With a few public sector exceptions, Brussels is where meritocracy comes to die. And it takes its last breath in the naïve hopes of trainees. No one wastes any time letting us know that we are here to network. Such importance is placed on this I suspect there may be a strategic memo somewhere entitled 'Combatting Youth Unemployment in the EU: the Art of Networking'.
Recent research shows that our phones are proven to be affecting the way we talk, think, have sex, eat and even go to the loo. We have become slaves to technology, only this time, our hands are handcuffed to our phones. Those red circular icons on our home screens have become our very own version of a newborn baby crying out for attention.
This is the age of collaboration and reciprocity. Share what you know with others: send a link to an article you have read, order a book and put it in the mail, help someone who looks like they are having an attack of shyness across the corner of a cocktail party room. Above all, be interested in ideas and others, not just yourself.
I was on my way to the heart of Bethnal Green, in East London, via the Central line Underground. Pleasantly, I overheard a couple next to me discussing why they were heading to TEDx East End, which happened to be where I was headed. They said how they "needed some inspiration...some exposure to creative minds...and to be inspired."
The one thing I'd wish I'd known starting university is how important your network is. When it comes to finding jobs or potential opportunities this is essential. It can mean that if you don't have the right grades someone can vouch for you on the inside. Most people just need a chance to show what they can do and sometimes a quick word from a friend can be that chance.
Sitting on the rooftop of Gladys's juice bar in Freetown, I was having an informal chat with some of the women my foundation supports. This wasn't my first trip to Sierra Leone. I was there for International Women's Day in March and had spoken then to some of the women. But this time I got to have a long, in depth conversation with them about the difficulties they have faced as women entrepreneurs and what benefits they get from participating in the country's first network for women entrepreneurs, which is what the Foundation has helped to set up here.