Developing Meaningful Relationships With Your Network

By Emad Rahim, DM, PMP

Dr. Emad Rahim was recently recognized for his entrepreneurship work at the United Nations headquarters in the 2013 Empact100 Showcase. The conference was a life-changing event for Dr. Rahim, and here he shares why.

Dr. Emad Rahim at the 2014 Empact SummitThe Empact100 Showcase recognizes the top U.S. entrepreneurs aged 35 and younger from around the country. The recognition ceremony was hosted at the UN headquarters in New York City with each Empact100 honoree receiving a special award – presented by Jeff Hoffman, founder and former CEO of – to honor their achievements. 

During the event, I met some amazing entrepreneurs and was introduced to some exciting startup ventures. But that was just the beginning. From workshops highlighting different business challenges, to social-media and marketing news, the event was as educational as it was celebratory.

But perhaps most importantly, entrepreneurs are always listening for the telltale knock of opportunity, and the Showcase was pounding with them. I bonded with people, developed lifelong friendships, secured new mentors and was honored to be invited to serve as a mentor for several new startup founders. Here are the details of the many opportunities afforded by my deepening professional relationships: 

  • Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, presented us with different examples of the organization’s involvement in supporting social entrepreneurship initiatives and programs in developing countries. This included educational programs, micro-lending, agricultural support, consulting and water-treatment services. Plus we enjoyed the rare opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, as he issued a special welcome to the Showcase honorees.
  • Steve Mariotti, founder of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), presented us with a powerful story about his entrepreneurship work in Cambodia and the lives he was impacting abroad and in the United States. His presentation hit very close to home for me because of my Cambodian ethnicity. We ended up sitting at the same table and engaged in a wonderful discussion about his experiences working with Khmer (Cambodian) people. Again, this was an opportunity to see how finding common ground can cultivate meaningful relationships. Those relationships also lead to new opportunities: Mr. Mariotti writes for the “Huffington Post”, and was interested in doing a feature story on me. We scheduled an interview date for the story, and it was published in January.
  • Michael Simmons, Cofounder of Empact and the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, invited me to participate in a special televised panel discussion on the state of entrepreneurship education at universities. I was joined by different thought leadership in entrepreneurship education, including business authors, CEOs, startup founders and practitioner scholars. This was a classic example of how being in the right place at the right time leads to new opportunities – and you have to be ready to grab them. The program is scheduled to air on YouTube this summer.
  • I was selected to contribute to the Dear World project. Dear World is part business/art project/social experiment that shares stories about people’s struggles and hopes. It was initially started to document the stories of Hurricane Katrina survivors but has evolved to feature personal stories covering everything from cancer survival to what it’s like living in war-torn countries like Palestine and Serbia. 

This was a life-changing event for me. I had mentioned in a previous blog post that networking was one of the key benefits for attending a conference or workshop. But I did not fully express or even realize the importance of developing meaningful relationships within your newfound network. Whether you’re expanding your horizons or paying it forward, meaningful relationships translate to a richer, fuller professional experience.

Image Credit: Emad Rahim