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The power of building social capital

- Wits University

Executive coach urges students to nurture relationships early in life as these are key to success.

Amidst the bustling corridors and vibrant lecture halls of universities, students often focus solely on academic pursuits, striving for excellence in their chosen fields. However, amongst the textbooks and assignment deadlines, there lies another essential element of success – creating social capital.

Michaela Mahes, a Programme Coaching and Quality Assurance Manager at the Wits Business School, in partnership with the Wits Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) and the Wits Graduate Recruitment Programme, gave a talk on the power of social capital.

Social capital refers to the networks, relationships, and connections that individuals develop within their communities that bring benefits. For Wits students, building social capital is crucial as it opens doors to new opportunities. Whether it's landing internships, securing job referrals, or collaborating on research projects, having a strong network of peers, professors, and professionals can significantly enhance a student's prospects.

Before stumbling upon the concept of social capital, Mahes admits that she previously believed in the saying, “I come to work to work and not to make friends or build relationships.”

Now that she has grown and has worked for so many years and with dynamic people, she realises the importance of creating relationships.

Aside from access to resources, Mahes, who holds a master's in executive coaching, says social capital cultivates diversity of thought and perspective.

“Engaging with individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and disciplines exposes one to new ideas and ways of thinking, enriching the learning experience and your worldview,” Mahes.

Close to 80 students attended the event hosted by CCDU with the aim of empowering students with vital skills for professional and personal success. The Unit hosts a range of events throughout the year.

Students attending the Power of Social Capital talk.

 Oboikanyo Mokoka, a final year Masters in Microbiology candidate, says the session was eye opening. 

“It was quite insightful and educational as well. Socialising and building social capital is something that we all do, but without thinking too much about it. It’s human nature. However, this talk highlighted how it is important to do this with a lot of thought and intention. How to build proper connections and maintain them over time, establishing networks of collaboration relationships that you can rely upon to further your interests and goals.”

CCDU’s Gcina Mgcina explained that: “In today's interconnected world, the importance of social capital cannot be overstated. It is not only a key determinant of academic and professional success but also essential for overall well-being and fulfillment."

She further encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities provided by CCDU as these equip them with essential soft skills for the world of work.