $150,000.

v) Cybersecurity Analyst: A cybersecurity analyst is an information security analyst with the mandate of protecting the use of cyberspace from potential cyber-attacks.

Have a fabulous New Year 2020 🎊💫

SFAN partners with companies, international development agencies, governments, charitable foundations, and individuals to unlock the potentials of young people and create a forceful, global ecosystem of innovators. Learn more about how to partner with us here or contact Pipi, partnerships(at)

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